A master is able to employ his divine knowledge of light phenomena to project instantly into perceptible manifestation ubiquitous light atoms. The actual form of the projection (whatever it be: a tree, a medicine, a human body) is determined by the yogi’s wish and by his power of will and visualization
Thought is the matrix of all creation; thought created everything. If you hold on to that truth with indomitable will, you can materialize any thought
– Paramahansa Yogananda (Autobiography of a Yogi)
This present post is with reference to the craze (both positive and negative) generated in news/media and among common people, about Pandit Sri Dhirendra Krishna Shastri ji, also commonly known as Bageshwar Dhām panditji of Bālāji Hanumānji fame. Lakhs of people throng his kathās (discourses) and crores watch him on TV and youtube channels. What draws these people is not just the discourses (about Hindu epics and Hindu dharma in general) that are equally a delight to hear but more so his miraculous powers that he shows on stage, to help common people with their day to day trials and tribulations. But in all these show of miracles, he does repeatedly point out during his speeches that none should credit him personally for the miracles but only Lord Hanumān ji (in form of Bālāji Bhagwan, presiding deity of his ancestral home/place) and his master/guru, Sri Sadhu ji Maharaj, another noble soul from his past whose disciple he is. As per him, as a result of blessings of his master and Bālāji Bhagwan, and some specific sadhanas that he does, centered around the famous Hanuman Chalisha (40 verses to Sri Hanuman ji). Many in the monastic/dharmic community of Hindus consider the Hanuman Chalisha and its rigorous and specific chanting, to be a bestower of miracles (Asta siddhi, nau nidhi ke dātā…). His critics, expectedly, mostly fall into these groups – Christians, Islamists, Atheists (or rationalists as they call themselves) and even a few within the Hindu Sant community itself (Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math).
There are two main points on which Sri Dhirendra Shastri ji is attacked. One is his stand/views on Hindu Rashtra and the other on his display of miraculous powers. I will focus on the latter, based on my interactions with monks and simplistic understanding of Hindu scriptures, and how usually scholars and monks interpret the phenomenon of miracles.
First off, do I believe in the ‘personalized’ miracles that he shows ? Yes, 100% I do. Anyone who has had some contact or involvement with any prominent and acclaimed Hindu saint (maybe via some organization) or has a spiritual Guru, can 100% vouch for the fact that such miracles happen frequently in their own lives, often in small things in life and sometimes even on a big life-changing scale. It mostly happens within a very small close circle of the saint concerned and very often quite discreetly. I personally have seen/felt them, with my own Guru and with similar natured people whom I have come across. If any of these spiritually acclaimed persons are asked about miracles, they almost always ascribe it to the Gods (working through them), they being just a medium. It is an acknowledged fact within Yoga practitioners (any and all types viz., Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, Kriya Yoga, Tantric practices or even the apparently benign Bhakti, Jnana, Karma yoga classifications of the Bhagavad Gita) that in the practice of these yoga paths, as one ascends up on the ladder of meditation & prescribed practices sincerely, miracles (like clairaudience, clairvoyance, etc) come by themselves, as by-products or side-effects. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras describe such powers as invisibility, flying through air, walking on water, seeing past and future of people, entering other people’s body or commanding astral beings to do their favours. In this respect I’m reminded of a short-chat that my mother used to tell us about, when we were kids. Between her brother and his Guru Swami Pranavananda (or one of his senior disciples, I forget) of Bharat Sevashram Sangha. So the chat goes like this…
“Brother’s question – Are miracles shown by Sai Baba real ? Or are they just tricks/sleight of hand ? What to make of these powers ?
