Religious Beliefs

Do Buddhists believe in miracles?

Popular lore about the Buddha and numerous other holy personages is bursting with accounts of miracles. Buddhist tradition attributes far more miraculous deeds to the Buddha than almost any other tradition ascribes to a foundational figure. Scores of wonders occur at the moment of the Buddha’s birth, all portents of the event’s cosmic significance. Lamps all across the world lit themselves at that moment, the mute sang, the lame danced, and birds were suspended in their flight. The Buddha is said to have performed dozens of fabulous feats throughout his lifetime, traveling great distances instantly, ascending into the air, subduing wild animals, and walking on water. Several of the wonders have become part of a canonical list of eight “Great Events,” each associated with one of the cardinal or intermediate directions.

Hardheaded realist that he was, the Buddha does not appear to have claimed miraculous powers of any sort. But within a short time of his death tales of his superhuman powers multiplied. Important tales include 547 Jatakas, stories of the Buddha’s previous lives as the Buddha-to-be. Incarnated in myriad different forms, the Bodhisattva performs countless marvels on behalf of all suffering beings. Many other important Buddhist leaders have enjoyed similar notoriety. Founders of lineages, denominations and monasteries from Tibet to Japan are said to have performed deeds like those attributed to the Buddha himself.

Four stone cosmic Buddhas of the cardinal directions flank the central Buddha, Vairocana, in a grouping especially important in the more esoteric branches of Japanese Mahayana Buddhism, at Ninnaji, a temple of the Shingon sect, in Kyoto, Japan.


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