Category: Powers of Yoga
A spiritual power primarily serves as an indicator of one’s success in the practice of spiritual, mystical, and esoteric disciplines. In India, these spiritual powers are called Siddhis. Siddhi is a Sanskrit word that means accomplishment, attainment, or success in connection to both the physical and superphysical worlds.
I encountered the word Siddhi one day while I was sitting in my cubicle enjoying a nice warm cup of mental agitation. During that period, life was becoming more like a prison for me each day. Wherever I go, I had this compelling urge to get away from everything. I just wanted to do something else, something meaningful. I started thinking again about my childhood fantasies for some reason. I remembered dreaming about moving objects just by using thought, reading other people’s minds, going out of my body to travel to different places, and so on. Ok, so the word “escapism” pops up. I know, right?
Anyway, after realizing that the mental diversion was taking me further and further away from the tasks at hand, I decided to continue wasting more precious working hours doing the only thing I considered worth spending my time on – reading stuff. I searched for every article and every book that talked about spiritual powers. One thing led to another, and soon enough, my eyes were gazing upon the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Honestly, it made me feel like a kid who was opening his very first present on Christmas day. Suddenly, I had in front of me something which I really felt could help me find the answer to one question I’ve been asking myself for a very long time – Who am I?
The Yoga Sutras Of Patanjali
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is a very influential classical text from the yoga school of Hindu philosophy. This is mainly what I use to appreciate how the minds of the Indian yogis work. A yogi is a male spiritual practitioner; yogini is the term used for women. Patanjali was an Indian sage and yogi who lived in the 2nd century BCE. His sutras (short aphoristic statements) about Yoga were divided into four books or chapters:
Book 1: Samadhi Pada – contains a description of yoga and the process of Samadhi (a profound consciousness state induced by complete meditation).
Book 2: Sadhana Pada - contains all the sutras that pertain to the practices of yoga. I’ll explain this later.
Book 3: Vibhuti Pada – contains all the sutras that pertain to Siddhis (spiritual attainments or powers) which is what this article series is all about.
Book 4: Kaivalya Pada - contains all the sutras that pertain to the goal of yoga which is moksha or liberation. The articles below will help you arrive at this concept one way or another.
Vibhuti Pada: The Book of Spiritual Powers
In our world today, man seems to be in an escalating conflict with three powerful forces. First, there’s man against nature. Second, there’s man against machine. Finally, there’s man against himself. Other than that, man is so systematically conditioned to believe that both his mind and body are only capable of achieving what science tells him it can do. Consequently, man forgets that he possesses the most powerful thing that exists in the Universe which conquers all these forces - a thing that he calls Consciousness.
The Vibhuti Pada is not only a chapter that describes a list of spiritual powers and the methods for attaining them, but it also serves as an extraordinary guide for anyone who wants to find out what Consciousness really means. I think it’s time that more people become aware of the knowledge contained in these sutras. Some people say that the only way humanity can save itself from total annihilation is for a change in consciousness to occur. If that is true, then I guess communicating this information to others is my contribution for that change.
Translations Of The Vibhuti Pada
My interpretation of the sutras is based primarily on the translations in these books. They have been really helpful in my study of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.
- The Science Of Yoga: The Yoga-Sutras Of Patanjali In Sanskrit - I. K. Taimni
- The Yoga Sutras Of Patanjali: "The Book of the Spiritual Man" - Charles Johnston
- The Yoga-Sûtra Of Patañjali: Sanskrit-English Translation & Glossary - Chip Hartranft
The Science of Yoga has the most comprehensive analysis of the sutras. The Science of Yoga was written by I. K. Taimni who not only is a scientist, but also an influential scholar in the fields of Yoga and Indian Philosophy. It’s an inclusive work that provides the text of the Yoga-Sutras of Patanjali in Sanskrit, transliteration in Roman, followed by a translation and commentary. For those of you who practice yoga, the interpretation of the sutras in The Science of Yoga is definitely a valuable tool in understanding the domain of Eastern spirituality from a modern day perspective. I personally recommend that you grab a copy of this book.
The Purpose Of Attaining Spiritual Powers
Some people out there promote yoga as some kind of health treatment/training exercise. Although it can, in fact, make you healthy, you’re only wasting time and money on these people if that’s the only thing they teach you about yoga.
In order for you to fully grasp what this whole spiritual power enterprise is all about, you must first place yourself from the standpoint of the student of yoga. Other than that, you might get confused with some of the terms used in Hindu philosophy, so it's better that you become acquainted with them first. With that said, kindly take the time to carefully study the articles below:
- Raja Yoga – This is the system derived from Patanjali’s sutras which allows mind-body integration in preparation for the attainment of the spiritual powers listed at the end of this post.
