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Requisites of Enlightenment

Venerable Ledi Sayadaw



I shall now give a brief description of the iddhipàdas the Bases of Success.


The word-explanation is: ijjhànam iddhi, which means that iddhi signifies the fact of having succeeded, completed or perfected [1].

In the Buddha Sàsana there are five iddhis. They are:-

1. Abhinneyyesu dhammesu abhinnà-siddhi, [2]
2. Parinneyyesu dhammesu parinnà-siddhi,
3. Pahàtabbesu dhammesu pahàna-siddhi,
4. Sacchikàtabbesu dhammesu sacchikiriya-siddhi,
. Bhàvetabbesu dhammesu bhàvanà-siddhi.

1.Completion of or success in acquiring special knowledge in those things in which special knowledge should be acquired, things such as rùpa (material phenomena), nàma (mental phenomena);

2.Completion of or success in acquiring full understanding in those things in which full understanding should be acquired, things such as dukkha sacca (the Noble Truth of Suffering);

3. Completion of or success attained in the task of abandonment of those things that should be abandoned, things such as samudaya sacca (the Noble Truth of the Cause of Suffering);

4.Completion of or success attained in the task of realization of those things that should be realized, things such as nirodha sacca (the Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering);

5.Completion of or success attained in the task of development or cultivation of those things that should be developed or cultivated, things such as magga sacca (the Noble Truth of the Path leading to the Cessation of Suffering)-

These are the five essential iddhis within a Buddha Sàsana.

Abhinnà-siddhi means: the completion of the task of knowing of the paramattha dhammas (ultimate truths) which one had no knowledge of while one was beyond the pale of a Buddha Sàsana. A thorough knowledge of the Abhidhammattha Sangaha (a summary of all the essential doctrines of the Abhidhamma [3]) amounts to Abhinnà-siddhi.

Parinnà-siddhi means: the completion of acquiring full understanding of dukkha sacca (the Noble Truth of Suffering) either through a knowledge of their lakkhana (characteristics), rasa (functions), paccupatthàna (manifesta-tions), and padatthàna (proximate causes), or through a knowledge of the three characteristics of anicca (impermanence), dukkha (suffering), and anattà (impersonality), which they possess.

Pahàna-siddhi means: the completion of the task of abandoning (pahàna), i.e. destroying the kilesas (defile-ments) which are samudaya sacca (the Noble Truth of the Cause of Suffering). In this book, since the main emphasis is placed on the attainment of the lowest class of Sotapannas, namely the "Bon-sin-san" Sotàpannas, and not on the higher classes of ariyas (Noble Ones), the completion of the task of destroying sakkàya-ditthi (Personality-Belief) is pahàna-siddhi. The task of dispelling vicikicchà (sceptical doubt) is comprised within the task of destroying sakkàya-ditthi.

Sacchikiriya-siddhi means: the completion of the task of realizing nirodha sacca (the Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering) both bodily and mentally. This task consists of the suppression and destruction of the kilesas (defilements).

Bhàvanà-siddhi means: the development of the three sikkhàs (Trainings) of sìla (Morality), samàdhi (Mental Concentra-tion) and pannà (Wisdom), until the attainment of lokuttara magga sacca (Supramundane Path leading to the Cessation of Suffering).

Also the seven Purifications, beginning with Morality, and their sub-divisions, constitute as many kinds of iddhi, in the sense of potencies in their respective fields.


The word-explanation is: iddhiyà pàdo iddhipàdo, i.e. root or basis of attaining completion or perfection (success or potency) [4].

There are four kinds of iddhipàdas. They are:-

1. Chandiddhipàdo (chanda)
2. Viriyiddhipàdo (viriya)
3. Cittiddhipàdo (citta)
4. Vimamsiddhipàdo (vimamsa
or pannà).

By chanda is meant (the zeal or) desire to obtain, desire to attain, desire to reach, desire to fulfil, desire to accomplish. The desire indicated here is extreme or excessive desire. There is nothing within or without one's personality that can obstruct that desire. It is the kind of desire that evokes the thought, "If I do not attain this accomplishment in this life, I shall not rest content. It is better that I die rather than that I shall not attain it."

