“When Shalva thought that Krishna had been bewildered by his mystic representations, he became encouraged and began to attack the Lord with greater strength and energy by showering volumes of arrows upon Him. But the enthusiasm of Shalva can be compared to the speedy march of flies into a fire.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 22)Download this episode (right click and save)
Who is a saint? What are their characteristics? Where can they be found? Who makes the determination? Based on the institutional definition accepted by so many, a saint must have performed a miracle. The eyes of the human being are flawed. In the hot desert, there is something called a mirage. The image from afar looks like an oasis, water to quench the thirst. Upon closer examination, it is simply the waves of heat hovering above the surface of the ground.
These same eyes can mistake a rope for a snake, so how can they properly identify a miracle? From the Vedic definition, character is what matters. The vision determines intelligence. An ignorant person sees only with their flawed eyes, and studies only the present. The wise person sees into the future, the guaranteed destiny of all beings. They see the past, that the present body is not what the living being had years ago. They also see the spiritual equality of all beings, that not only are all human beings the same on the inside, but such is the case with every living thing as well.
The saint understands that so many things considered to be miracles are not actually so. What the less intelligent find amazing is simply a manipulation of the material elements: earth, water, fire, air and ether.
1. Changing your shape at will
This is known as the kama-rupa-siddhi. Take whatever form, rupa, you desire, kama. The ability is a perfection, siddhi, of mystic yoga. This means that it is not easy to acquire. A true mystic practices for years, in very austere conditions. It is not a fifteen minute a day exercise, jammed into a daily routine that includes indulging in intoxicants, getting angry while sitting in traffic, and chasing after women.
Moreover, like every other ability in the material world, possession is not exclusive to any one group of people. A very bad person can have the kama-rupa-siddhi. There are many examples in history, the most famous of which come from the period of the Ramayana, an epic Sanskrit poem composed by Maharishi Valmiki. He describes ogre-like creatures who would intentionally hide their true, hideous forms in order to attack innocent sages residing in the forest. The supposed miracle of changing the form of the body was performed by the worst characters in society, who were enemies of the saints.
2. Displaying an image
Something like an apparition, this supposed miracle doesn’t require a projector, electricity, or a television set. The same Rakshasas who would change their form could display illusions. Again, the intent was ignoble. They wanted to dispirit the enemy. They wanted to trick them into abandoning hope for the side of good.
The leader of the Rakshasas during the Ramayana period lived in Lanka. He stole the goddess of fortune in secret, taking advantage of the kama-rupa-siddhi twice. The king Ravana dressed himself as a brahmana, a person of the priestly order. His associate Maricha dressed as a beautiful, golden deer. After Ravana took Sita back to Lanka, there was eventually a great war. Rama, the Supreme Lord and husband of Sita, marched to the island with His army of forest-dwellers, creatures who were monkey-like.
Those warriors are the embodiment of the saintly character, and they didn’t use any such illusions in the conflict. The Rakshasas, meanwhile, used many such tricks, fake images to try to dispirit the monkeys. When this would happen, Rama would shoot one of His arrows to dispel the illusion.
Years later, the same Rama was on earth in the beautiful, all-attractive form of Krishna. God is one, but He appears differently in the manifest world according to time and circumstance. He can change His external appearance at any time, but for Him there is no difference between matter and spirit. Everything about Him is spiritual, so even the statue representation worshiped in the temple has amazing potency. When worshiped properly, viewed by eyes infused with love, the deity becomes identical to the Supreme Lord.
Krishna one time fought against an enemy named Shalva. Like his ancestors in bad character before him, Shalva was expert at displaying false images. And of course, he took advantage of this supposed miracle to try to win in conflict. He once displayed an image to Krishna of the father Vasudeva having his head cut off. This was done to dispirit the Supreme Lord, but He didn’t take the bait. Krishna’s illusion, the great energy known as maya, is far stronger than anything a fiendish character can conjure up.
3. Disappearing from sight
One of the most popular video games of all-time is The Legend of Zelda. First appearing on the Nintendo Entertainment System [NES], the game features a character with a sword fighting against demon-like enemies. The final stage of the game pits the main character against the leader of the demons known as Ganon. He is difficult to defeat in conflict because he appears and disappears from sight. One moment you see him and the next you don’t.
Again, this supposed miracle has been displayed by some of the worst characters in history. During Rama’s time, there was a female Yaksha by the name of Tataka. Like her Rakshasa brethren, she was wreaking havoc in the otherwise peaceful area of the forest. The sage Vishvamitra brought Rama to defeat her and bring peace. During the ensuing conflict, Tataka appeared and disappeared at will. Rama was expert at fighting using sound, so it was not an issue for Him. These supposed miracles are nothing special in the eyes of the one who creates and annihilates countless universes effortlessly, through something as simple as breathing.
4. Moving a mountain
Shri Hanuman, the dedicated, fearless, perseverant, and intelligent servant of the Supreme Lord is famously depicted in paintings carrying a mountain, flying through the air. Like everything else Hanuman is known for, this pastime took place in service to Rama. The image teaches so many lessons, with one of them being that in connection with the Divine a person doesn’t have to hide from society and sit quietly. They can be actively engaged in work and still be in complete trance, samadhi.
The miracle from that image is Hanuman’s amazing dedication to Rama; not the lifting of the mountain. Ravana is known for moving the great Mount Kailasa. That doesn’t make him a saint. Ravana had tremendous physical strength, a boon he received from pleasing the celestials. None of what he was able to do counts as a miracle, as everything in the material world is available, up to the point right before immortality.
5. Meditating for a long time
Can you imagine sitting in one place for years and years, without eating anything? No sleep, either. Modern science would not believe this to be possible. After all, it defies everything we know about what is needed to survive. If such a person could be studied, their success would be considered miraculous.
But actually so many people in history have done this and more. There were characters who even offered up almost all of their flesh in a sacrificial fire. These were not miracles at all, as the characters were not saintly. Many of them meditated for so long in order to get an ability that would help them rule the world, bringing everyone under their control. They were responsible in their meditation, and irresponsible in their subsequent wielding of power.
The real miracles in this world are seen in the strength, perseverance and power of devotion. Shri Hanuman serves Rama without motivation and without interruption. He did so much for Rama but in the end all he asked for was to remain in this world for as long as Rama’s glories continue to be told.
The wicked king Hiranyakashipu thought that his son had performed miracles by surviving so many deadly attacks. Actually, the real miracle was the continued devotion of the boy, named Prahlada, in the face of every obstacle thrown his way. In more recent times, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada performed the miracle of transforming souls accustomed to the ways of uncultured life into devotees of the Supreme Lord, always chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Wrong way for miracles to know,
Not just by some magic to show.
Bad characters changing their shape,
Like Ravana, committing theft and rape.
Shalva apparition in conflict using,
And Ravana large mountain moving.
Real miracles from representatives take,
From wretched souls devotees to make.