The Siddhis of Patanjali are some of the most powerful spiritual technologies ever devised. See how you can prepare to learn and make the most of these advanced formulas.
The Eight Siddhis Yoga Sutras
Patanjali, also know as Gonardiya or Gonikaputra, is given credit for creating The Yoga Sutras. Legend has it that Patanjali divided the knowledge of the Siddhis work between eight students. It leads historians to suspect Patanjali was not the only one to contribute to the final piece. Patanjali lived sometime between the 2nd and 5th centuries CE.
The document containing the sutras describes these formulas’ attributes and desired results but not how to use them. It makes mastering the Siddhis Yoga Sutras challenging.
What are the Siddhis? They translate to extraordinary powers, which causes more confusion. Some people are interested in learning the Siddhis because they want supernatural powers. Levitation and invisibility are among the exceptional abilities on the list. So, they spark broad interest.
The most widely taught form of this knowledge is the TM Siddhis Sutras of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Maharishi helped to bring meditation to the West with his transcendental meditation technique (TM). His organization has two main ways they teach the Siddhis. The first way is in eight two to three-week segments. It takes a little over a year to obtain all the sutras with this schedule. The second way is to learn them all in one six-month-long residence course.
The process and Sutras have evolved since first introduced to the public in the 1970s. Reports from the movement’s inner circle say the Sutras resulted from research by Mahrishi and his senior students dating back to the 1950s.
The Eight Siddhis and Yoga Sutras of Patanjali Explained
Okay, first off, there are several translations and explanations for the work of Patanjali. Many prominent teachers from India have created their translation of this knowledge. The following description and points are those which apply to the TM Siddhis tradition.
First, it’s easy to mix up the “Yoga Sutras of Patanjali,” which refers to the Eight Limbs of Yoga with the Siddhis Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The Siddhis are a different vertical of knowledge from the Eight Limbs of Yoga. They are not the same thing. Yes, they both have the “Yoga” in the name, but that’s as far as the similarities go.
Second, each of the eight siddhis has multiple components, words, or phrases. For example, one Siddis may be the attribute of “friendliness.” It is not an Indian mantra but the word in your native language. Each word follows a progression using an expression of three or sometimes four other words.
Third, if you use the formula on the surface of the conscious mind, it will have zero effect. The recipe only works when “released” or “introduced” while in the 4th state. Using the formula on a conscious level dilutes the effectiveness of the Sutra. So, once learned, you “only recall them” when in the 4th state. You do not verbalize or chant them. The siddhis yoga sutras are in the transcendent, awaiting you to prompt them.
Fourth, you use the Sutras in a specific progression. You don’t pick one Sutra and try to make it work. You practice the sutras along with other techniques in a “round.”
Fifth, the “round” starts with some gentle physical Yoga postures to awaken the body and bring attention to the body. The preparation practices also include some specific pranayama breathing exercises. Then you meditate using Japa or TM for 20 minutes. After about 20 minutes, while in the 4th state, you interject the Sutras in progression, using a prescribed process. The last part of the round is listening to a segment of Sama Veda; this helps normalize the practice.
The “round” is called the path of life. Many people practice this twice a day. Some people recommend going a vacation “round’ for a week or more to increase its effectiveness. When one goes on this type of intensive retreat, you practice the round twice in the morning and then twice in the afternoon. So, you are practicing these four times a day for a total of 4 to 5 hours a day.
Mastering the Siddhis Yoga Sutras
Many of the most famous teachers from India have written books on their interpretation of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and the “Sutras of the Siddhis.” Most of the books on the subject of the Siddhis talk about the potential expressions of the Siddhis.
In other words, they talk about the goals and supernatural manifestations of the technique. It’s like telling someone what it’s like to fly an airplane without explaining how to do it.
When you work with a teacher to practice the siddhis when they talk about invisibility or flying sutras, they refer to the particular internal sensations of the Sutra rather than an external event. In other words, you manifest a unique phenomenon in the mind that makes you feel like you are flying or becoming transparent. Once the student understands this aspect, it removes the unnecessary expectation. Remember, this is a journey inward. The power you experience will be within the mind.
The Siddhis use the traditional eight limbs for “grounding” and “expanding” awareness. However, the Siddhis go beyond the Yoga Sutras, onto a vertical path of knowledge.
Walking The Path of Life
Walking the path requires regular meditation where one reaches and becomes grounded in the transcendent. This regular bathing in bliss consciousness provides the foundation, or “grounding,” that makes the execution of the eight siddhis possible.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi devised this path as a way to deliver the promises of the Siddhis Yoga Sutras. It’s a path that requires grounding in the transcendent and understanding how to implement the technique.