It is the kind of desire nurtured by King Dhammasonda [5] of Benares during the time of the Kassapa Buddha [6], when the king said to himself, "What use is there in my being king of Benares if I do not get the opportunity of hearing a discourse of the Kassapa Buddha?" The king, therefore, relinquished his throne and went out in search of one who could repeat to him a discourse of the Kassapa Buddha, no matter though that discourse consisted of a short stanza only.

Such desire is appeased if it is fulfilled, as in the case of King Bimbisàra [7], Visàkha, and Anàthapindika [8]. See Dhammapada Com., story relating to Verse 1.

It is only when there are faint indications that the desire can be attained but is not fulfilled, that the mind becomes troubled, and thoughts arise that it is better to die than live without attaining the desire.

Examples of such desire existed also in King Temiya [9] , King Hatthipàla [10], and kings, nobles, and rich men in the time of the Buddha who discarded their palaces, retinue and other luxuries to live the lives of Bhikkhus in the Buddha Sàsana.

Viriya (Energy) means sammappadhàna viriya together with its four characteristics (see Chapter II). A person with this viriya is infused with the thought that the aim can be attained by energy and effort. He is not discouraged even though it is said to him that he must undergo great hardships. He is not discouraged even though he actually has to undergo great hardships. He is not discouraged even though it is said to him that he must put forth effort for many days, months, and years. He is not discouraged even though he actually has to put forth effort for such long periods.

Those who are weak in energy recoil from their task when confronted with work requiring great energy and effort. They shrink when told that they will have to stay apart from friends and associates. They shrink from the prospect of the necessity to be frugal in sleep and food. They shrink from the prospect of long periods of concentration.

Citta (lit.: consciousness) means: attachment to iddhis when one comes in contact with the Sàsana and hears the Dhamma. It is attachment that is extremely ardent and strong.

Although one lives amidst the beauties and luxuries of the world, amidst acquired powers and fortunes, amidst the sacred books and the study of them, one is not allured, but one's mind is always turned towards the iddhis. One attains satisfaction and tranquillity only when one's mind is absorbed in matters connected with the iddhis. It is like the absorption of the alchemist engaged in the transmutation of the baser metals into gold or silver. Such an alchemist has no interest in anything else but his alchemy. He forgets to sleep or eat, or whether he had slept or eaten. He does not notice anything when out walking. Citta is great absorption, or attachment of this nature.

Vimamsà (investigation) means: knowledge or wisdom that can clearly perceive the greatness of the sufferings of hell, and of the sufferings attendant on the round of rebirths. It is knowledge that can clearly perceive the advantages and benefits of the iddhis. It is knowledge that can dwell on the deep and difficult dhammas, and on their nature. A person who possesses such knowledge can no longer find pleasure in any worldly pursuit except the pursuit of the iddhis. He finds gratification only in the acquisition of deep and profound iddhis. The deeper and more profound the dhammas, the greater is his desire to attain them.

Those who are endowed with any one of these four Bases of Success (iddhipàda) can no longer, during this life, admit or plead inability and remain without putting forth effort in the establishment of Body Contemplation (kàyagatàsati) and the higher stages of the Sàsana such as, the seven Purifications (visuddhi). It is only those who have never possessed any one of these Bases of Success, and who cannot differentiate between the shallowness and profoundness of life, between superficiality and depth of the dhamma, who admit or plead inability and remain without making any endeavour.

A person endowed with any one of these four iddhipàdas can attain, according to his pàrami, the iddhis until he reaches lokultara (supramundane) iddhi, either in this life or as a deva in the next life. The cases of those endowed with two, or three, or four iddhipàdas need no lengthy explanation.

