49. What Is the Highest Siddhi or Perfection in Yoga
Notes: I have translated the Bhagavadgita twice. The first one was a loose translation. The second one was a word to word translation with a detailed commentary. The commentary is however different from what you will find here. In this section I will share with you my thoughts about the knowledge, philosophy and wisdom of the Bhagavadgita as I understand it from my perspective. Jayaram V
Synopsis: This is about what constitutes the highest siddhi or perfection in the practice of Yoga according to the Bhagavadgita.
What is the highest siddhi or perfection according to the Bhagavadgita? It is not any of the supernatural powers which are mentioned in the classical yoga, in tantra traditions, nor in the Yogasutras. The flowering of supernatural powers in the practice of yoga denotes the progress made by a yogi on the path of liberation. They manifest spontaneously when certain conditions are met, and certain level of self-purification is achieved.
However, in the Bhagavadgita none of them qualify to be the highest perfection. The scripture follows a different approach to determine what constitutes perfection in yoga. At the same time, it does not propose anything new. What it considers the highest virtue is also recognized in classical yoga and various other spiritual traditions as the most important condition for achieving liberation.
Indeed, while ordinary people are enamored of their incredible appeal, in all spiritual traditions the Siddhis are looked down with certain disdain since they are considered major traps and deluding distractions on the path of liberation. Like the snakes that guard the subterranean treasures they can be spiritually fatal to those who have not yet subdued their desires or overcome their impurities and imperfections.
In the long run, they only harm rather than help those who become involved with them without discretion. Supernatural powers such as clairvoyance, mind-reading, etc., should not be used for frivolous reasons or to prove one’s spiritual mastery or superiority. When used indiscriminately, they strengthen the ego and draw the yogi into delusion and worldliness, besides making him vulnerable to dark and inimical forces.
Hence, all spiritual traditions caution their followers to remain guarded against the temptation of using them, out of vanity or egoism. The purpose of any spiritual practice is to restrain the mind and senses, control worldly desires, cultivate detachment and achieve self-mastery. Supernatural powers can slow this process, or even reverse it, as the yogis who possess them may succumb to the temptation of using them for worldly ends. Even if a yogi has pure intentions, he should be on guard because there can be unintended consequences for disturbing the natural order of things or interfering with the order and regularity of the world or the destinies of people.
Siddhis are therefore dangerous. They are like the minefields on the path of liberation. During your spiritual practice, you may acquire them, but you must use restraint and remain guarded. If at all you have to use them, you should use discretion and remain detached and unassuming, without letting your ego take control. You should surrender those powers to God (Isvara) with gratitude and use them as an offering and service to him.
The Bhagavadgita does not concern itself with such powers. Its emphasis is upon overcoming desires and engaging in sacrificial actions to neutralize the ill effects of karma. It emphatically declares that all perfections and great powers (vibhutis) arise from Supreme Brahman, who is the source of all. For humans, liberation is the ultimate goal. However, to achieve liberation, one has to overcome desires, attachments and achieve sameness towards all dualities of life. It is perfection in sameness (samasiddhi), the highest of al virtues, which leads to self-absorption and freedom from rebirth. Sameness, therefore, is the highest of all perfections.
Sameness means equanimity or being equal to all conditions of life. It arises when one is free from both attraction and aversion and becomes equal to the pairs of opposites, neither complaining nor rejoicing what life offers, but taking them in stride without judgment, conditions, or reaction. According to the Bhagavadgita, it is the culmination of the practice of yoga, which arises when one excels in self-purification through restraints, observances, withdrawal of the senses, detachment, renunciation and concentrated self-absorption (atma samyama yoga).
The Bhagavadgita recognizes it as the highest of all virtues, which manifests in humans after repeated births and sustained practice of yoga. It puts a great emphasis upon self-effort, by suggesting that one should uplift oneself by practicing self-control and guarding against temptations and desires, so that the Self becomes the friend of the Self rather than its enemy.
