An Essay on
© 2008 by Academic Services International, Los Lunas, NM, USA
Siddhis are "magical powers." Almost all yoga texts refer to them and indicate that exposure to higher levels of consciousness will provide the practitioner with "supernatural powers."
They are not "supernatural." They are completely natural - but only when one is operating in an adequately expanded level of consciousness. To the mundane awareness (the "common" person), a display of magical power or enlightened insight is bewildering and frightening, and is thus considered to be "supernatural."
Some gurus say that the acquirement and use of magical powers is to be avoided, for all of one's energy is supposed to be focused on Union with the primordial consciousness. The exercise of magical powers reduces the total energy pool available for accomplishing that Union ( - actually, it takes everything you've got! ).
Other teachers merely indicate that these powers may or will be encountered and, presumably, will be regulated by your own highly-enforced Code of Conduct of yama and niyama.
Astral Projection can be encountered at any time. This is the well-known Out-Of-the-Body (OOB) experience.
Some gurus say that one should not leave the body because this will detract from the goal of Union with the primordial consciousness.
Other teachers state that this may or will happen and that the aspirant should use this ability to soar higher into expanded consciousness.
.Of specific fascination is the concept of the "silver cord" that connects the astral body to the physical body. Almost all people who report astral travel also comment on the presence of this etheric umbilical cord.
Yet, a few other travellers note that there is no such thing. What is going on here?
It all depends on the status of the projector, that is, the presence of a silver cord is a matter of the individual's initiatory level. At a certain point on the spiritual path, the silver cord is severed (just like in physical death) and the adept (yogi) is sustained solely by a meditatively-built connection of consciousness that is anchored "above" (in the Monad ). Yet his or her physical body continues. This is a rather high attainment and relatively rare.
When exiting the physical body, one usually passes out through one of the chakras. For example, departure through the Solar Plexus (a relatively common gateway) results in entry onto the Astral Plane - a realm composed of illusion and glamour. This exit cannot be recommended under any circumstances.
The ideal doorway, both for astral travel and in the event of physical death, is the Crown Chakra.
Austerities are impositions that yogis can place upon their bodies and lives in order to further their efforts in performing the Great Work - attaining Union with the primordial consciousness. Typically, austerities are practices that are engaged by practitioners who are known as ascetics.
Ascetics tend to live alone (or go away on meditational retreats), eat little or nothing, hold their breath for long periods of time, whip themselves with chains, lay on beds of nails, pierce themselves with arrows, do not take baths (or bathe many times each day), have few or no material possessions, cut their arms with razor blades upon thinking forbidden thoughts, and generally astound or amuse the rest of humanity with their strange behavior.
They are found in all cultures. American Indians go away, for 24 hours up to several months, on a "Vision Quest" in order to determine their true identities and spiritual purpose. Pious Christians walk on their knees for miles. Japanese martial artists meditate under a waterfall for two years. Disobedient children are sent to their rooms, without the benefit of television, when they display recalcitrant behavior.
Austerities of such a severe nature are not part of Raja Yoga, but they certainly may be applied. If that is your desire.