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Yoga Powers

The advice: Stick to the essential a lot. First.

Below are some of the superpowers that are referred to in Hindu and Buddhist texts, and some assorted books to find them described in too. You can approach a subject soundly and otherwise - that part is much up to you.

The fact that miracle powers are listed in ancient works, including the Bible, is not a direct proof that they actually exist or lie latent in humans. There is room for sound scepticism here as otherwise.

There is a need to sort the evidence first. That may be rather easy, for there is not a great deal of excellent evidence of parapsychological abilities accepted in the mainstream scientific community. But there is some such evidence. It leaves room for divergent conclusions. Dr. Jessica Utts, for example, thinks that some paranormal powers - such as farsight, or clairvoyance - do exist, based on research findings. Others are not so certain, and still others disagree with her. It all boils down to: "Extra-sensory perception is a rather controversial topic in today's scientific community." Tomorrow it may be different. Manjana. Dr. Charles T. Tart (1977) found decades ago that there are strong indications of various ESP powers in some studies. Dr. Dean Radin has researched the subject and brings quite recent findings in Supernatural (2013). And Dr. Robert Carroll's A Skeptic's Dictionary (1994-2014) contains articles that might do good along with reading Radin in search of a top valid view.

Ask for evidence first, and try to sort it. Yoga texts refer to several powers, and ESP studies include not even half of them. If two so-called paranormal powers are found to exist, that would leave over twenty other such great powers unstudied and hence undocumented in the tracks of science. In such a case it helps fairly little to believe they exist, or believe they don't exist. It is blind belief that is the "culprit" here. If things are not proved either way, it is proper to keep the issues unsettled, in suspension (temporary withholding belief or decision), at bay, so as not to jump to conclusions and be taken in one way or the other. To let what is much unresolved (not fairly document, proved and so on), remain unresolved (as speculation, evidence-frail claims and so on), forms a part of the art of living.

It is good to know which text sources tell of which powers, where to find them - this is at best second-hand referral. Having and documenting such powers yourself, that is first-hand evidence for you yourself, but is hardly for others unless you are subjected to sound research and its scrutinity.

A problem: "One swallow does not make a spring." That is, one or a handful of cases carry insignificant weight as scientific evidence. They are called anecdotal evidence - but may give rise to larger studies of many people, and from the large numbers statistical evidence rises, if the designs are to the point and carried out well, and the conclusions from the findings are decent. There is much that has to fit the formalities of scientific research.

You may study what others have found or think about paranormal powers, and may leave those studies with little evidence. There is a risk of that. However, scientific studies are parts of a long-run process. Who knows what results will pop up "tomorrow"?

At any rate, here are nine abilities people claim to be around, but . . . with evident problems of documenting many of them above the anecdotal level (of single cases or just a few cases made known).

Nine claimed paranormal abilities

  1. Psychokinesis: the said ability to move or manipulate objects with the mind.
  2. Extra Sensory Perception, or ESP, is the ability to gather information without the use of the 5 senses. ESP may be even entertainingly tested with a deck of cards: Two people participate; one views the cards one by one, and the other attempts to figure the card.
  3. Telepathy: the ability to communicate with others with the mind. Within the field of parapsychology this is considered to be a form of ESP. Such information seems to come in different forms, for example in dreams, visions, images, in clairaudience, or in words that pop into the mind. Often such information causes the person, the receiver, to change is course of action. Some incidents involve apparent telepathy between humans and animals.
  4. Clairvoyance: the transfer of information without the use of the senses – it differs from telepathy in that there is no transfer of information from one person to another. A related ability is called Clairaudience.
  5. Psychometry: the ability to "read" information from objects. For example, a psychometrist may hold a watch or wallet belonging to a person they do not know, and by concentrating on the object, garner information about the person's past, present, or future.
  6. Precognition: the ability to foresee events.
  7. Bilocation: the alleged ability to be in two places at the same time. St Pio of Pietrelcina, the famous stigmatic, was said to have this uncommon ability. It is claimed to have been practiced by will, by some mystics, ecstatics, saints, monks, holy persons, and magical adepts.
  8. Postcognition: the opposite of precognition; it is the ability to see an event after it has occurred. Many police forces get assistance from psychics in difficult unsolved cases. There has been some success with postcognitive visions in criminal investigations, but it is often explained away.
  9. Astral Projection: the ability to spiritually separate from your body and travel vast distances with the mind alone. A study done by Dr. Charles Tart tentatively concluded that astral projection may have objective validity. For example, in a 1967 study, a subject was not able to discover a five digit number written down and placed face up in an adjoining room, but did provide some details of the activities of the technician monitoring the experiment. Tart summarizes, "Thus, there is some indication that ESP may have been involved with respect to the technician's activities, but it is not at all conclusive."

Key words: "The evidence is inconclusive."

