By Robert SearleWhat follows is a pro Shabd Yoga, and Sant Mat article, but one which also includes some basic controversies in connection with the modern day Radhasoami Movement.
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The word "Radhasoami" is a "phonetic misspell" of Radhaswami which is the correct way of pronouncing it. Essentially, it can be translated as meaning the Lord of the Soul, or God. It has many adherents all over the world. It teaches Sant Mat, and Surat Shabd Yoga.
A. The Soamibagh Satsang. A Brief Historical "Overview" Of The Radhasoami Faith.
The Radhasoami Faith was founded in 1861 by Shiv Dayal Singh who was a banker at Agra. He was as his Will indicates "born almighty" in the sense that he had no guru who initiated him into the science of Surat Shabd Yoga. His teachings are contained in Sar Bachan meaning True Words, and it is believed that they were dictated by him to his chief disciple Rai Saligram, or Huzur Maharaj who succeeded him.
Strange as it may seem it was him, and not Dayal Singh who introduced the name Radhaswami. Huzur Maharaj claimed that this word was like the Sound reverberating in the highest Spiritual Region. Thus, it was to be treated as something extremely sacred. Moreover,it was an innovation in the Medieval Sant Tradition which advocated Shabd Yoga. Huzur Maharaj claimed that the old Indian saints or Satgurus who taught contact with the Sound Current only reached the fifth Spiritual Region. He disclosed that there was an even higher one where God in its purest manifestation existed. Indeed, the Holy Name of Radhaswami was used as a means of concentration during Simran (repetition) in meditation.
Huzur Maharaj was highly respected, and was a post-master general who was honoured by the British. He is credited with what might be termed the systemization of the Faith, and wrote a number of classic books. After his death Brahma Sankar Misra, or Maharaj Saheb became the next Satguru. He notably wrote a book in which he tried to compare the teachings of Radhasoami with the physics of the day.
Maharaj Sahebs claim to fame is the introduction of the Central Administrative Council which seeked to try to avoid splits within the Faith. Unfortunately, due to its "strict" rulings it had the opposite effect. The last "official" Satguru of this "parent rock" of the Radhasoami Faith was Babuji Maharaj. After his passing a period of interregnum occured in which no "official" successor was recognised. This line of Masters made up the Soamibagh Satsang, Agra.
B. Radhasoami Satsang Beas, or RSSB.
Radhasoami Satsang Beas, or more simply RSSB was the first group to break away from the Central Administrative Council. It was headed by Baba Jaimal Singh who had been initiated by Shiv Dayal Singh. He was a "soldier saint", and during his retirement became recognised as a Satguru. He did not ultimately accept the Holy Name Radhaswami, and instead used the Five Holy Names of the earlier Medieval Sants claiming that this was Dayal Singhs original mantra for repetition, or Simran. This appears to be true.
Anyway, it was a good enough excuse for a split to occur between Soamibagh, and his group later known ofcourse as RSSB. The Central Administrative Council decided to "excommunicate" him, and he died shortly afterwards in 1903. It was claimed that his disciples, or Satsangis only reached the fifth Spiritual Region known to previous Medieval Saints, and not the higher one above known as Radhasoami Dham, or the Abode of the Lord with the Name resounding in it. RSSB believes that the ultimate Sound, or Shabd of the Universe is actually inexpressible, and cannot be put into the language of the world in any way.
This rift in the interpretation of the RS Faith has caused much heartache.In the Beas edition of Sar Bachan reference to Radhaswami as understood by Soamibagh has been edited out. Moreover, something else is also introduced into the text. It concerns successorship. The Beas Sar Bachan claims that when the Satguru dies those initiated by him must continually have faith in him. In other words, his Radiant Form must manifest within during Shabd Yoga, and not that of his living successor. The latter though can act as the outer guide to help Satsangis. The Soamibagh edition of Sar Bachan (as dictated to Huzur Maharaj) makes it clear that the present living Satguru must manifest itself as the inner Guide instead of the deceased predescessor. RSSB claims to this day that their edition of Sar Bachan is the "unedited" version as originally intended by Shiv Dayal Singh. Huzur Maharaj simply edited it to present the importance of the Name, and ofcourse, the question of successorship. But, Dayal Singh's Will seems to clearly state that there are two Shabd Yoga Path one started by himself (ie.Sant Mat), and the other by Huzur Maharaj (ie. Radhaswami Mat). Both of them basically teach the same thing.
Anyway, RSSB is arguably the most influential organisation of the Radhasoami Faith. It was the first to introduce the teachings to the West notably through a book entitled The Path of the Masters by Dr. Julian Johnson in 1939. The present head of RSSB is Gurinder Singh.
