It is fascinating to consider just how many ancient teachings tell us that we, humans, can gain extraordinary powers through different techniques. Some of them known as siddhis in the tradition of yoga from the Sanskrit meaning “perfection include meditation, as well as static dancing, drumming, praying, fasting, psychedelics, and a lot more.
For instance, in Buddhism, the existence of advanced powers is readily acknowledged; in fact, Buddha expected his disciples to have the ability to attain such abilities, but also not to become distracted by them.
A professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies at the University of Michigan, Donald Lopez, describes the many abilities that are ascribed to Buddha:
With this enlightenment, he has been believed to possess all manner of supernormal powers, which include full knowledge of every of his past lives, as well as those of some other beings, the capacity to know the thoughts of others, the ability to create doubles of himself, as well as the ability to rise into the air and simultaneously shoot fire and water from his body…Even though he passed into nirvana at the age of 81, he could have lived for an aeon or maybe until the end of the aeon if he was asked to do that.
Again, there are a lot of historical anecdotes of people with, as the Institute of Noetic Sciences calls them, “extended human capacities.” As this article is focused on Buddhist monks, here, we will present you another example from the lore as it has been written by Swami Rama in Living with the Himalayan Masters:
Never before had I seen a man that could sit still without blinking his eyelids for eight to ten hours, but this adept was very unusual. He also levitated two and a half feet during his meditations. We measured this with a string, which has later been measured by a foot rule. I would like to explain it clearly, as I have already told you, that I do not consider levitation to be a spiritual practice. It is also an advanced practice of pranayama with the application of bandeaus. A person that knows about the relationship between mass and weight will understand that it is possible to levitate, but just after long practice…
Also, he had the power to transform matter into various forms, such as changing a rock into a sugar cube. One after another the next morning did many things like that. He told me to touch the sand, and the grains of sand turned into almonds, as well as cashews. I had also heard of this science before and knew its basic principles, but I had hardly believed such stories. I did not explore this field, but I am fully acquainted with the governing laws of science.
A lot of these tales exist within the literature and lore, but they are only stories, and it is up to the readers to determine their reliability. Of course, one that subscribes to different ancient teaching would be more inclined to believe that these are more than only folklore. With science shedding some light on the possible truths of ancient mysticism, it is not implausible to think that, at one time, such abilities were more common knowledge.
Nowadays, there have been a lot of studies within the realms of parapsychology which have yielded statistically important results, especially when examining the findings which we have come from quaint physics. This is why Max Planck, who is a theoretical physicist that originated quantum theory, stated that he considers consciousness as fundamental, as well as a matter as derivative from consciousness. Max also wrote that we cannot get behind consciousness and that everything that we talk about, as well as everything that we regard as existing postulates consciousness. The Dalai Lama has also supported this viewpoint:
Speaking broadly, even though there are some differences, I think that Buddhist philosophy, as well as Quantum Mechanics, can shake hands on the view that they have of the world. We can see in these great examples the fruits of human thinking. No matter of the admiration that we feel for these great thinkers, we should not lose sight of the fact that they were a human being just like we are.
A professor of Physics and Astronomy at John Hopkins University, named R.C. Henry, further explained things:
One fundamental conclusion of the new physics also acknowledges that the observer is the one that creates the reality. Being observers, we are also personally involved in the process of creation of our reality. Physicists are being forced to admit that the universe is actually a “mental” construction. Pioneering physicist Sir James Jeans once wrote: The stream of knowledge is heading toward a non-mechanical reality; the universe starts looking more like a great thought than like a great machine. Mind no longer appears to be an accidental intruder into the realm of matter we ought to rather hail it as the creator, as well as governor of the realm of matter. You should get over it and accept the inarguable conclusion. The universe is immaterial-mental spiritual.
Harvard and the Monks from the Himalayan Mountains.
At the time of a visit to remote monasteries in the 1980s, one Professor of Medicine at Harvard University, named Herbert Benson, together with his team of researchers, studied the monks that were living on the Himalayan Mountains that could, but g Tum-mo, which is a yoga technique, raise the temperatures of their fingers, together with that of their toes, by as much as 17 degrees. It is still not known how the monks had the ability to generate such heat.
This did not stop there – the researchers also studied some advanced meditators in Sikkim, India, where they were surprised to discover that these monks could lower their metabolism by 64%.
The research team of Harvard in 1985 made a video of monks drying cold, as well as wet sheets with body heat only. Monks that spend winter night 15,000 feet high in the Himalayas is also uncommon.
There are actually really remarkable feats, and it is not the first time science has examined humans that can do extraordinary things.