Senior monk’s answer – Yes, they are very much real. Siddhis (powers) do come as one continues spiritual practices seriously. There are different stages of sādhanā and miraculous powers do present themselves (to be had, if one desires) to the sadhaka (aspirant) on that long and arduous path of spirituality. Even within those levels there are several sub-levels of different types of powers available. In Sanātan Hindu dharma, such powers are generally to be ignored/avoided by the aspirant as they are considered impediments in a seriously minded spiritual aspirant’s path. The goals to reach (God or Self realization or different types of Samādhis), are much farther off and much more desirable than anything else in life. But these powers are so tempting that some aspirants do get attracted to them and sometimes get stuck in those levels, busy acquiring various types of powers and then displaying them in public. Wise ones avoid and keep moving forward”
My own personal view, based on what I have heard from other monks, and read in Hindu texts is…one should not get stuck in these powers (like candy in the hands of a kid) but it is okay to use them once in a while, at a very personal level (one on one with disciples) and in a discreet way, just for purpose of increasing the faith of a person who is otherwise a bit skeptical of religious practices. Same way that Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa in one of his early interactions with Narendranath Datta (later to be Swami Vivekananda) showed some very powerful miracles and visions to Naren, just to assuage his skeptical mind. That these ‘things’ (in spiritual domain) are real. Not some superstition or blind-belief. Paramahansa Yogananda also narrates several such mind-blowing incidents (not explainable by ordinary world science) from his lifetime interactions with great spiritual masters of the Kriya Yoga lineage (Mahavatar Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, Sri Yuktewar Giri). Bharatiya civilization is 10’s of thousands of years old and its Yogis have been practicing, realizing and propagating their practices among followers through all ages and across the length and breadth of the sub-continent, otherwise known in our scriptures as Jambudvipa (geographical location). In recent times, both the Sai Babas (Sri Shirdi Sai and Sri Satya Sai) are the most visible saints who have used miracle powers to keep the faith-spring active in peoples’ hearts. But they are not the only ones. Every generation has had and still having, multiple such spiritually accomplished people who have used these powers, some more some less, to keep the faith of Sanatanis intact and goad them to continue on their sādhanās (practices). Dhirendra Shastri ji is not the first nor will be the last. Of course there are charlatans as well, in all generations (past and present) who don’t really have such powers and do indulge in tricks. Most times they get exposed in due course.
There are yogic practices and sādhanā/tantra vidyas specifically meant to acquire different types of powers. They are verifiable and actionable practices (of course not easy though!) that do give the practitioner what they are supposed to give. Sometimes the path to acquiring those powers is eased up by one’s benevolent Guru through his blessings. Dhirendra Shastri ji says so openly as well. And his rationale for displaying those powers he has acquired, in public makes sense. According to him, his main goal is to increase peoples’ faith in Hindu Gods and Goddesses (Bālāji Hanumān ji in his case) and keep them away from vulture conversion mafias of ‘some’ other faiths who use lies and deception to lure Hindus to their faiths. At the same time inducing otherwise non-devout Hindus to revert back to a dhārmic or ādhyātmic life. And display of his acquired powers is just a means to that bigger, nobler goal.
There is one thought that comes to mind on this topic and I’m sure many others will have this question as well. What if I’m following a certain spiritual master who also happens/happened to have some real siddhis ? Why should I go to this specific new Siddha now ? A couple of things to take note here…
Hinduism, by nature is a very practical, scientific and democratic type of belief system where multitudes of masters practicing multitude of paths and worshipping different forms of God, exist. In the spirit of Ekam sat, bipra bahudā badanti they are all correct in their own paths and should all be respected. While a dikshyā guru should be one (though there are instances of some sādhaks with multiple Gurus, who want to learn different paths), who you follow for spiritual growth leading to self-realization…I don’t think there should be any issue with going to a Siddha who is alive and within reach to resolve some critical material/family/phyical problem that you or your families/relatives might have. When the spiritual master you follow has left his physical body (say for example Shirdi Sai Baba), the resolution to the problem you seek to tackle will depend a lot on your own faith on that master. If it is strong enough, the supreme power, in whom the said master has merged himself into, will bring about the change. But when there’s a living master who is into these siddhis, alongside your own faith, the focussed sankalpa shakti of this master towards you will, in most likelihood, work faster and more efficiently to bring about the said resolution. Only thing to be vigilant about is that he’s genuine and his powers are used by him for increasing faith in Gods and not inculcating personality cults. As long as you are sure about that, no problem in going to such masters. But do not leave the path of your original Guru as he is going to take you beyond the world of miracles and into self/God realization.