C. Some Other Radhasoami Organisations.
There are many "splits", or rather branches of the Radhasoami Faith each having its own living Satguru.Dayalbagh Satsang is perhaps the most famous one for those in the know. It broke away from the Central Administrative Council, and like RSSB set up its own Colony in which a degree of industrialization took place. Unlike RSSB it appears that certain successors to the guru gaddi (or throne) have been chosen by spiritual election rather than by written Will.
Sadly, Dayalbagh has for many years contested in the Courts the property rights of Soamibagh Satsang whose authority it does not recognize. It also believes in the Holy Name of Radhasoami which it also uses in Shabd Yoga.
When the Great Master Maharaj Sawan Singh Ji of RSSB died in 1948 he wrote a Will in which he ordered that Jagat Singh should succeed him. However, Sant Kirpal Singh who was highly regarded formed his own breakaway group. This was the Ruhani Satsang. However, when he died his son Darshan Singh formed another organisation called the Sawan-Kirpal Mission now headed by Rajinder Singh.
An interesting aspect of the above is it believes that the new seeker into Shabd Yoga can receive some kind of inner experience of some description at the time of initiation. Yet, RSSB has claimed that this is just a "trick". However, a real Teacher should be able to give a disciple "something to work on" irrespective of how unadvanced he, or she might be. This acts as a vital inspiration to continue on the Path.
It is also fascinating to note that Sant Kirpal Singh mentioned earlier on kept a secret coded diary which claimed that there were certain "sights" before one reached the true "highest" Spiritual Region of Sach Khand. Here, he indicated that apart from "subjective" interactions there were also essentially objective dynamics "largely" at work in the upward visionary ascent of Surat Shabd Yoga.
Apart from inner experiences, there is to some extent a "suspicious" tendency for a line of gurus to be physically related to one each other. For example, Rajinder Singh was the eldest son of Darshan Singh (son of Sant Kirpal Singh). When Shiv Dayal Singh died he actually nominated his wife Radha Ji to become the Satguru but she insisted that Saligram, or Huzur Maharaj should replace her as the living guide. Infact, there is a sect in which a certain highly respected academic, Agam Prasad Mathur is directly related to Saligram himself. He is the author notably of The Radhasoami Faith; A Historical Study (1974).
Incidently, another more important source for Radhaswami history are the writings of S.D. Maheshwari of Soamibagh Satsang who wrote much on the subject.Lastly, Professor Mark Juergensmeyer wrote Radhasoami Reality; The Logic of a Modern Faith which gives some understanding of this subject. He was notably helped by the research undertaken by David Christopher Lane who is a Professor of Philosophy, and Sociology in the USA. He is still interested in the subject. Lane is also among other things famed for his investigative research on Eckankar which drew its inspiration from Sant Mat, and Surat Shabd Yoga.There are a number of organizations which have partly, or largely changed the teachings altogether. Yet, they still trace their origins to the Radhasoami Faith. One such is headed by Shree, Shree Mentu Maharaj which uses the Holy Name for meditation but without apparently the Sound initiation known to Surat Shabd Yoga.
D. The Esoteric Importance Of The Radhasoami Spiritual Cosmology.
Though the Kheper article on the subject concerned gives some details about the spiritual cosmology of the Radhasoami Faith, it is not complete (http://www.kheper.net/topics/Sant_Mat/cosmology.html ) For that we have to turn to the writings of L.R. Puri an academic who notably wrote Mysticism, the Spiritual Path Vol II, and The Radhaswami Teachings all published by RSSB. Shiv Dayals basic details concerning the "road-map" to God appear in Sar Bachan. They present a more fuller "depiction" of the Spiritual Regions than can be found in the writings of the Medieval Sants.In Discourses on Sant Mat there is a collection of Sawan Singhs talks at Satsangs, or meetings. He gives a few interesting examples in which he shows simple symbolism of the Medieval Sants as being "corroborative", and thus, possibly suggestive of their "objective" reality.
Interestingly, many Indian teachers of any spiritual tradition tend to regard inner experiences of "higher worlds" as being essentially unimportant, or even partly, or wholly illusionary, and as such should be ignored. In Sant Mat this is also true to a certain degree, and emphasis is placed on ones full attention on the Radiant Form of the Satguru during Shabd Yoga. The aim here is to avoid the Satsangi from being sidetracked into lower planes, and by beings who would hold up his, or her progress to the "highest" Region of"God-Realization".
Dr. Alfonso Caycedo, a Spanish psychiatrist wrote back in the sixties a fascinating work on gurus, and inner experiences entitled India of Yogis. Dr. Ranade a renowned mystic, and academic authored the Pathway to God volumes in which he examines in detail the writings of the Medieval Shabd Mystics, and to some extent their internal experiences.