Powers described in yoga scriptures

It could be that latent powers get roused in advanced meditation as time goes by. They could be needed. Patanjali Yoga Sutras lists many such powers, and points out eight of them as primary. Krishna lists ten more mystic perfections in the Uddhava Gita 15:6-7. Buddhist yoga also tell of meditation-given powers that awaken in some persons. In Tantric Buddhism, so-called supernatural powers

include items such as clairvoyance, levitation, bilocation, becoming as small as an atom, materialization, having access to memories from past lives. [WP, "Sidhi"]

However, there are other, more helpful powers or "skill sets" to go for first, is the bet. Sound scepticism should be helpful (see the Kalama Sutta), along with equally sound confidence in oneself and the skilful, dear, own practice along the Way, where right mindfulness or smriti (Sanskrit), involves awareness of the present moment. It is part of the Gentle Middle Way of Buddhism. In sound Buddhism, focusing well may well "deepen the mind" making the meditator more capable, more aware and so on. Good meditation leads to meditative states, called dhyanas in Sanskrit, and jhanas in the Pali language. Buddha tells of five such stages. There is also great wisdom, great insight to go for (Sanskrit: prajna), of attaining to the truth of what is. Buddha compares these powers to a team of five horses. If set to work together, these powers could prove very useful. (O'Brien 2014)

These are siddhis (or supernatural powers) that Patanjali Yoga lists:

  1. Reducing one's body - making it small indeed.
  2. Expanding one's body largely (who knows which size?)
  3. Becoming heavier and heavier
  4. Becoming just about weightless
  5. Having less restricted access to places (rather free-ranging within).
  6. Realising rather much that one desires
  7. Possessing great control.
  8. Power to subjugate others (who don't have the same power).

In the Bhagavata Purana, knowing the past, present and future is a siddhi, and knowing the minds of others, and more. Ten siddhis are also listed in the Uddhava Gita (15:6-7. It is a part of the Bhagavata Purana. In the Uddhava Gita the ten powers are formulated more categorically than this:

  1. Being much undisturbed by hunger, thirst, and other bodily appetites
  2. Hearing things far, far away (clairaudience)
  3. Seeing things far, far away (clairvoyance)
  4. Moving the body where thought goes (teleportation)
  5. Assuming a form as desired (shapeshifting)
  6. Entering the bodies of others with one's mind
  7. Dying when one desires
  8. Witnessing and participating in the pastimes of the gods
  9. Accomplishing what one determines (Better adjust it, for the wills of others might have to be taken into account too.)
  10. Orders or commands being largely unimpeded (Results would depend on others have the same faculty at work).

In the Samkhya Karika and Tattva Samasa, there are eight siddhis for getting liberated from ignorance, gaining knowledge and experiencing bliss. The eight siddhis are explained in verse 51 of Samkhya Karika. They encompass such as "knowledge gained from a kind-hearted person engaged in the spread of knowledge" and "freedom from being attached to various materialistic gains". [Ibid]

What could be more needed than going for and possibly getting miracle powers, is a balanced perspective. Flaunting such powers or using them indiscretely could prove unwise. That is a part of handed-over, ancient teachings.

Yoga powers, siddhis, Literature  

Carroll, Robert Todd. "The Skeptic's Dictionary." 1994-2014. On-line.

Feuerstein, Georg: The Deeper Dimension of Yoga: Theory and Practice. London: Shambhala, 2003. ⍽▢⍽ For getting a perspective. A wide and mature range of insights are presented in readable ways. The topic of yoga powers is barely mentioned, but Jacobsen's book (below) is about them.

Jacobsen, Knut A., ed. Yoga Powers: Extraordinary Capacities Attained Through Meditation and Concentration. Leiden: Brill, 2012. ⍽▢⍽ A scholarly treatise.

O'Brien, Barbara. "The Five Powers: Empowering Practice." Buddhism, 2014.

Radin, Dean. Supernormal: Science, Yoga, and the Evidence for Extraordinary Psychic Abilities. New York: Deepak Chopra Books / Crown, 2013. ⍽▢⍽ Dr Radin tells of telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition and mind-reading (mind-sensing), and presents experimental evidence. His book is thoroughly researched and clearly written. To reflect on: In the last seventy years, discoveries in science increasingly support thoughts of ancient sages about how reality is, and some contemplative traditions do too.

Richards, Steve. Levitation: What It Is - How It Works - How To Do It. Wellingborough, Northamptonshire: The Aquarian Press, 1980. ⍽▢⍽ The book gives you facts, history, controversies, theories, and old levitation secrets through the power of the mind, and Transcendental Meditation's further practices. There are meditation exercises -

Tart, Charles, ed. Transpersonal Psychologies. New York: Harper Colophon, 1977.

Valmiki. Yoga Vasistha Maharamayana. Revised ed. Ed. Thomas L. Palotas. Tr. V. L. Mitra, Raleigh, NC: Shivabalayogi Seva Foundation /, 2013. ⍽▢⍽This is the long one - "the complete Yoga Vasistha". The complete handed-over text contains over 29,000 verses, while a short version, called Laghu Yogavasistha, contains 6,000 verses. The book has six parts. The fifth part discusses meditation and its powers, and the last book describes an enlightened and blissful one.
    The work is attributed to Sage Valmiki. In it, for twenty-two days Sage Vasishta answers questions of Rama about how reality is. That is to say, the work is in dialogue form. There are numeous fantastic stories in it. Teachings are presented through stories and fables with philosophical underpinnings. They are like many of those in Advaita Vedanta, where an ordinary way of looking at things is not enough.
    The work could have been written between the 6th century and the 11th century. The dating is uncertain.

(WP: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - S.v. "Samkhya Karita"; "Siddhi").

Harvesting the hay

Symbols, brackets, signs and text icons explained: (1) Text markers(2) Digesting.

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