The Meaning of Siddhis

Swami Amritananda Saraswati

The science of siddhis, or psychic powers, has been known throughout the world for thousands of years, as long as tantra has existed. One can derive these powers from the practice of particular techniques, or they can be gained through direct contact with the guru. When the guru blesses the disciple by placing his hands on the disciple's head or back, then the transformation begins to take place.

When this transformation is going on within you, your vision expands into a new dimension. For example, you may be able to see someone coming into the room who is not really physically present. This is not a ghost or some spirit entity; nor are you hallucinating. Rather, it is a definite change in the physiology of the physical body and in the conscious body which enables you to have this experience.

Tolerating the experience

It is the same as when you have a thought of your wife, a child who is abroad or sick, or a son who is yet to marry. Usually you can only imagine them, but if your thoughts were to take gross, material form, and you could actually see your son sitting right beside you, how would you react? Would you be able to bear this experience?

Because you cannot tolerate or understand it, you are unable to bear this type of experience. You have so much fear that you can easily make yourself crazy. Fear brings imbalance to the mind and emotions, and when there is too much it may also bring some sickness to the body. But these reactions are not substantial; they are just superficial experiences, like the thoughts which go on in your mind while you are sitting here listening to me.

Many people come to us when they lose a member of the family that they love the most, whether it be father, mother, wife, daughter or son. They ask us, 'Swamiji, please let me see him just one more time.' We tell them, 'He is dead and gone; you must try not to think about him.' But they continue to plead, 'Please, just once!' Then we ask them, 'If I let you see, will you be able to handle the experience?' They say, 'Yes'.

'Okay, then first do one thing. Tomorrow at midnight, go up to the burial ground and bring back a branch of some plant, a piece of mud or a stone. You just do this much and then I will show you this experience.' But the very thought of doing this fills them with terrible fright.

You see, the mind and its promptings, urges and impulses, whether instinctive or man-made, are so strong that you have to learn how to bear them. This is called siddhi. Developing your mental power, your emotional power, or even making your body healthy, these are all siddhis.

Perfection in small things

What you have heard about siddhis is not exact, and not the right concept. You have been given either too high a concept about siddhis or too low; neither are right. 'Siddha' means to fulfil, to perfect, as when it is said in day to day life, 'You have to make your action siddha.' When you perfect and complete something, that is siddhi.

For example, suppose you have a disease such as diabetes. Now, for you, to cure this disease is to obtain a siddhi, the perfection of a completely healthy state. How can we obtain this state, this little siddhi? This is why we practise asana, pranayama, mudra, bandha, concentration, mantra japa and the purification techniques of hatha yoga, such as neti, kunjal and shankhaprakshalana. The little siddhis are not what you understand as miracles; they are the result of perfection in one's practice. The best method of attaining perfection is through regularity. Therefore, even if you practise Sirshasana for only one and a half minutes, or shashankasana for three minutes or just sing kirtan every evening, you should do it with absolute regularity. You can fix the time to fit into your work and family situation, but then that time should be kept every day. You should not get up today at 4 a.m. during brahmamuhurta and then tomorrow at 9 a.m. and another day at midnight. This type of irregularity just will not work.

The first niyama in yoga is to become niyamit, regular. It is the greatest samyama, the greatest achievement. Be regular in all your activities, not only sadhana. Be regular in bathing, eating and sleeping, which none of you are. When you are irregular, then the body behaves in the same manner.

Regularity works in the same way as crystallisation. When you put a drop of water in a freezer, after fifteen days it will have grown in size. And so it will happen in the course of time, perhaps after one year, that you will notice many little changes in yourself. You will behave better with your children and be more polite with your boss and subordinates, not trying to hurt others physically or having bitter feelings mentally. These are all little siddhis which will occur.

Memory siddhi

There is one simple pranayama which is very important and useful, especially for business people who have a lot of responsibility. This is brahmari pranayama, in which you plug your ears and shut the lips, separate the teeth, and make the sound of Om, opening the mouth. The sound becomes like the humming of a bee. After doing brahmari pranayama ten or eleven times, you will find that you are not experiencing as much pain in the body as you felt prior to the practice. Neither will you feel as angry or as insecure as you did before. Why?

Because this little technique, inhaling deeply and then producing the sound of Om with the breath, creates vibrations inside the body which change the mental patterns of the brain. The brain has two hemispheres, and they are always generating energy which flows in particular directions. If you breathe deeply and produce the sound of Om in a certain way, then the movement of this energy changes. This affects everything happening in the body, right from the thoughts up to the secretions of the glands, If some secretions are deficient then they are increased, and if they are in excess then they are decreased. Everything is balanced.

What happens on the emotional level is that any agitation, fatigue, fear or insecurity is calmed down and the thoughts become clear. Old, long forgotten memories become fresh again, not the memories of death, violence or unpleasant things, but of those things which you would like to remember. Of course, you don't wish to be reminded of your work, of somebody who has died, or of times when you have been insulted, hurt or harmed. No, that is the wrong memory. But the pure memories come, keen and sharp. This is one of the small siddhis, not one of the great, miraculous siddhis which you always hear about.