The point of all this comment on Radhasoami Spiritual Cosmology is to make people aware that it may arguably have the simplest, and most authentic, and "complete" understanding of the "higher Regions" .....
E. Surat Shabd Yoga Is Not The Same As Kundalini Yoga.
Sadly, there is a certain amount of "misinformation" of the teachings of Surat Shabd Yoga, and Sant Mat.
It has been claimed for instance that Shabd Yoga is the same as Kundalini Yoga (though ofcourse the inner experiences of both systems may seem similiar to a certain extent). This is incorrect for the following reasons:-
i) The origin of the above seems to largely come from the claim that at the first initiation into the Self-Realization Fellowship (which teaches Kriya Yoga involving Kundalini)contains in full, or in part the exact knowledge of the Sant Mat Sound sequence. Whether this is true, or false is actually "immaterial" because replicas of the key sights, or "lights", and sounds can be found in the lower "Regions" as well as in the higher "Spiritual Regions"!
ii) Shabd Yoga does not involve special breathing practice, or deliberate arousal of the Kundalini, or concentration on the lower centres, or chakras of the subtle body with the exception of the one at the Third Eye. Moreover, there are said to be certain "secret" centres in the grey matter of brain which may be unknown to Kundalini Yogis.
iii) Unlike mainstream Yogic thought, Shabd Yoga does not require the Kundalini to be raised in the traditional manner for Enlightenment. It is a far safer, and natural system of meditation. It should not be confused with astral travel which just deals with the lower psychic realms. Rather it is more accurate to say that conciousness is withdrawn to the Eye Centre, and like a "mental radio" it can contact specific key Sounds. With increasing concentration occuring naturally (ie.not forced) its power to "ascend" or communicate with higher states of conciousness becomes progressively possible. This is a process of "dying daily" via meditation.
iv) It is true that Shabd Yoga borrows some terms from Kundalini Yoga but this does not mean that it is the same thing. Misleadingly, Kriya Yoga master Sri Yukteswar is said to have written a book entitled Surat-Shabda-Yoga.
However, since it revealed too much esoteric information about the Shabd Yoga in connection with Kundalini, and was apparently withdrawn from circulation... (The author would welcome a copy of it for his work into the research, and development of Multi-Dimensional Science).Incidently, the term Shabd, Shabad,or Shabda can mean inner, and indeed,outer Sound, or Music depending on context.
v)There is yet the claim that the Guru Granth Sahib the Sikh "Bible" has many references to Kundalini as being possibly the same as Shabd Yoga. This is more "incorrect thinking". Infact, the Granth Sahib is a massive work, and there are virtually no references to the Kundalini itself...
vi)Finally, Surat Shabd Yoga is NOT to be confused with Nada Yoga. The latter is the old Vedic system of contacting inner Sounds but these relate to the lower ones of the intermediate planes of the Astral Region. In Shabd Yoga there are five major Sounds. These pertain to the Five Major Regions.
F.The "Problem" With Scandals In The Radhasoami Faith.
On the internet especially there have been a number of possible "scandals" concerning certain "Satgurus" (and indeed, gurus of other traditions) of the Radhasoami Faith. Much of this is questionable, and usually has little, or no independent corroboration from other witnesses. Moreover, the further back in time we go there are less records if any on any "Satguru".
Some of these "records" can be found in India Office Library and Records in London. Jaimal Singh is for example listed as being in the army there, and reference can be found to Saligram, or Huzur Maharaj being honoured by the British. Furthermore, it is possible to trace pamphlets (some proscribed), and books about the early attempts to denigrate the Radhasoami Faith, and its Satgurus. Most if not all published information had to be registered under a specific Act of Parliament
Nowadays, it is possible to quickly find out anything about anybody "illegally" via detective agencies especially on the internet where they can hack into government, and commercial computers. Privacy has become a problem on the web for sometime.
Anyhow, the following are certain key examples of certain "Satgurus" who have fallen from grace. For legal reasons, indentifying names, and places have been omitted:-
1. One "Satguru" sexually abused women now, and again. Actual witnesses statements exist.
2. A writer on the Radhasoami Faith published the claim that a certain "Satguru" sexually interferred with young girls.
3. A certain "Satguru" possibly used disciples to illegally smuggle in presents from other countries.
4. One "Satguru" has collected computers for the Satsang and some of these may belong to the restricted technology listing, and it would thus be illegal for them to have been imported into India.
5. Another "Satguru" had a mistress. To his credit, he admitted that this was true...
Such revelations are excellent gun-fodder for sceptics.
