It has become quite popular nowadays to speak about mystical experiences and "siddhis". Most yoga and meditation groups speak of them, along with other esoteric blabber such as the raising of kundalini, opening of chakras, and other things which no one has actually experienced. On one side we have new age gurus speaking of siddhis very cheaply as though they are as common as sand on a beach, and on the other hand we have "rationalists" who discount siddhis all together as mere fantasy. Siddhis are a reality, and the science behind them has been passed down from time immemorial by the rishis and preserved in the Vedic texts. In actuality nothing is mystic. Everything functions according to natural laws. The rishis, by virtue of their expanded consciousness, understood the functioning of matter on the subtle levels of sound and mind. They actually understood the absolute laws of nature, and not just the surfacial reactions caused by mixing gross physical elements. True transcendentalists have no interest in mundane material life. As such, the rishis did not give much importance to material powers and perfections. They were not interested in acquiring wealth, power, fame, etc. Their aim was much higher. Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita: vishaya vinivartante niraharasya dehinah rasa-varjam raso 'py asya param drishtva nivartate "The embodied soul may be restricted from senses enjoyment, though the taste for sense objects remains. But, ceasing such engagements by experiencing a higher taste, he is fixed in consciousness." We must imagine how great the spiritual experience of the rishis and yogis must be to turn away from absolute material power - control over the fundamental laws of nature - and sit alone in the forest absorbed in meditation. That is the brahmananda, paramananda, shivananda, yogananda spoken of in the scriptures - the spiritual bliss which is the constitutional nature of the self. Experiencing a higher taste of spiritual bliss, they are able to renounce all lower material sensual enjoyment - both subtle and physical. How else can we explain the countless yogis, jnanis, tapasvis, siddhas, and rishis who dwell in the sacred realm of the Himalayas. High in the mountains, surrounded by a forest covered in snow. The rishis are there even today meditating on the banks of the Ganges. What keeps them there, living in apparent poverty? Are they fools, are they mad? No, on the contrary, the world is mad and we are all fools. For we are chasing after the broken glass of sense enjoyment, while they are offering us the diamonds of spiritual bliss. The rishis are calling to us. We must heed their call. Whether we are in the city or in the forest, it makes no difference. Internally we must all become rishis and sadhus - transcendentalists of the concrete jungle. Be situated in your place and attain the goal of life, this is the message of the rishis and the Upanishads - sthane sthitah shruti gatam tanu-van-manobhih. The aim of those following spiritual discipline is to become free from the desire to lord over material nature. Those seeking mystic perfections are motivated by their desire to control matter, subtle and gross. Those who are sincerely interested in spiritual life should try their best to become free from such material desires. I have seen many people who belong to lines that focus on siddhis. Some of the siddhis are amazing, some are just stupid. Everything from being able to pull chocolate out of the sand (the specialty of one particular sadhu) to being able to change the density of matter. Through various processes of meditation one's mind is expanded and the understandings of matter become much greater. All matter is based on sound, so through sound it can be manipulated. Furthermore, the physical realm of our experience exists and is based on the subtle mental realm. Those who have conscious access to that realm can know and do things that we would consider to be mystical or supernatural. There are eight primary siddhis described in the scriptures, and ten secondary perfections. Lord Krishna confirms this in the Srimad Bhagavatam as follows: siddhayo 'shtadasa prokta dharana yoga-para-gaih tasam ashtau mat-pradhana dasaiva guna-hetavah "The masters of the yoga system have declared that there are eighteen types of mystic perfection and meditation, of which eight are primary, having their shelter in Me, and ten are secondary, appearing from the material mode of goodness." The eight primary mystic perfections are as follows: Anima-siddhi - The ability to decrease the size of one's body and become smaller than the smallest particle. Through this siddhi one may enter into stone or change the density in one's body, enabling one to pass through solid matter. Mahima-siddhi - The ability to increase the size of one's body, ultimately enveloping the universe. Laghima-siddhi - The ability to make one's body lighter than air and fly at will. The perfection of this siddhi enables one to travel on the sun's rays and enter into the sun planet. Prapti-siddhi - The ability to manifest any object one desires within one's hand. This siddhi removes the limitations of space which seperate two objects from each other. It is said one will even be able to touch the moon with one's finger [i.e. the limitation of distance is removed]. Prakamya-siddhi - The ability to attain anything one desires. Ishita-siddhi - The ability to control the sub-potencies of the laws of nature. This enables one to control various energies and seemingly defy the laws of nature. On the lowest level, one may make fire come from one's mouth, etc. Vashita-siddhi - The ability to bring others under one's control. Kamavasayita-siddhi - The ability to attain anything anywhere. This is the highest of the eight and contains most of the abilities of the other perfections. The ten secondary perfections are as follows: 1) The ability to be free from hunger and thirst. With this perfection one no longer depends on food and water for maintenance of one's body. One will be able to sustain himself simply on prana, the life air. 2) The ability to hear things far away. With this perfection one can hear any conversation spoken anywhere in the world. 3) The ability to see things far away. With this perfection one develops a mystic vision, by which one can see any person or place. Sanjaya, the disciple of Vyasa, used this siddhi to see and hear the conversation between Krishna and Arjuna (known as Bhagavad Gita) which took place on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, though he was situated far away. 4) The ability to travel at the speed of the mind. With this perfection one can travel great distances in a moment simply by thinking of the destination. 5) The ability to assume any form one desires. This enables one to change one's physical body at will. 6) The ability to enter the bodies of others. This perfection enables one to enter into the bodies of others and enjoy through their senses. Since ghosts do not have physical senses, they often resort to this to satisfy their desires through other's bodies. 7) The ability to control the time of one's death. With this perfection one may choose the time of leaving his body. The ability to witness the pastimes between the demigods and the celestial girls called apsaras. 9) Satya-sankalpa - Perfect accomplishment of one's determination. Whatever one desires to happen will happen. 10) Satya-vak - Giving orders that are unimpeded. With this perfection one's very word is truth. Simply by saying something it occurs. Besides these eighteen, there are five inferior perfections as follows: The ability to know past, present and future. The ability to tolerate heat, cold and other dualities. The ability to know the minds of others. The ability to check the influence of fire, water, poison, and weapons. The ability to remain unconquered by others. The primary eight siddhis are of a much higher order than the rest, and require severe discipline to accomplish. It is very rare that one will achieve such a perfection. But for every siddhi there is a reflection that is easily attained. The processes for attaining these minor siddhis are usually outlined in the Tantra-shastra. [Please refer to the course on Vedic literature to understand what is Tantra-shastra.] The processes generally involve doing upasana to a particular deity, who when pleased reveals their form to the Sadhaka. On the way many siddhis naturally develop due to expansion of the consciousness through mantra upasana and meditation. According to the category of deva one worships the result will come either quickly or after a long time, and the result will either be temporary or permanent. If you aim at a low entity, for example a ghost, the result will be quick, but it will be of minimal value. Whereas if your upasana is to a higher divinity, the result will be much more permanent and significant, but will take much more time to accomplish. The aim of the Sadhaka generally depends on his conditioning within the modes of nature. This is described by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita: yajante sattvika devan yaksa-raksamsi rajasah pretan bhuta-ganams canye yajante tamasa janah "Men in the mode of goodness worship the demigods; those in the mode of passion worship the yakshas and rakshasas; and those in the mode of ignorance worship ghosts and spirits." As you progress in the modes, the worship becomes more and more purified, from ignorance to goodness. When you finally transcend the modes by worship of Krishna, the worship is completely transcendental beyond the influence of material nature.