Awakening ajna chakra

Many people practise tantra and yoga only to achieve the great siddhis. But by the practice of such simple techniques as brahmari pranayama, such siddhis also come. When an aspirant begins to practise sadhana - mantra japa, concentration, dhyana or pranayama, he awakens many categories of powers which are residing within him. We are the powerhouse; we are full of energy which is awakened and begins to function when we practise sadhana.

This energy is conducted in the nadis, the system of psychic nerve channels throughout the body. The rishis and munis tell us that the body contains 72,000 nadis. There are ten main ones and among these, three are most important. Kabir even sings about them. They correspond to the sympathetic, parasympathetic and central nervous systems of modern physiology, but in tantra they are called ida, pingala and sushumna, and in vedic mythology they are known as Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati.

These nerve channels do not flow in a perfectly straight path, or have direct connections to the brain; they junction in various places in the spinal cord. In tantra, these junctions are called chakras. There are thousands of chakras in many locations in the body, but only seven are widely known: mooladhara, swadhisthana, manipura, anahata, vishuddhi, ajna and sahasrara. They contain the hidden faculties in man.

We can categorise these hidden faculties in terms of the three gunas: tamasic, rajasic and sattvic. When you awaken mooladhara and swadhisthana chakras, tamoguna qualities such as hatred, jealousy, love and compassion are awakened. These are low faculties. However, the higher faculties of satoguna unfold when you awaken ajna chakra, which is located in the brain in the region of the pineal gland, behind the eyebrow centre at the top of the spinal cord. Along with these higher faculties comes the knowledge of the siddhis.

Brahmari pranayama affects all of the chakras to some extent, but its major influence is on ajna chakra. Therefore, when you awaken ajna chakra by the practice of this pranayama, many siddhis arise. You may be able to experience somebody who is a thousand miles away as if he is in the same room speaking to you. He can be saying something there, and you can be hearing the same thing here. This is a great siddhi.

Mantra japa and the power of the mind

There is no power which can be compared to the power of the mind. Our ancestors, the rishis and munis, tell us in the scriptures that the power of powers can summon the whole universe. It can create thousands of universes. What else is there to say? The power of powers can make you enter the state of shoonya, void. It can enable a person to duplicate himself into many identical bodies as in the raslila or play of Krishna, by which He created thousands of images of himself for all his gopis.

If you can make your thoughts keen and sharp, they will be more effective than a thousand suns in burning a little blade of straw. But to increase the power of thought, you must do mantra japa. During mantra japa you don't focus on your thoughts, you just watch the mantra continuously. If you fix your attention on the thoughts, the mantra gets left behind. So you must concentrate on the mantra and don't worry about the thoughts. The thoughts will gain momentum and become extremely powerful, but when you keep repeating the mantra, they lose their speed and cannot fly you away from the conscious plane. In this way, you become more conscious, and your thoughts stronger. When your thoughts become more positive, accurate and sensitive, then you can order your mind to think in a certain manner and it will think in that way. You can tell your mind to move an object without touching it, and it will move it.

Regaining the ancient science

You may have heard this referred to as telekinesis by the Russian or American scientists, but you may not recognise it as part of Indian culture which has existed for thousands of years. In tantra we call it indrajal. It is displayed everywhere in the markets and bazaars. When it comes from abroad with a complicated scientific name it sounds more respectable, but in our markets there are many jaduwalas, or magicians, who can perform even greater feats than the adepts in the west. We have all seen how the circuswalas and jaduwalas can even cut off someone's head and then join it on again.

But if you go to other countries and announce that 'I can do indrajal,' no one will come to you. Even in India, if you go to intellectual people and scientists and tell them you can perform indrajal, they will tell you to go away. But if you say you know telekinesis everybody will come, because the mentality today is like that.

Recently, I heard that in Europe and America people can bend spoons just by concentrating their thought power. This is not such a very big thing. But what is that power by which a person's head can be severed and then rejoined and the person still lives?

How do people swallow swords without being injured? Their throat is still intact where the sword goes in. Does it really go in and how is it that it does not hurt the intestines or the throat? Or perhaps it is not a sword at all? In that case, what is that power which is able to make everybody see a sword being swallowed?

Our perceptions can be altered; we cannot be certain that what we are seeing is true. Suppose I have a red flower. It still remains red, but I can make everybody see it as blue even though it has not changed colour. In tantric terminology this ability is called najarband.

Acupuncture has also been going on in India throughout history; we can read about it in the scriptures. Acupuncture went from India to China and now they are sending it back to teach us. But if you go to our villages and they offer to give you acupuncture, you are afraid, and don't want it. Just as here in India, only one or two decades ago, people were afraid to learn yoga and tantra.

Tantra is such a magnificent science, but people have not understood it. They have only heard criticism and exaggeration. They have not wanted to imbibe the vast knowledge it comprises - about life, death, conscience, self and the supreme Self, Atma and Paramatma. Therefore, you must try to appreciate and understand the greatness of your own culture, your own science, your own tradition.

Even if you don't accept the fact, nevertheless it is your own country which has preserved this great knowledge. It may not have preserved the knowledge of how to kill or hurt others which is being revived in the world today, but it has certainly preserved the knowledge of how to know yourself, experience tranquillity, and realise God. For the people of India, this is the goal of life, to awaken the spirituality which lies within. In no other country do people think like this.