Yoga Sutras of Patanjali — Book III
Paramahansa Yogananda's Comments on Miraculous Powers
Section III of Yoga Sutras mentions various yogic miraculous powers (vibhutis and siddhis). True knowledge is always power. The path of yoga is divided into four stages, each with its vibhuti expression. Achieving a certain power, the yogi knows that he has successfully passed the tests of one of the four stages. Emergence of the characteristic powers is evidence of the scientific structure of the yoga system, wherein delusive imaginations about one's "spiritual progress" are banished; proof is required!
Patanjali warns the devotee that unity with Spirit should be the sole goal, not the possession of vibhutis — the merely incidental flowers along the sacred path. May the Eternal Giver be sought, not His phenomenal gifts! God does not reveal Himself to a seeker who is satisfied with any lesser attainment. The striving yogi is therefore careful not to exercise his phenomenal powers, lest they arouse false pride and distract him from entering the ultimate state of Kalvalya.
When the yogi has reached his Infinite Goal, he exercises the vibhutis, or refrains from exercising them, just as he pleases. All his actions, miraculous or otherwise, are then performed without karmic involvement. The iron filings of karma are attracted only where a magnet of the personal ego still exists. (AOY p.227)
In his Yoga Sutras, Patanjali devotes an entire section to the obtaining of miraculous powers (known as siddhis or vibhutis) by mastery of the yoga science—in particular, by samyama, a coalescence of the last three steps of the Eightfold Path: dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (divine union). Among the powers mentioned are levitation and the ability to walk on water or mire without sinking (Yoga Sutras III:40), as well as the ability to exercise the eight aishvaryas and to perfect the body so that its functions are unaffected by the properties of earth, water, fire, air, ether—the solid, liquid, fiery, gaseous, and ethereal phases of matter (Yoga Sutras III:45-46).
In Sutra III:38, Patanjali warns the sincere seeker of God-union that the use of phenomenal powers is an obstacle, tempting the yogi to egotistical pride and distracting him from the true Goal. The advancing devotee is careful to shun the use of any supernatural powers he might attain, or to employ them only when he is certain of divine permission. After becoming irrevocably established in samadhi, of course, the perfected yogi is guided by God's wisdom; he then exercises the siddhis or refrains from doing so entirely according to the inner promptings of the Divine Will. (The Second Coming of Christ p.824)
BOOK III - Vibhuti ('powers', 'manifestations')
THE CHAPTER OF POWERS
1. Dharana is holding the mind on to some particular object.
2. An unbroken flow of knowledge to that object is Dhyana.
3. When that, giving up all forms, reflects only the meaning, it is Samadhi.
4. (These) three (when practised) in regard to one object is Samyama.
5. By the conquest of that comes light of knowledge.
6. That should be employed in stages. This is a note of warning not to attempt to go too fast.
7. These three are nearer than those that precede.
8. But even they are external to the seedless (Samadhi).
9. By the suppression of the disturbed modifications of the mind, and by the rise of modifications of control, the mind is said to attain the controlling modifications - following the controlling powers of the mind.
10. Its flow becomes steady by habit.
11. Taking in all sorts of objects and concentrating upon one object, these two powers being destroyed and manifested respectively, the Chitta gets the modification called Samadhi.
12. The one-pointedness of the Chitta is when it grasps in one, the past and present.
13. By this is explained the threefold transformations of form, time and state, in fine or gross matter, and in the organs.
14. That which is acted upon by transformations, either past, present or yet to be manifested, is the qualified.
15. The succession of changes is the cause of manifold evolution.
16. By making Samyama on the three sorts of changes comes the knowledge of past and future.
17. By making Samyama on word, meaning, and knowledge, which are ordinarily confused, comes the knowledge of all animal sounds.
18. By perceiving the impressions, knowledge of past life.
19. By making Samyama on the signs in another’s both knowledge of that mind comes.
20. But not its contents, that not being the object of the Samyama.
21. By making Samyama on the form of the body the power of perceiving forms being obstructed, the power of manifestation in the eye being separated, the Yogi’s body becomes unseen.
22. By this the disappearance or concealment of words which are being spoken is also explained.
23. Karma is of two kinds, soon to be fructified, and late to be fructified. By making Samyama on that, or by the signs called Aristha, portents, the Yogis know the exact time of separation from their bodies.
24. By making Samyama on friendship, etc., various strength comes.
25. By making Samyama on the strength of the elephant, etc., that strength comes to the Yogi.
26. By making Samyama on that effulgent light comes the knowledge of the fine, the obstructed, and the remote.
27. By making Samyama on the sun, (comes) the knowledge of the world.
28. On the moon, (comes) the knowledge of the cluster of stars.
29. On the pole star (comes) the knowledge of the motions of the stars.
30. On the navel circle (comes) the knowledge of the constitution of the body.
31. On the hollow of the throat (comes) cessation of hunger.
32. On the nerve called Kurma (comes) fixity of the body.
33. On the light emanating from the top of the head sight of the Siddhas.
34. Or by the power of Pratibha all knowledge.
35. In the heart, knowledge of minds.
36. Enjoyment comes by the non-discrimination of the very distant soul and Sattva. Its actions are for another; Samyama on this gives knowledge of the Purusa.
37. From that arises the knowledge of hearing, touching, seeing, tasting, and smelling, belonging to Pratibha.
38. These are obstacles to Samadhi; but they are powers in the worldly state.
39. When the cause of bondage has become loosened, the Yogi, by his knowledge of manifestation through the organs, enters another’s body.
40. By conquering the current called Udana the Yogi does not sink in water, or in swamps, and he can walk on thorns.
41. By the conquest of the current Samana he is surrounded by blaze.
42. By making Samyama on the relation between the ear and the Akasa comes divine hearing.
43. By making Samyama on the relation between the Akasa and the body the Yogi becoming light as cotton wool goes through the skies.
44. By making Samyama on the real modifications of the mind, which are outside, called great disembodiness, comes disappearance of the covering to light.
45. By making Samyama on the elements, beginning with the gross, and ending with the superfine, comes mastery of the elements.
46. From that comes minuteness, and the rest of the powers, “glorification of the body,” and indestructibleness of the bodily qualities.
47. The glorifications of the body are beauty, complexion, strength, adamantine hardness.
48. By making Samyama on the objectivity, knowledge and egoism of the organs, by gradation comes the conquest of the organs.
49. From that comes glorified mind, power of the organs independently of the body, and conquest of nature.
50. By making Samyama on the Sattva, to him who has discriminated between the intellect and the Purusa comes omnipresence and omniscience.
51. By giving up even these comes the destruction of the very seed of evil; he attains Kaivalya.
52. The Yogi should not feel allured or flattered by the overtures of celestial beings, for fear of evil again.
53. By making Samyama on a particle of time and its multiples comes discrimination.
54. Those which cannot be differentiated by species, sign and place, even they will be discriminated by the above Samyama.
55. The saving knowledge is that knowledge of discrimination which covers all objects, all means.
56. By the similarity of purity between the Sattva and the Purusa comes Kaivalya.
Yoga Sutras translated by Swami Vivekananda