Inconversation : Siddhis [ February 2004 ]


Devi Bhakta

For new comers, "Siddhis" is a Sanskrit term referring to certain occult powers that can sometimes appear in persons engaged in sadhana. The following exchange is excerpted from a conversation between myself and another member of this group.In this case, the other member is "Q"; I am "A" -- so the answers aren't the authoritative word of a guru or any such thing. They're just my attempt to explain siddhis as I understand them based onwhat I've learned so far. If I am off track, please feel free tocorrect me; if I am unclear, please feel free to add your own explanations for the benefit of this friend and for other members of the group who may be interested in this subject:

Q: I want to ask about this: Sri Vidya has the reputation for being a lineage of Tantra ..

A: Actually it's a Tantric school of Hinduism, containing many lineages.

Q: All right. So Sri Vidya has the reputation for being a form of worship that produces Siddhis very quickly.

A: That is true.

Q: But the opinion on Siddhis within the larger Tantric Tradition seems to run the gamut. I have heard everything form, "Avoid them like the plague" to "They are your human birth right and they shouldbe used for your own and other people's good".

A: Okay?

Q: Well, Tantra in general doesn't seem to be an aescetic path.

A: That's right, it's not.

Q: As I understand it, in Tantra, desire is accepted as a spontaneous manifestation of the Divine within the human mind and/orpersonality. The fulfillment of desire seems to be accepted as well.I think of the statements of Krsna to Arjuna when He says that He isany desire that is *not* opposed to Dharma. So it seems naturalwithin this context to use what talents and skills you have toachieve your desires -- siddhis just being another very human skill.

A: I would disagree with that. First, Bhagavad Gita is not a Tantric document, and Krishna is not really speaking about siddhis. Second,siddhis are not a "very human skill"; they are smallmanifestations of Divine Power (Shakti).

Q: Can you define what you mean by "human" and what you meanby "Divine"?

A: Well, for this conversation, I'll use "human" to mean our limited, mortal, temporal individual selves; and "Divine" to mean our infinite, immortal, eternal Self -- that is, Devi.

Q: Got it.

A: Okay, so siddhis do arise as a natural side-effect of Srividya Sadhana. As you merge into Her (i.e. transcending the limitations of your human self), you begin to manifest some of Her powers. But they*are* HERS, not yours; and when you use them, you should be fulfilling Her divine desires, not your human desires. You can only properly use them to the extent that you are HER.For another view, think of a mother who allows her child to use a grown-up tool (say, a big sharp pair of scissors). The mother watches carefully to gauge the child's fitness to use the tool. If the child demonstrates mature and responsible usage, the mother will help refine her/his technique; and later will allow the child to try additional grown-up tools. But if the child is irresponsible(terrorizing the cat, butchering the drapes, etc.), the mother will simply snatch away the tool, and place it safely out of thechild's reach.

Q: But some of the tantras say you can gain siddhis by following certain rituals, independent of sadhana proper. It is just a matter of focus and refinement of attention, that's all.

A: Yes, it is true that certain tantras give precise formulas for attaining particular siddhis. It is possible that a focused and disciplined aspirant could use these formulas to attain a given siddhi before it organically manifests as a sife-effect of her or his Devi sadhana.But what happens next? Well, it depends. To go back to my prior example, the situation is analogous to that of a clever child who manages to get hold of those sharp scissors without the mother'spermission.But this Mother is omniscient -- and indulgent. She will watch the child out of the corner of her eye. Again, if the child behaves responsibly and maturely, Mother will be duly impressed, and will eventually help the child to learn more. But if this sneaky, clever child starts causing trouble, Mother will take away the scissors,deliver a *very* sharp rebuke -- and basically send the child to bed without dinner. And it will be a very long time indeed before the Mother trusts (or indulges) that child again.

********** End of excerpt. As I said, this is just my understanding of thetopic. I'd welcome other views that might help our members better understand this area. Thanks.

Aum Maatangyai Namahe



James Rutke

Dear Devi Bhakta,

Thank you so much for your two recent posts. As a newcomer to the group, I feel quite fortunate to be able to share in the your discussion of siddhi and also to receive the beautiful gift of Gurujiís Affirmations. I do, however, have a question about your statements regarding the lack of tantric content in the Bhagavad Gita. I was of the same opinion until only recently when I read the commentary of Shrimad Abhinavagupta. His stated purpose is to reveal the secret teachings of the Gita from the point of view of Kashmiri tantra. His commentary on Gita 3:11-12 speaks quite specifically to tantric acquisition of siddhi.

Krishna tells Arjuna that through yajna he should nourish the gods and that in return the gods will nourish him. Abhinava comments that in the secret siddha texts the gods are known as the functions of our sense organs and that they are satisfied by enjoying the objects of the senses. By combining gratification of the senses with samadhi, one quickly obtains highest siddhi in which the difference between sense gratification and samadhi is eliminated. Then in verse twelve, Abhinava adds that if we do not give back to the gods this enjoyment of sense objects that they have given us, we are like thieves. One who would attain the highest siddhi, moksha, should do so by sukhopaya, by the easiest means, the means of sensual pleasure.

I have read elsewhere that the Gita is actually a teaching of the Krama school of Kashmiri tantra. Could you speak to these points and continue what is already a most stimulating discussion?

Devi Bhakta

Namaste Sw. Prem Vedarthi:
Thanks for your kind words; I'm glad you liked those two posts.

*** "I do, however, have a question about your statements regarding the lack of tantric content in the Bhagavad Gita. I was of the same opinion until only recently when I read the commentary of Shrimad Abhinavagupta. His stated purpose is to reveal the secret teachings of the Gita from the point of view of Kashmiri tantra. His commentary on Gita 3:11-12 speaks quite specifically to tantric acquisition of siddhi." ***

I am absolutely sure that such great scripture as Bhagavad Gita has secret meanings known only to certain initiates. It was careless of me not to think of the possibility; but it was a casual conversation, not a tightly researched argument. However, I am not familiar with Tantric interpretations of the Gita, and therefore unqualified to comment on them.

*** "Krishna tells Arjuna that through yajna he should nourish the gods and that in return the gods will nourish him. Abhinava comments that in the secret siddha texts the gods are known as the functions of our sense organs and that they are satisfied by enjoying the objects of the senses. By combining gratification of the senses with samadhi, one quickly obtains highest siddhi in which the difference between sense gratification and samadhi is eliminated. Then in verse twelve, Abhinava adds that if we do not give back to the gods this enjoyment of sense objects that they have given us, we are like thieves. One who would attain the highest siddhi, moksha, should do so by sukhopaya, by the easiest means, the means of sensual pleasure. "****

Amazing. A very compelling reading of the BG. I've never seen it.

***" I have read elsewhere that the Gita is actually a teaching of the Krama school of Kashmiri tantra." ***

I just don't know.

*** "Could you speak to these points and continue what is already a most stimulating discussion? " ***

Afraid not; the above is the best I can do. But thanks for sharing this fascinating information!

Aum Maatangyai Namahe

Satish Arigela

"Q: Well, Tantra in general doesn't seem to be an aescetic path. A: That's right, it's not.

I am not sure if one can say that tantra is not an ascetic path. I will leave that to experts on tantra. It might be interesting to know that Shri Amritananda's own teacher is a sanyasi(ascetic) and his sanyasa name is Swami Svaprakashananda Tirtha(due to personal reasons, I have deep respect for this particular sanyasi eventhough I never talked to, nor seen him). He is well versed in tantra shastra and a master of 70 million mantras. Shri Amritananda's paramaguru (teacher's teacher) also happens to be a sanyasa."

The author of the great work SriVidyarnava tantra also happens to be a sanyasi,the great Vidyaranya Swamin. Infact tantra shastra in the past and even now is practiced and taught by so many sanyasis. Even Adi Shankara taught tantra in his work Prapancha Sara tantra and taught Srividya in Saundaryalahari. Not to mention Shakta nanda tarangini is written by Brahmananda Giri which is a sanyasa name. And Tara Bhakti tarangini is written by Shri prakASAnanda sarasvatI who is a sanyasi and a great teacher of advaita. There have been numerous commentaries on tantras and parts of tantras by various ascetics(Sanyasis).

While I dont know if tantra is a non-ascetic path or not it is a path very much followed by ascetics even from the time of Adi Shankara(8th century), not to mention his Guru Govinda Bhagavatpada acharya is thought to be by some as the author the Jayadratha Yamala tantra and his paramaguru Gaudapada is credited with the authorship of Subhagodaya Stuti( a work on Srividya) and SriVidya ratna Sutras.

"Q: As I understand it, in Tantra, desire is accepted as a spontaneous manifestation of the Divine within the human mind and/or personality. The fulfillment of desire seems to be accepted as well. I think of the statements of Krsna to Arjuna when He says that He is any desire that is *not* opposed to Dharma. So it seems natural within this context to use what talents and skills you have to achieve your desires -- siddhis just being another very human skill."
"A: I would disagree with that. First, Bhagavad Gita is not a Tantric document, and Krishna is not really speaking about siddhis. Second, siddhis are not a "very human skill"; they are small manifestations of Divine Power (Shakti)."


Given that most of the above mentioned sanyasis commented(if not, it is definitely part of their study) on the BhagavadGita I would assume that it is not in direct opposition to principles of tantra.

Whoever wants to follow Shaktism or tantra, it is a good idea to read the book Principles of Tantra(available in two vols) translated by Sir Arthur Avalon. This is one of the most authentic books written on tantra shastra according to some. It summarises tantra and shakta principles as followed and practiced by the majority of Tantrics/Shaktas.

Sunelectric101

Namaste Sw. Prem Vedarthi, Satish & DB

Thank you all for your valuable input on the siddhis & tantra. SPV, can you cite the work by Abhinavaguptha that you referenced in your previous Email.

James Rutke

Namaste!

The book I am looking at is:

Abhinavagupta's Commentary on the Bhagavad Gita translated from Sanskrit with Introduction and Notes by Boris Marjanovic

Indica Books, Varanasi 2002

I am not always in agreement with Mr. Marjanovic's translation, but all-in-all it is a most valuable reference work. It's listed as out of print, but I did find a copy among amazon.com's marketplace sellers.

Omprem

Om Q and A

"Q: But the opinion on Siddhis within the larger Tantric Tradition seems to run the gamut. I have heard everything form, "Avoid them like the plague" to "They are your human birth right and they should be used for your own and other people's good"

Yes, and all of those opinions are correct. Siddhis are part of your human birthright, but in the sense that knowing Brahman and knowing yourself as Brahman are part of your human birthright. When through purification, you are ready to enter fully into the Divine, then Kundalini rises and as It moves through the seven main chakras, siddhis also arise. But, to perfom actions for the explicit purpose of raising siddhis, will result in your downfall because the very act of wanting the siddhis before the Divine and then actively pursuing the siddhis before the Divine means that your ego is still out of control and that you will not be able to withstand the power of Kundalini or the attraction of the siddihis. Kundalini rising in the impure aspirant can lead to death, serious and debilitating physical illness, and/ or serious, often permanent mental illness which may lead to suicide or, even worse, causing the death of others.

A: Okay, so siddhis do arise as a natural side-effect of Srividya sadhana. As you merge into Her (i.e. transcending the limitations of your human self), you begin to manifest some of Her powers. But they *are* HERS, not yours; and when you use them, you should be fulfilling Her divine desires, not your human desires. You can only properly use them to the extent that you are HER.

In my opinion, this is an accurate representation of siddis. It is one thing to manifest siddis: it is another to use them.Because of the difficulty of knowing whether the desire to use siddhis arises from a desire to fulfill the desires of the Divine or from an ego-based desire of curiosity, seeking of fame or self-aggrandizement, it is usually recommended that one not yield to the temptation to use siddhis in order to avoid the intense karmic repercussions of misusing them. The idea to keep in mind here is that power corrupts but absolute powers (i.e. siddhis) corrupt absolutely. Ask yourself how well you could handle absolute power and then honestly answer that question.

In the analogy of the mother and scissor-wielding child, if siddis are misused, the penalty is much more severe than simply having the siddhis disappear. There are heavy penalties applied to misusing the siddhis for personal reasons. The aspirant will suffer tremendously in this lifetime and will have to live through many more lifetimes than he/she would have otherwise had to contend with.

Q: But some of the tantras say you can gain siddhis by following certain rituals, independent of sadhana proper. It is just a matter of focus and refinement of attention, that's all.
A: Yes, it is true that certain tantras give precise formulas for attaining particular siddhis. It is possible that a focused and disciplined aspirant could use these formulas to attain a given siddhi before it organically manifests as a sife-effect of her or his Devi sadhana.


There are many ways to raise Kundalini and thus give rise to siddhis. Focus, refinement of attention and discipline are important and essential. But what is most important and essental is not the method or the attention but rather the intention. If one views Kundalini as the necessary vehicle of meeting and identifying with the Divine and if one performs the practices with single-minded devotion to the Divine, then Kundalini will rise, the siddhis will manifest and, if the aspirant remains unmoved by the miraculous unfolding of this prana and maintains his/her devotion to the Divine, then the Divine will envelop them and inform them of their true nature.

OM Namah Sivaya

James Rutke

Dear Satish Arigela,

You make an interesting point. The great Tibetan tantric Milarepa certainly was known as an ascetic. Furthermore, and a bit closer to this group's context, we can look at this passage I found in The Secret of the Three Cities by Douglas Renfrew Brooks:

"An association with the Shankara tradition allows intellectually austere Tantrics, like Bhaskaraya, to assert that worldy involvements and pleasures are strictly secondary to the higher goal of liberation. While he does not go so far as to advance the necessity of renunciation in obtaining liberation, a requirement as far as Shankara is concerned, he is able to transform the ideal Shrividya adept into a thoroughly worldly but at once restrained and ascetical figure. In this relatively late form of Tantrism, Bhaskaraya achieves a remarkable synthesis that reconciles the inherent conflict between renunciate (sannyasin) and Brahman householder ideals: the Tantric householder is himself an ideal ascetic, one who is completely in the world but not of it.î (p.93)

That last statement about being completely in the world but not of it was how sannyas was explained to me by my master Bhagawan Shree Rajneesh/Osho.



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