Devi/Devatas, Siddhas, Gandharvas, Rishis, beings of the spirit world, etc all have their own place in the Hindu pantheon and Hindu way of seeing things. All with their own powers, own domains of existence and own area of responsibility. Never ever equate a Siddha purusha or a Guru with Devi/Devatas. Symbolically one can give equal respect to both and consider them as one, from a purely advaitic perspective but from a practical/worldly point of view the position of primal shaktis/Gods like Sri Durga (and her different forms), Sri Mahadev, Maha Vishnu and their avatars Sri Krishna, Sri Rama and other Gods like Sri Ganapati, Sri Hanuman, etc., sit on a higher pedestal than [and worshipped as such (different forms of Shakti)] Rishis and Yogis.
The reason why Hinduism puts a lot of caution on acquiring miracle powers is, these powers are addictive and most times end of inflating the ego of the individual (the number one dire enemy of a serious spiritual sadhaka). Thus hindering his progress and sometimes taking the person (drunk in those powers) into the world of vices and evil. In Hindu mythology, folk tales and even in real life, such stories are common. Only if the person is a “realized saint” (jivan mukta) is he totally safe from the potential ill effects.
So coming back to this specific instance of Sri Dhirendra Shastri ji and his critics. Rationalists/atheists have absolutely no clue about such powers and their nature. So they are best ignored until they themselves see and believe. Missionaries and fakirs (mostly fake ones) and even normal people of those two faiths criticising him is readily understandable. Miracles, that too true powers acquired by sadhana and ascribed to Devi/Devatas, bring about an awakening in people, make them more steadfast to their dharma and beliefs and prevent their easy brainwashing and influence by the two viciously aggressive religions that have nothing better to do in their faiths than converting other people. The whole edifice set up by these two faiths, of denigrating Hindu religion and its worshipped Gods, comes crashing down like a pack of cards.
Now coming to the criticism by otherwise devout Hindus, even someone like the Shankaracharya of Badrinath/Joshimath (Jyotir Math)…that is something that is hard to fathom. Are these supposedly learned people really ignorant of powers that are mentioned in Hindu texts or are they plain jealous ? This particular Shankaracharya has commented that if Shastri ji has really got these powers, why not do some large scale good of the world, stop wars, prevent natural calamities (like the Joshimath land-slide crisis) and so on. Probably the same arguments/statements as that of atheists. Really! that’s your level of Hindu scholarship ?!? As Yogananda ji writes in his autobiography, on the subject of miracles (and also is widely alluded to in most of our Puranas and Epics)… a wise Siddha (one who has siddhis) uses his powers rarely, uses it for general good of others and in extremely discreet and individual way, as far as possible. So that the greater general order of things in society or life is not disturbed or tried to be manipulated with. As pointed out in scriptures “grace, natural order and right self-exertion” (Part V : Stanza 24 of Yoga Vasistha) refer to the same truth. They are three legs of the tripod of Law of Karma (cause & effect). The three tools via which the cycle of Karma is run. While the circularity of these three and their effects is not known to anybody, one thing is known and advised in Hindu dharma. Do not cross certain lines, certain boundaries. Otherwise the natural order of things is disturbed. While intervening in an individual’s personal issue to help him out may come within the domain of ‘grace of God’ (via the miracle man’s powers) and will not cause ripples in the karmic cycles, if things are done at a larger scale where multitudes of animate and inanimate objects are being influenced (all whose karmic cycles are inter-twined), then the consequences of those actions might be cosmically catastrophic.
That is the reason, such wise Siddhas do not or cannot tinker at larger levels, like stopping wars, preventing natural calamities etc. The powers of clairvoyance, summoning astral beings to help individuals or seeing someone’s past and future is not much of a disruption. As Sage Vasistha says to Lord Sri Ram in Yoga Vasistha, even the highest forms of divinity or Devis/Devatas do not tinker with the natural order of things and let the Karmic cycles of people, planets and entire cosmic world play through. The Hiranyagarbha or the Supreme Being (or whatever you call that ultimate, unknowable power) sustains and runs this infinite, interconnected and constantly intersecting paths of beings and non-beings. This harmonic system does not tolerate dissonance at any of its points.