10.82: MIRACLES, WONDERS AND PRAYERS
Miracles are one aspect of religion – and there are so many of them in every religion – which the rational mind rebels against. In fact, more often than not, any discussion of Science and Spirituality is likely to end up into a debate on miracles. If you probe carefully into someone who is disinclined towards spirituality and if you scratch below the surface you will find that the real reason is disbelief of what is usually called a miracle and a consequent distaste for anything that is termed supernatural. The concept of avatAra (divine descent or manifestation) – so special to Hinduism – is another part of the miracle story which drives away the skeptic. That God can descend to the earthly level of manifestation, live amongst us like one of us, eat and drink like all of us, beats the imagination of a ‘scientific’ mind. But this is where one may see the other side of Man. In addition to the scientific-rational side of the human personality each human being has also a ‘super-natural’ or extra-sensory side. Many would not accept this until they have the experience themselves. This is where Hinduism has a contributing factor. The entire atmosphere is full of such anecdotes and histories. Each family has experience to narrate. Modern minds may ascribe all this to mere superstition and naivete. But try visiting one of the famous retreats or residences of great Acharyas and religious leaders. Listen to the personal stories of the people present there, - not necessarily permanently, but who are visiting just like you. Listen to how each was not a ‘believer’ once and how the same person was later ‘converted’ by an inexplicable force. Throw away the frills and exaggerations which the person is likely to make because of his close involvement with the story. Finally one would come out with a feeling of daze, awe and reverence. The moral of all this is: Have the will to suspend your disbelief. Try to gather as much information as you like from those who have had the experience. Then come to your own conclusions.
The most well-known divine descents in Hindu tradition are those of Rama and Krishna. But each such descent has its own purpose and its own natural style of behavior and teachings Throughout his life Rama never declares himself as an avatAra though the sages of His time believed Him to be so. He behaves like an ordinary mortal but exhibits extraordinary human qualities and lives the life of an ideal person. On the other hand the avatAra of Krishna loses no time in declaring Himself to be God on earth. In fact He announces it to the father and mother of the child-to-be-born in the most dramatic way, as a producer of a play would introduce the Director of the play. He performs miracle after miracle, almost for the asking. His life is full of apparent contradictions and only the really blessed ones in his lifetime recognize him as the manifestation of the supreme. Coming to our own times we have it on the authority of the personal experiences of several devotees that fully evolved beings like Ramakrishna, Aurobindo, Ramana Maharshi, Kanchi Maha-swamigal and Sathya Sai Baba cannot but be manifestations of the Supreme Divinity.
The natural questions that usually arise in the mind of a modern rational human being are many. Some of them could be the following:
If all these are avatAras of Divinity why have all the problems of the suffering world not been solved? Why are people still suffering? If God has come down on earth why is He allowing suffering to continue? Why do we fight right before his eyes? Having manifested on earth, why does’nt He solve our problems?
These questions certainly rise, at one time or another, in all thinking minds who are eager to understand Divinity and its purpose. But we forget we think of these questions only in relevance to an avatAraa. Why is it the same questions are not asked in respect of that all-knowing omnipresent Divinity irrespective of whether He comes down on earth as a manifestation or not? Even when Divinity is in its own heaven, surely it is aware of all the sufferings man is subject to. So why does it not remove our sufferings by a stroke of its magic power? Thus posed the question looks childish
So then, what is the purpose of a descent of Divinity on earth? It is only to establish faith in the existence of a higher Reality and the truth of spiritual laws, so that man may have the strength to turn towards righteousness and steadfastly work for salvation of himself and his contemporaries. If the Supreme Reality in the form of either the Omnipresent Divinity or an avatAra solved all our problems of poverty and disease, would that be the end of our problems? No. The cure of our bodily illnesses or of our poverty would still leave us spiritually as we were, at the same level of consciousness and spiritual evolution as before, so that very soon we would be at one another’s throats. The same chaotic world will continue. A God can perhaps convert the entire ocean water, or at least a large part of it, into oil, so that the fuel problems of the world can be solved immediately, but even God cannot give a guarantee that no crazy man would throw a lighted cigarette in that sea of oil, because man has the free will to do so. If God had really a purpose in descending on earth, it would be only to clear the way for our spiritual growth! People who have been around the God-men of the 20th century, who are known to perform ‘miracles’ are of the opinion that they are personally experiencing the even more unbelievable miracle of transformation that is taking place within themselves - and they are seeing and feeling and hearing of the countless, deep personal transformations occurring within the throngs of people at the ashram and around the world. Many come to observe the miracles and stay on to experience the great personal growth that accrues to those who come. The miracles force an expansion of consciousness: it is like opening the gates in our scientific stalls and being invited to gallop out beyond our limits. We are reminded that we need to shift our beliefs, that there is more to this life than we think we know.
