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Siddhis: Supernormal Perceptual States

From Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia
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 the Wanderling

        "Buddhism teaches that after a practitioner achieves a certain degree of realization, spiritual power develops. A person at the level of an Arhat is said to possess six supernatural powers. Even so, it is understood that it is through Enlightenment that supernatural powers are manifested, rather than that supernatural powers enhance Enlightenment. Furthermore, it is acknowledged as well that supernatural powers are not attainable exclusively JUST by Buddhists and Buddhists only. It is possible for anyone who has deep religious and spiritual cultivation to develop some kind of 'super-normal powers.'"(source)

    SIDDHI (Sanskrit: "accomplishment," "attainment," "perfection"). The term Siddhi is most often applied to a variety of spritual-related psychic capabilities or powers manifested by adherents in the Hindu and Buddhist realms. Through recognizing emptiness, clarity and openness of the mind, different qualities arise naturally, since they are part of mind. The Buddha, whose personal name Siddharta is based in the root-word and means "he whose aim is accomplished," distinguishes between two types:

        Normal Siddhis: all those forces of the conditioned world that transform elements.

        Extraordinary Siddhis: the ability to open beings up for the liberating and enlightening truths; to lead to Realization.

    Siddhi is typically defined as "a magical or spiritual power for the control of self, others and the forces of nature." The Siddhis described by occultists and yogis are in actuality Supernormal Perceptual States available to all human beings. These are absolutely natural abilities that can be explained in highly rational terms. There is nothing mysterious or magical about the Siddhis.[1]


    According to the "experts" then, Siddhis are actually supernormal perceptual states. All well and good, but what the heck are supernormal perceptual states? The explanation basically just shifts the unexplained definition of Siddhis being called Siddhis to another set of words that are just as much unclear.

    Simply put, what is being said is that supernormal perceptual states are states that are beyond what is typically within the purview of the normal range of perception. For example, a dog whistle. The sound of a dog whistle is beyond the range of human hearing, yet a dog can hear it. Relative to us it is a supernormal perceptual state, but NOT for the dog.

    Most of us are familiar with the colors of the rainbow. Those "colors" are just a small part of a larger spectrum of light that of which, beyond the colors of the rainbow, are unavailable to most people without the use of some sort of an enhanced mechanical device.

    Infrared is located just beyond the red side of the spectrum with ultraviolet appearing just beyond the violet end. Night vision devices primarily operate utlizing infrared light, enhanced through the use of lenses and such to the point that it becomes visible. Going in the same direction beyond infared are microwaves and radio waves.

    Bees can see ultraviolet at the short-wavelength end of the spectrum. But, unlike humans, bees can't see red -- at the longer wavelength end of the spectrum. Red looks black to bees. X-rays, which we use machines for all the time, are beyond ultraviolet. In some cases for some people X-rays are faintly visible to the dark-adapted naked eye but it is not known what exact mechanism in the eye produces the visibility. Although some exprimental tests have born out the possibility to be true, people who do see them, because they do not fall within the normal range of vision most are conditioned for, often do not realize what they are or what they are seeing.

    Before the rise of the variety of detection devices all those x-rays, microwaves and such were unknown and thus did not "exist." The thing is, they did exist all along, just super perceptual. Most people these days, even though those supernormal perceptual states are not typically perceived during their routine daily lives, would pretty much agree that they do exist. The same is true of any number of potential states beyond the normal range of most peoples experience.


    The Buddha said "If a monk should frame a wish as follows: "Let me exercise the various magical powers, let me being one become multiform., let me being multiform become one, let me become visible, become invisible, go without hindrance through walls, ramparts or mountains as if through air, let me rise and sink in the ground as if in the water, let me walk on the water as if on unyielding ground, let me travel through the air like a winged bird, let me touch and feel with my hand the moon and the sun mighty and powerful though they are, and let me go without my body even up to the Brahma world," then must he be perfect in the precepts (Sila), bring his thoughts to a state of quiescence (Samadhi), practice diligently the trances (Jhana), attain to insight (Prajna) and be frequenter to lonely places."

