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Diversity of Siddhis in the Yoga Sutras

by Swami Veda

Book Cover: Yogi in the Lab[This passage has been taken from Yogi in the Lab, by Swami Veda Bharati, published in 2006 by SRSG Publications].

One of the possible areas of scientific investigation would be the methods suggested in the Yoga-sutras of Patanjali for the realization of various accomplishments, siddhis. Even though only a rare few yogis may demonstrate these powers in full, the neuro-physiological effects produced in the process of the special concentrations recommended for specific accomplishments would point towards a new dimension in autogenic controls and therapies.

Here we take up the topic of these siddhis just to show the diverse range of this line of yoga achievements.

The Sanskrit terms have not been translated here, with due apologies to those unfamiliar with the language, as that would require a much larger treatise to explain the implication of each.

The word siddhi occurs in YS [Ed: Yoga Sutras] four times.  In the first occurrence (2.43) it refers to the perfection of body and senses as a result of tapas. In the second (2.45) Samadhi itself is considered a siddhi, or the sutra speaks of the perfection of Samadhi. Third time (3.37) siddhis are stated to be undesirable accretions (upa-sarga) as regards the goal of Samadhi. In the fourth (4.1) the siddhis are stated to be accomplished through five different means.

It needs to be borne in mind that the chapter regarded as the most dedicated to explaining siddhis is not called siddhi-pada but vi-bhuti-pada. We need to understand this word “vi-bhuti”. Its verb root meaning is pointed to in the Rg-Veda 8.58.2: ekam va idam vi babhuva sarvam. (Indeed, all this [is] one that has become diverse). This refers to the diversity of creation within a unity as emphasized in the rest of the mantra:

Eka evagnir bahudha samiddha
Eka suryo vishvam anu pra-bhutah
Ekaivoshah sarvam idam vi bhati
Ekam va idam vi babhuva sarvam.

Taking the point from this earliest reference to the concept of vi-bhuti we may understand the tenth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita titled vibhuti-yoga, with a different nuance – not mere powers but the varieties, diversities within the one divine being.

At what point in the linguistic history the word became “frozen” and set in the meaning of powers and glories cannot be ascertained. It is only to be assumed that the siddhis mentioned in the 3rd pada of YS are to be equated with the concept of vi-bhuti in the Rg-vedic sense of “varieties of being”. Just as the One Divine Being manifests varieties and diversities in His/Her being, so also does the yogi in his own being.

Editor’s Note:

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