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As I discuss in this question, by far the most popular school of Hindu philosophy is the Vedanta school. But there are five other Astika or orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy: Purva Mimamsa, Samkhya, Yoga, Vaisheshika, and Nyaya. My question is about the Yoga school, which had a similar worldview to the Samkhya school except it embraced the existence of a supreme being. The defining text of the Yoga school is Patanjali's Yoga Sutras.

Now one of the tenets of the Yoga school is that you can obtain Siddhis or magical powers through meditation. But that's not the only way to obtain Siddhis, as Patanjali describes in Adhyaya 4 Sutra 1 of the Yoga Sutras:

janma-oṣadhi-mantra-tapas-samādhi-jāḥ siddhayaḥ

Supernatural powers (siddhis) arise from birth, drugs, mantras, austerity, or yoga (samadhi)

As you can see, one of the methods of obtaining Siddhis is through the use of drugs or herbs. Here is what the Advaita philosopher Vachaspati Mishra says in this excerpt from his commentary on the Yoga Sutra:

He describes the attainments [Siddhis] due to drugs: - "In the houses of the Asuras." Man passes to the places of the Asuras for some reason. He is met there by lovely Asura damsels, and is given an offering of elixer. Using that he comes to possess the attainments of freedom from decay and death, and other attainments. Or, the same may take place even here by the use of elixir, as in the case of the thinker Mandavya, who resided in the Vindhya mountains and who used the elixir.

Now it would obviously be impractical to go to Patalaloka and obtain herbs from Asura damsels. But I'm interested in the part in bold, where Vachaspati Mishra claims that you can obtain Siddhis using herbs right here on Earth. So my question is, what herbs available on Earth grant Siddhis?

Do any scriptures shed light on this? What was the elixir used by sage Mandavya, for instance?

  • do you feel vedanta is more popular than yoga – Rakesh Joshi Apr 1 '17 at 5:37
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    @RakeshJoshi Yes, in the sense that almost all Hindus today belong to a sect of Hinduism that subscribes to the Vedanta school. Now it's certainly true that the word Yoga is more popular than the word Vedanta, but the number of people who actually subscribe to the philosophical tenets of Patanjali's Yoga school is relatively small. – Keshav Srinivasan Apr 1 '17 at 5:40
  • but yoga is more practical in nature than theory .. – Rakesh Joshi Apr 1 '17 at 5:58
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    @RakeshJoshi Yeah, a lot of Advaitins, especially after the time of Vivekananda, utilize the methods of Ashtanga Yoga. – Keshav Srinivasan Apr 1 '17 at 6:04
  • Sri M's guru Sri Maheswarnath Babaji made him drink Soma rasa which was required to quickly awaken Kundalini. – Chinmay Sarupria Apr 1 '17 at 9:33
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I found the answer in this excerpt from Adi Shankaracharya's commentary on the Yoga Sutras:

dehāntaritā yathā yogādinā dehāntareṣu svargādiṣu janmasiddhiḥ. oṣadhibhir asurabhavaneṣu *rasāyanena somāmala- kādibhakṣaṇena** pūrvadehānapanayenaiva

"The perfections from birth are in a different body", being attainment of another body in heaven or similar region, by yoga or other means. "From drugs - such as the elixir of the demon realms": here the original body is not discarded, but by taking drugs such as Soma or the Amalaka plant (some perfection [Siddhi] is attained)

Now the Soma plant is notoriously hard to identify, although scholars today think it's most likely the Ephedra plant. But the identity of Amalaka is well-known; it's the Indian gooseberry.

And indeed, Rasayana made from Amalaka, which is what Adi Shankaracharya is talking about, is a well-known Ayurvedic medicine; see page 32 of this book, which says that the effect is "to transform old men into young, with new hair and teeth, and induce physical power like that of an elephant." That sounds like a Siddhi to me.

  • its not exactly siddhi but even now the amalaki rasayana is available you can also make it. its just like anti ageing or antioxidant. not exactly magical . – Rakesh Joshi Apr 2 '17 at 18:14
  • @RakeshJoshi Well, Adi Shankaracharya seems to think that the Amalaka plant grants Siddhis. I may post a follow-up question on that. – Keshav Srinivasan Apr 2 '17 at 19:01
  • You can go through clinical trials on the fruit and find yourself. however there are herbs i will post once i get some references. – Rakesh Joshi Apr 2 '17 at 19:50
  • Several rasayanas are there in ayurveda.. different rasayanas are meant to be consumed in different seasons like one in grishma , another in vasanta, etc..they simply are like rejuvenator..consuming them does not give one magical powers or siddhis.. – Rickross Apr 3 '17 at 4:38
  • @Rickross Well, there must be a reason that Adi Shankaracharya says that the Amalaka plant gives Siddhis. – Keshav Srinivasan Apr 3 '17 at 7:59
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If you are looking for specific 'siddhis', realize that those ancient authors may have been exaggerating or speaking metaphorically, in terms of the astral/ethereal body and not the physical body. However, I've come to learn the following herbs do give some 'special powers'. These gifts can be obtained through intense meditation, so herbs aren't strictly necessary, but they provide a 'shortcut', like steroids do for athletes.

  • kanna - This makes me more sensitive to pranna/chi/qi and I can feel energy fields of people and crystals with my hands, and direct energy as well. The chakras become very sensitive, and kanna especially works to open up the heart chakra. https://examine.com/supplements/sceletium-tortuosum/

  • sativa - This also makes one more sensitive to energy, however it often has unpleasant side effects like dry mouth, dry eyes, or paranoia.

  • LSD - not really a plant, but it does exist in nature. This seems to improve your reaction time and concentration in micro doses. Anything that requires rhythmic movement becomes magically easier as time seems to slow down during concentration. This one may fit "Mahima: expanding one's body to an infinitely large size". I've experienced this while on LSD and staring at the full moon and holding a quartz crystal. It felt like my presence extended up towards the top of the clouds.

  • ayahuasca - This may fit "Laghima: becoming almost weightless" or "Prāpti: having unrestricted access to all places" from what I've read, as you experience relaxation and visions which may be a form of astral travel. I've not tried this.

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    I'm interested in what Hindu scripture says, not what scientific research says or what your personal experience with illegal drugs says. – Keshav Srinivasan Apr 13 '17 at 17:53

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