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Similarities with the Radhasoami tradition

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  • 'Radhasoami Reality' by M.Jurgensmeyer, Princeton Paperbacks ISBN 0-691-01092-7
  • 'The Radhasoami Tradition: A critical history of Guru Successorship.' Published by Garland Publishing, Inc., New York, New York, 1992. Author: David Christopher Lane NB. Online in full here.

Index to quotes:



'The kind of Hinduism that fascinated Westerners in the sixties was one of meditation practices and communal spirituality, and Hindu yoga was of special interest to those who wished to experiment in world spirituality. Radhasoami's Surat shabd yoga was seen as one among several promising styles that Hinduism offered.

Radhasoami teachings were also introduced to Westerners indirectly, through groups that utilized Radhasoami ideas but presented them under their own banner. The Eckankar movement, for example, borrowed directly from the writings of Radhasoami teachers, and its founder, Paul Twitchell, was an initiate of Kirpal Singh. Kirpal Singh had followed his own master, Sawan Singh, in linking the first phrase in Guru Nanak's morning prayer, "eckankar," to the highest level of spiritual consciousness. Twitchell followed suit and made it the name of his movement. The teachings of the Divine Light Mission, led by the boy guru Maharaj-ji, are essentially those of Radhasoami as well, and other spiritual leaders of the time were also influenced by Radhasoami teachings .

For a summary of Maharaj-ji's teachings, see Jeanne Messer, "Guru Maharaj,li and the Divine Light Mission," in Robert Bellah and Charles Glock, eds., The Neil, Religious Consciousness (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976), pp. 54-55,'

('Radhasoami Reality' pages 206-207)


'Sawan Singh attracted over one-hundred and twenty-five thousand initiates to Sant mat; the highest number in history up to that time. [Charan Singh, Sawan Singh's grandson and eventual successor at Beas, dramatically eclipsed the previous record by initiating well over one million and two hundred thousand disciples.] [*NOTE: Given the tremendous amount of interest in Radhasoami in India, Charan Singh may well initiate more seekers in 1989 alone than Sawan Singh initiated in forty-five years. A remarkable number when one considers that the Beas satsang does not advocate proselytizing or advertising. *]'

(D.Lane- Radhasoami Chapter 3)

'As of July 1990, the Beas orgainzation reported a total of over 1,400,000 initiates; almost all of the recent growth is in urban India. '

('Radhasoami Reality' page 143)

The appeal of Knowledge which is beyond Mind and Intellect

'In reviving the idea common in medieval India (and, for that matter, in medieval Europe) that truth is ultimately not embodied in logical propositions but in remarkable persons, the Radhasoami teachers are able to strike at the heart of a modern problem: the limits of knowledge. The great advances of modern science stretch the imagination not only with regard to what is known but also with regard to what cannot easily be known. In the deep uncertainty that comes with this awareness, the Radhasoami teachers offer the calm and security of a relationship: a bond with those who have mastered knowledge far beyond the reach of any conventional mind.'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 87)

The desire to know 'Someone Important' / Biblical parallels

'Those who do escape, and embrace the Radhasoami faith, are linked not only to a special knowledge but also to a special person. For Westerners, such reverence requires a leap of faith. It is not surprising, then, that the words of Western satsang"s often take on a biblical luster when they ponder the master's glories. "I sit at the feet of one whose powers are not limited by time or space," Julian Johnson wrote, "whose very glance has in it the power of death or of eternal life; aye, whose commands even the waves of this ancient sea must obey.' Another Western satsangi, an African American from Chicago whose three brothers are all Baptist preachers, said that his interest in Radhasoami stemmed from his interest in the Bible: "I had always wanted to live in biblical times," he said .'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 215)

Guru as God

'Even more impressive, of course, is the conviction that behind this physical appearance is in accessible form of God. At the end of the evening sessions that Master Charan Singh held for his Western followers oil the second floor of the Beas guesthouse, all would rise and hold their hands prayerfully as he walked down the aisle and down the stairs. As soon as he left the hall, the crowd would scramble to the balcony for one last glimpse of his presence as he crossed through the garden and returned to his own residence. On one of these occasions an American man softly said, "There goes God."

