It is becoming increasingly fashionable today for seekers to dabble with the occult in the pursuit of esoteric powers and experience. However the ancient spiritual traditions discourage this – why should the seekers of truth preoccupy themselves with powers over the material plane? These practices are distractions from the real goal of trancsendent truth and they can become a source of ego (which the seeker is desires to transcend). Remember Goethe's Faust who became enslaved by these powers and Shakespeare's Macbeth whose downfall was precipitated by the three witches; both characters lost the battle with their lower self.

The deliberate pursuit of psychic powers is not favoured by sages and advanced sincere seekers. They discourage such practices deeming them an obstacle to realising oneness of being. Powers are in the realm of phenomena which are obscuring factors in self-realisation; on the whole dangerous ground to tread for those still on the way to stop the discursive activities of the mind in order to attain a one-pointed flow of awareness. In the course of spiritual practice powers may manifest spontaneously as a result of practice of concentration in previous lives. Great is the allurement of psychic powers such as knowledge of future events, understanding the language of birds or animals,spirit mediumship, clairvoyance, astsal travel, telekinesis, reading of tarot, making oneself invisible or tiny as an atom (anima), and its opposite (mahima) and many more! And great is the discernment of those who have the strength to withstand them. No doubt the acquisition and perseverance resulting in concentration which could be used on the royal road instead of by-lanes.

Acquired powers are to some extent due to a cultivation of generally available techniques and to some extent to development of an aptitude for spontaneous power that was inherent but not powerful enough to manifest without training. It is enough to say that they are not approved of by true masters. In order to seek them, a man's mind must be directed towards them, not towards spiritual liberation. Therefore they cannot lead him to Liberation. Preoccupation with them is far more likely to distract him from it; and it can do this just as effectively as preoccupation with physical wealth and power. At best they exist within the phenomenal world which we should be striving to transcend; at worst they degenerate into sorcery and magnify his ego by giving him power over other s and winning their submission and adulation.

Midway between these two subcategories are powers which come to a man spontaneously in the course of his quest and as a by product of it. They also can be a hindrance on the quest. Whether and how far to use them will be a matter for decision by the Guru or for sober, dispassionate judgement if there is no physical Guru.

The third category into which the second may merge, is of those who have made them selves channels for the Divine power by complete submission or dissolution of the ego which obstructs it.

Ramakrishna has stated that a man cannot realise God if he possesses even one of the eight occult powers. He quoted Lord Krishna teaching Arjuna "Friend, if you want to realise Me, you will not succeed if you have even one of the eight occult powers. This is the truth. Occult power is sure to beget pride and pride makes one forget God."

He continued, "An egoistic person cannot realise God. Do you know what egotism is like? It is like a high mound where rain-water cannot collect; the water runs off. Water collects in low land. There seeds sprout and grow into trees. Then the trees bear fruit.

'The deliberate pursuit of psychic powers is not favoured by sages and advanced sincere seekers. They discourage such practices deeming them an obstacle to realising oneness of being'

"People of small intellect seek occult powers. Power to cure disease, win a law suit, walk on water and such things. But the genuine devotees do not want anything except His lotus feet. . . . People with a little occult power gain such things as name and fame. Many of them want to follow the profession of Guru, gain people's recognition, and make disciples and devotees.

"People cure diseases through occult powers. All this is miracle working. Only those whose spiritual experience is extremely shallow call on God for the healing of diseases.

It is very hard for those who want occult power to have pure love for God."

Professor G.V.Subbaramayya in the article 'Automatic Divine Activity' has recounted how he prayed to the sage Sri Ramana Maharshi (not to be confused with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a well known fraud) for the cure of his two-year-old daughter and how she was cured by his Grace, later he met Sri Ramana Maharshi and enquired of him, " did you not think that you must do something to save the child?" Straight came his reply : "Even the thought of saving the child is a sankalpa (wish), and one who has any sankalpa is no jnani (realised soul, literally, "knower"). In fact any such thought is unnecessary. The moment the jnanis attention is drawn in a certain direction there starts the automatic divine activity which itself leads to the highest good. "The conversation was all in Telugu except for the phrase ' automatic divine activity' which Maharshi uttered in English.

