Sunday, 12 May 2019

Theosophy Basics: The Siddhis - Psychic Powers

In The Theosophical Glossary, we have: "Siddhis (Sk.). Lit., “attributes of perfection”; phenomenal powers acquired through holiness by Yogis".
The passage below is from a series of three articles beginning with the very first issue of The Theosophist (October 1879), entitled Yoga-Vidya and was later reprinted in the first two Theosophical editions of Patajanli, The Yoga Philosophy: Being the Text of Patanjali, Tookaram Tatya(1885) :

‘’The student of Yoga will observe a great difference in Siddhis (‘Superhuman faculties,' this is rendered; but not correctly, unless we agree that ' human' shall only mean that which pertains to physical man. 'Psychic faculties' would convey the idea much better : man can do nothing superhuman) that are said to be attainable by Yoga. There is one group which exacts a high training, of the spiritual powers ; and another group which concerns the lower and coarser psychic and mental energies. In the Shrimad Baghavata, Krishna says : " He who is engaged in the performance of Yoga, who has subdued his senses, and who has concentrated his mind in me (Krishna)such Yogis  [all] the Siddhis stand ready to serve.’’

Then Uddhava asks : "Oh, Achyuta (Infallible One) since' thou art the bestower of [all] the Siddhis on the Yogis, pray tell me by what dharana* and how, is a Siddhi attained and how many Siddhis there are. Bhaghavan replies : "Those who have transcended the dharana and yog» say that there are eighteen Siddhis, eight of which contemplate me as the chief object of attainment (or are attainable through me), and the [remaining] ten are derivable from the gunas;" — the commentator explains — from the preponderance of satva guna. These eight superior Siddhis are : Anima, Mahima, Laghima [of the body], Prapti (attainment by the senses), Prakashya,  Ishita, Vashita and an eighth which enables one to attain his every wish.* These," said Krishna, " are my Siddhis." [1]

The Siddhis of Krishna may be thus defined:
1. Anima — the power to atomize " the body;’’to make it become smallest of the smallest.

2. Mahima,  — the power to magnify one's body to any dimensions,.

3. Laghima — the power to become lightest of the lightest.

Let the reader observe that here are two Siddhis (anima and mahima); which can only refer to conditions of the astral body, and a third which may be applicable to either the astral or physical body of the ascetic.

*Dharana – The intense and perfect concentration of the mind upon one interior object; - accompanied by complete abstraction from things of the external world.’’

The ten secondary siddhis are as follows:
  • anūrmimattvam: Being undisturbed by hunger, thirst, and other bodily appetites
  • dūraśravaṇa: Hearing things far away
  • dūradarśanam: Seeing things far away
  • manojavah: Moving the body wherever thought goes (teleportation/astral projection)
  • kāmarūpam: Assuming any form desired
  • parakāya praveśanam: Entering the bodies of others
  • svachanda mṛtyuh: Dying when one desires
  • devānām saha krīḍā anudarśanam: Witnessing and participating in the pastimes of the gods
  • yathā sańkalpa saḿsiddhiḥ: Perfect accomplishment of one's determination
  • ājñāpratihatā gatiḥ: Orders or commands being unimpeded
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras contains another listing of Siddhis (see table):

From Buddhaghosa’s Visuddhimagga (XII, XIII), there is the following (known as the six Abhijnā):
1) iddhi (comprising all kinds of marvelous powers, but being characteristic of a lower type of magic);
a.       Having been one he becomes many; having been many he becomes one.
b.      He appears. He vanishes.
c.       He goes unimpeded through walls, ramparts, & mountains as if through space.
d.      He dives in and out of the earth as if it were water.
e.       He walks on water without sinking as if it were dry land.
f.       Sitting crosslegged he flies through the air like a winged bird.
g.      With his hand he touches & strokes even the sun & moon, so mighty & powerful.
h.      He exercises influence with his body even as far as the Brahma worlds.
2) “divine hearing” (= “deva-hearing”), clairaudience, hearing human and divine voices from a distance (and understanding their meaning);
3) perception of the thoughts of others;
4) remembering past lives;
5) “divine sight or eye” (= the deva-sight), clairvoyance, which knows the cycles of rebirth of all beings according to the rules of Karma;
6) realizing the state of liberation by means of the extinction of the vagaries caused by desire and ignorance.

Additonally, the Samkhya texts give eight Siddhis (Samkhyakarika and Tattvasamasa), and Sikh texts give another eight Siddhis (the Mul Mantar in the Guru Granth Sahib), but the term has a different meaning.

