Vol 2 January 2002       

Yoga meditation


Three Yogis Discuss
the Use and Abuse of
Magical Powers

by Carol Hiltner

One of the best-known sources of real-life magic — feats defined as impossible by Newtonian physics — is Yoga.

In the following article, Shri Gurudev Shri Prakash Ji, Rama Vernon, and Padma McGilloway comment about the use and abuse of yogic powers and their development.

Carol: Many abilities that yogis are reputed to have seem like magic to a lay person — such as walking on water, appearing and disappearing instantaneously, surviving unprotected in the high mountains. How are such powers attained? Are they simply gifts, or are they accomplished through effort or virtue — or a combination of these?

Padma McGilloway: Let me start by clarifying what we are talking about. If we traveled back in time a hundred years, and showed people such wonders as television, cell phones, radio, and computers, they would probably think that these were magic. Thus, though the yogic powers you refer to are "magical" to most of us, this does not mean that their manifestation defies human understanding or breaks natural law. It's just that we haven't yet attuned ourselves to the subtler realities with which they operate.

To acquire such understanding requires a grasp of subtler realities, and a significant degree of freedom from the hypnosis of our consciousness by the senses, the physical body, and the personality.

These "powers" manifest as our soul begins to shift its self-identity from matter to spirit. All natural law has its source in God — from God to ideation to the prototypical astral plane of subtle energies (sound, color, and the finer electrical forces), and at last to manifest the appearance of physical reality.

To make this shift requires virtue born of effort. Virtue includes humility, cooperation with truth and higher guidance, self-discipline, and purity of heart and intention. Thus, in archetypal tales he or she who seeks the pearl of great price must have a pure heart, and must first slay the dragon of egoism and materiality.

Rama Vernon: In Yoga, the belief is that a gift or grace with which one is apparently born depends upon the impressions or skills one has developed in past lives. So what appears to be grace at this moment may come from efforts at other moments. Grace follows the efforts and skills that are developed.

Carol: Would that be karma then?

Rama Vernon: That would tie in with karma. Karma means to act within one's sphere of the third-dimensional world of polarity.

We don't focus on developing supernormal powers. It's considered to be detrimental to one's spiritual unfoldment. We do not purposely set out to get these powers, but the powers can come, and things do happen that are out of the ordinary, that people think of as magic or a miracle. Those things become normal to those who are in that state of consciousness. It looks like magic or a miracle only when one's consciousness is limited.

Shri Gurudev Shri Prakash Ji: I see the attainment of these gifts as a combination of gifts and efforts plus virtues. One's good karma is accomplished through virtue and effort.

Padma McGilloway: And it also requires a teacher fit to reveal higher truths and convey "grace" — the power that awakens soul-consciousness.

Shri Gurudev Shri Prakash Ji: The real gift is a guru. So such powers can be attained by a guru's mercy and help plus one's individual efforts.

Carol: Is this what is called shaktipat? How does it work?

Rama Vernon: Yes. It is transmission from one cellular structure to the next. If certain knowledges come to a person so powerfully and strongly, without speaking, they can transmit from one mind to the next. And that's why the guru/disciple relationship was considered important in earlier times. Nowadays, we have a lot of knowledge around us. But a person who has realized certain aspects is able to transmit these to another person if that other person is ready to receive them.

Carol: We may have knowledge, but wisdom is still pretty rare.

Rama Vernon: Well, yes. This is why the teacher and student would live together. The student would live in the ashram of the guru, so that he was with the guru all the time and would learn beyond what the teachings were. He would learn by watching, through example. And then, sometimes, the knowledge of that teacher would automatically be transferred into that student because the student had been prepared. This process is called "purification." Purification just means releasing the dross to let in the light.

With Yoga, we are simply releasing the impediments that keep us from realizing that we are already one with the Force. It's so simple. It's not about adding more.

Carol: So, is the magic the finding of the oneness or union, and all of the forms of magic follow from that?

