Siddhis [Sanskrit, roughly translated as “perfect abilities”] and vibhutis [Sanskrit, literally “revelations, powers”] are supernatural powers acquired through the practice of yoga. These include clairaudience, clairvoyance, the ability to read thoughts, levitation, supremacy over the body and mind, knowledge of a previous birth, dominion over the elements, vision of perfected beings, and the power of making oneself invisible. The supreme siddhi is enlightenment.
Patanjali, a Hindu sage who lived sometime between the fourth century B.C. and the fourth century A.D., told us that these powers can come not only to yogis but also to those whose minds are spontaneously enlightened through purity. Western saints like Padre Pio have been reported to possess some of these siddhis. But the siddhis are not the goal. Patanjali called them “obstacles to samadhi.” He said when the yogi gives up even these powers, “the seed of evil is destroyed and liberation follows.” Jesus demonstrated this when he successfully passed the three tests of Satan in the wilderness.
It is the supreme test of the yogi to give up the siddhis. As Christopher Isherwood and Swami Prabhavananda write in their excellent commentary on Patanjali: “Of all powers, the psychic powers are, from the standpoint of the ego, the most desirable. The yogi who has held even these powers within his grasp and nevertheless renounced them, has rejected the ultimate temptation of the ego,” which, of course, is power.
As the yogi develops powers, “it is easy for him to become involved in power- and sex-relationships which will make him forget his original purpose.” Patanjali warned: “When tempted by the invisible beings in high places, let the yogi feel neither allured nor flattered; for he is in danger of being caught once more by ignorance.”
Isherwood and Prabhavananda comment: “‘The invisible beings in high places’ are the fallen yogis who have reached the state of disincarnate gods or become merged in the forces of Nature. Such beings have failed to find liberation precisely because they yielded to the temptations of the psychic powers.”
Himalaya has said:
Some who have come out of the East unto the West showing physical prowess and the siddhis have not yet internalized the living Word who is the Universal Christ. Thus, beloved, know that siddhis alone do not clear the path for the incarnate Word. Thus, seek to be one with avatara, incarnation of God, and then know that thy God in thee is the All-Power, as Above and below.
Pearls of Wisdom, vol. 33, no. 20, May 27, 1990.
- Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, trans., How to Know God: The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali (Hollywood, Calif.: Vedanta Press, 1981), p. 188.
- Ibid., p. 194.
- Mark 4:1–11.
- Prabhavananda and Isherwood, How to Know God, p. 195.
- Ibid., p. 198.
- Ibid., p. 195.
- Himalaya, “The Heart of Christ Is the Open Door,” Pearls of Wisdom, vol. 30, no. 57, November 26, 1987.