Since people with Christian and Jewish backgrounds are unfamiliar with the concept of semidivine holy men, the master must be fully God, or at least have sufficient spiritual weight to bear the role played by scripture and revelation in biblical traditions. One American satsangi from Georgia said that he was attracted to the Radhasoami tradition because Christian religious teachers lacked a voice of authority and could not give him "straight answers," whereas the Beas masters could. Others are inspired by what appears to them to be the manifestation of Christ in the present day. For those Western satsangis who are more secular, the master's teachings replace older forms of philosophy, explaining "the origin and purpose of life."'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 215)

Psychological Motivations for wanting a Master

'In addition to the religious and philosophical reasons for thinking of the master in ultimate terms, there are psychological motivations. Sudhir Kakar points out that the exaggeration of the master's qualities goes hand in hand with the magnification of one's own pride in knowing such a person. These "psychological mechanisms of idealization and identification," he says, "give a newfound centrality to the self." According to Kakar, "the uncritical eulogizing of the guru" is linked to "the disciple's desperate need for idealization and identification with the Master.' By enlarging their master's role in the cosmos, some disciples may be magnifying their own, and they see in their master's features the ideal characteristics they hope for in themselves.

An American devotee, Katherine Wason, describes how she was imtially attracted to the "kind, beautiful face" of the master because it emanated power and love." Julian Johnson also used the language of love in describing his master, whose heart "holds only loving kindness to all" and whose voice "is vibrant with love." These words signal what is perhaps the most personal motivation drawing Johnson and other devotees into the master-disciple relationship, the longing for an intimate union. This desire often finds expression in poetry, as in this bit of doggerel composed on the occasion of Charan Singh's visit to the United States:

It's Master's love that brings Him here
To help America bloom,
To purify the atmosphere
As Love, for love, makes room.'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 216)

The need for a living Master

'There are other benefits to be gained from the link with the master's power: a sense of security, for instance, which she experiences as love. "If you have the love of the master in your heart," Parsini says, "you are strong and unafraid and at peace within." Other religious traditions also supply such assurances, of course, but Parsini has no use for a religion with an absentee Lord, and on that account is unmoved by both Christian and Sikh religiosity. She has often visited an attractive new Sikh gurdwara near her home, but she challenges the Sikh notion of divinity. "Where is their guru?" she asks. "I looked around and didn't see any." At the Beas Dera she is not disappointed.'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 197)

Events provide theatrical backdrop for the vision of the Master

'PARSINI is a village woman in an urban region. When she goes to the Beas Dera, she does not see the world of K. L. Khanna and the other administrators, except for the products of their labors; that is, the Dera itself and the gala events that provide a sort of theatrical backdrop for her vision of the master. Their world touches but never quite intersects hers.'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 195)

The need for Centres

'The charisma of any society, argues Clifford Geertz, is conveyed not only through its leaders but through a sense of a center. Geertz describes such centers as "concentrated loci of serious acts." They are the "arenas" in a society, "where its leading ideas come together with its leading institutions" and where "momentous events" are thought to occur. These centers, Geertz suggests, are a vital part of the charisma of leadership, for they convey a sense of "being near the heart of things." At the heart of Radhasoami is the master, and the place where he lives becomes the Greenwich that supplies the mean for the rest of the world. That place becomes the intersection where sacred and mundane orders of reality meet, a sort of axis mundi.

For these reasons, the Radhasoami colonies have often been created with utopian visions, as experiments in social living. There are a great many differences among them, however. Many of the colonies are small, but several are sizable: Dayalbagh at one time occupied over three thousand acres of land, and Beas is sufficiently large to be declared a township.'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 149)

The same motto as early Divine Light Mission at Dayalbagh

'The cosmopolitan, genteel atmosphere at Dayalbagh befits what Anand Swarup envisaged as a socialism of the elite-the "Aris-Demo" ideal, as he called it. Swarup wanted Dayalbagh's residents to "act as if they were a Democratic Community of Aristocrats - Aristocrats, not on account of wealth, etc., but Aristocrats in Spiritualism." Aristocracy was not to mean a life of leisure, however, as Gurcharandas Mehta dramatically showed; he is said to have "denied himself rest and comfort and lived up to the great motto 'Work is Worship.' " At Dayalbagh hard work and a sense of being elite were compatible.'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 64)

Significance of Darshan

'....remarkable, is the ability of a master to transmit his or her power through darshan. This word, "vision," refers to seeing and being seen by the master and the benefits thought to be transmitted in that exchange. In the wider Hindu tradition, darshan refers to the visual interaction between devotees and temple gods but is also sometimes applied to the sight of holy people.

