One day Richard (now Radhanath Swami) saw an amazing display of yogic powers that left all, including doctors at DevPrayag, stunned in disbelief. A yogi had emerged from the jungle and challenged all doctors and modern science. He roared in a thunderous voice that he would crush the false pride of the doctors. And he did it in a dramatic way. He stopped breathing and sat motionless. The doctors examined him medically and declared that he was ‘clinically dead’. However half an hour later he opened his eyes, stood up and marched back into the jungles. He didn’t want anything but only wanted to show the skeptics the power of yoga. Richard was amazed at the yogic powers.
Radhanath Swami has often explained that these supernatural powers are side benefits of yoga; they are not the goal of a yogi. The authority on yoga has been Patanjali who has given ‘yoga sutras’ in which he mentions a lot of yogic siddhis or powers that one could obtain by systematic practice of yoga. These include psychic knowledge of the past and future, understanding the sound of animals, and telepathic insights into the thoughts of another mind. Powerful yogis can also make themselves invisible and attain physical strength comparable to that of an elephant. There have also been yogis described with the powers of levitating the body, entering consciously into the body of another person, and also have special powers by which they could live without eating or drinking. Besides psychic healing of the mind, yogis can also become as minute as an atom or expand oneself into space and become as large as any entity.
Radhanath Swami says these yogic powers are a distraction for the serious practitioner and are a trap because they lead us away from the goal of spiritual life. However they do increase our faith in higher powers. Recently the media carried the story of Mr Prahalad Jani, the 83 year old man who has defied medical science. A team of reputed doctors and scientists from Defense Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences (DIPAS) presented a report after carefully observing him for a period of fifteen days. The report calls him a ‘miracle man’; Mr Jani hasn’t eaten or drunk anything for the last sixty years. Dr Sudhir Shah, an eminent Neurophysician based in Ahmedabad, India has confirmed this case to be of a supernatural stature; a classic yogic siddhi. Just as the yogi at Dev Prayag baffled medical doctors, Prahald Jani too has left the medical science completely clueless, says Dr Shah. Prahald Jani claims there are many like this living in the forests of Himalayas.
The Vedic literature describes that there are yogis who possess the powers to manipulate laws operating in material world. These mystic powers are called siddhis, and are broadly of eight types: Anima: becoming small like a particle Laghima: becoming lighter than a soft feather Prapti: getting anything from everywhere Mahima: becoming heavier than the heaviest Ichitva: creating something wonderful or annihilating anything at will Vasitva: controlling all material elements Prakamya: possessing such power as will never be frustrated in any desire Kamavasyita: assuming any shape or form one may even whimsically desire The Vedic literature is filled with supernatural events and feats which according to modern scientific paradigm, were considered miraculous and therefore impossible and imaginary. Due to innocent faith in the feats of modern science and stubborn pride, which assumes that science is the only means of providing information about the cosmos and its phenomenon, unfortunately, educated persons were generally unwilling to accept the Vedic system of knowledge. But this one sadhu clearly shows that there are higher laws and phenomenon.
Radhanath Swami chanced to meet a few of them and almost all of them sought to go beyond mere exhibition of powers; they wanted to reach the abode of God. Yoga is to reunite our souls with God and not to increase our powers and continue to live in this world.