4.1 Optimal function and enhanced efficiency (siddhis) may result from birth, herbs, mantra, purification practices (tapas) and deep integration (samadhi).
After dedicating a major portion of Chapter Three to the yogic practices resulting in extraordinary attainments (siddhis), Patañjali begins Chapter Four by listing five possible ways of cultivating these faculties. The first is by birth, meaning that these powers are innate, with typical examples provided by prodigious children. The commentators explain that, in those cases, the person’s merits in previous lives come into fruition as the person is born. The second way is by using herbs. All world traditions living in harmony with nature develop a profound understanding of their environment. Consequently, each tradition learns to use what nature provides for sustenance, health, and to fulfill all their needs, including entering states that give them access to a deeper understanding of the universe.
Mantra, the practice of reciting a series of words, is also a widespread practice in many traditional societies. They can be used for producing specific effects, such as bringing calmness to one’s being, reaching heightened states of consciousness, and casting a spell. Extraordinary powers can also be obtained through intense purification practices, tapas. These types of practices are common in many traditional rituals throughout the world. The fifth way of enhancing function and efficiency is integration, samadhi. Remember that Patañjali already dedicated Chapter One of the Yoga Sutra to samadhi. This sutra reflects Patañjali’s comprehensive perspective, by not claiming that only yoga can create these supernatural powers. Of course, it has already been said in aphorism 3.38 that these powers can be seen as accomplishments or as obstacles. It is the practitioner who decides how to apply these powers, either to generate more ways of being (citta vrtti) and entanglements or to move towards liberation.
Are you noticing changes in your ways of being and functioning? Where do they come from?
Is your practice resulting in optimal function and enhanced efficiency?
How are your practices sustaining your vital energy?
How do they contribute to enhancing the quality of your participation in your life?
Are you increasing your entanglement in the world or are you living in harmony within and without?
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:
जन्मओषधिमन्त्रतपस्समाधिजाः सिद्धयः ॥१॥
janmaoṣadhimantratapassamādhijāḥ siddhayaḥ ॥1॥
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
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