This is especially so in Radhasoami, for its teachings maintain that the eyes are energy centers and energy transmitters; hence the meeting of eyes between master and devotee is a moment of dramatic spiritual interaction. One Radhasoami writer described it as the ultimate aesthetic experience. "On beholding the Guru," he claimed, "there is an indescribable ecstasy which is spontaneous and permeates every pore of the body." Darshan might also be regarded as a sort of spiritual ingestion, and with that comparison in mind, L. A. Babb has suggested that the principle behind it is "You become what you see." The physical sight of the master helps the devotee to appropriate the master within and fashion a true internal image of the guru.'

('Radhasoami Reality' pages 83-84)

The significance of the Masters Feet

'Often the least desirable elements of the guru's body are singled out as being of spiritual value: hair and nail clippings, for example, and anything associated with the feet .The most common representation of a departed master is his sandals, often placed prominently on the throne where he once sat. By the same token the feet of living masters also merit special attention; songs celebrate their beauty and saving power. A striking passage in Swami Shiv Dayal's biography describes how two women devotees would sit beside him and adoringly stroke his feet and suck his toes . The logic of this foot-worship-common throughout the Hindu and Buddhist world-is straightforward: the lowest level of an exalted figure, such as a deity, is the point at which the less exalted can make contact.'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 68)

Darshan Events / Festivals (Bhandararas)

'At Beas, the crowd is enormous. Tens of thousands participate, more than can be contained within Beas's Satsang Ghar, and services are held in a huge open field behind the building. Despite the size of the crowd, each member of the congregation is able to file past the master and receive the blessings of his darshan directly and close at hand. Given the multitude, this takes quite a while, so a special time is usually allotted for it in the early afternoon. The master arrives after an interlude of privacy and midday, rest and seats himself beneath an umbrella on top of a platform ten feet or so above ground level. The congregation has been waiting quietly on canvases that have been stretched over the bare earth, the women on the right and the men on the left. A separate place is left at the very front for foreign devotees.

Darshan is the high point of the spiritual day, a moment of eucharistic participation in which each observer becomes an actor. Kakar, a psychoanalyst, observes that "the transformation of the disciples' faces as their eyes looked into his" was "remarkable," and he likens the "whole transformation" to that experienced by a "nursing infant." At the end of darshan the devotees are nourished even more literally: they receive prasad, a gift of food similar to that received in Hindu temples and Sikh gurdwaras, and it also transmits the guru's power. In the granting of darshan and the giving of prasad, a transfer of power is thought to occur, an alchemy by means of which the guru takes in the gross love from his devotees and gives back a spiritual love.'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 179)

Travelling to Events

'The events at Beas are different, however, and her eyes light up when she describes them. "Everyone goes to the bhandaras," she says. On those occasions she gathers together a group of her friends and they make the entire trip a festive undertaking. The journey takes most of the day, even though Beas is only about forty miles from home. They begin by crowding onto a perilously overloaded scooter-taxi to Rupar, then board an equally crowded bus to Jalandhar, and take another to the stop on the Jalandhar-Amritsar road that is nearest the Dera. They walk the final three miles, although in some instances the driver of a creaking horsecart will urge them to scramble on board for the last stage of their journey. All this is part of the excitement, for in Parsini's mind, the bhandara begins "as soon as we leave the village."'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 198)

Satsang, Darshan and Service (Seva) at Events (Bhandararas)

'The four events in a bhandara day - satsang, darshan, seva, and the collective meal-summarize the Radhasoami experience. At the center of each is the master. In the first two events, he presents himself in audible and visible form; in the second two, he allows the devotees to respond, through acts of service and through partaking of his food. Simply by following the routine of any bhandara day, those who are unfamiliar with the Radhasoami faith gain a sense of what it is all about: service, community and the spiritual power of the master.'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 180)

Being a part of the crowd

'Simply being part of the crowd is a great thrill for Parsini. All the attention focused on the master corroborates Parsini's conviction that he is a sacred person, and the size of the crowd gives her a feeling of pride. During darshan, when each person comes to the front of the audience for a brief visual contact with the Lord, she joins her friends in songs of reverence as they move up the crowded aisle to have his gaze directed at them, even for a fraction of a second.'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 198)

