The Purpose of Miracles: Siddhis & Gurus

Early in my yoga life, a yoga teacher friend of mine told me one day I would read stories about the lives of yogis. I thought this unlikely – I couldn’t stand nonfiction reading, especially of the biographical sort.  Several years later, I remembered this and realized I stood very much corrected.  It is an inevitable part of the path, that at some point you start to delve into the lives of those who have walked before you, for guidance, for anecdotes, for inspiration, for fun, for teacher training homework, for all of the above and more.

A universal aspect to these accounts is miracle stories, whether of the author, or of the author’s guru.  Over time I have grown to see these stories as falling into one of three categories (although I’m sure there are plenty of stories out there waiting to happily surprise and enlighten me further:) ).

1)      Doing the impossible/Causing the impossible to happen

“The conductor discovered Maharaj-ji seated in the first-class coach without a ticket, he pulled the emergency brake and the train ground to a halt.  Maharaj-ji was unceremonsiously put off the train. The train had stopped near the village of Neeb Karori. Maharaj-ji sat down under the shade of a tree while the conductor blew his whistle to start the train.

The train didn’t move. It sat there for hours. Another engine was called in to push, to no avail.  Finally some passengers suggested to the railroad officials that they coax the sadhu back on board.  The officials were initially appalled by such superstition, but after many frustrating attempts to move the train, they decided to give it a try.

…Maharaj-ji finally reboarded the train. As soon as he was in his first-class seat, the train began to roll.” Be Love Now p.198-199

I see these miracles as invitations to imagine being in the place where everything is possible.

Take a moment, close your eyes, and allow yourself to believe in nothing BUT possibility – spontaneously floating in the air, your yoga mat turning a different color, becoming immovable, anything and everything is possible. It might not actually be happening, but it’s possible.

When we connect to the place within us that knows that everything is possible, there is a feeling of a weight falling away or layers coming down. It leaves you feeling light, open, free.  You have tapped into the experience of the basic nature of existence – change. Since the state of every thing is change, within each moment is the possibility for every thing to be another thing in the next instant. The possibilities are literally limitless. It takes some intentional work – or the playfulness of a guru – to allow us to experience this.

2)      Causing an experience of Samadhi/enlightenment in a disciple

“I think the greatest moment I ever had with Maharaj-ji was at sunset one day at Kainchi, when K.K., his cousin M.L., and I went out there. Ostensibly we were delivering some fragile things from Haldwani for Durga Puja at Kainchi.  In the twilight sunset we just sat, and he was like Shiva. He lay down and started to snore, or what sounded like that, and he took me into states of ecstasy and bliss. I started to shake very violently and to go out and out, and he brought me down. He said, “He isn’t ready.” When we left, I turned back and watched him sitting there on his bench, just that living-murti quality of him.” Be Love Now p.210

These experiences can only be transmitted via the grace of a guru, which we are not all fortunate enough to have. Yet they are reminders that sometimes all it takes is a small jolt to crack open the space within us.  Sometimes it seems like a monumental long arduous task that we have set for ourselves (and in some ways it is), but it is also the smallest of shifts in perspective that allows us, even for a moment, to experience the truth.

3)      Knowing the impossible

Example*:  In multiple books Ram Dass relates one of the initial experiences he had with Maharaj-ji.  The previous evening, before meeting Maharaj-ji, Ram Dass had separated from his group to spend time alone on a hill contemplating the stars, and his mother’s recent death.  When he met Maharaj-ji the next day, Maharaj-ji told Ram Dass all the thoughts he had had about his mother – Maharaj-ji even knew what had been the cause of her death.  It was information Maharaj-ji had no way in the world of knowing, but did.  It was this act that Ram Dass points to again and again as what “changed” him.

I see these miracles as encouragement to realign ourselves to the place where these beings reside that makes such knowledge possible – the place where everything is one.  The place where you have let go (vairagya) enough of your stuff, and your attachment to living, breathing, being, and reveling in your stuff, that you are open to Other.  In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (III.19), it is said that the knowledge of other’s thoughts comes from studying another’s ideas and facial expressions. We have a hint of that in our close relationships, mostly in the facial expression domain, because we study that quite naturally.  However, how often do we really study other’s ideas, how often do we have conversations that are not about what we have to say?  It’s not that we are bad companions, but we are caught up in our stuff/ego/self, it’s inescapable.  It’s only through truly letting ourselves go that we can really connect with Other; whether on the emotional, metaphysical, physical, or other level.

The purpose of siddhis is to reveal and instruct.  In multiple texts – both sacred and personal – advisories abound on focusing on the attainment of siddhis. They can easily shift from functional to entrapping, stagnating the practitioner on the path, and feeding the ego/self.   Instead, immerse in the miracle stories, and take a leap of faith – tapping into that space within you where everything is possible, filled with grace, and connected.

*Examples are given from Neem Karoli Babab, as it is his lineage via Ram Dass and Bhagavan Das that I have spent the most time with, and feel a completely partial draw toward.

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