Rama Vernon: I think that the powers are just the realization of our possibilities — of what the collective human mind has forgotten is possible. It's the reawakening of these higher states of consciousness and other-dimensional ways of being. I think both children and adults are hungry for that reawakening — where we can lift above gravity, where we can think and have our consciousness anywhere. I really think all of humanity is moving into a new sphere, where we can do these things.

Carol: So how are these magical powers developed?

Rama Vernon: Super-normal powers come as a by-product of one's practice or discipline — whether it's meditation, the postures, the breathing practices, chanting practices, or just discernment. It's all about awakening the human mind to see beyond the third-dimensional plane, to expand the consciousness and see why we are here, what we are to do, and where we are going.

When one goes beyond the plane of duality here on earth, very specific powers do come. Let me give some examples from the Yoga Sutras. The third chapter of the Sutras delineates the supernormal powers that come when we do certain practices. We teach this in the more advanced stages, but we don't say to people, "Now we want you to do this." We say, "This is what can happen."

For instance, by concentrating on the lightness of cotton wool, passage through the sky can be secured. In other words, if the mind is powerful enough, if one holds the thought about the relationship between body and the akasha — the etheric element — and practices concentration on the lightness of that, then one can defy the pull of gravity. That's what you are seeing in movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, where people are lifting above the earth. This is how the Tibetans get their ability to do these prodigious leaps.

If they hold their mind on that, the atomic particles of the body become lighter and lighter. And we can actually defy the pull of gravity. We call it levitation.

There is also a related power where one becomes so heavy that the earth seems to melt into the contours of the body — so heavy that the practitioner can't sit up or do anything because of being so heavy. And that is very healing.

When one goes deep enough into that relaxation, everything begins to realign, and all diseases heal themselves. Diseases are considered in Yoga to be "dis-ease" — not being at ease. By adjusting the energy, this practice heads off misalignments before they become lodged in the physical tissues. So Yoga is a preventive rather than a curative.

The Sutra says that there is a small hole in the head that emanates effulgent light. If one practices meditation on this, then the celestial beings come into one's awareness. Or if we practice meditation on our bronchial tubes, we become very calm. And if we practice meditation on our trachea, hunger and thirst can be conquered.

Now this is a little bit of magic.

And then it says that if we practice concentration on the navel plexus, knowledge of the composition of the body is derived. So one sees all the atomic particles that comprise the body. And some of the yogis are able to make themselves invisible by rearranging their atomic particles. And they can reappear in another place — teletransporting — because then they bring those particles back together again. And I do know of a couple of yogis in India who are able to do things like that.

For instance, the Sutra says that by applying the effulgent light at the highest sense perception, then the knowledge of subtle objects or things obstructed from view or placed at a great distance can be acquired. That is remote viewing — which our government is working on.

Carol: So if there are people doing remote viewing and using these various powers for military purposes...?

Rama Vernon: It wouldn't be considered to be Yoga, it would be considered psychism. And yes, psychism happens, but that's not the intent of Yoga. And highly developed intuition can happen, because the sensory organs become very highly attuned — and then it appears that a person can read another person's mind. And some yogis do this all the time. But they don't go around telling people that.

It goes on and on, about sounds of other beings throughout the world and their meanings. In other words, they can pick up languages and just know what all the languages mean without studying them.

I met a great yogi in Switzerland named Elizabeth Haich. She wrote the book Initiation. I was speaking English to her, and she'd never studied English, but she could speak all these other languages because they just came to her. And as I was sitting there, she suddenly said, "Oh, I understand you! I am speaking English."

Now here's a real magic — this is a true magic. By practicing concentration on friendliness and other similar virtues, great inner strength is obtained. In other words, if we practice good will toward others — it is the season right now [we spoke during the Christmas holidays], that incredible inner emotional strength and compassion towards all unhappy beings is increased. Strength of compassion is developed.

But the greatest magic of all is what's developed in the heart — that we can feel what others are feeling.

So it's very specific. If we focus on certain things, then other things come as a result.

And these things are proven. Yogis consider Yoga to be a science. There are no accidents. If you do a certain thing, it produces a certain result. Yoga is really logical in its approach, even though it may not appear to be so.