Pictures of the Master for sale

'In the Agra branches, where meditation practices include visualization of the master's face, pictures of the masters are a popular sales item. At Beas, however, the popularity of these pictures is in defiance of the Master's warning that such external images are not to be used as an aid to meditation . Only the internal picture avails.'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 98)

Local Satsangs

'Approximately ten miles away in the town of Rupar a plot of land has been purchased by local satsang's and satsang is held every Sunday, but Parsini and her village friends show little enthusiasm for it. "It's mainly for shopkeepers," she explains.'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 198)

'At the front of the meeting halls is a raised podium for a speaker, or with luck, a master; a picture hanging on the wall behind the podium reminds the faithful that even when he is not physically present he is, in a sense, there.'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 114)

'The homilies of both preachers and masters are devotional; they urge followers to love the master, accept his love of them, and radiate that love in the service, righteousness, and humanity of daily life. Some theological concepts are discussed-such as nam, "the Name," which is the ultimate revelation of the Absolute-but allusions to the soul journey and the higher regions are made only in the most general way, in references to the spiritual dimension of the self or the promise of the world to come. Particulars about the mystical path of meditation are left to the writings of the masters and their special discourses; and although the congregation will usually meditate together prior to the readings, satsang is primarily the time when the other path to spiritual achievement-devotion receives its due.'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 115)

Music at Satsang

'One of the things that makes the simple liturgy special is the beauty with which the verses are chanted. In satsangs held outside of India, the verses are read without musical intonation, but in India, satsangis prefer to hear the medieval sant texts in the musical form for which they were written. "Music consoles and silences the mind," one master explained, "and it leads to hearing the music inside.'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 115)

Video events

'Sometimes the need for quoting the master at length is satisfied by a modern spiritual resource: a cassette tape recorder projecting the master's own voice. This is particularly popular in meetings held abroad, as are televised satsangs through videotape cassettes and VCRs.'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 116)

Poetry of Nanak Kabir etc.

'In satsangs connected with the Beas branch the scriptures used are frequently the Sikhs' sacred text, the Adi Granth, a compilation of poetry from the medieval sants, including Nanak, Ravi Das, and Kabir. Additional sant poetry may also be used, as are verses from the Sar Barchan of the first guru and the Ghat Ramayana of Tulsi Sahib.'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 115)

Connection with The Sant Tradition

'The best known of the medieval sants are Kabir and Nanak . The former, said to have been born a Hindu but raised a Muslim in the fifteenth century, composed in a terse, vigorous style that even in English translation has a fresh, modern appeal." (Others from the medieval period who are commonly regarded throughout India as sants are Ravi Das, Nani Dev, and Dadu. Other bhakti poets who are often linked with these figures are Mira Bai, Sur Das, and Tulsi Das; their poetry is usually addressed to particular forms of the gods rather than to a formless divinity, which is the usual criterion for demarcating those poets known as sants from writers of sacred devotional poetry in general.)

Through abrupt, mind-churning conjunctions of images, Kabir would jolt his listeners out of their complacent satisfaction with the exterior realities of life and introduce them to a sharply different, almost indescribable realm within. Nanak was less innovative as a stylist and is remembered more for his concepts, especially his attention to the unknown name of the Lord as the access to spiritual union. Nanak is also remembered by the Sikhs as the first in a lineage of ten masters that extended from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries; these ten are collectively esteemed as the founders of the Sikh community.

Although it is difficult to identify a definite core of motifs that can be found in the writings of all the sants, the following themes are widely shared: the concept of the absolute as beyond human attributes (nirguna, without qualities), and by implication the judgment that the entire Hindu pantheon is insufficient if taken in its own terms; the persuasion that all forms of religious leadership and accomplishment-those claimed by Brahmans, yogis, and the like - are ultimately invalid, save one, that of the devoted follower of the Lord, whose own achievements in spiritual matters enable him or her to serve as a model for others; the conviction that such spirituality is essentially interior rather than bound up with external forms of piety and religiosity; the belief that this interior experience can be invoked through a sacred word or name; and the expectation that those who follow the path of spiritual growth will enjoy a spiritual fellowship (satsang) with one another.

