[This is part of a letter. Naturally, all personal references have been omitted.]
Your question about miracles, and why they don’t seem to happen to you personally is a very important one.
Speaking for myself, I have not yet seen the dead raised (at least not in the ordinary or bodily sense of the word “dead”), but I have been privy to other miracles, some of them quite startling. So, I have not the least doubt that what Yogananda reported [in the book “Autobiography of A Yogi”] is true and exact. Neither do I doubt that eventually you too, in this life or some other, will experience the same.
The extra-ordinary – or the miraculous – is always happening all around us. The problem is, the consciousness that is able to recognize these kinds of events for what they are depends fully upon each individual’s efforts towards spiritual understanding and the grace that comes with that understanding. And that grace and that effort are, in turn, dependent upon one’s surrender to God and the release of self.
Thus, the spiritual process, including meditation and other practices, is aimed simply at de-conditioning us of our doubt and our resistance to extraordinary events, and replacing that with an acceptance of the possibility of these kinds of events, and eventually even the assumption that they are normal, constant, and ubiquitous.
Of course, this de-conditioning process can require much inner work over many lives. Sometimes, however, it can be immediate and quick. It all depends upon who and what we think we are, Who and What we think God is, and how we allow those two concepts to interact.
So, what is important here is your understanding of how miracles occur, and why they occur. My experience has been that miracles are experienced most often when an individual’s consciousness has expanded such that a miraculous event is no longer perceived as being “miraculous” or “super-natural”, but rather as natural, spontaneous, and normal. Indeed, in my view, it is the very consciousness that believes that miracles are supernatural, and therefore not normal, that prevents an individual from experiencing the miraculous!
Thus, miracles are most likely to be experienced most often by an individual when (and if) he or she has changed consciousness sufficiently that what used to be considered miraculous is now recognized as expected, normal, and natural.
Unfortunately, I know no other way to explain this phenomenon than with these insufficient words: the more easily and naturally we perceive miracles to be, the more they occur, and the less they fascinate. Perhaps this is some kind of safeguard built into the System to preclude the misuse of God’s power by a fragile and ignorant humankind – in other words, the likes of you and me!
Admittedly, this is a paradox, as is so much of the spiritual process. All the things we want when we are ego-bound, all the stuff we long for and strive for, so often unsuccessfully, we receive in abundance when (but usually only when) we no longer seek them, long for them, or ultimately even want them. Again, a failsafe device, I suspect.
Of course, our longing is indicative of self-will, isn’t it? And that in turn is what interferes with God’s proper flow through the mechanism that each of us calls “me.” It would be nice, and certainly more exciting (how the ego loves excitement!), if we could be “me”– separate and insular– while at the same time experiencing miracles and all the rest of the delights of the spiritual process. But it doesn’t work that way, or at least in our own case it hasn’t. In order to receive the fruits of spiritual grace, a seeker needs to release the one and only obstruction to that grace, which is willful and narcissistic wanting and grasping.
I believe that Yogananda’s purpose in writing about his own experiences is to instill in the unbeliever the possibility that these kinds of things do occur. At least, as I see it, that is the only real purpose to reporting these kinds of things. Any other purpose runs the risk of generating awe, glamour, and titillation in the reader, which, while fun, entertaining, and exciting, is only that, and does little toward bringing us closer to our Goal, which is God.
Thus, Yogananda’s reportage is useful if, and only if, it expands your consciousness enough to release your doubt about the infinite possibilities open to God acting through mankind and the material universe. If reading about these kinds of events is having that affect on you, then Yogananda has served his purpose, and would undoubtedly be delighted!
Now, it is equally true that, in the beginning, the lure and glamour of these kinds of events can be helpful in getting people interested in the spiritual life. However, the purpose of spiritual life is not to experience or to perform miracles, however likely they will become in the progress of the spiritual life. Indeed, the greatest of miracles, such as those by Lahiri Mahasaya [the Guru or Teacher of Yogananda’s Guru], are usually caused not by “him” but by the dynamic of the student who is projecting upon Lahiri the student’s belief in possibilities. In other words, it is the student’s capacity and possibility that “creates,” if you will, the miracles, which in their turn inspire the student to persevere further in order to “obtain” those miracles for himself or herself. The paradox of all of this is, once again, that as the student progresses, he or she wishes less and less for miracles, and more and more for peace and realization. The miracles are the lure, and they are real; the end result is not miracle-making, but peace– whether or not “miracles” continue to occur.
