Other than sex, power is the most sought-after Tantrik commodity. What kind of power?
Well, the usual: the power to magnetize women to have sex or fall in love with you, the power to get rich without working, the power to show everyone that you are powerful. Sound like Self-realization to you?
I could tell you stories about so-called practitioners who have gone mad with power or become possessed by other beings in the pursuit of power. But let me tell you this story instead.
When Swami Vishnu-devananda was a young man, he heard of a famous Guru in Rishikesh: Swami Sivananda. He traveled to the ashram there, and although he sought teachings, also in his mind was the thought: “I’m not going to bow down (prostrate) to any man!” As a young spiritual go-getter, Swami Vishnu-devananda had a lot of pride.
For several days, he did not meet the Guru, but always in his mind was the determination not to prostrate himself no matter how great a being this Guru turned out to be. Then one morning, as he rounded a corner of a building, immediately in front of him was the imposing figure of Swami Sivananda. Those of you who know Swami Sivananda know how tall and large a person he was. Before the young man could decide how to get out of the way, the Guru threw himself at the student’s feet in a full prostration. Swami Vishnu-devananda’s heart melted. His painful feelings of pride vanished in an instant as he received this life-changing transmission of understanding and compassion.
The power to self-reflect means that when your fixations arise, you are able to recognize them and take responsibility. For instance, if you are listening to teachings and your mind is filled with petty criticisms of the words of the teacher, the appearance of the teacher, the other students and so on, then you can recognize this as your fixation and relax.
The power to discriminate takes longer to develop. You develop the power to discriminate between activities and people that are supporting your Self-realization and those that are undermining your efforts. You develop the power to discriminate between egoic fantasy and true spiritual insight or experience. There are many other important forms of discrimination.
These three powers of listening, self-reflecting and discriminating are the fundamentals of spiritual practice. When we have these powers, we can enjoy even more powers. The power of kindness. The power of generosity. The power of compassion. The power of sincerely desiring to benefit all beings.
Why do we need to cultivate listening, self-reflecting and discriminating first? If we cannot listen, how can we be kind? If we cannot self-reflect and take responsibility for our fixations of small “I,” how can we be generous? If we cannot discriminate between egoic fantasy and true insight, how can we come to understand our real condition and that of our fellow beings? How can compassion arise in this circumstance?
Certain powers, called siddhi, arise naturally through the process of relaxation of our limited concepts and fixations. There are many lists of siddhi such as the power to become small or large, heavy or light or to know future events. The correct understanding of these powers is that they are a result of a person more fully identifying with Shiva nature and not with small “I.” For a person who wants to Self-realize, anything that arises is allowed to come and go naturally. We don’t hold onto siddhi or try to effortfully cultivate them for the sake of being thought special by ourselves or others. This is why Masters who have a high degree of accomplishment are not on YouTube displaying their abilities! They are here with us, showering us with loving kindness, generosity and compassion and showing us the way.