The book that set me on the path to realize the Self included stories about accomplished Yogi’s, monks, Lama’s and others who practiced various mystic arts. For the most part these men and women were practicing the Siddhis. In general, anyone can learn and practice the Siddhis also known as yogic powers, however, just because someone masters one or more of them does not mean that person is Awakened or even a good person. A famous case in point is the story of the great Tibetan Yogi Milarepa who first practiced black magic to avenge his family and after doing grave harm and destruction realized his considerable error and then sought enlightenment. Milarepa’s path to awakening was very difficult, fraught with many trials, great pain, and suffering. He had to burn off all that bad karma before he could then go on to become a true Yogi.
Such abilities come naturally to some others undertake their instruction seeking to have power. Aside from the obvious ego trip this is not recommended. Sages and Saints generally do not recommend chasing after mystical powers. In the end it is just a distraction and one that can have negative impacts on one’s life. It is said that if they come the come and if they do not then they do not, in either case we should not be distracted from the goal of realizing our true nature that of realizing our Self.
What follows is work in progress my translation and commentary of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras based on the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, my own personal experience and study. One can also find this subject covered in other ancient texts within other traditions such as Tibetan Buddhism. For example W.Y. Evans-Wentz’s work “Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines” in the section “Yoga of the Psychic-Heat” has formulas for mastering some “Siddhis”.
Learning about Siddhis are a great way of demonstrating that that which we think of as mystical is real, palatable, and even something we can, with considerable work, learn and even master. It is my suggestion that if you want to learn this badly enough, first learn to meditate. If you learn Transcendental Meditation and its advanced techniques then you may learn the Siddhis a subset of the Yoga Sutras. But, as noted above this may become a distraction along the true path. There are valid reasons for learning the Siddhis, learning them teaches us to appreciate the finer levels of creation and the skill to operate on refined levels. They are confidence building, in a way they are markers of progress as their success generally is tied to a certain level of refinement and purity of mind and body.
It should be noted that as Martin Heidegger pointed out “a translation contains an interpretation of the text and that interpretation requires clarification”. Here I have pretty much tossed out the rules of translation and commentary and given my own perspective at this moment in time tempered by Maharishi’s teaching on the subject. Though not well-known Maharishi did create a translation of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Most likely other people did the translation and he then commented and refined the text. The work was used on some to the early Siddhis training courses but has pretty much disappeared.
Here is an excerpt from the book I am writing on the Patanjali - Yoga Sutras.
Chapter I - Samadhi Pada - on Transcending
1.1 Now (begins) the teaching of yoga.
Although the use of the Sanskrit word “atha” meaning “now” is used to launch the teaching of yoga we should perhaps take this first sentence from Patanjali and break it down in and of itself as an Advaita teaching, if we do that we find that you could just use the word “Now” and that is enough to communicate the entirety, the whole intent.
There is nothing but “yoga” nothing but Union, a unified diversity in its fundamental nature, omnipresent, infinite, the present moment, the true sacred space.
The word “yoga” means to “unite” except this in and of itself is problematic as the suggestion of uniting implies that there is a separation… there is not.
All spiritual teachings are for the unenlightened, for the “Enlightened”, those who have realized the truth of their essential nature, the Self, there is only Unity whether it is called the Absolute, Being, Am-ness, Oneness, or “the Relative”, or the essence of all there is.
The moment you become a seeker, someone on the spiritual path, there is separation, there is duality. Life lived in duality is a life of subject and object this is a mistake of the intellect. A covering, a veiling has taken place. Even that veil is the Absolute pure oneness.
It is not that seeking is bad or irrelevant as it is a means to Self-discovery, in fact seeking is a prerequisite for Self-realization. But, seeking can build a wall between the self and the Self; in the end the self must be given up in self surrender.
Enlightenment is not an end point, it is a coming home, it is, as Maharishi Mahesh Yogi noted, a “normal” life, it is a constant unfoldment of wonder and infinite possibilities.