Chapter 89 — Acquiring Powers; How Yogis’ Bodies Survive During Tapas; Yogis’ Thoughts Actualize

Vasishta said:—

Rama, you must imitate this sage in order to know the nature of the soul and all that is knowable and worth knowing. In order to know these things, you must be without passion and without the emotions of fear and disturbance of your spirit at all times. As this sage seemed to pass the course of many millions of years in cheerful meditation, so you shall have to habituate yourself to silent contemplation without any discontent in your mind.

There have been many more sages of great minds in their times and places who have had their perfection in the same way and who are worthy of your imitation to attain your object. Knowing that pain or pleasure never affects the soul and that it is everlasting and everywhere in all places, no one, O mighty prince, has any cause to be sorry for it.

There are many persons living in this world who are well acquainted with the nature of the soul. But nobody is so sorry for the misery of human souls as yourself. Remain quiet and in good cheer, with the magnanimity and composure of your mind. Know yourself to be imperishable, without any change or regeneration. No living liberated man like yourself is ever subject to sorrow or joy at the changing fortunes of life, just as the brave lion is never moved from his calmness like the changeful peacock.

Rama said, “Sage, your discourse raises a question in me, which I want you to disperse like an autumn cloud. Tell me sage, who is best acquainted with spiritual knowledge, why are the bodies of living liberated persons not seen mounting the skies?”

10 Vasishta replied:—

Rama, know the powers of mounting the sky and flying in the air naturally belong to winged creatures. 11 All the various motions seen to act in different directions are according to the natural tendencies of bodies. They are never desired by the spiritually minded person. 12 The ability to fly is not desirable for the living liberated soul. The power to fly is easily acquired by unspiritual and ignorant people, by many physical and artificial powers derived by application of proper means, mantras and other practices.

13 The power of flying is no business for the knower of the Self who is only concerned with his knowledge of the soul. He is content with spiritual knowledge and union with the Supreme Soul and does not meddle with the practices of the ignorant practitioners of false yoga. 14 Know all earthly contrivances to be the offspring of worldliness and the progeny of spiritual ignorance. Say then, what wise knower of the Self is there who would be so foolish as to plunge himself in this gross ignorance? 15 He who pursues the path of spiritual ignorance by his meditation and contrivances for his temporal welfare must be blind to the future welfare of his soul and lives against the course of the holy sage and saint. 16 By the continued practice of yoga, or some other arts and expedients of mantras and the like, it is possible for the wise as well as the unwise to acquire the power of flying in the air. 17 But the spiritual man remains quite aloof and afar from these. He has no desire for any such thing. He is content with himself and finds his rest in the Supreme Soul, beside which he has nothing in view.

18 He has neither aerial journey nor any supernatural power or worldly enjoyment for his object. His view is neither earthly glory nor honor, nor does he desire to live or fear to die. 19 He is ever content and quiet in his soul, devoid of desires and affections in his mind. He is of the form of empty air and remains with his spiritual knowledge as the idol of his soul. 20 He is not apprehensive of adversity or calamity. He is unaffected by feelings of pleasure and pain. He is fully satisfied in his privation of everything, and is unconcerned about his life and death by remaining like the living dead. 21 He remains unmoved at all evens and odds, just as the ocean is at a standstill with all the outpourings of the rivers. He continues to meditate on and adore the Divine Spirit in his own spirit. 22 He has no need of acquiring or amassing any wealth for himself, nor is he in need of asking anything of anybody for his support.

23 The unspiritual man who aims at the acquisition of supernatural powers must sacrifice the means of his perfection in order to acquire such powers. 24 All things are accomplished by application of their proper means, and what is thus ordained to take place cannot be undone even by the three-eyed god Shiva himself. 25 The power of flying depends on the application of proper means, and not on one’s act of willing only. Nothing can alter the nature of things, as that of the coolness of moonbeams. 26 Whether one is all-knowing or much-knowing, or all-powerful or much powerful as a Vishnu or Shiva, yet there is nobody who has the power to set aside the destined law of nature.

27 Thus it depends on the nature of things, Rama, the combination of times and circumstances, and the application at proper means and mantras that cause a mortal to fly in the air and an immortal to descend on earth. 28 Similarly, it is the property of some drugs, gems and mantras to destroy the destructive power of poison, and of wine to intoxicate the wine-drinker, and of vomiting agents to cause vomiting. 29 All things naturally have the power of producing some effect according to its proper application and the mode and manner of it. 30 Hence no one who is unacquainted with these things is able to fly in the air, and he who is filled with spiritual knowledge has no need of such practices.

31 All knowledge relating to the properties of things and their application in proper mode and manner to bring about certain ends is of no good to the knower of the Self for his attainment of spiritual wisdom. 32 He who wishes to have supernatural powers may gain them by long practice. But what need has a yogi of these practices or powers for himself? 33 After his freedom from the net of his desires the yogi attains his spiritual state. Then how can he entertain any desire which is opposed to it?

34 Everyone endeavors to remain in the course to which he is led by the desires rising in his heart. Whether he is learned or not, in due time he reaps the reward of his endeavors. 35 Vitahavya never endeavored to acquire any supernatural power. All his endeavors were directed towards gaining spiritual perfection, which he obtained by his tapas in the forest.