The Radhasoami tradition displays an allegiance to each of these tenets, but each is refracted through a lens peculiar to Radhasoami.'

('Radhasoami Reality' pages 22-24)

Service at Events

'Darshan is not the only moment during the bhandara when Parsin, and her friends are singled out: they are also given tasks. To her there is nothing unusual about the seva of moving loads of dirt on her head-whatever lessons of humility are to be learned through this labor were taught to her almost from birth- but at bhandara it is blessed by the presence of the master, members of upper castes and foreigners. And in addition, she and her friends are given special assignments. Several of them have been designated sevadars. Parsini, for instance, works in the kitchen where chapattis are made and lentil soup is cooked to feed the thousands. She spends an hour and a half each day helping to stoke the fires and roll out the chapattis with dozens of other women assigned to that role.'

('Radhasoami Reality' page199)

'Most of the money and labor that is contributed in the name of the master is used to build up the Radhasoami organization. The effort of helping to move piles of dirt from one place to another may seem a token gesture, but when multiplied by the efforts of thousands of devotees it leads to the creation of new dams, roads, and fields that are a tangible benefit to the whole community.

Administrative work is also done as an unpaid act of seva, often by retired executives. The organization that coordinates it is known as the Seva Samin (service society), which one administrator described as "the grandest of ideas ." In Radhasoami organizations, unlike their secular counterparts, administrators are able to steer their agencies towards the noble purposes for which they were founded without any concern for profits or competitors. Even at Dayalbagh's factories, the purpose is not to yield a profit but "to engage in seva as much as possible ." At Beas, volunteer workers are called sevadars (providers of service), and during festival occasions vast networks of them do everything from managing tea stalls to keeping the queues at bus stands in proper order. They wear armbands with the word sevadar emblazoned in red, and receive a special satsang from the master as a reward for their labors.'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 143)

The close servants of The Master

'Sawan Singh, in turn, had several disciples who served him with a passionate exclusivity. In addition to Bibi Rukko, there was a bachelor named Shadi who "could not stand women," but who was a "very loving devotee" of Sawan Singh . He looked after the master constantly and reserved for himself the special tasks of preparing the master's bed and removing the socks from his feet . At Peepalmandi in Agra, a young European devotee lived in the household of his master, A. P. Mathur, whom he served "spiritually, mentally and physically,' in order to love Mathur the way Rai Saligram was said to have loved his master: "as Radha loved Krishna . These metaphors of love are strong, for they point toward the ultimate union between the souls of disciple and master that is the goal of Radhasoami spirituality.'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 140)

Servile Love

'With such evidence of devoted service and servile love, it is also no wonder that Radhasoami devotees would think of love and seva as united. Love is considered an act of seva, and seva the expression of love. Anand Swarup regarded the two as equal and used a metaphor from science to describe this equation:

If you are given a piece of iron and are asked to make it fly into the air, you shall have to employ either of the two methods, viz either you will grind it so fine that, reduced to smallest particles, it may fly into the air, or you will heat it on fire until it is converted into gas and mixes with the air. Exactly the same two methods are employed to refine the mind, that is, either it is purified or made tender by selfmortification or it is made extremely fine and pure through the fire of divine love .

Other masters have claimed that self-mortification is not an alternative to devotion but a complement to it. "Real love demands complete surrender," Sawan Singh explained, for in the eyes of a true lover "all worldly things are dead.' The implication is that ardent feelings of devotion are not enough, and that true devotees will give their all."

"The only requirement is that the service at hand must allow one to diminish the grip of one's own ego and lose oneself completely in the master's love."'