Carol: For what purposes might these powers be appropriately used?

Shri Gurudev Shri Prakash Ji: These powers are never used by high level yogis for themselves. A high level yogi uses these powers only for the good of everyone, everywhere.

High level yogis will never show off their powers. These powers might only be demonstrated by a yogi while teaching his disciples. It is the nature of the teaching process.

If a devoted disciple loves his guru and that disciple has a disease, the guru can cure his disciple of this disease, seeing and being sure that his disciple will be a great help for all humanity.

Rama Vernon: These powers are used to teach, to help others to come into understandings beyond the third-dimensional reality, to help make our world a better place.

Originally, Yoga was meant for one's personal transformation, period. One realized that the world is an illusion, and then got out of it — going into the next planes of existence. But then, the boddhisattvas of Buddhism vowed to continue to come back and incarnate to help others remember who they really are.

And there is a third way. Instead of getting out of this world or taking others out of it, those who have realized these higher frameworks of consciousness — and there are different layers of realization — come in to help transform this world into the replica of the world that we want to get to. They affirm the world, and they bring their experience and understanding into the social structure.

Carol: So what kinds of responsibilities and precautions accompany the use of these powers?

Shri Gurudev Shri Prakash Ji: God is Law, and controls karma. The guru is mercy, and he can't misuse the energies. A guru-yogi's knowledge is his greatest power, so the guru will transmit his knowledge and powers only to one of his devoted, serving, loving bhakts who will never misuse the energies, who will act and do his best for the good of everyone, everywhere.

A guru-yogi takes a lot of precautions training his disciples. First of all, the guru-yogi examines them, checking them many times until he is perfectly sure that they will not misuse the powers. Only then does he transmit his knowledge to them.

Padma McGilloway: All true teachers and teachings warn against seeking these things for self-aggrandizement or for the sake of such powers alone. Such powers are only to be used at the behest of inner, divine guidance.

Carol: Many, many people practice Yoga, and very few can walk on water. Are those who can just different from the rest of us, or are these abilities presumably within the reach of all of us?

Shri Gurudev Shri Prakash Ji: There are many who practice Yoga, but can't walk on water. And those who can walk on water and fire are not considered to be of high rank in yogi's knowledge or among yogis. Walking on water is the result of practice. Great yogis don't deal with it or do it. It is playing.

A yogi appears and disappears with the help of khetchri-mudra. Great yogis rarely demonstrate that either.

The main value of practicing Yoga is inner, inward transmutation. However, many practice for the outer, outward world. That is why so few reach high levels.

To reach high levels, a disciple should be controlled by and practice under a high level guru. And the disciple should demonstrate high-level sadhana — high level psychic discipline. The disciple perfectly fulfills every word of his guru.

Yoga is secret knowledge, which one can get only with a true guru-yogi's help. The word Yoga means link, because getting this knowledge supposes that one's soul is linked up with the Supersoul, or God. A yogi is one whose soul has linked to the Universal Soul, one who has reached God. Yogi's wish is God's wish. Yogi is within God and God is in Him. God and Yogi are Oneness.

This link-up with God, the Absolute Supersoul, is preceded by complete psychic awakening of the soul and releasing of earthly wishes. To integrate one's personality with the Supersoul, one practices sadhana, which involves moral, psychic, and energy exercises and training.

Padma McGilloway: Jesus Christ and all other great masters do not come to earth as spiritual "superbeings" so that they can show off. They are "masters" because they were once like us. They achieved self-mastery or self-realization through effort and grace. They come to show us our own highest potential — to show us that we, too, are sons of God, made in the image of the Creator, endowed with the power of God.

Outward practices, especially of the Yoga postures, can only reveal their innate power with attainment of the level of consciousness from which such practices originally emerged.

Carol: Can these powers be misused? If so, what might result?

Padma McGilloway: Yes, of course they can be misused. Many stories and books have been written of yogis and others who are tempted by these powers. In Paramahansa Yogananda's classic book Autobiography of a Yogi, he recounts several stories about the abuse of power, including quite an unusual one about a man who had access to an astral entity which would do his bidding. The man used his power over this being to steal things from people. For this, he received his karmic due, and later repented.

