Let me return to the issue of supernatural powers. Most of the yogic supernatural powers described in yoga texts clearly generate symbolic-value according to my definition: the idea of supernatural powers has a significant impact on society’s perceptions of yoga. But we as moderns have to realise, in the mind of the yogi, the supernatural powers also might have had use-value. In fact it might be this aspect – the quest for power and distinction – that attracted a person to yoga.
We could as an example take the case of warrior and noble caste of the Mahabharata -the Kshatriyas – who seemed to be well advanced in their yoga knowledge. The Mahabharata was strongly preoccupied by supernatural powers – often called bala. Often yoga was presented as a path to bala and we should not be surprised if this was what attracted many Kshatriyas. Any warrior – that is the warrior class as such – would be interested in the powers of flying through air and having magical skills. This was the use-value of yoga, as perceived by the warrior class. But the act of flying was simultaneously also of symbolic-value to the warriors: it could be argued that the image of being in possession of magical powers would make the warrior noble to a fearsome authority, a totem loaded with symbolic capital. So from this point of view the interest was also motivated by symbolic-value.
As the noble warrior yogi experienced the ASC and outcomes derived from asceticism and yoga – the measurable effects -, he might have found this very beneficial. Due to his yogic mental and physical condition, his fear of pain and sudden death might wane and he would find that he could much better endure the pain, hunger, tiredness and exhaustion so often connected to a life of battle. Or he might have found increasing comfort in the belief that he had escaped the forces of karma. This individually experienced tangible effect was maybe not what attracted him initially to yoga, but over time it was what kept some Kshatriyas engaged with yoga.
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