Home > Catalogue > Annali di Ca’ Foscari. Serie orientale > 55 | 2019 > The Vedic Background of the Buddhist Notions of Iddhi and Abhiññā

The Vedic Background of the Buddhist Notions of Iddhi and Abhiññā

Three Case Studies with Particular Reference to the Pāli Literature

Bryan De Notariis    Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia, Italia    



This article begins with a brief introductory account of the vicissitudes of the academic studies on extraordinary capacities. Thereafter, the stereotyped passages in which iddhi and abhiññā occur as a meditative attainment achieved within a Buddhist path of liberation are presented and the interpretation of these two terms is discussed. After these preparatory opening remarks, the Vedic background of iddhi and abhiññā is treated with regards to three aspects. First, the speculative idea sustained by some scholars that would see the body made of mind (manomaya-kāya) as the base and tool to perform iddhis and abhiññās is discussed on the basis of the Vedic evidence. Secondly, the term ‘divine’ (dibba) which occurs in the description of some abhiññās is compared with the use of the corresponding Vedic terms and with the Vedic idea of a divine power behind the functioning of the faculties. Finally, the abhiññā called ‘the knowledge of degeneration and ascent of beings’ (cutūpapātañāṇa) is compared with a couple of narratives involving the oneiric state within the Upaniṣads, showing some similarities between the two accounts.

June 27, 2019
April 2, 2019
Feb. 28, 2019

Keywords: AbhiññāIddhiPāliManomaya-kāyaUpaniṣadVedaBuddhism

Copyright: © 2019 Bryan De Notariis. This is an open-access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction is permitted, provided that the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. The license allows for commercial use. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.