Before superheroes became popularized in pop culture, superpowers were already known in the yoga sutras. The yogi superpowers include the ability to change one’s weight, to be as heavy as an elephant or light as a feather; the ability to float or fly or levitate; the ability to be invisible and even walk through walls; and the ability to communicate telepathically and also peak into someone else’s mind.
We’re not going to debate the proofs of these superpowers, not today anyway, but we’re going to look at how any power— superpower, supernatural power, everyday power, individual power, consumer power— can be used either for good or for evil. Whether it’s from yogic scripture or from superhero fiction, the same thread runs true. Both heroes and villains possess power, so it is not power itself that makes a superhero, but the right motivation. Power in the hands of someone intoxicated by power itself will lead to destruction. But power in the hands of somebody who is selfless will lead to the creation of a kinder world.
There is a Buddhist practice of meditation called Tonglen, it is one where we take away the obstacles of others so that they may find joy. We do not need superpowers to practice this. But if we do have superpowers, having this intent will keep us on path. The truth is that everyone already has some amount of power in some way, and simply by starting a yoga practice and continuing this practice, all of us are planting seeds to gain superpowers. Every time we sit down to eat, we exert our power. We can use this power either to perpetuate the violence inflicted on animals and destroy our environment, or we can use this power to choose kindly and liberate other beings. The yogi path is to choose kindness and liberation whenever we can, and we always can. Any superpowers and potentials we may possess would mean nothing to the world if we were motivated by our own self-centered desires. So the yogi’s way is to be aligned in our connection with others, to use any power we have now and any power we will possess in the future for the happiness and freedom of others. When we use our powers this way, then we choose to take on the role of a hero instead of a villain. As it is stated in Patanjali’s yoga sutras III.38, te samadhav upasarga vyutthane siddhayah, when you give up the love of power, you attain the power of love.