Consider, too, that one of the reasons you may not be experiencing these kinds of things personally may be that you are a devotee of God’s. Again, it may seem paradoxical, but often true devotees are protected from these kinds of experiences, because miraculous events, if experienced too early on in the life of a seeker, can very often be distracting, and even, sometimes, fatal to the progress of that student. Sometimes, at TZF we use the term “spiritual sports” to describe these kinds of supernatural events and related activities, because, in a very real sense, that is all they are. They do not bring us closer to God, nor do they create a wiser or more God-realized consciousness. In fact, often, although admittedly not always, they fascinate the ego, and thus, reinforce the ego, and of course, that is clearly counterproductive to spiritual growth. Indeed, throughout history, some of the more devoted Realizers rarely experienced miracles as such, because they were so immersed in God! However, their students or disciples frequently experience what they consider to be miracles in the presence of these very Teachers. Again, that fact seems to say more about the student’s capacity or expectations, than the Teacher’s intentions, don’t you think? Indeed, it is very common that students who are in the presence of or under the tutelage of these great Teachers, experience all sorts of miraculous events, but when asked about them, the Teachers themselves claim to know nothing about them. “These things may happen around me”, he or she might say, “but I do not cause them”. And this makes sense, if we remember that a Realized Master is in communion without reservation with God, and that his or her function is simply to offer his or her body as a vehicle upon which seekers may rest all their hopes, beliefs, goals, and struggles. Thus, because a Teacher is clear and devoid of ego, God can be apprehended more easily by disciples who choose that Teacher as their chosen vehicle. Finally, the best of Teachers always reflect the level of the student, by virtue of the fact that the Teacher, after all is said and done, is really only a vision of God projected by the student. The greater and more inclusive that vision of God is, the more potent and inclusive becomes the Teacher.
So, if you find a Teacher who can “do” miracles, it says to you, that you are looking for a God who does miracles. There is nothing wrong with this; indeed, at first, most human beings only want that kind of a God. If, instead, you seek to love God without reservation, then whether or not you experience miracles becomes irrelevant, since your devotion for God rests only upon itself, and not upon what God “does” or “does not do” for you. Of course, for most of us, the path usually starts with the former, and evolves toward the latter as we feel increasingly safe and protected by a miraculous God. There is nothing odd about this, nor should there be any reason to be uncomfortable with or in any way reject this progression. We all start out scared of life; we have reason to be. We need a miraculous God to protect us! Thank God there is One!
With all of the foregoing in mind, your concern about not being able to witness miracles similar to those described by Yogananda, and your question about whether this is an indicator of your spiritual evolution, do not parse. Your spiritual state may or may not result in miracles. Miracles are not necessarily an indicator of evolved spiritual consciousness. Your sense of peace and happiness with life and with God is the true indicator of your progress. Experiencing miracles may be no more than a consequence of one’s upbringing. Some cultures condition us to expect and see miracles, some do not. Generally, western cultures do not. My guess is that in India they do.
Whatever the case, remember this. As you become more and more surrendered to God, you will experience astonishing coincidences and other phenomena, events that do not fit the normal process of cause and effect. The more attentive and focused you are, the more will you see this.
Indeed, the more one surrenders to God, the more the world appears to turn precisely according to God’s Will, whether that occurs oddly and miraculously, or normally and mundanely. But it is always benevolent, and frequently it is amazing. In essence, the process of meditation and surrender is actually and simply a process of centering oneself and quieting oneself enough to BE attentive and focused, which is to say, basically, that miracles are all around us all the time, only most of us are too distracted and inattentive to experience them. Or, another way of saying this is that if you want miracles, you will probably seldom “get” them because you will be too distracted by desire to perceive them. But it you genuinely seek to surrender yourself to God totally and consistently, then that surrender itself will open you to the miracles taking place everywhere around you. (It is a very narrow path, this spiritual process. Getting out of the way is the hardest part!)
Every life is full of miracles all the time. Our lives reflect for each of us, individually, our state of consciousness perfectly and miraculously. So, our lives only seem mundane because they seem common, and that’s because most of us embrace the same paradigm. That commonality makes us think that life is not miraculous, and so, only when an event is uncommon, do we consider it a miracle. Thus, ultimately, it is all arbitrary. We are all in cahoots with one another to make our world as we know it seem predictable and normal, while, in fact, it is fluid, flexible, and totally changeable if we decide that it is. It is the deciding that is difficult, and the trust in God that it will change benevolently that is necessary for us to allow it to happen.
I hope this helps.