    Three quick examples of those Siddhis, seen above in bold, "let me travel through the air like a winged bird," "let me become visible, become invisible," and "let me walk on the water" can be found in:

        The power to travel in the sky (see)

        The ability to become invisible (see)

        The ability to walk on water (see)

    According to the Buddha and what has come down to us in the sutras, for the powers of Siddhis to manifest themselves through any given personage to the utmost maximum, that person must be PERFECT in the precepts (Sila), bring his thoughts to a state of quiescence (Samadhi), practice diligently the trances (Jhana), attain to insight (Prajna) and be frequenter to lonely places.





    However, Patanjali's in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali's, Chapter IV, verse 1 states:

        "janma-osadhi-mantra-tapah-samadhi-jah siddayahsamadhi."

    Which in english translates into:

        "Births, herbs, mantras and tapas can help you to attain Samadhi and its accomplishments."

    One of the accomplishments of Samadhis is known to be Siddhis.

    The power of Siddhis can come because of genetics (i.e., birth) (janma), from herbs (aushadhis), the use of mantras, the kindling of the psychic fire through the practicing of austerities (tapas), and/or reversely from or the gaining of Samadhis.


    Just like any other natural human ability, different people display differing abilities towards learning and/or spontaneously displaying Siddhis with Karma often playing a primary role. Some people are born with Siddhis that they exercise without being aware that their particular psychic gift is unusual. In such cases, it may come as a traumatic event to the individual when they learn that their ability is not common and that they are considered a misfit by other people not possessing similar abilities.


    Another means to trigger Siddhis also mentioned in Patanjali's sutra, albeit in an unexpected and uncontrolled manner, is by the use of certain drugs. For example, certain hallucinogenic drugs and herbs such as LSD, mescaline, peyote and others. However, UNLESS used under the auspices of experienced Spiritual Guides similar to Native American rituals that use Sacred Datura or the Mazatec Velada Ceremony they can stimulate siddhis in an uncontrolled fashion and quite possibly lead to an internal mental environment that causes great psychological trauma. Regarding potential outcomes through the use of drugs, in the opening quote of AUSHADHIS: Awakening and the Power of Siddhis Through Herbs the following is found:

        In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali's, Chapter IV, verse 1 it is stated that the supernormal perceptual powers of Siddhis CAN be reached through the use of certain herbs, replicating on the short term a mind-strength ability and potential execution of powers similar to or equal to that of a person versed in Siddhis garnered via the highest levels of Spiritual Attainment.


    In other cases, deep meditative methods actively develop Siddhis. In addition to birth and Karma Patanjali's states the power of Siddhis can come about through the use of mantras, through the practicing of austerities and/or Samadhi, especially so Access Concentration (Samprajana Samadhi). According to occult theory, this is the rational and desirable way to go about achieving Siddhis.

    Inessa King Zaleski, in Introduction to The Siddhis, writes:

        "(S)iddhis are absolutely natural abilities latent in all humans. If one takes the time to learn and practice the correct yoga exercises, then it is inevitable that one will directly experience the awakening of their own siddhis. Again, there is nothing magical or mysterious going on here, and all claims put forth regarding the siddhis stand open to any type of test of their validity that anyone wishes to pose. However, those skeptical of the siddhis and who wish to challenge the claim to the existence of the siddhis must be prepared to recognize that the nature of the siddhis will not fit easily into biased misconceptions. One who experiences siddhis operates in a greater, more expanded psychological reality than one who does not and therefore the skeptic must be prepared to expand his or her understanding in an attempt to either prove or disprove the existence of the siddhis."(source)

    RECORDED EXAMPLES OF SIDDHIS, Modern Day and in History:

    There are many examples of siddhis throughout history, in a variety of texts and various religions, but one of the greatest observed or recorded exponents of modern day is Sri Seshadri Swamigal, the so-called "saint with the golden hand," of which, for example, the following is written:

        Sri Krishnaswamy Sastri's wife was suffering from swelling of the stomach,hands and legs and vomiting of roundworm. Doctors gave up hope and they visited the Swami in Tiruvannamalai as a last resort on a horse carriage. Sri Seshadri Swamigal got into the carriage and put his leg on her swollen body and rode the carriage into the sadhu choultry and asked her to swallow some sand and apply it on her body for three days. Miraculously, she was cured of her disease completely.

