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The Macksey Journal

Abstract

A siddha yogin (perfected yogi) can perform inexplicable feats like walking on water and levitating. The yogin obtains these powers, often explained in terms of divinity, by performing penance. These superhuman siddha yogins have historically been known to use yoga powers to command control, building authority by appearing to be extraordinary or divine. However, Hindu traditions contest whether miraculous powers confer divinity. While tantric traditions believe religious leaders claim divinity through the display of miraculous powers, bhakti traditions perceive supernatural powers with skepticism (Burchett 2012).

This paper examines the extent to which yoga powers are the primary determinant of divinity and authority in contemporary Hindu religious traditions through a case study of the Bocāsanavāsī Śrī-Akṣar-Puruṣottam Svāminārāyana Sansthā (BAPS), a devotional tradition in Gujarat. I analyze conceptions of two theological entities, Parabrahman (God) and Akṣarabrahman (Guru), to demonstrate how yoga powers construct and deconstruct divinity: BAPS simultaneously accepts and rejects yoga powers. For instance, devotees imagine God with yoga powers; however, they should not ground their belief in miracles. Swaminarayan canonical texts reconcile this difference by suggesting that yoga powers play a role in defining divinity but do not form a basis for devotional faith. Given the evidence that yoga powers alone do not grant authority to a divine figure, I argue that authority stems from multiple factors, with a virtuous life at the core. Practitioners in Hindu devotional traditions like BAPS determine the authority of a religious figure by examining this person’s life.

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