('Radhasoami Reality' pages 141-142)

Money Pledges

'Finally, there is "money seva": cash offerings and pledges that are expected to average a tenth of the devotee's salary. There is no attempt to enforce this tithe, however, and appeals for funds are seldom heard at Radhasoami gatherings. Instead, some people have had to be restrained from giving too much Rai Saligram, it is said, "placed His entire monthly salary at the Lotus Feet of Soamiji Maharaj ." In most cases the money is not placed at the master's feet, however, but in a trust fund maintained by his organization. Even though it does not go directly to the master, this money is still considered seva because it is given in the master's name and for purposes he has designated. Moreover, it helps to sustain the satsang, the family of the master. As one master explained, "love and service to the devotees of the Lord is love and service to the Lord Himself."'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 143)


'The link between master and disciple, greater soul and lesser soul, is established at the time of initiation. It is a marriage of an extraordinary sort, an enduring union meant to last a lifetime and more. Through the initiation rite, the master transmits the technique of surat shabd yoga to the devotee and, what is more important, imparts the power to utilize it. The high point of the initiation event is reached when the two come together, master and disciple, in what is described by one Radhasoami master as a magnetic attraction. In some cases the initiate experiences this as the sudden awareness of remarkable sound and light within. The Ruham Satsang master, Kirpal Singh, would quiz his initiates to determine whether they had, indeed, received some unusual experience, and most would affirm that they had.'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 95)

Mass Initiations

'At Beas, initiation is often a mass event; thousands of people file past the master in multiple lines to be selected, and they later form small groups to receive the charged names from the master's assistants.'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 96)

Intimate Initiations

'Masters who have smaller followings can afford to be more intimate. Thakar Singh, for instance, meets with initiates in small groups on three separate occasions. In the first, instructions are given; in the second, sittings are held to impart the light and the sound; and in the third, the initiate's progress since the second session is reviewed.'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 96)


'Followers of Beas who live outside India receive an intimate initiation from the master's representatives; Roland deVries, one of his chief representatives in the United States, says he tries to create "a ceremony of tremendous beauty. "'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 96)

Requirements for Initiation (vows)

'At the time of Radhasoami initiation, candidates are questioned about their capacity for detachment and control. Special attention is paid to their habits regarding the use of drugs and alcohol, the eating of meat, and sex. From a Western point of view, the seriousness with which diet is regarded is the most unusual feature of Radhasoami requirements. Radhasoami teachings insist on strict vegetarianism, forbidding even the eating of eggs. Initiates are not allowed "even an occasional plate of soup containing eggs, fish, fowl or meat or meat broth."

These are the Beas and Ruham Satsang requirements; similar moral strictures are required at other branches. At Dayalbagh, for example, the five vows taken at initiation oblige satsangis to avoid intoxicants, refrain from eating meat, be financially self-supporting, accept Radbasoami as the true name of God, and not divulge the secrets of the meditation practices (Souvenir, p. 304)'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 129)

'In addition to the transmission of spiritual names, initiation includes vows of moral purity and advice on how one should engage in surat shabd yoga. The precise techniques are kept secret, but it is widely known that they involve ways of listening for the sound and looking for the light.'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 96)

Role of Secrecy - Exclusivity

'This notion that beyond the more accessible, scientific teachings of Radhasoami is a more rarefied truth might explain why there is an air of secrecy about some aspects of Radhasoami teachings and practices. One of the first descriptions of Radhasoami by an outsider, a Christian missionary in India, called it "a semi-secret sect." Some say the reference to Radhasoami teachings as the "secret of secrets" suggests only the intimacy of the truth that is conveyed from master to disciple, not its exclusivity. Even so, the Soamibagh branch has stamped on a manual of meditation practices that "under no circumstances" is it to be shown "to anyone who is not a follower of the Radhasoami Faith . Similarly, the Beas and Ruham Satsang branches keep their initiatory mantra a secret: satsangis are forbidden to divulge the words whispered to them at the time of their initiation.

The fact that a certain amount of secrecy surrounds Radhasoami teachings and practices means that the Radhasoami knowledge is special, something meant only for a few. "It is an amazing thing," a woman from South Africa remarked to me at the Beas Dera, "to think that this treasury of information is held in the hands of such a small circle as ours. What the world wouldn't give to know what we know !" Knowing what others do not know is indeed an exciting aspect of faith, and this feeling of rare privilege is enhanced, for Western satsangis, by the fact that the truths are to be found in an unusual and distant land.'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 214)

Relevence of 'practice' to remove doubts

'When Paul Brunton the author of 'A Search in Secret India', visited Dayalbagh in the 1930s, he was attracted to what he described as the " suavely-spoken flow of subtle, recondite ideas" that came from the Great Master of Dayalbagh, Anand Swarup. Brunton saw in them the perfect blend of science and spirituality he was seeking. Still, he had doubts. "You say that the only way to verify these statements is to practise your Sound-Yoga exercises," Brunton said to the Dayalbagh master. "Can you not give me some personal experience first, some convincing proof at first hand?"