One may wonder why we are not asking the question: If God exists and did create the universe what was His purpose in such a creation? In fact this is an important question which occupies the mind of every scientist who investigates into the frontiers of science leading him into questions of spirituality and God. The MuNDaka-Upanishad answers this question by citing three analogies for the relationship between the universe and the Godhead, Brahman, which is the origin of the universe according to the Upanishads. The three analogies are contained in the verse: MuNDaka-Upanishad, I - 1 - 7:
यथोर्णनाभिः सृजते गृह्णते च यथा पृथिव्यां ओषधयः सम्भवन्ति।
यथा सतः पुरुषात् क्लेशलोमानि तथाऽक्षरात् सम्भवतीह विश्वम्॥
yathorNanAbhiH sRRijate gRRihNate ca yathA pRRithivyAM oshhadhayaH sambhavanti .
yathA sataH purushhAt kleshalomAni tathA.akshharAt sambhavatIha vishvam ..
Meaning: Just as the spider emits its own saliva to build its web and withdraw it;
just as plants grow on earth naturally without any effort ;
just as hairs grow on a man spontaneously,
so also the universe emanates from the Imperishable brahman.
The first analogy raises the doubt that the Ultimate may have a purpose, like the spider. No, says the second analogy. But the latter raises another objection questioning whether brahman, the Ultimate, is unconscious or inert like the Earth. To answer this, look at the third analogy. Hair grows on a man without effort or strain, so does the universe sprout from brahman, just as an extraneous projection of His Sakti or prakRti.
The most complete incarnation of God in Hinduism is supposed to be the descent of Krishna. The most comprehensive popular scripture in Hinduism is the Mahabharata. The most-often quoted Hindu scripture is the Bhagavad-Gita. That these three together encompass a large part of the mythology, literature and philosophy of Hinduism is surely well-known. But what is not usually noticed is their subtle mutual dependence. It is as if the Gita and the Mahabharata were made for each other. Without Krishna as the Director-cum-actor the story of the Mahabharata would have been just a family feud long forgotten. Without the backdrop of the Mahabharata story the Gita would have lost all its contextual reference and would have been just one more wave in the ocean of Upanishads. Without the culmination in the divine exposition at the most crucial point in the story, the story of the epic would not have reached epic proportions. Over and above all this is the importance of two great supernatural events without which none of the three would be what they are today in the Hindu milieu. One is the critical scene in Dritarashtra’s assembly where the entire bunch of great men of the times, each great in his own way, had to remain dumb witnesses to the worst-ever downfall of dharma and also to the most miraculous protection of the princess’s honor that came from the only Savior of dharma, the living divinity of that age. The other event is the unfolding of the Universal cosmic Form of the Lord on the battlefield, without which the Gita itself would have missed all its spiritual sanction. The Mahabharata without the miraculous scene of the protection of the honor of Draupadi would just be some dry history and the Gita without its wonderful eleventh chapter, called the Yoga of the showing of the Cosmic form, would be just a lifeless lecture on the subtleties of individual, social and political ethics. These two miracles may therefore be considered as of great fundamental value.
A philosopher or an intellectual may rise by successive steps of reasoning to the level of understanding an unchanging Atman which is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient. A true devotee also is ready to grant that there is a Supreme Power who controls everything. But the vast majority of people are neither philosophers nor intellectuals nor are they convinced devotees of the Lord. They believe in God only when that God expresses Himself through miracle-healing or through inexplicable phenomena. It is a moot point whether Jesus or Krishna would be held in as much esteem as they are today if their stories were totally devoid of miracles! But what we consider to be miracles are not miracles for Divinity. From the viewpoint of Divinity what appears to be a miracle for us is just a normal expression of the infinite love with which Divinity always overflows. The human mind as a single isolated factor is a microcosmic and insignificant speck in the vastness of total experience and it cannot in that isolated state understand the subtlety of religious spirituality, much less solve a single problem of either itself or of humanity.
The value of prayer can never be overstated. The so-called fate cannot No one can reveal God to another. But by revealing the value of prayer and inculcating the habit of prayer we place ourselves in a position to receive God-experience, in due time. Spiritual experience can come only through the correct understanding of prayer. Prayer is the point of contact with God. Silent prayer is the preparation of consciousness for the experience of Divinity within. We should tune ourselves from childhood well enough so that at adult age we are ready to receive the inevitable message that unhappiness and suffering are necessary for the unfolding of the soul within and to stand that unhappiness and suffering, prayer is the nutrition needed. From the age of 5, the practice of silent prayer should become a daily routine for a child irrespective of the denomination or religion to which the child belongs or does not belong. The habit of prayer must be made a second nature. This should not be left for the child to learn by itself after it reaches adult age -- as is the experience of many a materialist adult who has learnt things the hard way and then, turned to the ways of the Orient in the past few decades. This is where it is not possible to accept the plea of the rationalist that, to pray or not to pray should be left to the individual for a decision on his own, when he becomes an adult. The plea assumes that each man, without standing on the shoulders of the men of earlier times, begins all over again to learn all that the earlier civilization has already discovered and recorded for us to take the torch from there. That is not the way Man has ascended to the present state of knowledge.