- Samyama Meditation - Raja yoga is composed of eight limbs (sets of techniques). The last three limbs (Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi) form Samyama and are practiced simultaneously. The first five limbs (Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, and Pratyahara) serve as preparatory exercises for Samyama. Siddhis may arise while practicing the first five limbs, but Patanjali specifically points to Samyama as the means to gain full control of them.
- 7 Major Chakras – Each siddhi (spiritual power) requires meditation on one or several subtle energy centers called chakras. Some of the sutras do not exactly give reference to them that’s why I had to find the corresponding chakra for each siddhi.
How Spiritual Powers Are Developed
The siddhis are the result of birth, drugs, mantras, austerities, or Samadhi. Our attention should be on Samadhi, but let me try to explain all of them briefly.
- Birth – Reincarnation is a major concept in Eastern philosophy. The Hindus believe that although we are born in this world with a tabula rasa (blank slate) we carry in us a set of potentialities called Samskaras (the seeds of our actions in previous lives). These tendencies, they say, remain inactive and only manifest when the right conditions are present. Some people may be born with certain talents, abilities, or even spiritual powers, but unless the conditions are favorable to their development, these gifts cannot be ripened to their fullest expression. Additionally, I.K. Taimni mentioned in his commentary of the sutras that some people – whose moral and intellectual development are not very highly advanced – are sometimes born with certain spurious occult powers. The reason could be that they experimented with Yogic practices in their previous lives.
- Austerities – Austerities are called Tapas in Sanskrit. If you are a glutton for punishment, you may enjoy this kind of thing and somehow develop siddhis. Nevertheless, even if it’s part of Niyama (2nd limb of yoga), performing austerities is not the primary objective of the meditative path.
- Psychedelics Drugs & Entheogens – Siddhis can be developed by using Psychedelics Drugs or Entheogens, but they cannot be compared to the higher class of spiritual powers only attained through Samyama meditation. If you’re really into this, I suggest that you read the works of John C. Lilly (inventor of the isolation tank) and Stanislav Grof (one of the founders of transpersonal psychology).
- Mantras – Mantras are effective tools for attaining steadiness of the mind. They are also efficient in invoking certain energies in the realm of the unconscious. But, of course, Patanjali only recommended meditation because that was his mojo.
- Samadhi – Samadhi is the final stage of Samyama Meditation and the siddhis attained through it are the most powerful types because you have complete control over them.
List Of Spiritual Powers
Here is the list of spiritual powers found in Book III of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Each article contains information about the methods and concepts that will help you understand what these powers are all about.
- Precognition & Retrocognition: Knowledge Of The Past And Future
- Clairaudience: Knowledge of the Sounds-Language of All Beings
- Knowledge Of Past Lives Or Previous Births
- Telepathy: Knowledge Of The Minds Of Other Beings
- The Ability To Make The Body Invisible (Invisibility)
- Foreknowledge Of The Time Of Death
- Strength Of Any Attitude (Such As Friendliness)
- Super Strength (Such As That Of An Elephant)
- Clairvoyance: Knowledge of Subtle, Hidden, & Remote Things
- Knowledge Of Other Worlds, Realms, And Universes
- Knowledge Of The Arrangement Of Stars And Planets
- Knowledge Of The Movement Of Stars And Planets
- Full Knowledge Of The Systems Of The Body
- Freedom From Hunger And Thirst
- The Power Of Steadiness Or Immobility
- Visions of Siddhas (Perfected Beings)
- Intuitive Knowledge or Spontaneous Illumination
- Knowledge Of The Nature Of The Mind
- Knowledge Of Pure Consciousness (Spirit/Purusha)
- Extra Sensory Perception: Activating Your Psychic Abilities
- Entering And Controlling The Bodies Of Others
- The Power Of Levitation (Laghima)
- Radiating Light Around The Body (The Luminosity of Auras)
- Super Hearing (Hearing At Vast Distances)
- Teleportation: Ability To Travel Through Space (Akasa Gamanam)
- Vision Of The Light Of The Universal Mind
- Mastery Of The Elements (Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Ether)
- Maha-Siddhis: Making The Body Atomically Small, Indestructible, Perfect, etc.
- Perfection Of The Body In Beauty, Strength, And Brilliance
- Mastery Over The Five Senses Of The Body
- Quickness Of The Mind (Instantaneous Cognition)
- Omnipotence & Omniscience: Mastery Of All States Of Existence
- Knowledge Born Of The Awareness Of Ultimate Reality
- Intuitive Discernment: Ability To Distinguish or Differentiate All Things
- Higher Knowledge And Wisdom
- Absolute Freedom (Kaivalya): The Perfect Spiritual Life
- Taimni, I.K. (1961). The Science of Yoga. Madras: Theosophical Publishing House.
- Johnston, C. (1912). The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: The Book of the Spiritual Man (an interpretation). Harvard University
- Hartranft, C. (2003). The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali: Sanskrit-English Translation & Glossary. Shambhala Classics