It’s the “how-to” part of the equation. So, instead of another book about the practice of the Siddhis might give us, he teaches how to use them. And Mahrishi distinguishes them from Yoga Sutras, calling them the TM Siddhis Sutras.
The proper meditative process to reach this 4th state of awareness has two common names, Japa or Transcendental Meditation (TM). Both are the same process, and the latter is the more commercially available form. TM is the name given the technique by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He is one of the Sages from India who brought meditation to the West and helped to make meditation an acceptable practice in a Judaio Christian culture.
One of the main principles behind Maharishi’s teaching is that one must execute these Sutras or formulas while in the 4th state of pure consciousness. Therein lies the main issue for those who want to learn them.
As straightforward as the formula seems, you must be grounded in the 4th state of consciousness for it to work. If you aren’t grounded, then they are ineffectual. To be grounded, one must meditate using a technique that allows one to enter this state regularly. Again, Japa Meditation is the generic name for the process Mahrishi calls TM. If you can’t find someone who teaches the Japa technique, the TM technique is available worldwide.
If you go to a qualified teacher to learn the Siddhis, they will undoubtedly have a vetting and preparation process to ensure you are grounded and ready. You will start by learning to meditate properly. They will also be able to sit with you during your practice to answer questions or things that come up. A qualified teacher will debrief you to make sure your experience progresses the right way without setting expectations that taint your practice. Walking “the path of life” is a considerable time commitment to learn the sutras and continue the daily routine.
Story of The Man Who Has Never Slept
Explaining the experience of the Siddhis is like explaining what sleep is to someone who has never fallen asleep.
Let’s imagine you met someone who has never fallen asleep, so consequently, they have never had a dream. How could we explain how to “fall” asleep and the benefits of doing so? If they asked you, “how do you know you are asleep?”
You’d have to tell them you don’t know you are asleep. That’s because when you are sleeping, you are unaware of time. Several hours pass, and you have no experience of time passing.
After you sleep, you awaken refreshed and rested. The only thing that could happen while you are asleep is that you might have dreams. Okay, now you have to explain what about dreaming. Now, this leads to more trouble because some dreams become intense hallucinations known as nightmares. Yes, the most frightening things you could imagine. And, they seem real.
At this point in our discussion, the other person is becoming more hesitant. They are not sure they want to attempt sleeping. Not only is it a waste of time, but they “lose” awareness of their body. And they don’t like the possibility of having a frightening nightmare. So, the answer to the sleep experience is “no.”
These are the excuses people use for not exploring other states of consciousness. They don’t have any similar experiences to compare. So, it is scary. The same applies to the practice of the Siddhis.
Mastering the Siddhis
I recall someone asking Mahrishi if someone could ever master the TM Siddhis Sutras. As I remember it, it replied something like, “can you master consciousness?” So, these formulas are expressions of pure consciousness of which we are swimming. It’s like swimming. You can become a great swimmer, but do you master the ocean? No. You can learn to swim in it expertly. There is always more road ahead on the path of life.
Some people experience intense emotional energy of the Siddhis when they first learn them. Others take some time before the sparks begin. The embodiment of each Sutra returns a unique energetic response. The more attuned you become to the subtleties of them, the more distinct they become.
The practice of these Sutras, like any other spiritual practice, will ebb and flow. You will have plateaus, peaks, and valleys.
Different Ways to Understand The Eight Siddhis
Depending on your source, there are eight classical Siddhis, or eight great perfections include the following:
1) Aṇimā is the ability to become small, perhaps even reducing one’s body to the size of an atom. It is this sutra that is the source of the legend of invisibility.
2) Mahimā is the opposite of Aṇimā. It’s the ability to become large, expanding one’s body to any size. Here we have the legend of giant warriors.
3) Laghimā is the ability to become weightless or lighter than air. It is from this Sutra that the TM movement gets its practice of levitation.
4) Prāpti To instantaneously travel or be anywhere at will. Here is the power of astral projection.
5) Prākāmya is the ability to achieve or realize whatever one desires. Some teachers say this Sutra is the ingredient that makes the other Siddhis work as advertised.
6) Īśiṭva It is the ability to control everything, including nature, individuals, organisms, etc. Supremacy over nature and the ability to force your influence upon anyone.
7) Vaśiṭva is the ability to control all material elements or natural forces. Similar to Īśiṭva but applies to non-living things.
