“Mystic powers can make a yogi materially powerful and thus give temporary relief from the miseries of birth, death, old age and disease, as other material sciences can also do, but such mystic powers can never be a permanent source of relief from these miseries. Therefore, according to the Bhagavata school, this path of religiosity is also a method of cheating its followers.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 1.91 Purport)Download this episode (right click and save)
Friend-One: Are you familiar with the song “Miracle Man” by Ozzy Osbourne?
F1: Do you know what it’s about?
F2: I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing it’s related to the disgraced televangelists of the 1980s. They collected money from the innocent public, promising a place in heaven in return.
F1: Okay, because I was thinking about the title to that song today.
F2: Other bands from that time period wrote similar songs. Metallica did one called “Leper Messiah.” It has a great line in there: “send me money, send me green, heaven you will meet…make a contribution and you’ll get the better seat.”
F1: Oh, that’s pretty good. I forgot about that one. I guess it was pretty big news back then when these guys were exposed.
F2: Yeah, people discovered that they were anything but pious.
F1: I was thinking of the literal meaning of the title. A miracle man would be someone who could obviously perform miracles. Does that have any place in Vedic teachings?
F2: What do you mean?
F1: I know that so many people take to following a specific guru or religious movement based on these miracles. For instance, a guru will read the mind of the person visiting them for the first time. They will appear in dreams and make prophecies and the like.
F2: Right. That definitely does happen.
F1: Are these guys legitimate, though? Is performing a miracle required in order to be followed?
F2: It’s an easy way to attract followers, that’s for sure.
F1: But doesn’t the Supreme Lord perform miracles? Shri Rama constructed the bridge to Lanka with floating stones. Shri Krishna lifted Govardhana Hill and held it up with His pinky finger. There are several miracles relating to Lord Chaitanya as well.
F2: Are you asking if performing a miracle is required in order to be considered Divine?
F1: Not only that, but if someone can do something amazing like that, are they necessarily Divine because of it? Is the miracle the proof?
F2: Oh, I see where you’re going with this. The short and simple answer is “no.”
F1: Care to explain.
F2: These miracles are merely manipulations of the material nature. They are exhibitions of mystic opulence.
F1: Right, but not anybody can do them. People consider them miracles for a reason.
F2: That’s because people don’t know the power of mystic yoga. The body is quite inhibiting. That body consists of the gross elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether and the subtle elements of mind, intelligence and false ego. When you break free of the effects of the body, the individual, who is spirit soul, can do amazing things.
bhūmir āpo 'nalo vāyuḥ
khaṁ mano buddhir eva ca
ahaṅkāra itīyaṁ me
bhinnā prakṛtir aṣṭadhā
“Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego - altogether these eight comprise My separated material energies.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.4)
F1: But how do you break free? Is that what yoga is?
F2: Exactly. That kind of yoga is correctly translated as mysticism. Yogis expert in this art can do amazing things. That doesn’t mean that they are Divine, though.
F1: Why not?
F2: Let me put it to you this way. Do you know people who lift weights?
F2: Are they all good people?
F1: What do you mean?
F2: The people you know who lift weights - are they all of the same character?
F1: No. There is variety, as in anything else.
F2: So you have both good and bad people who happen to be strong. Would you agree with that?
F2: You can think of mystic yoga in the same way. Just because you see the end result of a supposed miracle, it doesn’t automatically mean that the person is Divine. Just as anyone can become strong through proper exercise and diet, anyone can achieve mystic opulences by strictly following the system of meditational yoga.
F1: Ah, I think I get it now.
F2: Whenever you run into trouble in this subject, you can always turn to Shri Hanuman.
F1: What does he have to say about this?
F2: It’s not what he says; it’s what he does. He is expert in mystic yoga; I’m not sure if you knew that.
F1: I have seen him depicted sometimes in the yoga sitting posture.
F2: He didn’t have to strive to become a yogi. He possessed the amazing qualities since birth. In the Ramayana, he used some of these opulences. At one time he expanded his body to become very large. At another time he diminished to the size of a cat. He has no trouble in yoga.
F1: That’s cool.
F2: So Hanuman never shows mystic opulence for the purpose of convincing people that he is God. Hanuman would never do that. He doesn’t toss aside his opulence, either. He uses it for pleasing the Supreme Lord, Shri Rama, whenever needed.
F1: So that should be the example we keep?
F2: There is Sita Devi as well. She is Rama’s wife and one time she mentioned that she had no desire even for the mystic opulence of flying through the air if it meant she would be devoid of Rama.
“Whether it be residence on top of a palace, traveling on airplanes, or flying through the sky (via yogic powers), in all circumstances the shade of the husband's feet is by far superior.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 27.9)
F1: That’s a nice thing to say.
F2: The idea is that just because you see a person perform a miracle, it doesn’t mean they are any more spiritual than anyone else. The dichotomy between material life and spiritual life comes down to consciousness. How aware are you of the Supreme Lord’s presence? How much do you know about His qualities? What are you doing to fulfill the mission of life, namely service to Him?
F1: Does that mean the devoted souls can’t perform these miracles?
yasyāsti bhaktir bhagavaty akiñcanā
sarvair guṇais tatra samāsate surāḥ
harāv abhaktasya kuto mahad-guṇā
manorathenāsati dhāvato bahiḥ
“All the demigods and their exalted qualities, such as religion, knowledge and renunciation, become manifest in the body of one who has developed unalloyed devotion for the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vasudeva. On the other hand, a person devoid of devotional service and engaged in material activities has no good qualities. Even if he is adept at the practice of mystic yoga or the honest endeavor of maintaining his family and relatives, he must be driven by his own mental speculations and must engage in the service of the Lord's external energy. How can there be any good qualities in such a man?” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 5.18.12)
F2: It is said in the Shrimad Bhagavatam that the devotees of the personal form of God automatically acquire all the opulences of the demigods. They perform miracles for sure, but only when necessary. They don’t do things to specifically attract followers to a bogus style of religion. The greatest miracle they perform is transforming bewildered souls into empowered divinely inspired beings who swim in the ocean of transcendental nectar. Even this isn’t that great a feat when considering the potency of the name belonging to the Supreme Lord. The devoted souls rescue others on the strength of this name, which they pass on in the form of the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Devotees like to demigods the same,
Pass on Divine potency through holy name.
By the show of miracle don’t be cheated,
Since material objects by time to be defeated.
Hanuman’s example just see,
How of personal desire he’s free.
Devoted to the Lord the souls great,
Following their path same opulence to await.