Anand Swarup assured him that he could not, that the proof was in the practice. "I am sorry," Brunton replied. "I am built in such a way that it is difficult to give belief before proof." Swarup then turned up his hands in what Brunton described as "a helpless gesture."'

The Dayalbagh master's gesture expressed a genuine dilemma in Radhasoami's compromise with modern thought, for its truth is a matter not only of knowledge gained through experience, but of a state of mind, a level of truthfulness. This true consciousness comes about not just as a result of Radhasoami spiritual exercises but because the practitioner develops a trusting relationship with the master. These two aspects of Radhasoami are related, for the yoga practices are the means by which the master transforms the self. Ultimately the practices make sense only as part of the master's process for redeeming and transforming the world.'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 88)

Meditation - The Variety of Techniques

'"One is expected to meditate two to four hours daily, the early hours before dawn being preferred. "

"As the yoga begins, the devotees close their eyes, and repeat the name or names of the Lord that were given to them at the time of initiation. They may also close their left car in an attempt to block any sound coming from that direction and listen only for sound coming from the right and from above.' In their minds they attempt to shut out all thoughts and images save one: a mental portrait of the face of their master, which they attempt to project onto an internal screen between and slightly above the eyes. They focus on this image, repeat the divine names, and listen for the sound, and as they do, they may see the form of the master glow as if excited by an electrical current. Then it radiates a brilliant light, and the sound, distant at first, becomes close and clear like the rushing of many winds. The body goes numb. The journey has begun.

At least that is what is supposed to happen, but the experiences of any two devotees are never exactly alike, and the instructions sometimes vary. Kirpal Singh, for instance, advised against deliberately creating an internal image of the master in one's mind, saying it should come on its own accord. Some form of surat shabd yoga practices are essential to all followers, however, and most devotees will try them again and again, for these simple exercises are only the beginning.'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 88)

Practise (Abbyas)

'An extraordinary journey lies beyond, and experiencing it is the great promise of Radhasoami faith. The activity that enables one to undertake that journey is called abbyas, literally "practices," which include the initial exercises, simran (repetition) and dhyan (contemplation)- repeating the names of the Lord and visualizing (or waiting for) the master's image. These are prerequisities to bhajan, which means "song" but is also etymologically linked to "love." In the Radhasoami context it is the spiritual exercise of riding the divine current through interior realms until one reaches one's ultimate home.

Reaching that home is what salvation in the Radhasoami sense is all about. It is granted through the grace of the divine master, but by arduously following the instructions for surat shabd yoga, followers have the opportunity of participating in their own salvation. Initiation into these practices is tantamount to baptism into the faith.'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 88)

Experiences during meditation - sounds

'Radhasoami masters give advice about what the soul should avoid - e.g., images of houses, gardens and people-and what it should seek .In the latter category are certain sounds. "Stick to the bells," Charan Singh once advised, "and put your attention into that deep, melodious gong sound ."

Hearing the sound of a bell is often said to be one of the first signs that the soul is moving out of the body. According to one Radhasoami master, the cue comes when a rather ordinary metallic sound begins to change into the pure tone of a bell. The wife of Darshan Singh tells a charming story about how, shortly after she was married but before she was formally initiated, she was in the presence of Kirpal Singh and heard the sound of bells without knowing where they came from or what they meant . Ordinarily, however, practitioners know what the light and bells mean because they have been looking and listening for them intently during their meditation. The main activities of meditation are to sit quietly not necessarily in the familiar lotus position but in any comfortable posture - and listen for a sound coming from the right and above, and to block out all thoughts.'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 98)

Shutting off the senses

'There are, however, other physical aids to meditation. In addition to simran and dhyan are attempts to block the "nine windows of the body, a practice similar to the spiritual exercises of Nath yogis." These"windows" include the eyes, ears, and nostrils, the anal and genital openings, and the mouth. The point is to discourage the soul from continuing to search outward for sensual pleasures and encourage it to turn inwards and upwards toward the tenth opening of the body, the invisibIe third eye. The precise way in which the eyes and ears are blocked and the body attuned is secret, but Rai Saligram's published instructions advise initiates to hold a finger over their left ear, thus turning away from the direction where Shiva and Shakti reign. An early missionary account by Hervey Griswold describes a somewhat different pose: the little fingers of each hand are placed in the center of the forehead, with the thumbs pressing each ear shut. Griswold also mentions that a flame may be visualized in addition to the form of the master.'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 99)