36 Should one persist practicing and applying the proper means, it is not impossible or hard to acquire supernatural powers. 37 One’s success attaining perfection in any object depends entirely on his personal efforts, and may be called the fruit of the tree of his own labor. 38 But these successes and perfections are of no use to those great minded men who have known the Knowable One in himself, and who have made an end of their worldly desires.

39 Rama said, “Sage I have yet another question for your explanation and it is this. Why didn’t the hungry beasts of the desert devour the dead-like body of the devoted sage, and why did it not spoil under the earth that covered it? 40 How was it that the bodiless and liberated soul of the sage, which was absorbed in the sunlight, returned to resume its dilapidated body buried in the mountain cave?”

41 Vasishta replied:—

The conscious soul that believes itself to be embodied with its mortal body and bound by the ropes of its desires and the bonds of its affections is subject to both the feeling of pleasure and the pangs of pain. 42 But the intelligent soul which relies on its pure consciousness and is freed from the net of its desires remains only with its subtle spiritual body.

43 Hear now, Rama, the reason why the body of the yogi is not subject to the accidents of disjunction or corruption for many hundreds of years.

44 Whenever the mind is occupied with the thought of anything, it is immediately assimilated into the nature of that object and assumes the same form on itself. 45 Thus, upon seeing or thinking of an enemy, the mind turns to hatred at the very sight or thought of its foe. The mind assumes the nature of friendliness upon the visit and memory of a friend. 46 So on seeing a hill or tree or passenger that bears no hatred or friendship to it, the mind remains equally indifferent, without any change in its disposition as it is perceived by us. 47 Again the mind is sweetened tasting sweets, and embittered by tasting the bitter. It becomes fond of the sweet and averse to whatever is sour and bitter and unpalatable.

48 So when a hungry beast comes in the sight of a calm yogi, its envious nature is changed to dispassion and it desists from doing him any injury. 49 The malicious, being freed from his malice in the company of an even minded sage, desists from the doing any harm to anyone, just as the indifferent traveler has no business breaking straggling branches and trees growing on the wayside, which the rude rustics are likely to chop off and cut down (for fuel). 50 But the savage beast, removed from the side of the yogi, resumes its hungry nature again in the company of devouring and wild beasts of the forest. 51 Hence it was that the envious beasts of the forest, the tigers, lions and bears, and also the reptiles and creeping insects of earth, did not molest the calm body of the sage so long as they lurked and crept about it.

52 The reason why the body was not reduced to the dust of the earth is because the silent conscience that dwells in common in all bodies of animals, vegetables and minerals and abides in them as in the person of a dumb creature would not allow them to injure the innocent body of the sage lying flat on the ground. 53 The spiritualized body of the yogi is seen to move about on earth, like the shadow of something floating on the water. 54 Therefore the spiritual body of the sage, which was rarefied above the elemental bodies by virtue of his spiritual knowledge, became quite incorruptible in its nature.

55 Hear me tell you another reason, Rama! It is the lack of vibration which causes destruction, as it is vibration or breathing of the heart that is the cause of life. 56 The breathing of vital breaths causes the vibration of the arteries, and this being stopped, the body becomes as still as a stone. 57 He who has lost the pulsations of his heart and vital breaths, has also lost both his vitality and mortality, and becomes like a stone. 58 When the internal and external pulsations of the body are at a stop, know, O well-informed Rama, the intestinal parts are not liable to any change. 59 The motion of the body being stopped, and the action of the heart having ceased, the humors of the body become as stiff and inert as the solid mountain of Meru. 60 So the lack of fluctuation causes the steadiness of all things in the world. Hence the bodies of sages are known to be as quiet as the blocks wood or stone.

61 Therefore, the bodies of yogis remain entire for thousands of years. Like clouds in the sky and stones underneath the water, they are neither soiled nor rotten at anytime. 62 It was in this manner that this sage who knew the truth and was best acquainted with the knowledge of the knowable left his earthly body in order to find the rest of his soul in the Supreme Spirit.

63 Those men of great minds who are dispassionate and know what is chiefly to be known above all others pass beyond the bounds of this earth and even of their bodies to assume an independent form of their own. 64 They are perfect masters of themselves whose minds are well governed by their right understanding. They are not affected by the influence of their destiny or the acts of their past lives, nor moved by their desires of any kind. 65 The minds of complete yogis are of the nature of destiny because they can easily effect whatever they think upon, as if they were the acts of chance as in Kakataliya Sanyoga. 66 So it was with sage Vitahavya, who no sooner thought of the renovation of his body than he found it presented before his sight, as if it were an act of chance.

67 When the soul forsakes its earthly frame after the fruition of the fruits of its past actions is over, it assumes a spiritual form which is the state of its disembodied liberation and when it enjoys its perfect liberty in its independent state. 68 The mind free from its desires is released from all its bonds and assumes the spiritual form of the pure soul. Then it effects instantly all that it wishes to do and becomes all powerful as the great Lord of all.