Do you believe people can develop spiritual abilities?
Many individuals from India claim to either have special powers or have witnessed other people using special powers such as scent manifestation and the ability to conjure a physical object with the power of the mind and will alone. Others yet claim that there are individuals who have graced the Earth for centuries in the same physical body and that they don’t need any form of sustenance.
What are your thoughts on the subject?
I THINK THERE'S SOME TRUTH to it. But I also think there's some bullshit to it too. People walking around in the same physical body? Ehhhh. I don't think so. People being about to manifest objects? Ehhhh. Don't think so. People being more attuned to nature and being able to predict the future (in small doses)? Yes, I can see that.
My hunch is that if there abilities do exist, they would be associated with some atypical personality traits or states of consciousness. If Joe Schmoe said he could read minds, I would call bullshit. I would be less inclined to call bullshit if it was a lifelong meditator or someone who had developed deep self-acceptance and compassion or focus. I would still be skeptical, but I would be open.
I've had some experiences that have been difficult to explain and would seem to fall into a "supernatural" category. (As an aside, I don't think anything that's real is supernatural...I think we just haven't articulated the science behind it.) I go back and forth about whether these experiences were authentic or whether they had more boring explanations. For example, when you know something about someone that you shouldn't know. Is it real precognition or is it just unconsciously reading subtle clues? I'm still undecided. It feels authentic, but I'm not certain.
This wasn't part of the question, but I will give the standard Buddhist admonition I've heard since forever: it's easy to get attached to fantasies about having special abilities. Even if you have these abilities. If they come as a byproduct of your spiritual practice, great. But if you make it the focus of your practice, you can kind of get lost and veer off-course. Amassing power is about feeding one's conceptual identity, whereas genuine spiritual practice is about seeing through the illusion of one's conceptual identity.