The Pitfalls of Expectations in Meditation

'Considering the importance that Radhasoami places upon the triumphant Journey of the soul, it seems a pity that for many followers the timeconsuming, lonely, repetitive hours of intense interior practice produce nothing, at least nothing resembling what the glamorous descriptions of fabulous realms have led them to expect.'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 107)

Followers are forbidden to discuss their experiences

'It is impossible to calculate just how successful the thousands and thousands of attempts at surat shabd yoga have been, for Radhasoami masters forbid their disciples to discuss such matters either among themselves or with outsiders. Among those adherents who have been willing to talk about what happens during meditation, only a few claim to have experienced anything remarkable. During a gathering of some seven hundred foreign devotees at Delhi, a middle-aged American angrily confronted Master Charan Singh and complained that his eighteen years of arduous simran and dhyan had produced absolutely nothing. Charan Singh sympathized but offered only the suggestion that he should try again." Not everyone who tries, he explained, will be privileged to see the higher regions during this lifetimes.'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 107)

Practise is not everything - Faith counts

'Many followers of Radhasoami seem quite content to travel life's road without being dazzled by special experiences, and others seem to have little interest in even trying. "I know I should do my abhyas more frequently," a woman at Dayalbagh said, "but I haven't the patience or the time, and to tell the truth I don't think I'm much good at it." For her, and for the many who try but fail, the grand dimensions of the soul's journey must be taken on faith. Those most determined to achieve spiritual success are devotees from Europe and America. Many of their Indian peers, by contrast, are satisfied with whatever level of spiritual achievement has been allotted them, reflecting a traditional Indian acceptance of the idea that some people in this world are more skilled in spiritual matters than others. Nevertheless all are encouraged to try to reach the higher realms, so many who try no doubt fall.'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 107)

The Solace of Devotion

'If this leads to frustration, Radhasoami teachings provide a salve: a parallel path to god-realization that shortcuts the way through ascending realms to the ultimate reality. This path is bhakti, loving devotion. Some Radhasoami teachers put it on a par with surat shabd yoga;"' others rank it even higher. "Love," the Great Master at Beas explained, "is the most powerful and effective of all practices to meet the Lord." His own master, Jaimal Singh, put the matter even more dramatically in a letter written to the young Sawan Singh. "Even after a hundred years of Bhajan," he wrote to his youthful disciple, "one does not get so purified as by an intense longing for Darshan, provided that longing is real and true, and that the love for the Sat Guru is from the innermost heart."'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 108)

Mind / Intellect versus Heart

'The devotional shortcut sounds easy, but it is not always so. Simple folk, such as the many villagers who flock to the presence of the master, are thought to be better candidates for it than their educated, urban counterparts, since they are less subject to the deviousness of the intellect. "Those villagers are lucky," one American devotee said enviously. "The master simply tells them to concentrate their thoughts here"- pointing to her forehead-"and think of him, and they're on their way to Sach Khand." The more sophisticated devotees cannot rely on devotion alone, for the power of their minds is too great for love to conquer directly; hence the need for hours of introspective mind control.'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 109)

Master provides reassurance and can intercede in Salvation

'Even if those hours (of practise) do not produce results, one reassurance remains: such devotees are still in touch with a master who resonates with the energy of the higher realms and who can intercede on their behalf. Their love for him may still prove to be their salvation. And even if the soul's journey to Sach Khand may appear so arduous as to be impossible, still it serves for the Radhasoami adherent as a symbol of ultimate optimism. By ennobling and giving meaning to the journey that each person undertakes in life, the cosmic Journey affirms the possibilities of human experience. It clarifies who the would-be journeyer is, the nature of the world through which he or she journeys, the marvelous end that is possible, and the cause of any pitfalls along the way. It provides a cognitively satisfying road map, even if one is unable to make the trip. Since the modern world succeeds so dismally in giving a pattern to any of these matters, the Radhasoami view is, for those who accept it, a wonder indeed.'

('Radhasoami Reality' page 109)