He later explained :

"In Halasya Mahima there is a chapter on the eightfold siddhis. There Lord Siva says that his bhakta never wastes a thought on them. Again, Lord Siva says that He never grants boons. The desires of devotees are fulfilled according to their prarabdha only. When Ishwara Himself says so, what of others? In order to display siddhis there must be others to recognise them. That means there is no jnana (enlightened awareness) in the one who displays them. Therefore siddhis (occult powers) are not worthy of any thought. Jnana (self realisation) alone is to be aimed at and gained.

Atman (the Self) alone is to be realised. Its realisation holds all else in its compass. Sakti, Ganapati, Siddhis etc., are included in it. Those who speak of these have not realised the Atman."

A North Indian visitor asked whether the Jnani (gnostic, knower) automatically acquired siddhis or whether he had to strive for them separately if he desired them.

The reply: "Who is the jnani? If he is the body you see, then his siddhis will be shown to other bodies. But if he is pure awareness , from where will he get the siddhis and to whom will he show them?

"Both the jnani and the bhakta (devotee) do not desire or work for siddhis; the former because he sees himself the All, and the latter because he sees his Ishta Devata ‹ his favourite deity ‹ the All ; even his own action is done by this deity; he has no will of his own at all to impel action on his own initiative. Yet siddhis follow them both like their shadows. What greater siddhi is there than that of the Sage., who by merely sitting on his couch, attracts thousands of people from the four corners of the earth, hundreds of whom change their old modes of life and some even attain Godhood?

"People see many things which are far more miraculous than the so-called siddhis, yet do not wonder at them, simply because they occur every day."

"The highest siddhi is realisation of the Self, Atma Sakshatkara; for here, once you realise the truth you cease to be drawn to the path of ignorance."

"The highest siddhi is realisation of the Self, Atma Sakshatkara; for here, once you realise the truth you cease to be drawn to the path of ignorance."

The Sai Baba of Panimalai claims that he must perform the "miracles" he is famous for in order to inspire faith. He is often annoyed with those who question the nature of his powers.

We are unable to share the view that the performance of miracles is not to be questioned or that the display of miracles or occult powers is meant to create and does create faith in the faithless. According to our humble opinion, the faith if created, would not be long-lasting and could not be the sraddha spoken of in the Gita:

"Who has faith, who has conquered and controlled the mind and senses, who has fixed his whole conscious being on the Supreme Reality, he attains knowledge; and having attained knowledge he attains swiftly Supreme Peace."

Also the performance of miracles alone is no proof of divinity: Did not Satan materialise the kingdoms of the earth at the feet of Christ, and offer them as temptation?

The darshan (divine presence) of a jnani (self-realised being) has much more power to remove ignorance than the possessor of occult powers. This has been the experience of many seekers.

Coming to Yoga Sastras, Patanjali's Yoga Aphorisms (Ch. III,No.38,51) read

"These are obstacles to samadhi; but they are powers in the worldly state."

"By giving up even these powers comes the destruction of the very seed of evil which leads to Kaivalya."

Commenting on these aphorisms, Vivekananda has observed

"When the Yogi has seen all these wonderful powers, and rejected them, he reaches the goal. What are all these powers? Simply manifestations. They are no better than dreams. Even omnipotence is a dream. It depends upon the mind. So long as there is a mind it can be understood, but the goal is beyond even the mind."

The miracles performed by divine beings such as Christ are not occult in nature . Christ being completely integrated in god awareness, was not so much a doer of miracles as an instrument of the divine will.

"Moreover what are these powers for? The would-be occultist (Siddha) desires to display the siddhis so that others may appreciate him. He seeks appreciation, and if it is not forthcoming, he will not be happy. There must be others to appreciate him. He may even find another possessor of higher powers. That will cause jealousy and breed unhappiness. The high occultist (siddha) may still meet a higher siddha and so on until there will come one who will blow up everything in a trice. Such is the highest adept (Siddha), and He is god or the Self.

"The darshan (divine presence) of a jnani (self-realised being) has much more power to remove ignorance than the possessor of occult powers. This has been the experience of many seekers."

"Which is the real power? Is it to increase prosperity or bring about peace? That which results in peace is the highest perfection (Siddhi)."

It is evident that occult powers are not signs of true knowledge of reality and may deflect people from the real quest. They are not a hindrance to mukti (spiritual liberation). They are a hindrance on the way to mukti. Since they are realised with the mind (mental projections) they are impediments to Self-Realisation.

From "The Mountain Path", date unknown.

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