Yoga Sutras, Chapter 3 on Raja Yoga (Royal Union).
Today we are going to make a leap and get right to it: paranormal and superhuman powers.
III:1 Concentration (dharana) is the binding of the mind-stuff (chitta) to one place.
III:2 When definitely established with certainty in that one place, concentration (dharana) becomes meditation (dhyana).
III:3 By this (meditation) samadhi is attained, and objects shine forth of their own light, in their own form, void of physical substance.
III:4 These three (concentration, meditation and samadhi) bind together as one.
III:5 Having victoriously won that (samyama), one sees with the light of wisdom.
III:6 This progresses by degrees.
III:7 These three (concentration, meditation and samadhi) are inner limbs, and surpass the previous five limbs.
The Highest Samadhi
III:8 Moreover, they (concentration, meditation and samadhi) are external and subordinate limbs as compared to nirbija (without-seed).
The Elevated State
III:9 The cessation of the mind in nirbija overpowers mental impressions and leaves its own impression, and thus an elevated state (vyutthana) ensues.
“As the body is composed of five major elements (earth, water, fire, air, and ether), a yogi purifies and conquers them through the practice of yoga. By conquering these elements, one gains extra-ordinary powers. Mastery of the earth element causes all the diseases of the body to vanish. By conquering the water element, one can walk on water, no poison of any kind may cause their death and all sins* are destroyed. One becomes free from the danger of fire by attaining command over the fiery element. Power to move in the air (astral traveling) is attained by conquering the airy element. One attains moksha (liberation) and the power to extract rasa (nectar) by conquering the ether element.” — Swami Kripalu
*Sins: Errors in the use of one’s free will, or power of choice. From the original Greek, the word “sin” means to “miss the mark”. To miss the mark is to act out of sync with one’s own true nature as divine. To have these sins “destroyed” is to have their effects nullified, i.e., one’s karma is neutralized.
16 Knowledge of the past and the future
17 Understanding of the meaning of the sounds produced by all beings
18 Knowledge of previous births
19 Knowledge of the mind of another…
20 but only knowing other’s minds, not identifying with the contents.
21 The power to disappear, become invisible
22 Knowledge of death
23 Physical, mental and spiritual strength
24 The strength of elephants, etc.
25 Remote sensing: knowledge of subtle or distant objects
26 Knowledge of the worlds and of the cosmic regions
27 Knowledge of the ordering of the stars
28 Knowledge of the relative motions and positions of the stars
29 Knowledge of the bodily system
30 Cessation of hunger and thirst
31 Steadiness and stability
32 Vision of the adepts, the perfect ones (siddhas)
33 All-knowingness—knowledge of everything
34 Knowledge of the mind
35 Knowledge of Purusha (soul) as spectator of Prakriti (nature).
36 Extrasensory perceptions of sound, touch, sight, taste, and smell
37 These are siddhis [powers] of samadhi vyutthana (the Elevated State).
This is how this sutra looks to me. The usual translation seems to include implications that I do not see in the Sanskrit, but which make perfect sense:
These are worldly powers—powers of the extroverted state. Using these powers hinders the achievement of samadhi [which requires an introverted state].
38 The ability to enter the body of another
39 Passing untouched over water, mud, thorns, etc; exiting from the body at will
40 Radiant effulgence emanating joy and goodness.
41 Nada (divine sound)
43 Passing out of and acting outside of the body
44 Mastery over the elements
45 Divine Body and the manifestation of the Eight Supernatural Powers beginning with anima.
46 The Divine Body is of beautiful form, perfect, with strength and vitality, and cannot be destroyed.
The Eight Supernatural Powers
1. Anima: The power to become invisible. The power to reduce one’s size to that of an atom, attain very minute form and go anywhere he likes without being noticed by anyone.
2. Laghima: Astral travel. The yogi can become as light as a cotton ball or a straw to fly through the air.
3. Mahima: The power to become as big as a mountain. The ability to expand oneself in space and to become huge.
4. Prapti: The power to reach anywhere. The ability to touch anything, however far away it may be. For instance, one can touch the moon while standing on the earth.
5. Prakamya: The power to fulfill all wishes and desires. Through this power, a yogi can realize or materialize anything he so chooses merely by applying his willpower. For instance, he cannot ordinarily dive into the earth, but if such a yogi decides to exercise his willpower, he can dive into the earth and again come out of it. His resolve never fails.
6. Vasitva: Mastery, power and dominion over all things. With this power, a yogi can make inanimate objects move and animate objects behave as he wishes, but he himself cannot be controlled.
7. Isitva: Supremacy, lordship. The power to create, sustain and destroy any element or piece of matter at will.
8. Yatrakamavasayitva: The power to raise the dead. The ability to change the qualities of matter. For instance, the yogi can revive a dead person by giving him poison.
These eight miraculous powers are not attained by any or every yogi. They can be attained only by one who has accomplished the highest wisdom and divya sarira (Divine Body).
During sahaja sadhana, powers arise of their own accord, spontaneously. By using the powers that come, one’s progress is curtailed, so it is best to cultivate a passion for God rather than powers. Resisting the temptation might be a struggle, but if one is driven by love of God and divine union, one tends to pass them by without much notice. They easily become forgotten, left behind like old toys of little interest.
Remember that the punch line always comes at the beginning in yogic scriptures. Though this chapter is called “Powers”, the very first thing we read about is samadhi. We are then given to understand that the ultimate samadhi is nirbija, so the real power is nirbija samadhi and its aftereffect, the Elevated State.