Pali text, illustration and English translation of Dhammapada verse 175:
haṃsādiccapathe yanti ākāse yanti iddhiyā |
niyyanti dhīrā lokamhā jitvā māraṃ savāhiniṃ || 175 ||
175. Swans upon the sun’s path fly, the powerful through space, conquering Māra and his host away from the world the wise are led.
The Story of Thirty Monks
While residing at the Jetavana Monastery, the Buddha spoke this verse, with reference to a group of monks.
For one day thirty monks residing in foreign parts came to visit the Buddha. Venerable Ānanda saw those monks just as he was approaching the Buddha to wait upon him. So he thought to himself, I will wait until the Buddha has exchanged friendly greetings with these monks, and then I will wait upon the Buddha.” Accordingly he waited at the gate. When the Buddha had exchanged friendly greetings with them, he preached the Dhamma to them in a pleasing manner. After listening to the Dhamma all those monks attained arahatship. Thereupon they soared aloft and departed through the air.
When they tarried, Venerable Ānanda approached the Buddha and said, “Venerable, thirty monks came here. Where are they?” “Gone, Ānanda.” “By what path did they go, venerable?” “Through the air, Ānanda.” “But have they already rid themselves of the depravities?” “Yes, Ānanda. After hearing me preach the Dhamma, they attained arahatship.” Now at that moment some swans came flying through the air. Said the Buddha, “Ānanda, he who has fully developed the four grades of magical power, flies through the air like a swan.”
Explanatory Translation (Verse 175)
haṃsā ādiccapathe yanti iddhiyā ākāse yanti
dhīrā savāhiṇiṃ māraṃ jetvā lokamhā nīyanti
haṃsā: the swans; ādiccapathe: in the sun’s path (the sky); yanti: fly; iddhiyā: those with psychic powers; ākāse: in the sky; yanti: roam; dhīrā: the wise; savāhiṇiṃ māraṃ [māra]: death with his retinue; jetvā: having defeated; lokamhā: out of this world; nīyanti. exit (to Nibbāna)
The swans fly away in the sky–as the path of the sun. Those possessing psychic power travel through the sky. Those diligent, wise saints conquer death with his armies and leave the world and reach Nibbāna.
Commentary and exegetical material (Verse 175)
iddhi: power, magical power. The magical powers constitute one of the six kinds of higher spiritual powers (abhiññā). One distinguishes many kinds of magical powers, e.g., the power of determination (adhitthāna iddhi): i.e., the power of becoming oneself manifold, i.e., the power of transformation (vikūbbanā): i.e., the power of adopting another form: i.e., the power of spiritual creation (manomayā): i.e., the power of letting proceed from this body another mentally produced body: i.e., the power of penetrating knowledge (ñāna-vipphāra): i.e., the power of inherent insight to remain unhurt in danger. The power of penetrating concentration (samādhivipphāra), producing the same result.
Noble power (ariyā-iddhi) is the power of controlling one’s ideas in such a way that one may consider something not repulsive as repulsive and something repulsive as not repulsive, and remain all the time imperturbable and full of equanimity. This training of mind is frequently mentioned in the suttas, but only once the name of ariyā iddhi is applied to it.
iddhi-pāda: roads to power, (or success) are the four following qualities, for as guides, they indicate the road to power connected therewith: and because they form, by way of preparation the roads to the power constituting the fruition of the path, namely the concentration of intention (chanda-samādhi) accompanied by effort of will (padhānasankhāra-samannāgata), concentration of energy (viriya), concentration of consciousness (citta), and concentration of investigation (vimaṃsa) accompanied by effort of will. As such, they are supermundane (lokuttara) i.e., connected with the path or the fruition of the path. But they are mundane (lokiya), as predominant factors, for it is said: because the monk, through making intention a predominant factor, reaches concentration, it is called the concentration of intention (chanda-samādhi), etc.”
These four roads of power lead to the attaining and acquiring of magical power, to the power of magical transformation, to the generation of magical power, and to mastery and skill therein. Once the monk has thus developed and often practiced the four roads to power, he enjoys various magical powers–hears with the divine ear heavenly and human sounds–perceives with his mind the mind of other beings–remembers many a former existence–perceives with the Divine Eye beings passing away reappearing–attains, after the extinction of biases, deliverance of mind and deliverance through wisdom, free from biases.
Whosoever, O monks, has missed the four roads to Power, he has missed the right path leading to the extinction of suffering: but whosoever, O monks, has reached the Four Roads to Power, he has reached the right path leading to the extinction of suffering.
iddhiyā ākāse yanti: those with psychic powers (arahats) travel through the sky. The arahat realizes that what was to be accomplished has been done, a heavy burden of sorrow has finally been relinquished, and all forms of craving and all shades of ignorance are totally annihilated. The happy pilgrim now stands on heights more than the celestial, far removed from uncontrolled passions and the defilements of the world, experiencing the unutterable bliss of Nibbāna.
Rebirth can no longer affect him since no more reproductive seeds are formed by fresh kammic activities. Though an arahat he is not wholly free from physical suffering, as this experience of the bliss of deliverance is only intermittent, nor has he yet cast off his material body. An arahat is called an asīkha, one who does not undergo training, as he has lived the holy life and has accomplished his object. The other saints from the sotāpatti stage to the arahat path stage are called sekhas because they still undergo training.
It may be mentioned in this connection that Anāgāmis and arahats who have developed the rūpa and arūpa jhānas could experience the Nibbānic bliss uninterruptedly for as long as seven days even in this life. This, in Pāli, is known as nirodha-samāpatti. An ariya, in this stage, is wholly free from pain, and his mental activities are all suspended. The stream of consciousness temporarily ceases to flow.