In the cases of those persons who (far from possessing any of the iddhis) do not even possess any of the iddhipàdas, they should attempt to acquire one or other of these Bases. They admit or plead inability only because they have not the desire to acquire the higher benefits of the Sàsana, such as the satipatthànas. They should regard this very admission of inability as a highway to the Lower Worlds of Misery (Apàya-loka). Thus, they should study, think and ponder, over the Suttanta discourses that can arouse zeal (chanda). They should approach a teacher who can arouse zeal and rely on him.

Hence did the Buddha say:

Chandiddhipàdam bhàveti, Viriyiddhipàdam bhàveti, Cittiddhipàdam bhàveti, Vimamsiddhipàdam bhàveti.

(He cultivates zeal, energy, consciousness and invegtigation as the Bases of Success.")

Some persons, far from attaining the iddhis, do not even try to attain the iddhipàdas. If they do not possess chanda, they do not even know that it is necessary to acquire such Zeal (chanda). They are persons who admit and plead inability and defeat. The same is true in the cases of viriya, citta, and vimamsa.

Steady application of the mind to kàyagatàsati amounts to setting up pàda. Studying the anecdotes conveying a sense of urgency (samvega) [11], applying oneself to the strict ascetic observances (dhutanga) and such other practices of the dhamma, is setting up of energy (viriya). Applying oneself to profound subjects of Dhamma, such as the Four Great Primaries (or Elements; mahà-bhùta) amounts to the setting up of vimamsa (Investigation).

If any one of the four Bases of Success is established, then it is certain that the respective iddhis [12] will be attained according to one's Pàrami. Hence, it is stated in the Commentaries that persons who do not possess any of the Bases of Success, resemble the sons of a Candàla (a man of low class), while persons possessing one of the Bases of Success resemble the sons of an Emperor. The sons of a Candàla never even aim at becoming an Emperor because they have no basis, no pàda, for such an attainment. Sons of Emperors, however, always aim at becoming Emperors because they are endowed with the bases for attaining such an aim.

Hence, wise persons of the present day should attempt to acquire the four Iddhipàdas, the Bases of Success, so that they can destroy the great realm of Personality Belief (sakkàya-ditthi), and acquire, within the Sàsana, the benefits of the higher attainments that can be obtained according to one's Pàramis.


[1] See further 'The Path of Purification' (Visuddhi Magga), tr. by Nanamoli Thera (2nd ed., Colombo 1964), Ch. XII, §§ 20-22, 44-- As will be seen from the following, the terms iddhi and iddhipàda do not exclusively refer to Supernormal (Magical) Powers, as it is sometimes assumed. In the present context, they signify "success" in Dhamma-practice and the four basic conditions of such success. -- In the following first part of this chapter, the Translator's rendering of iddhi by "completion" has been retained while, for purposes of nomenclature, the preferable translation by "success" has been used. - The PTS Dictionary suggests "potency". - (Editor)

[2] siddhi is identical with iddhi.

[3] See note 1, page 64.

[4] See "The Path of Purification", ch. XII, 50-53; XXII, 36.

[5] Rasavàhini (Jambudipuppatti-kathà).

[6] A Buddha of a former age, preceding Gotama Buddha.

[7] See Com. to Tirokudda Sutta, in "Minor Readings" (Khuddakapatha), tr. by Nanamoli (PTS), p. 223ff.

[8] See Dhammapada Com., story relating to Verse 1.

[9] Mùgapakkha Jàtaka

[10] Hatthipàla Jàtaka.

[11] Samvega is a stirring up of the mind, caused by contemplating the dangers and miseries of Samsàra.

[12] i.e. one of the five iddhis or siddhis, mentioned at the beginning of this chapter.


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Vietnamese translation

Sincere thanks to Mr. Sunanda Pham Kim Khanh for supplying this electronic copy
(Binh Anson, 05-2002)

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updated: 11-05-2002