However, I (the author) believe that in certain cases these may be a test of faith, or psychic tricks (or riddhis, or illusions, or visual psychic tricks which could involve an advanced form of mass hallucination, or "magic") to fool people.Some "Satgurus" may well be initiators acting purely on the behalf of their predescessor with whom they probably have inner contact. This implies they may not necessarily have reached the highest planes of "perfection", and that their character may not also be perfect in the spiritual sense. Thus, they may do things which may be wrong, or even criminal on "rare" occasions. Yet, they still have the authority to initiate new seekers into Surat Shabd Yoga because their line of "Satgurus" has at least one Perfect Master with full spiritual power. As to why this could well be is still subject to speculation.
To find out more light on this the reader can go if desired to my article on Multi-Dimensional Science on the kheper website where there is a section which deals in part with this very "problem". Reference is also made to the teaching of Faqir Chand who was a respected Shabd Yoga Mystic, and seemed to believe that its ones Higher Self which acted as the real inner Satguru (ie the Radiant Form of the Teacher) during Shabd Yoga, or any other similiar practice, and that the outer Master irrespective of his, or her actions only acted as a catalyst.
Sawan Singh though seemed to claim that at initiation he actually created the Shabd Form in each of his Satsangis. Whenever there was a serious crisis one of these Forms would telepathically transmit its message to the physical master who would thereby make a decision. It is quite clear that we have more to learn about the actual modus operandi operating between disciple, and master.
Yet, Chands ideas in the main are still valid, and relevant as far as they go. Moreover, what matters in Surat Shabd Yoga is the need to practice, and reform oneself. It is claimed that Sawan Singh said in the book entitled With the Three Great Masters by Munshi Ram that there should be no worry about whether a Shabd Yoga Master is Perfect, or not as one, or more of his predecessors may appear within to help the the disciple to ascend the "Higher Regions". In other words, the Light of Truth reveals Itself via inner experience.
As already suggested but expressed differently, the Higher Self (in the Chandian context) which is ultimately our real Satguru may even manifest ItSelf as a replica of the imperfect outer Master of Shabd Yoga. Whether something like this actually happens or not probably depends on spiritual background, and other factors. Yet, this "replica," or rather the Radiant Form may well be able to take the disciple to the "highest plane" of spiritual liberation (or as Sawan Singh is said to have alternatively suggested a genuine previous Master could appear "inside" to replace the "imperfect" Master to take the soul upwards). Yet, the outer manifestation of this "Guide" can do no such thing in the inner journey...
In keeping with most Indian mystical movements the Radhasoami Faith does not believe in the development of psychic power. Yet, the late Dr. Puri in Liverpool (UK) tried to use Shabd Yoga as a means of healing certain ailments.
G. Non-Absolutionist Sant Mat...?
As mentioned Faqir Chand was a Shabd Yoga Master but his view about Sant Mat can be regarded as being non-absolutist. In keeping with mystical Hinduism he believed that different types of Yoga appealed to different kinds of people. They ultimately lead to the Supreme Source of Creation. In other words, Surat Shabd Yoga is just one of many many Paths leading to "ultimate" Samadhi in contradiction to what we have been saying in this essay. Thus, in the Radhaswami Teachings the Sound, or Shabd is not the only means of spiritual liberation. Instead, powerful degrees of "natural" concentration can achieve It.
Chand was very open, and honest about his inner experiences in Shabd Yoga. He even admitted that he was not necessarily right, and even had doubts about whether he reached the "highest" state of conciousness. This may be a display of pure humility, or perhaps a degree of ignorance. One of his recognized successors was Sant Harjit Singh. It is claimed that he uses a mantra, or mantras with a specific "charge". When practised it allows the listener to go deeper, and deeper into the Sound, and Light until a blissful, and peaceful state of "no-thought" is reached which lies beyond supersensory phenomena.
A number of people who practice "pure" Surat Shabd Yoga come to him for help. Interestingly, like Faqir Chand, Harjit Singh though does not believe that the inner stages "described" in the writings of Dayal Singh, and other Satgurus "exist". They are regarded as projections of the Mind. Harjit Singh has pointed out that most gurus, and yogis are totally unknown to the public. As usual there is the claim too that Surat Shabd Yoga evolved from the Siddha Tradition, the Udasi branch of Sikhism, and other sources.
Apart from the Radhasoami Faith proper there are other virtually unknown groups which believe inner Sound, or the Word is the "sole" means of achieving the Truth. One headed by the "Satguru" Santsevi springs to mind..
In an infinite spiritual universe anything is possible, and it is important to retain an open mind. As the Masters say...the Truth ultimately lies within.......