Himalayan Art Resources

Subject: Flying Monks & Others

Weird & Off Topics Main Page

Monks & Others Who Fly:
- Shakyamuni Buddha
--- Avadana Stories
--- Maudgalyayana
- Eighty-four Mahasiddhas
--- Shantideva
--- Ghantapa
--- Krishnacharya
--- Kadgapa
--- Kotalipa
--- Bhandepa
--- Manibhadra
--- Dharikapa
- Padmasambhava
--- Namkha Nyingpo
--- Yeshe Wangpo
--- Dorje Dudjom
--- Yeshe Yang
- Milarepa
--- Naro Bonchung
- Others...

Video: Flying Monks & Others

In the Avadana literature there are a number of stories relating how Shakyamuni Buddha flew through the air to travel to various destinations. The student most famous for flying is Maudgalyayana who was also chastised by the Buddha for flying too much. Shantideva in his hagiographic life story concerning his time spent at Nalanda monastery is said to have levitated above his seat while teaching the 9th chapter of the Bodhicharyavatara text. He then flew into the sky and left Nalanda.

The two mahasiddhas Ghantapa and Krishnacharya were known to fly in the sky. A number of other siddhas were also known for flying. Padmasambhava and a least four of his principal students were known for flying in the sky: Namkha Nyingpo, Yeshe Wangpo, Dorje Dudjom and Yeshe Yang.

There is a famous story concerning the life of Milarepa and his contest with a Bon practitioner named Naro Bonchung who was known for riding a drum through the air. The conflict was about magical abilities and dominance over Kailash mountain. Narrative vignettes of the competition are commonly depicted in Milarepa life story paintings. It is interesting to note that there is no Naro Bonchung recorded in any Bon culture, religious literature or historical records. At least one Tibetan Buddhist family claims descent from the line of Naro Bonchung.

There are many other individuals from the Indian and Himalayan world who were known for flying to a greater or lesser degree depending on the popularity of their life stories.

Jeff Watt 5-2021

The Flying Mystics of Tibetan Buddhism. Glenn H. Mullin. Rubin Museum of Art, 2006.

(The images below are only a selection of examples from the links above).