The eighth is either of the two following options:
8) a. Kāma-avasayitva: satisfaction, suppression of desire, or as wishes which come true.
8) b. Garimā: is the ability to become infinitely heavy and so immovable.
We will be using the TM Siddhis Sutras as our point of reference rather than the classical form. Other teachers have different approaches. Okay, so first of all, there a many more than eight individual sutras. They typically teach the TM Siddhis in eight sets that contain more than one sutra. Each group has one or more words or phrases. I generally say this because the learning method continues to evolve.
We have omitted the “desired effect” of these Sutras not to raise expectations.
Let’s say you have a goal of mastering the siddhis yoga sutras and want to try them. If you say the words from the list below, nothing will happen, and there’s a good reason. Repeating these words on the conscious level of the mind is ineffectual. It’s like trying to pick up a pebble off of the bottom of a deep lake by placing your hand on the surface. It’s not going to work.
If you don’t introduce them while in the 4th state of the transcend, nothing will happen. If you haven’t been practicing long enough to be grounded, nothing will happen. If you don’t introduce them in the right way, they won’t work either.
So, if you think you play around and see if you can get them to work, it will be a waste of your time. The sutras are provided here as a reference for those who have the requisite level of grounding and are ready to begin.
After you learn, You should practice each set for at least four weeks before moving to the next. They are a progression. You will know if you are using the sutra correctly by the response you get. If you aren’t getting a result, then keep practicing.
Here’s something else you probably don’t want to hear, but these sutras are like skills. Everyone can play basketball to some extent, but not everyone can play like Micheal Jordan. So, your practice may stall out at any level. You may find it takes months to get consistent results, with just the first set. Maybe that’s a far as you can go, and that’s alright. You aren’t the Michael Jordan of the Siddhis. You are still growing and developing.
So, what are you supposed to experience with the Eight Siddhis? That is a question we won’t answer. We don’t want to raise your expectations which will taint your practice. If you use them, you should do so with a qualified teacher who knows what experiential phenomenon is within the optimal range.
We can say that if you have negative physical symptoms, an increase in nightmares, etc., then your teacher will ask you to suspend their use for a time. They will want to determine if the Siddhis are causing the issue or something else. If you add or change things to your spiritual practice simultaneously, it can be more challenging to pinpoint the reason for your problems.
Think of mastering the siddhis as a separate ladder you use on a steep wall. You don’t want anything else getting in the way when you are crawling up the ladder. Don’t add other things like Kundalini etc.
If you are an experienced Siddha, you understand the need to remove expectations, ensure people are grounded and prepared. The actual practice, like most powerful spiritual practices, is simple. You sit the transcend for about 20 minutes. Then, you introduce the Sutra and wait at least 30 seconds or more. You do this with one sutra 3 or 4 times, depending on your instruction.
After the practice, you write down what happened and debrief with your teacher. It’s the only way to be sure you are on the right path with the Sutra. If you are not, then the teacher can provide further guidance to correct your course.
TM Siddhis Sutras
You will notice there are several differences between the eight siddhis of the classical form and the TM version:
1) The Sutras are given in your native language rather than Sanskrit.
2) They are sets of Sutras rather than one single word.
3) There isn’t a direct correlation between the TM and classical forms. However, the word or terms used in the TM form often “invoke” the meaning or functions you see in the classical Sutra forms.
4) Except for the eighth Sutra, which is known as the “flying,” “yogic bouncing,” or “first stage levitation,” the experience of the Sutra is internal rather than external.
- Strength of an Elephant
- Bronchial Tube
- Inner Light
- Find things Hidden from View
- Distinction between Intellect and Transcendence
- Distinction between Heart and Mind
- Transcendence, Intuition
- Transcendence, Hearing
- Transcendence, Sight
- Transcendence, Taste
- Transcendence, Touch
- Transcendence, Smell
- Relationship of body and akasha – lightness of cotton fiber.
- Light as a feather
If you are a Siddha, please don’t email or comment that this list is incomplete or incorrect. Some of the differences in the above set of sutras are intentional.
The list comes from the earlier short version taught to the public after twelve weeks of in-residence preparation, training, and grounding. The Sutras from the six-month in-residence course are different and included a few others not listed here.
If you want to learn the Siddhis correctly, it will require a significant investment of time and resources.
Are you interested in spiritual exploration? Check out the blended learning process at the core of our teaching process. We offer this curriculum through our individually tailored virtual learning academy and our traditional face-to-face sessions. It reflects what Joseph Campbell called the Hero’s Journey (1). Our learning options include both face-to-face and virtual learning sessions.
(1) Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia