Can I Learn Buddhist Super Powers? – Dialectic Two-Step

Posted by in Dialectic Two-Step, Writings

Question:

Is there someplace in the world where they teach Buddhist super powers?

Response:

What exactly do you mean by super powers? What super powers are you interested in? Would you take anything anyone had to offer? To what end would you want to use this super power?

The King Midas story offers a good view onto the drawbacks of super powers. Everything he touched turned to gold. He found that he couldn’t eat or drink as all his food and wine turned to gold when he touched it!

Besides, I’d argue we already have super powers. Human beings are one of the most successful species on the planets (bacteria are the most successful). Our species has adapted through millions of years of evolution, allowing us to survive, even thrive, on this planet. We also have the benefit of our accumulated wisdom, including the means to find contentment.

If we have bodies and wisdom sufficient for contentment, what purpose would a super power fulfill?

I’d categorize the options into two buckets:

  1. Compassionate, altruistic purposes
  2. Selfish purposes

Starting with the latter, acquiring superpowers for personal gain will likely create more suffering for you and for those around you. By taking advantage of your superpowers you will create an imbalance in the competition for resources. Just look at the example of wealth inequality. Poverty creates suffering and resentment towards the wealthy. This is a lose-lose situation.

With the former, I see trouble too. Compassion and altruism focus on reducing the suffering of others. But, experience tells us that we cannot solve other peoples problems. People don’t learn when other people solve their problems.

So, what super power would benefit others? Maybe you could grant others the ability to learn from their mistakes the first time they make them.

Are Those Super Powers, or Are You Just Happy?

Wow, what a super power that would be! But alas, just like with King Midas, this might be a blessing, but most likely a curse. Mistakes come in all shapes and sizes. Little ones, big ones, and in between. Let’s take the example of making a disparaging remark about someone’s relatives. In most normal situations, this kind of remark would be considered a mistake. If I were to learn that this was a mistake, it would mean that I would disparage anyone’s relatives again.

Now, imagine you witness a friend’s father beat him. If you had learned to never call a father cruel, how would you respond to the situation? You would be impaired from telling the truth and be helpless to aid your friend.

Human learning is far more complex and flexible than our altruistic super power. Evolution has produced species that are tuned precisely to our environment. In fact, our power to learn from mistakes is infinitely more refined than any super power we might dream up. It is hard to imagine any improvement that doesn’t arise from natural selection as really being a superpower.

To your question about where in the world you can go to learn super powers, my answer is simply this; stay right where you are. Live an authentic and natural life. Recognize and appreciate the super powers you have. Find contentment and don’t keep your light under a bushel.

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Dialectic Two-Step  is an ongoing series of my thoughts on questions that come my way.

Wisdom lies neither in fixity nor in change, but in the dialectic between the two. - Octavio

Dialectic Two Step, Modern Koans, Verse Us, Say What?, and Minute Meditations all copyright Andrew Furst

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Andrew Furst

Author of two books, Poet, Meditation Teacher, Buddhist blogger, backup guitarist for his teenage boys, lucky husband and technologist
Andrew Furst
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