Swami Dayanand’s interesting story is always told. Once Swami Dayanand had gone to Hrishikesh. At that time many sages used to reside there. Even today, it is said that many sages reside in the Himalayas and its surrounding areas. When he went to the Himalayas, Swami Dayanand met many great and radiant sages who had achieved Divine Powers. He also visited yogis whose penance had become successful. At that time he saw a sage at the banks of the river Ganga. He was very radiant and a conversation took place between him and Swami Dayanand. Dayanand asked him very politely,
“What have you gained by doing penance?” The sage started laughing and said, “I have studied the Ashtang Yog. Ask me what I have not gained! Why do you ask me what I have gained? I have gained many remarkable Divine illuminations and powers.”
Who knows whether he had achieved self-enlightenment or not! But he had definitely achieved some Divine illuminations and powers. He further added, “I have all the Divine illuminations and powers. You can see the river Ganga in front of your eyes! I can walk on it like on road. I have gained such Divine power with my penance.” At this, Swami Dayanand smiled and said, “Can you really walk on water?” The sage said, “Son, do you doubt my ability? I will walk on water and show you!”
Dayanand Saraswati asked, “Then how will you come back?” The sage laughed loudly and said, “Fool, the way I will go walking on the river, in the same way I will come back.” Once again Dayanand asked a question, “I think you had to do a lot of penance to attain such Divine power.” The sage replied, ‘Yes! I spent 60 years for this. To achieve this single Divine power I spent 60 years of my life. And you cannot even imagine what my age could be. It is not a child’s play to achieve Ashta-siddhi! It is not at all easy! I was able to achieve all this with many years of worship.”
In the holy text ‘Patanjal Yogdarshan’ it is said that, to attain that final knowledge one has to overcome a huge obstacle of ‘siddhis’ (Supernatural powers acquired through spiritual practice). They come in the middle and become an obstacle. They say, “We have come, accept us.” At this juncture the sage has to say, “No, I don’t want a single siddhi. I want to experience the bliss of unobstructed samadhi (A super conscious state of meditative union with the Absolute God Principle).” If the sages fall prey to inducements then their penance is destroyed.
Here Dayanand said, “Did you really give 60 years?” The sage said, “I gave 60 years for one siddhi. Do you want to know how many years I gave for other siddhis?” Dayanand said, “No!” That sage was surprised on hearing this; he said, “Why did you say No?” Dayanand said, “It is simple. You spent 60 years for this – such a long period of your life. I feel sorry for that.” The sage asked, “Why do you feel sorry?” Dayanand said, “You gave 60 years to go across this river, I do not have any problem with this.” The sage asked, “What are you saying?” At that time Dayanand said, “It is very simple. I can swim very well, and if the river is flooded then I will call a boat-man, give him some money and will go across the river.”
Conclusion : Penance should not be wasted to attain materialistic goals.