By Swami Harshananda
The belief that one can attain super-natural powers by tapas and by the grace of God is very ancient. Patañjali describes quite a few of such powers in the second and the third chapters in order to generate faith in the minds of the ordinary seekers of truth. For instance, he declares that while in the company of a person who is well-established in the virtue of ahiṅsā, even animals inimical to one another like a tiger and a cow will live in peace and mutual harmony. The words of a person rooted in satya will be infallible. One who observes aparigraha very strictly can get a knowledge of his past and future lives.
Saiñyama on different objects will endow the yogi with several occult powers. For instance, by saiñyama on the five elements like pṛthvī and ap, the yogi can get aṣṭasiddhis or the eight-fold powers like:
- Aṇimā - power to become atomic in size
- Mahimā - power to grow to any large size
Some of the other powers given in the work are:
- Disappearance from view
- Getting enormous strength
- Understanding the language of animals and other creatures
However, Patañjali, who as a scientist of mind, describes these powers since they are part of the science, also cautions the aspirant of yoga not to seek them. The temptation for these powers can lead him away from the goal of his life, viz., kaivalya or liberation. But, after the attainment of kaivalya since he may continue to live for some more time due to prārabdha-karma he will have those powers and can safely use them for the good of mankind.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore