3.38 These extraordinary powers can be seen as accomplishments or as obstacles.
Throughout this chapter, Patañjali follows the same structure as in the previous chapters: First, introducing definitions and a contextualization of the practices within the larger project of yoga; then, there is a list of applications of the techniques with their results. This sutra offers a clarification, like the one offered in sutra 2.18, where it said that whatever can be perceived manifests to the senses as experiences for enjoyment or as experiences leading to liberation. When you read about the many possible outcomes of meditative integration (samyama), it is not surprising that some of the meanings of the word yoga in Sanskrit include magical art, trick, and supernatural means. In fact, it was mentioned before that according to some sources, attaining extraordinary or magical powers is the sign of a yogin or yogini.
This aphorism serves as a reminder that you are in charge of your journey because you are the only person who can set a meaningful goal for your practice – that it enhances the quality of your participation in your life. For some of us it may mean that all the yogic tools are means to increase our sense of ourselves and our self-importance. If that is the case, then you will see any powers you acquire as a sign of your self-worth and success. You may even believe that it is you who have made all those things happen on your own. This will likely generate a sense of separation, isolating you from others and from the deep interconnectedness between life and awareness. Seeing these extraordinary accomplishments as ways to aggrandize yourself are obstacles not only to your progress but also to your ability to be of service. A different option is to see yoga as a way to grow in your capacity to open your mind and your heart to contribute your uniqueness to the world. Therefore, as you remove inefficiencies from your body, mind, emotions, and attitude, you can receive and transmit the wisdom of life through your actions and interactions more effectively. Then, all the practices lead you to see yourself as a humble conduit for love and awareness. This is the same message advanced in sutra 2.45, that practicing humility (ishvara pranidhana) confers extraordinary wisdom and powers (siddhis).
What are your goals for your practice?
What are you focusing your awareness and energy on?
What parameters are you using to measure the effectiveness of your practice?
Is your practice a way to build your self-importance, or a way to deepen your humanness?
These questions also prepare you to develop an appropriate mindset for the aphorisms that follow.
As usual, one more way of exploring the meaning of this sutra is by chanting it.
You can choose to chant it in its traditional form with some of the words coming together:
3.38 te samādhavupasargāvyutthāne siddhayaḥ
ते समाधवुपसर्गाव्युत्थाने सिद्धयः ॥३८॥
Another option is to chant each word in the sutra individually:
If you prefer, you may listen to the podcast:
This is an excerpt from the book Unravel the thread: Applying the ancient wisdom of yoga to live a happy life