Until we achieve final liberation in God, samadhi, the soul can fall spiritually when tempted by pride, power, greed, and so on.

Shri Gurudev Shri Prakash Ji: Once the greatest powers are misused, then only Embodied God Himself can release the world from the results. There have been examples of this release in the world's history. The God Ram had to be embodied to finish with Raven. The God Krishna was embodied to finish with Kamsa, his evil uncle. In Indian culture, Gods are to be embodied to finish with a misused great power.

The main thing always to keep in mind is that Yoga is not a trick — you can't play with these energies. Yoga is the greatest power. It is not for playing or demonstration. A yogi never demonstrates power! And the first lesson and test for a yogi and a disciple is how to keep this power, how to hold it.

Rama Vernon: I run into people who say they have memories of being in Atlantis and that they knew and misused the crystal magic for destructive purposes. And I have encountered many people who say they are afraid to acquire powers, through Yoga or anywhere, because of a memory of another life, another time, another place, of misusing power. They are afraid that if they acquired the power again, they might misuse it again.

Carol: If we are remembering the powers, wouldn't we also be remembering the circumstances around the powers?

Rama Vernon: Yes, and maybe we won't repeat past mistakes. There's a wonderful sutra that says, "The only pain that can be avoided is the pain yet to come."

There is collective karma as well as individual karma. Look at the power of the American military in today's world. And people all over the world can see that we are misusing this power. If we continue to do that, how is that going to impact the people of this country, who acquiesce to those actions through their silence? In Yoga, we say there are two forms of violence — direct and indirect. So sometimes we support violence by not speaking out.

The great challenge is, can we as the human race and as individuals not misuse these wonderful God-given powers?

There is a difference between psychics and mystics. Psychism is based on these magical powers, but when one is a mystic, there is a total love and immersion and surrender to God. When that's there, one is protected and will not misuse the powers, because the ego is kept in check.

Carol: What about so-called "dark forces"? Is there a risk that these Yoga powers could be used for dark purposes once they have been attained? What is to prevent it?

Padma McGilloway: Yogananda declared that such forces do indeed exist. "Thoughts," he wrote in his autobiography, "are universally, not individually, rooted." Thus, as we think and do evil, we align ourselves with the consciousness of evil from which these very thoughts manifest. With this alignment, we are drawn magnetically and increasingly into the orbit of that consciousness. To the degree that we have been drawn into the "spell" of magical powers, it takes the same degree of will power and also Divine Power to break that spell.

Shri Gurudev Shri Prakash Ji: There are no dark forces in a place where a guru is. The guru always controls his disciples' powers. Even Gods have and had their gurus. The God Ram had His guru. The God Krishna had His guru, too.

Rama Vernon: In the last two months, I think I have heard the word evil used by our President more than I've ever heard a Baptist or fundamentalist preacher say it — the "evil-doer," "the evil one," the evil this or that. That word is not in my vocabulary. To me, evil is like ignorance — we can't see because the veil covers our eyes. It's all subjective; it's all a perception; it's not who one really is.

We must go to the other side, and stand in another person's body, and feel their feelings, and understand why they are motivated the way they are. What is good, and what is bad? It's two sides of the same coin. So we have to look at the sources rather than the symptoms.

The "dark forces" live within us. They're our own nemeses. The yogis say, don't fight the darkness, just turn on the light, and the darkness vanishes.

Carol: So in Yoga is there the concept of fallen angels, and beings of that nature?

Rama Vernon: Yes. They call them aerial beings. They are between the earthly plane and the heavenly plane. Yoga has a whole system, explained in the fourth chapter of the Yoga Sutras, of seven heavens, seven layers. The Sutras describe these places very specifically, and one may sometimes tap into them during meditation practices.

And there are more mischievous, contracted beings, just as there are mischievous and contracted human beings on the earth plane. There are contracted forces that sometimes work through people who are more open to them.

