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Vidyādhara (Pāli, vijjādhara; possessor of magical power) is a master of esoteric knowledge, a magician or sorcerer. In Indian Buddhist and Hindu sources the vidyādhara is depicted as a human or supernatural being who, by means of various occult sciences, develops the ability to perform marvelous feats like flying through the air, transmuting base metals into gold, becoming impervious to weapons, and so on. In the MahĀyĀna tantric tradition of Bengal, the term vidyādhara became a synonym for the mahĀsiddha or "great accomplished one," a tantric master who attains liberation as an immortal wonder worker. Classically eighty-four in number, mahāsiddhas either ascend alive to the paradise of the ḌĀkinĪs or remain among humans until the advent of the Future Buddha Maitreya (Pāli, Metteyya). From either abode, mahāsiddhas continuously protect the Buddha's religion and instruct worthy disciples in their liberating mysteries.

A similar tradition from Southeast Asia is the esoteric weikza cult of Burma (Myanmar). The Burmese weikza or weikza-do (from Pāli vijjādhara) is a kind of semi-immortal sorcerer committed to the protection of Buddhism and destined to remain alive until the coming of Metteyya. Possessed of an incorruptible body, the weikza teaches human disciples how to attain magical power and extraordinarily long life through such means as the recitation of spells, the casting of runes, and alchemy. It is a premise of the system that these techniques depend for the efficacy on a simultaneous mastery of meditative trance (dhyāna; Pali, jhāna). While almost certainly descended from the tantric tradition of Bengal, the weikza cult has long been domesticated to the dominant worldview of Burmese TheravĀda Buddhism and no longer retains any overt Mahāyāna elements.


Ferguson, John P., and Mendelson, E. Michael. "Masters of the Buddhist Occult: The Burmese Weikzas." Contributions to Asian Studies 16 (1981): 62–80.

Snellgrove, David. Indo-Tibetan Buddhism: Indian Buddhists and Their Tibetan Successors. Boston: Shambhala, 1987.

Patrick A. Pranke