Miracles or Magic Tricks? Questioning the 'Divine' Talents of India's Gurus

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"In our observation, one of the major hindrances of India's progress or India's development is the ignorance and superstition that hold people back," Edamaruku said.

And there are many others. When holy man Jay Guru Dev and his disciples arrived in a remote village in the Haryana province, a crowd instantly gathered and greeted them. Dev went on to perform several "miracles" while chanting mantras in front of the crowd: a fireplace spontaneously combusted after he stared at it, he materialized a bouquet of marigolds from a holy book, and he appeared to levitate a man.

The crowd looked on in awe before they were told the truth. These holy men are actually members of Edamaruku's team, whose mission is to educate local villagers on how other gurus use trickery, not the hand of God, to perform great feats.

'When You Are With God, You Will Get the Power'

"For example, this is one major trick which gurus use to impress people," Edamaruku said, while showing how he could appear to be holding fire in the palm of his hand.

"This is camphor, which is used for any kind of religious ritual," he explained.

Although these small "spontaneous" fires might be easy to prove false, it's much more difficult to explain how it's possible that Yogi Rambhauswami from the village of Tanjore, was able to lie in a blazing fire for hours at a time.

Despite his smoldering clothes and his singed beard, a video taken of the event appeared to show the mystic apparently unfazed by the blistering heat around him as he lay cloaked in a simple saffron blanket.

"When you are with God, you will get the power," a monk explained. "When you are not with God, you can't do anything."

In Varanasi, one of India's holiest cities and home to the sacred Ganges River, a sadhu named Ladu Baba brushed off the seemingly holy magic tricks and said that any miracle you can see is an illusion.

"If you're attached to miracles, if you think they're important, you're missing what's really happening," Baba's follower Govinda said.

For some in India, these "miracles" are unquestionable acts of God. To others they are falsities that hinder the progress and development of the country. For still others, the performance of miracles is a way to make a living. Nonetheless, whether they come from God men or con men, no other place on Earth sees more miracles performed than India -- whatever they really are.

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