Signs of Transcendent Wisdom
This chapter examines the meaning and purpose of miracles in Buddhism. In Buddhist tradition, miracle stories are signs of transcendent wisdom, serving the pedagogical purpose of demonstrating the truth of Buddha's primary teaching: that everything, including the order of nature and the identity of self, is a temporary aggregation of characteristics combined through a process of mutual dependence. As Buddha demonstrated in his miracles, even the order of primary elements is impermanent and subject to rearrangement by a mind that has realized the ontological emptiness at the heart of being. Buddha severely restricted, but did not absolutely prohibit, the exercise of miraculous powers on the ground that they would mislead rather than enlighten uninstructed observers. Bodhisattvas emulate Buddha's example by performing miracles that assist their disciples in gaining wisdom, but also draw on transcendent power to exercise compassion in acts of healing and rescue. Later masters replicated Buddha's miracles to teach qualified disciples by skillful means and also to engage in polemical contests with philosophical opponents.
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