    Other siddhis attributed to the Swami are:

        Making rains come on the request of his devotees.

        Giving a darshan of himself to five or six devotees at different places at the same time.

        Showing devotees swargalokam(heaven) and mumurthi devas (mythological Gods in Hindu literature).

        Giving darshan as Parvathi devi(Hindu Goddess) to many devotees.

    Rather than anything closly related to Siddhis, Ganapati Muni is known more for his "conversion to," and Enlightenment under, the great Indian sage Sri Ramana Maharshi. Before that however, he was a personage in his own right, known for and sometimes feared for the following:

        Ganapati Muni was born as an ‘amsa’ of Dundi Ganapati, had a huge following, and was a born poet. He was a great scholar and a tapasvi with powerful Siddhis who could bring down or stop the rains! He could destroy a whole town. Once when he was harassed during his stay in the city of Nasik he cursed that the whole city should be destroyed. Soon the whole city was destroyed through the dreaded disease of plague.

    The following example of siddhi was written by the British author W. Somerset Maugham and published in A Writer's Notebook. Maugham was well versed in Indian mysticism, had met the Baghavan Sri Ramana Maharshi personally, and traveled extensively in India:

        In India a yogi wanted to go somewhere by train, but having no money, asked the station-master if he could go for nothing; the station-master refused, so the Yogi sat down on the platform. When it was time for the train to go it would not start. It was supposed that something was wrong with the engine, so mechanics were sent for and they did all they knew, but still the train could not go. At last the station-master told the officials of the Yogi. He was asked to get in the train and it immediately started.

    The above train story sounds a lot like one of those urban legends, but, if you want to see the on record original source for it, go to Lahiri Mahasaya

    The next example is also from Maugham, but comes from his novel The Razor's Edge:

        An Indian Yogi came to a bank of a river; he didn't have the money to pay the ferryman to take him across and the ferryman refused to take him for nothing, so he stepped on the water and walked upon its surface to the other side. The Yogi (telling the story) shrugged his shoulders rather scornfully and said, "A miracle like that is worth no more than the penny it would have cost to go on the ferryboat.

    How Maugham got that last story, where it comes from or if it is an original or a modification from some other source is not is known, however the following is attributed to Gautama Buddha and found in the book "BUDDHISM: It's Essence and Development" by Edward Conze (pp 104-5):

        One day the Buddha met an ascetic who sat by the bank of a river. This ascetic had practised austerities for 25 years. The Buddha asked him what he had received for all his labor. The ascetic proudly replied that, now at last, he could cross the river by walking on the water. The Buddha pointed out that this gain was insignificant for all the years of labor, since he could cross the river using a ferry for one penny! (source)

    Of course the most notable personage cited throughout history to exhibit the ability to walk on water was Jesus. What most people do not realize there are recorded instances where he exhibited the ability to fly as well. A whole section of documentation of same as well as other similar bibical events can be found by going to the link toward the top of the page titled The power to travel in the sky.

    In a more up to date, modern-day account of Siddhis, in an event actually observed and experienced in real life by the Wanderling personally, the following is offered:

