One of the greatest facts of life is that we are all moving towards spiritual realization. Bulk of the humanity is unconscious of it while a few strive to realize it with full consciousness. Every materialistic journey or endeavor culminates in some fleeting sense pleasure, but the spiritual journey ends in realization of God - Absolute Knowledge, Existence and Bliss. The Katha Upanishad marvelously explains the end of the spiritual journey as, "There the sun doesn't shine, neither does the moon, nor do these flashes of lightning. Then, how can this fire! He shining, all these shine. Through his lustre all these are variously illumined." Realization of God means to experience or to know the unity of the whole universe, and that the source of everything is God Himself.
Every path we pursue in life is laden with some hazard or the other. There are risks and stumbling blocks, which at times not only discourage us but also lead us astray from our goal. The spiritual path is no exception. The spiritual path has been described in Katha Upanishad to be as difficult as 'walking over a razor's edge'. During yogic practice the aspirant may gain certain psychic powers, like telepathy, clairvoyance, ability to heal, (or even ability to harm others!) etc. When the mind of a spiritual aspirant becomes pure and his concentration becomes intense, then such powers are achieved. These powers are mostly associated with aspirants practicing on the path of Raja Yoga in which these powers can be systematically attained. Such "Psychic Powers" are the greatest obstacles in spiritual pursuit.
Patanjali in his classical work "The Yoga Sutras" has elaborately mentioned these psychic powers. Some of the powers mentioned are: gaining knowledge of past, present and future, making one's body invisible, knowing the time of death, gaining extraordinary physical strength, conquering hunger, entering someone else's body, ability to surround the body with a blaze of light, omnipotence etc. We can very well understand as to how great these powers are, and the temptation to use these powers for material gain and fame would naturally be greater. Every saint who has realized God has warned against entertaining these powers. Patanjali himself has described these powers as obstacles in attaining God vision and has said that only after going beyond such powers can the Final Liberation be attained. Shri Ramakrishna said that these powers are "Heaps of rubbish". We are aware that an ordinary man is under the spell of Maya, but the spiritual people manifesting such psychic powers are perhaps under the influence of "Maha (bigger) Maya"! Occult or psychic powers, siddhis as these are called, bind us to, or do not allow us to rise above, the limitations of body-mind complex. And this endeavor to transcend the limitations of body and mind is in fact the goal of spiritual disciplines! That is why one should go beyond and neglect such powers, even if they are very attractive and in many instances useful in our worldly life.
So it goes without saying that occult powers are irrelevant in spiritual life and they can bring all the efforts of an aspirant to a naught. Here it would be pertinent to mention that not only the spiritual aspirants but also the common folks should guard against these powers. In India we find a number of Sadhus and Tantriks displaying such occult powers. The exhibition of these powers by Yogis easily overawes the ordinary man. Most of the people erroneously believe that a Yogi in possession of these powers is a man of god-realization. People throng these Yogis in large numbers for guidance in various worldly matters. So far so good! But the problem arises when some people take such Yogis as their Guru, hoping to realize God through their guidance. We have to unmistakably understand that only that man alone, who is a knower of Brahman, can teach us about God. The Yogis who flaunt occult powers can never be men of realization since these powers are mere "milestones" on the path of God. Only that man can see God who has discarded these powers. The power-flaunting Yogis, who are full of vanity, can never be knower of Brahman. Such men, who themselves are ignorant, have been described in Katha Upanishad as, "Living in midst of ignorance and considering themselves intelligent and enlightened, the senseless people go round and round, following crooked courses, just like blind led by the blind".
Therefore wherever we find men flaunting occult powers, we must be cautious in dealing with them. If we ever feel the need to have a Guru to guide us in realization of God, then we must look out for man who has seen God. The man of realization is beyond all negative qualities and has been described quite wonderfully by Shri Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita in Chapter 6 Verse 7, "The supreme spirit is rooted in that man who has achieved the calm of self mastery; ever serene he is in the face of cold and heat, pleasure and pain, honour and dishonor". Again in Verse 8 of the same chapter, "Content in knowledge and wisdom, his mind is steady and his senses conquered; to whom a clod of earth or gold are one, such yogi has attained the harmony of God". These are the qualities, which we must look out for in our search for a Guru. Such men are rare, but if we put in sincere effort then we can find one who would help us in untying the knot of the heart so that we can attain God vision.
Contributed By: Sonam Shyam
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