Iddhipāda | 4 Bases of Power


1. Iddhipāda

Iddhipāda (Pāḷi; Skt. ṛddhi-pāda) is a compound term composed of power or potency (iddhi; ṛddhi) and base, basis or constituent (pāda).

In Buddhism, the power referred to by this compound term is a group of spiritual powers.

Thus, this compound term is usually translated along the lines of base of power or base of spiritual power.

The term Iddhipāda is sometimes translated in English as 4 Bases of Success.

In the Buddhist pursuit of Bodhi (awakening, understanding) and Liberation, the associated spiritual powers are secondary to the 4 base mental qualities that achieve such powers.

These 4 base mental qualities are:

  1. concentration on intention;
  2. concentration on effort;
  3. concentration on consciousness;
  4. concentration on investigation.

These 4 base mental qualities are used to develop wholesome mental states and rid oneself of unwholesome mental states.

In traditional Buddhist literature, this set of 4 mental qualities is one of the 7 sets of qualities lauded by the Buddha as conducive to Enlightenment (Bodhi-pakkhiya-dhammā).

2. Canonical analysis

In the Pāḷi Canon, a major source of information on the Iddhipāda is in the Samyutta Nikāya, ch. 51, entitled, Connected Discourses on the Bases for Spiritual Power (Iddhipāda-Saṁyutta).

4 components

In the Neglected discourse (Viraddha Sutta, SN 51.2), it states:

Bhikkhus, those who have neglected the 4 bases for spiritual power have neglected the Noble Path leading to the complete destruction of suffering.

Those who have undertaken the 4 bases for spiritual power have undertaken the Noble Path leading to the destruction of suffering.

The 4 bases of such power are concentration (samādhi) due to:

  1. Intention or purpose or desire or zeal (chanda)
  2. Effort or energy or will (viriya)
  3. Consciousness or mind or thoughts (citta)
  4. Investigation or discrimination (vīmaṁsā)

Co-requisites: concentration and striving

In most canonical discourses these 4 bases of power are developed in tandem with volitional formations of striving (padhāna-saṅkhārā).

For instance, in the Concentration due to Desire discourse (Chanda Samādhi Sutta, SN 51.13), it states:

Bhikkhus, if a Bhikkhu gains concentration, gains one-pointedness of mind based upon desire, this is called concentration due to desire:

He generates desire for the non-arising of unarisen evil unwholesome states; he makes an effort, arouses energy, applies his mind, and strives.

He generates desire for the abandoning of arisen evil unwholesome states ... for the arising of unarisen wholesome states ... for the maintenance of arisen wholesome states ...; he makes an effort, arouses energy, applies his mind and strives.

These are called volitional formations of striving.

Thus this desire and this concentration due to desire and these volitional formations of striving: this is called the basis for spiritual power that possesses concentration due to desire and volitional formations of striving.

This discourse similarly analyses the latter 3 bases of powers as well.

Associated spiritual powers

In terms of the spiritual powers associated with the development of these bases, the Before Discourse (Pubba Sutta, SN 51.11) states:

When the 4 bases of spiritual power have been developed and cultivated in this way, a Bhikkhu wields the various kinds of spiritual power:

  1. having been one, he becomes many; having been many, he becomes one;
  2. he appears and vanishes;
  3. he goes unhindered through a wall, through a rampart, through a mountain as though through space;
  4. he dives in and out of the earth as though it were water;
  5. he walks on water without sinking as though it were earth;
  6. seated cross-legged, he travels in space like a bird;
  7. with his hands he touches and strokes the moon and sun so powerful and mighty;
  8. he exercises mastery with the body as far as the Brahmā world.