        My very first encounter with an Obeahman occurred long before I began my apprenticeship under the Jamaican man of spells I eventually studied under. Although I had been in Jamaica for some time I had never heard of Obeah or an Obeahman until the day a Jamaican friend of mine and I were taking a trip across the island in his car. We had gone to Montego Bay along the north coast for several days and on our return trip to Kingston my friend decided it would be quicker as well as more fun if we took a short cut through some of the cane fields. We were doing about eighty miles per hour when we passed a little old man on the side of the road walking with a wooden staff and carrying a bundle over his shoulder. My Jamaican friend immediately hit the brakes and screeched to a halt telling me the old man was an Obeah and leaving him to walk so far out in the middle of nowhere would be bad luck. Since his vehicle was a small little two-door British car, to show respect due the Obeah, I got out and squeezed into the small rear seat allowing him to sit in the front. Soon we were back up to speed cruising the back roads of the cane fields at about eighty miles per hour. Then, all of a sudden the engine started to cough and sputter, eventually just dying and stopping to run altogether. We coasted to the side, my friend got out and asked me to get into the drivers seat to try and start the engine as he fiddled with stuff under the hood. Two or three times we tried and the car refused to start. The Obeah got out and went to the front of the car, and, although the hood obscured my view somewhat, I could tell he tapped the engine a couple of times with his staff. My friend asked me to try it again and immediately the engine fired up. The next morning my friend was late to work. He said after we left the Obeah off where he requested and me home, he went home. However, when he got up the next morning his car refused to start and that it acted exactly the same as it had in the cane fields. When he got it to the shop to be repaired the mechanic showed him the ONLY thing he could find wrong with it. A spring in the carburetor was physically broken and with that spring broken the car could not run under any circumstances. The mechanic replaced the spring and the car started up and ran perfectly. (source)

    A rather minor event in the overall scheme of things and for sure nothing like a giant locomotive and entire train being held in abeyance. However, under the auspices of the Obeahman that I eventually apprenticed under I observed and participated in any number of events that do not fit experiences typically found or allowed to transpire on the conventional plane --- including one that to have been accomplished, which it was, would have required nothing less than the warpage of time. The problem is all things must return to a balance. If you create any movement in the normal flow of events somehow somewhere there must be a return to the equalibrium. Who or what gets caught up in that rebalancing is an area of questioning.

    The mysterious wandering monk Totapuri, recognized for bringing the full fruit of Awakening to Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, tells, it has been said, of the following:

        There once was a great Siddha (a spiritual man possessing psychic powers) was sitting on the sea-shore when there came a great storm. The Siddha, being greatly distressed by it, exclaimed, ‘Let the storm cease!’ and his words were fulfilled. Just then a ship was going at a distance with all sails set, and as the wind suddenly died away, it capsized, drowning all who were on board the ship. Now the sin of causing the death of so many persons accrued to the Siddha, and for that reason he lost all his occult powers and had to suffer.

            Tales and Parables of Sri Ramakrishna, #118 Pitfalls

    The Buddha was cognizant of the fact that there are those who devote themselves to yogic exercises only to acquire supernatural powers as well. He refined the practice by telling devotees that acquisition of supernatural powers does not confer any special spiritual advantage (Akankheyya Sutta, Vol. XI, see link below). It was for this reason that the Buddha forbade his disciples to work miracles for display. Craving for supernatural powers and taking delight therein after acquirement does not help to free one from The Three Poisons of Desire, Hatred and Ignorance. It is advised that anyone striving along the path of holiness toward final liberation guard themselves to not get caught up in it all and forget the true purpose.

    The following, by Sri Swami Sivananda from his paper Satsanga and Svadhyaya, is being offered as a cautionary word of advice:

        "Another great blunder people generally commit is that they judge the Enlightenment of Sadhus by the Siddhis they display. In the world generally, the common inclination is to judge the merits and ability of a Sadhu through his Siddhis. It is a blunder indeed. They should not judge the Enlightenment of a Sadhu in this way. Siddhis are by-products of concentration. Siddhis have nothing to do with Self-realization. A Sadhu may manifest Siddhis due to strong passions and intense desires, and if that be the case, he is undoubtedly a big householder only. You must believe me when I tell you that Siddhis are a great hindrance to spiritual progress, and so long as one is within the realm of Siddhis and does not try to rise above it and march onwards, there is not the least hope of God-realization for him. But, this does not mean that a person manifesting Siddhis is not a realized soul. There are several instances of such persons who have exhibited several Siddhis purely for the elevation and uplift of the world, but never for selfish motives.

        "During the days of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa a certain Sadhu approached him and showed two Siddhis: one was that he could roam about without being seen by anybody. The other was that light emanated from portions of his body when he walked.

            This man, after some time, began misusing his power, entering the apartment of a lady unseen, fell in love with her and LOST his two powers.

        In the world generally, the common run of people and even educated persons judge Sadhus by their Siddhis only. It is a serious blunder and hence I seriously warn you."