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Ten powers of a buddha

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Ten powers of a buddha (Skt. daśabala; T. stobs bcu) are powers that are unique to the buddhas, that are identified in both Pali and Sanskrit sources, where they are described as "powers of knowing" (jñāna-bala).[1][2] They are also called ten powers or ten strengths.

The ten powers are:[1]

(1) knowing what is possible and what is impossible (sthānāsthāna-jñāna­bala, gnas dang gnas ma yin pa mkhyen pa);
(2) knowing the ripening of karma (karmavipāka­jñāna­bala, las kyi rnam smin mkhyen pa);
(3) knowing the various inclinations (nānādhimukti­jñāna­bala, mos pa sna tshogs mkhyen pa);
(4) knowing the various elements (nānādhātu­jñāna­bala, khams sna tshogs mkhyen pa);
(5) knowing the supreme and lesser faculties (indriya­parāpara­jñāna­bala, dbang po mchog dang mchog ma yin pa mkhyen pa);
(6) knowing the paths that lead to all destinations (sarvatra­gāminī­pratipaj­jñāna­bala, thams cad du ’gro ba’i lam mkhyen pa);
(7) knowing the concentrations, liberations, absorptions, equilibriums, afflictions, purifications, and abidings (dhyāna­vimokṣa­samādhi­samāpatti­saṃkleśa­vyavadāna­vyutthāna­jñāna­bala, bsam gtan dang rnam thar dang ting ’dzin dang snyoms ’jug dang kun nas nyon mongs pa dang rnam par byang ba dang ldan ba thams cad mkhyen pa);
(8) knowing the recollection of past existences (pūrvanivāsānusmṛti-jñāna­bala);
(9) knowing death and rebirth (cyutyupapatti­jñāna­bala, ’chi ’pho ba dang skye ba mkhyen pa); and
(10) knowing the exhaustion of the defilements (āsravakṣaya-jñāna­bala).

Traditional sources on the ten powers

The list of ten powers is found in numerous sources. For example, the list is found in:

For a more extensive list of canonical references to the ten powers, see:

As Lamotte points out, there are numerous minor variations in the order of these ten powers in the various canonical sources. For a detailed presentation of each of the ten powers, see Lamotte, Chapter XXXIX.[5]

Within the Greater Discourse of the Lion's Roar

The ten powers are presented with the Greater Discourse of the Lion's Roar (Mahāsīhanādasutta) as follows:

“Sāriputta, the Tathāgata has these ten Tathāgata’s powers, possessing which he claims the herd-leader’s place, roars his lion’s roar in the assemblies, and sets rolling the Wheel of Brahmā. What are the ten?
(1) “Here, the Tathāgata understands as it actually is the possible as possible and the impossible as impossible. And that is a Tathāgata’s power that the Tathāgata has, by virtue of which he claims the herd-leader’s place, roars his lion’s roar in the assemblies, and sets rolling the Wheel of Brahmā.
(2) “Again, the Tathāgata understands as it actually is the results of actions undertaken, past, future, and present, by way of possibilities and causes. That too is a Tathāgata’s power…
(3) “Again, the Tathāgata understands as it actually is the ways leading to all destinations. That too is a Tathāgata’s power…
(4) “Again, the Tathāgata understands as it actually is the world with its many and different elements. That too is a Tathāgata’s power…
(5) “Again, the Tathāgata understands as it actually is how beings have different inclinations. That too is a Tathāgata’s power…
(6) “Again, the Tathāgata understands as it actually is the disposition of the faculties of other beings, other persons. That too is a Tathāgata’s power…
(7) “Again, the Tathāgata understands as it actually is the defilement, the cleansing, and the emergence in regard to the jhānas, liberations, concentrations, and attainments. That too is a Tathāgata’s power…
(8) “Again, the Tathāgata recollects his manifold past lives, that is, one birth, two births…as Sutta 4, §27…Thus with their aspects and particulars he recollects his manifold past lives. That too is a Tathāgata’s power…
(9) “Again, with the divine eye, which is purified and surpasses the human, the Tathāgata sees beings passing away and reappearing, inferior and superior, fair and ugly, fortunate and unfortunate…as Sutta 4, §29 …and he understands how beings pass on according to their actions. That too is a Tathāgata’s power…
(10) “Again, by realising for himself with direct knowledge, the Tathāgata here and now enters upon and abides in the deliverance of mind and deliverance by wisdom that are taintless with the destruction of the taints. That too is a Tathāgata’s power that the Tathāgata has, by virtue of which he claims the herd-leader’s place, roars his lion’s roar in the assemblies, and sets rolling the Wheel of Brahmā.
“The Tathāgata has these ten Tathāgata’s powers, possessing which he claims the herd-leader’s place, roars his lion’s roar in the assemblies, and sets rolling the Wheel of Brahmā.[3]

Notes

Sources

Further reading

  • The Fortunate Aeon: How the Thousand Buddhas Became Enlightened (Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, 1986), Vol. One, 'The Teaching on the Ten Strengths'.
  • RW icon height 18px.png Ten strengths, Rigpa Shedra Wiki