When people are not fully conscious, as when they have been anaesthetized, they can be vulnerable. Or prescription drugs can do very great damage to the human mind. I have talked to a lot of people who have had the experience of hearing voices telling them to kill, and feeling darkness around them after starting some of these drugs.

These beings do exist. But Yoga doesn't focus on the fear of them. And if someone is being harmful toward you, you don't feel anger toward that person, you don't feel hatred — you simply disassociate yourself and create distance. You detach yourself emotionally from that situation, and you just hold it in abeyance. You don't go and attack them. Yogis aren't supposed to do that.

We see darkness as part of the polarity of this earth plane. Without darkness, we'd have no background for light. We'd have no dramas based on a nemesis, we'd have no movies or plays. All of that is part of the drama of life.

Carol: So if Yoga is always aiming toward the light, is that not putting the earth out of balance?

Rama Vernon: It's actually aiming at balancing. In the Hatha Yoga practices, ha means "the sun," and tha means "the moon." It is balancing the light and the darkness, the heat and the cold, the catabolic and anabolic processes of metabolism, the yang and yin.

The yin and yang symbol shows a little spot of darkness in the light, and a little spot of light in the darkness. It shows the polarities that are part of this earth plane. Now if you didn't have that light in the darkness and that darkness in the light, there would be a total balancing point, and we would go into another dimensional field. Life as we know it would no longer be there for us.

Carol: What is your personal experience with magical powers?

Padma McGilloway: Generally, one should only speak of these things in reference to oneself when guided to do so. While I make no claim for myself, my entire adult life has been one of prayer, Yoga-meditation, and service. I have received some remarkable insights and spiritual blessings within and without.

Shri Gurudev Shri Prakash Ji: I was born and brought up in a family of Devraha Baba Ji's disciples. My ancestors are Brahmins, and for many centuries they were Devraha Baba's bhakts and disciples. My father and mother also were Baba's disciples.

On the day I was born, a Himalayan yogi appeared in front of my mother and said that her son Prakash was a gift from Himalayan yogis. My birth was blessed by Devraha Baba Ji. I saw embodied Devraha Baba Ji for the first time when I was about five years old. Baba talked to me in private and gave me a mantra. He told my mother, "That is my son. I bless him and all your family."

Baba saw many things that were to happen to me and my family and he would tell us about them. So I understand well what a guru's mercy means. Baba was and is everything for me. Every breath of mine is his mercy. All the members of Indian governments had only one wish in their lives — to get his blessing.

Rama Vernon: A Course in Miracles calls magic "miracles." It says that there are no great miracles or small miracles.

Shri Gurudev Shri Prakash Ji, now living in Moscow, Russia, is a disciple of Devraha Baba Ji. In 1999, he founded the Brahmarishi Yogi Samrat Shri Devraha Baba Friends Club there, for the purpose of letting people in Russia, Europe, USA — everywhere — understand what the true Yoga is. He wishes for "all kinds of help and support from everywhere."

Padma McGilloway began her studies of the teachings and spiritual practices of Paramhansa Yogananda in 1971. This includes kriya yoga, the highest technique of initiation, given by Yogananda and spoken of in his classic book Autobiography of a Yogi. McGilloway received initiation from his direct disciple Swami Kriyananda, founder of Ananda ashram. She lived at Ananda Village in California, married, and raised two children while serving at the community as a manager of its publishing activities, and later as a minister and a teacher. In 1993, she and her husband were asked by Kriyananda to head Ananda's Seattle community.

Rama Vernon is a writer, teacher, and lecturer on Asian philosophy and East/West psychology. Her background has inspired a unique approach to conflict resolution and Yoga. She attended the California Institute for Integral Studies, has organized yoga conferences all over the world, and is the founder of five successful nonprofit organizations, including the magazine Yoga Journal. She teaches Yoga for Peace in the Middle East and other countries, as well as continuing to teach Yoga teachers — focusing on the Sutras and the deep inner meanings of the psychology and philosophy of Yoga.

Carol Hiltner is a Seattle-based artist/author who has been working for the past two decades to facilitate a peaceful relationship between the United States and Russia.