The Self is the friend of him who conquers his mind and senses, but acts as the enemy of him who gives into passions and desires. For him the Self becomes an obstacle. Therefore, renouncing all desires and intentions, and restraining the mind and the sense, one should concentrate upon the Self and become absorbed in it. This is the essence of Atma Samyama Yoga.
When a yogi conquers his mind and body through self-purification (atma-suddhi) and remain fixed in the contemplation of the Supreme Self, he becomes equal to cold and heat, pain and pleasure and honor and dishonor (6.5-7). He remains contended, acquires true knowledge and wisdom, masters his senses and remains firmly stable and established in the Self. For him a lump of clay, stone and gold are the same.
Thus, the Bhagavadgita recognizes sameness as the highest of all virtues and attaining it as the highest of all perfections (siddhis). It also suggests how one may cultivate it. To achieve self-mastery, one should choose an ideal place and an ideal environment and practice meditation and concentration, using the right posture. Moderation and balance are important in the practice of yoga because a person with an uncontrolled mind cannot practice it.
According to the scripture, yoga is not for the one who eats voraciously, nor for the one who does not eat at all. It is not for the one who sleeps for too long, nor for the one who remains awake. However, for him who controls his mind and senses and practices balance and moderation, yoga becomes a destroyer of sorrow. Through regular practice (abhyasa) and detachment (vairagya) he becomes skillful in samyama, with his mind firmly fixed in the Self. He remains stable even amid disturbances and distractions, as his mind becomes disassociated from both pain and suffering, which is considered true yoga
Thus, cultivating sameness should be the aim of yoga to stabilize the mind, arrest the accumulation karma, burn away of the bonds and latent impressions and achieve freedom from the cycle of births and deaths. It is the culmination of perfection in detachment, renunciation, desirelessness, dispassion, the restraint of the mind and the senses and oneness with the supreme universal Self.
When one sees God everywhere and in everything, sameness automatically arises in the mind. For the yogi, who is absorbed in the contemplation of God, everything is an act, play, or manifestation of God. Hence, he accepts all conditions without judgment, resistance, or reaction, and remains equal to the impermanence and the uncertainties of life.
Thus, the Bhagavadgita rightly affirms (6.45) that a yogi who practices restraint and achieves sameness (samasiddhi) is superior to those who practice other yogas such as karma, jnana, or sanysasa yogas. Even among such yogis of equanimity, whoever worships God with faith, with his mind turned towards him, he is considered the most skillful.
Suggestions for Further Reading
- The Wisdom of the Bhagavadgita, Main Page
- The Wisdom of the Upanishads, Main Page
- The Bhagavad-Gita Essays and Translations
- An Introduction To The Bhagavad-Gita And Its Three Secrets
- Why to Study the Bhagavadgita Parts 1 to 4
- The Abbreviated Bhagavadgita
- The Problem of Maya Or Illusion and How To Deal With It
- The Problem of Maya Or Illusion and How To Deal With It
- The Bhagavadgita, Philosophy and Concepts
- The Many Gods and Goddesses of Hinduism
- Divine Qualities Of A True Worshipper Of God
- The Bhagavadgita on Karma, the Law of Actions
- Maya, The Grand Illusion Or The Delusion Of The Mind
- Aspects, Emanations, Incarnations and Forms of God Vishnu
- Dvaita or Advaita What is the Truth?
- Symbolism in the Bhagavadgita
- The Truth About Karma
- Meaning and Definition of Bhagavan
- Brahman the Supreme Universal Lord of All
- What is Bhakti or Devotion?
- Bhakti Marg, the Path of Devotion
- History and information about Mathura and Vrindavan Temples
- True Devotion and Qualities of a True Devotee
- Essays On Sorrow And Its Spiritual Significance
- The Yoga of Knowledge or the Samkhya Yoga, Verses and Commentary by Jayaram V