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Ashta Siddhis & other supernatural powers

A yogi in meditation

Siddhi can be translated as perfection or accomplishment. All religions accept the phenomenon of supernatural powers.

8 main powers acquired by a spiritual person as listed in the Indian scriptures are Aṇimā, Mahima, Garima, Laghima, Prāpti, Prākāmya, Iṣiṭva, Vaśitva

There are other lists of such powers too, however these are the most discussed yogic powers.

Ashta Siddhis are:

1. Aṇimā:

Ability to reduce the size of the body, sometimes even to the size of the atoms.  ('Becoming smaller than the smallest' as described in Srimad Bhagavatam by Lord Krishna)

Example: Hanuman had reduced the size of his body while he was searching for Sita in Lanka.

2. Mahima:

Ability to assume a gigantic form ('Becoming larger than the largest' as described in Srimad Bhagavatam by Lord Krishna)

Example:

  1. Hanuman assumed a huge form to burn Lanka, he also assumed big form to fight Kumbha Karna
  2. In Vaamana avatar Lord Vishnu increased his form which was so gigantic that it only took him three steps to cover all three worlds

3. Garima

Ability to become very heavy in weight by will

Example: Lord Hanuman made his tail very heavy that even Bhima couldn't life it (Bhima who was climbing the GandhaMadana mountains to get Saugandhika flowers for Draupadi was stopped by a monkey whose tail was on the way, Bhima orders the monkey to take the tail off the road, monkey being old tells him to move it himself, but Bhima couldn't even lift the monkey's tail)

4. Laghima

Laghima comes from the word laghu, which means small or light. Laghima is the ability to make the body very light ('Becoming lighter than the lightest'). Levitation and flying in the air are its subsidiary powers

5. Prāpti

Word praapti means 'to obtain', 'having obtained', 'to have got'. Thus praapti is the ability to acquire anything anywhere.

6. Prākāmya

The ability to obtain anything desired, ability to have realized the dreams

7. Iṣiṭva

Iṣa=lord; isitva=lordship; The power of absolute lordship over entire creation

8. Vaśitva

The ability to have everything under control, especially the physical manifestation made up of 5 elements

Supernatural powers mentioned in Bhagavata Purana

  1. Tri-kāla-jñatvam: Knowledge of past present and future
  2. Advandvam (non-duality): not being subject to dualities of heat/ cold, pain/ pleasure, sweat/ bitter, good/ bad
  3. Para citta ādi abhijñatā: Knowing of others' minds
  4. Agni arka ambu viṣa ādīnām pratiṣṭambhaḥ: having fire, sun, water, poison in control and stopping their effect
  5. Aparājayah: becoming unconquerable
  6. Anūrmi-mattvam: Being undisturbed by hunger, thirst, and other body generated cravings
  7. Dūra-śravaṇa: Hearing things/ events happening very far
  8. Dūra-darśanam: Seeing  things/ events happening very far
  9. Manaḥ-javah (manojvitva): Moving physical body wherever one wants
  10. kāma-rūpam: Attaining/ assuming desired form
  11. Para-kāya praveśanam (vikranabhav): Entering another persons body (spirits are believed to enter a person's physical body whose astral body is weak, but the power mentioned here is different and superior)
  12. Sva-chanda mṛtyuh: To die only on one's wish (like that of Bhishma from Mahabharat, like that of many sages who left their bodies by their own wish)
  13. Devānām saha krīḍā anudarśanam: Witnessing the pastimes of demi-gods (or Witnessing the events of 3 worlds as pastimes like god does)
  14. Yathā sańkalpa saḿsiddhiḥ: Achieving as one determines
  15. ājñā apratihatā gatiḥ: One's commands unstopped

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 English translation
Janma auṣadhi mantra tapaḥ samādhijāḥ siddhayaḥ 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

Note: Lord Gautama Buddha stressed that it is wiser to achieve freedom from bondage than to attain any or all of the powers


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