The texts cited above generally agree that these powers should not be actively pursued for their own sake and warn of the inherent dangers:

Those supernormal powers are obstacles or hindrances (upasargāḥ) in Samādhi, but accomplishments (siddhayaḥ) in Vyutthāna --i.e. the ordinary state of consciousness in which the mind fluctuates (Patanjali Yoga Sutras 3, 37)

In this path he is not hindered by the ritualistic rules nor is he attracted by the great Siddhis. This quality of mind, which goes towards God automatically, is called spiritual vigour. (Dnyaneshwari; 16:190)
According to Lalla Buttun Chund: ‘’Siddhis, i.e. psychic powers, which are certain to attend more or less every Yogi, should never be moving cause to induce one to pursue this science; for desires other than that one of realizing OM in the soul, are to be abandoned at the onset (Hints to the Student of Yoga Vidya, The Theosophist, November 1879, 46); and as Blavatsky writes: "Arcane knowledge if misapplied, is sorcery; beneficently used, it is true magic or WISDOM" (Isis Unveiled, Vol. ΙΙ, 590). More specifically, ''Let him aspire to no higher than he feels able to accomplish. Let him not take a burden upon himself too heavy for him to carry. Without ever becoming a "Mahatma," a Buddha or a Great Saint, let him study the philosophy and the "Science of Soul," and he can become one of the modest benefactors of humanity, without any superhuman powers. Siddhis (or the Arhat powers) are only for those who are able to "lead the life," to comply with the terrible sacrifices required for such a training, and to comply with them to the very letter''(Occultism Versus the Occult Arts, C.W. IX, p. 249).

[1] The quote is from the Baghavata Purana (11,15).  For a modern translation see
Patanjali Yoga Sutras, Book 3 On Powers Vibhuti Pada


Samyama on



Saṁyama on the three mutations, essential attribute, temporal character and state as old and new

Knowledge of past and future



Through the reciprocal imposition of word, meaning and idea

knowledge of the meaning hidden in the sounds emitted by all beings


the realization of latent impressions (saṁskāra)

Knowledge of previous births


on the notions (pratyayasya)

Knowledge of others' minds


On the suppression of the property of perceptibility pertaining to the body when the Yogī has gone beyond the range of the eyes



on that Karma, fast in fructifying and slow in fructifying,  or through the signs of approaching death

knowledge of time of death


on friendship (maitryā) and so on

different kinds of strengths


on various strengths (baleṣu)

the strength (bala) of an elephant (hasti), etc.


By applying the light of the supersensory perception

knowledge of subtle things, objects which are obstructed from view or remote


on the Sun, i.e. the solar entrance in the body (sūrye)

knowledge (jñānam) of the worlds (bhuvana)


on the moon --i.e. the lunar entrance in the body-- (candre)

knowledge (jñānam) of the arrangements (vyūha) of stars (tārā)


on the pole star (dhruve)

knowledge (jñānam) of the movement of the stars


on the navel-cakra --i.e. "Maṇipūra"-- (nābhi-cakre)

knowledge of the structure and disposition of the body


on the cavity of the throat

cessation of hunger and thirst


on the bronchial tube (kūrmanāḍyām)

calmness and firmness (sthairyam)


on the coronal (mūrdha) light (jyotiṣi)

perception or vision of the Siddhas, a kind of demigods


through Prātibha, knowledge which comes to a Yogī before the attainment of discriminative knowledge

Knowledge of everything (sarvam)


on the heart (hṛdaye)

knowledge (saṁvid) of mind (citta)


on this Puruṣa --i.e. one's own Self

knowledge (jñānam) of Puruṣa (puruṣa)


From that Saṁyama on Puruṣa, Prātibha a kind of intuitive knowledge

supernatural power of hearing, touch, seeing, tasting and smelling


Through the weakening of the cause of bondage and complete knowledge/understanding of the roaming of mind

mental penetration into the body of another


By conquering (jayāt) Udāna --i.e. one of the five main vital energies

movement without obstacle in water, mud, thorns, etc. and exit from the body at will at the time of death


By conquering Samāna, one of the five main vital energies

effulgence (jvalanam)


on the relationship between the ordinary power of hearing, Śrotendriya, and  the space, ākāśa

divine Power of Hearing (śrotram)


on the relationship between the physical body and space, ākāśa and by identification with the light cotton

movement through the space, the Yogī can fly


A unimagined (akalpitā) conception (vṛttiḥ) outside (vahis), known as the great (mahā) discarnate (videhā)

from Mahāvidehā  removal of the veil over the Light, over Buddhisattva


on the grossness, essential nature, subtlety, inherent quality (anvaya) and objectiveness of the Bhūtas or Elements

victory over those Bhūtas or Elements


From that, manifestation of Aṇimā, the supernormal power of minimization

bodily perfection and non-obstruction of that body


on receptivity, essential nature, I-sense, inherence and objectiveness of the Indriyas

victory over the Indriyas


From the previous come

quickness as of mind, un-instrumental-perception and mastery over the Pradhana


No comments:

Post a Comment