Monday, August 29, 2016

Siddhis: The Supernatural and Spiritual Powers

Siddhi is a Sanskrit noun which can be translated as "perfection", "accomplishment", "attainment", or "success". In Tamil the word Siddhar/Chitthar refers to someone who has attained the Siddhic powers & knowledge. Chitta is pure consciousness/knowledge in Sanskrit also.

Siddhis are spiritual, paranormal, supernatural, or otherwise magical powers, abilities, and attainments that are the products of spiritual advancement through sādhanās such as meditation and yoga. The term ṛddhi (Pali: iddhi, "psychic powers") is often used interchangeably in Buddhism.

According to scholars, the Visuddhimagga is one of the extremely rare texts within the enormous literatures of various forms of Jainism, Buddhism, and Hinduism to give explicit details about how spiritual masters were thought to actually manifest supernormal abilities. Abilities such as flying through the air, walking through solid obstructions, diving into the ground, walking on water and so forth are performed by changing one element, such as earth, into another element, such as air. The individual must master kasina meditation before this is possible. 

Eight primary siddhis

  1. Aṇimā: ability to reduce the size of the body, sometimes even to the size of the atoms 
  2. Mahima: expanding one's body to an infinitely large size
  3. Garima: ability to become very heavy in weight by will
  4. Laghima: becoming almost weightless 
  5. Prāpti: the ability to acquire anything anywhere. Having unrestricted access to all places
  6. Prākāmya: the ability to obtain anything desired, ability to have realized the dreams
  7. Iṣṭva: possessing absolute lordship over entire creation
  8. Vaśtva: the ability to have everything under control, especially the physical manifestation made up of 5 elements

Supernatural powers mentioned in Bhagavata Purana:

  • Trikālajñatvam: knowing the past, present and future
  • Advandvam: tolerance of heat/cold, pain/pleasure, sweat/bitter, and other dualities  
  • Para citta ādi abhijñatā: knowing the minds of others and so on
  • Agni arka ambu viṣa ādīnām pratiṣṭambhaḥ: having fire, sun, water, poison in control and stopping their effect
  • Aparājayah: remaining unconquered by others
  • 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 (spirits are believed to enter a person's physical body whose astral body is weak, but the power mentioned here is different and superior)
  • 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


In the Samkhyakarika and Tattvasamasa, there are references to the attainment of eight siddhis by which one becomes free of the pain of ignorance, one gains knowledge, and experiences bliss. 

  1. Uuha: based on the samskaras of previous births, the attainment of knowledge about the twenty-four Tatwas gained by examining the determinable and the indeterminable conscious and the non-conscious constituents of creation.
  2. Shabda: knowledge gained by associating with an enlightened person (Guru – upadesh).
  3. Addhyyan: knowledge gained through study of the Vedas and other standard ancillary texts,
  4. Suhritprapti: knowledge gained from a kind-hearted person, while engaged in the spread of knowledge.
  5. Daan: knowledge gained regardless of one’s own needs while attending to the requirements of those engaged in the search of the highest truth.
  6. Aadhyaatmik dukkh-haan: freedom from pain, disappointment, etc. that may arise due to lack of spiritual, metaphysical, mystic knowledge and experience.
  7. Aadhibhautik dukkh-haan: freedom from pain etc. arising from possessing and being attached to various materialistic gains.
  8. Aadhidaivik dukkh-haan: freedom from pain etc. caused by fate or due to reliance on fate.

The attainment of these eight siddhis renders one no longer in a painful state of ignorance but in possession of greater knowledge and experience of bliss. The aim of Samkhya is to eliminate all kinds of physical and mental pains and to receive liberation.

Other powers:

  • Memories of past lives
  • Clairvoyance
  • Levitation
  • Bi-location/ multi-location
  • Materialization
  • Control over natural phenomenon like raining, sunrise/ sunset
  • Prakhya Siddhi: ability to chose the womb to be born in before birth
  • Surya Vijnan: Transforming one material into another by the use of sun rays

Ways to attain Supernatural powers

In Patanjali's Yoga Sutras IV: 1, Patanjali mentions ways to attain supernatural powers.

Yoga Sutra Chapter 4: Verse 1: Janma auṣadhi mantra tapaḥ samādhijāḥ siddhayaḥ

English translation: Birth, medicine (drugs/ herbs), mantra (incantations), penance (self-discipline) and  Samadhi born are Supernatural powers

As stated in the verse, here are the ways to attain supernatural powers:

  • By birth: Those born of spiritually advanced parents receive the powers through birth because of the womb they are born in and the genes. (This can also be translated as 'some may have supernatural powers from birth because of their attainments in previous lives')
  • Medicine: Use of special drugs (herbs in particular) help one attain some miraculous powers. (In the story of Rama there is an episode of Sanjeevini herb brought by Hanuman bringing back Laxman to life)
  • Mantra: Incantation of mantras (powerful syllables or words) is said to grant powers to the one chanting them, Early part of Vedas has many of such mantras. It is believed that mantras work in two ways: 1) Because of the power of sounds (word) 2) because of the self-discipline it brings
  • Penance: Self-disciplining is believed to clarify the cloud of mind so that one is able to control the 5 elements just by the wish, it is possible by unperverted thinking.
  • Samadhi: When one achieves oneness with consciousness it is said to grant one with extra-ordinary powers

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