Mutant Skills

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras discuss radical advances in personal ability – skills to become invisible, and many other “superhuman” capabilities – skills that Patanjali was said to possess. We know that Jesus was said to have miraculous powers, and other texts same the same about the Buddha.

It comes down to personal opinion, but when we have multiple historical sources, from different regions and different centuries listing the same phenomena, then we could look deeper and ask why this keeps cropping up.

Hot Yoga class, members in twisted side angle, hands at heart centre.

When an ink drop falls into water, it has no choice but to disperse. Our bodies are like that – a drop in an organic sea of people, animals, plants and planet. The drop that is my body will disperse when I die, but while I live I have choice and I hold it together – like the ink holds together for the instant it lands in water.

But I don’t know how I stay alive. Processes go on all the time to sustain me that I am largely unaware of. I only really notice is something goes wrong – if I become ill.

Yoga is about developing awareness. It’s possible that these historical figures had awareness so keen that they could fully understand, feel and engage with all the processes operating inside. Maybe their awareness was so deep and all-embracing that they could manipulate their body and it’s mechanisms at a fundamental level, giving rise to phenomena others called “miraculous”.

Hot Yoga class in Crow pose.

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are a practice commentary, detailing the developmental stages en route to this kind of skill. No one can prove that miracles are possible or impossible, and it doesn’t matter anyway because Patanjali describes further development, beyond the cultivation of unusual powers (or “siddhis”).

BTW Patanjali warns that anyone who does develop siddhis mustn’t get egotistical about it. It’s got to be treated like any other skill – it’s great in itself, but it doesn’t make anyone a better person.

The Yoga Sutras list “Samadhi” as the end and ultimate result of Yoga practice. I’ve seen different translations – some give “same seeing”, others give “move towards”. Either way, it’s a mental state where we can consider people, events and things without the colour of previous memories and preferences. Just their true nature shines through – even in our relationship with our self. Our own core identity emerges.

Some would call this enlightenment. It’s heartening to think that enlightenment doesn’t really change anything. We’re still the same people (perhaps a lot more authentic) with the same problems. The difference is that we see each problem in its true context, and can cut through to the solution immediately. Now that’s practical wisdom, and worth getting on the mat for.

Yoga class sitting on knees, hands resting on thighs, pensive.

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