The Eight Skills

1. Vipassanā-ñāṇa: clear insight into the elements (dhātu), the aggregates (khandha), and the sense media (āyatana).

2. Manomayiddhi: the ability to project mind-made images.

3. Iddhividhi: supernormal powers.

4. Dibba-sota: clairaudience, the ability to hear sounds near and far.

5. Cetopariya-ñāṇa: knowledge of the thoughts and minds of others.

6. Dibba-cakkhu: clairvoyance, the ability to see without opening your eyes.

7. Pubbenivāsānussati-ñāṇa: knowledge of past lives.

8. Āsavakkhaya-ñāṇa: knowledge that does away with mental effluents.

1. Vipassanā-ñāṇa: This refers to clear insight into the six elements—the properties of earth, water, fire, wind, space, and consciousness—perceiving their true nature, e.g., seeing them as equal in terms of three characteristics—inconstancy, stress, and “not-selfness”; seeing them merely as fabrications; knowing them with regard to all three time periods—past, present and future: what they have been, what they will be, and what they are at the moment. Only when your insight into these matters is absolutely clear does it qualify as vipassanā-ñāṇa.

The aggregates cover the same range of phenomena as the elements but simply classify them in a different way: body, feelings, mental labels, mental fabrications, and consciousness. These aggregates can be reduced to two—physical and mental phenomena—and these in turn can be redivided into six: the senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, ideation) and their corresponding objects. These are termed sense media (āyatana).

In short, clear insight into the elements, aggregates, and sense media forms the first of the eight skills.

2. Manomayiddhi: This refers to the ability to make images of yourself or of others appear to other people. These images can appear in whatever manner you want them to, without your having to make a move. This skill depends on being able to manipulate the four physical properties, focusing on them with the power of jhāna and the determination of the mind to make them appear any way at all.

3. Iddhividhi: Examples of supernormal powers are the ability to make a crowd of people appear to be only a few people, or a few people appear to be a crowd; the ability to walk through fire, on water, or through the dark if walking in bright light; the ability to make the body appear small, tall, short, dark, fair, old, young, etc.; the ability to affect the weather, causing rain, wind, fire, earthquakes, etc. All of this can be accomplished through the power of jhāna.

4. Dibba-sota: the ability to hear sounds no matter how near or far—the voices of human beings, the voices of heavenly beings, or whatever other sound you may focus on hearing.

5. Cetopariya-ñāṇa: the ability to know the thoughts of others—good or bad, crude or refined, hating you or meaning you well. Whatever another person may be thinking will appear clearly to you.

6. Dibba-cakkhu: the ability to see far things as near, and - to see anything clearly, no matter what, without having to open your eyes.

7. Pubbenivāsānussati-ñāṇa: the ability to remember previous lives.

8. Āsavakkhaya-ñāṇa: the knowledge that drives such defilements as passion, aversion, and delusion out of the heart. (These last two skills are explained under the three skills above.)