There's a lot to like in a recent posting by David Lane on his Radhasoami Studies discussion group.
"What I Believe? -- a position paper of sorts by David Lane" describes how Lane feels about the Indian philosophy of Sant Mat, Radha Soami Satsang Beas version (Sant Mat comes in various guises, much as Christianity has many competing theologies).
One of the things I liked the most in this mini-essay was praise of me -- the person I'm closest to -- at the end. And I wasn't even expecting it!
Meaning, I didn't search out the posting because of the me-mention. I came across it in the course of perusing the Radhasoami Studies latest offerings, which I'm interested in because of the longstanding history I had with Sant Mat, just as David Lane did.
He wrote, in response to another person's posting:
I think you mentioned Brian Hines and I wanted to throw in my two cents about how much I admire what Brian has done with his blog and about vocalizing his views.
Brian has been initiated even longer than I have and yet he had the courage to come out publicly and state very clearly where he disagrees with the teachings..... and even his own writings. This is a rare and admirable trait.
Now I realize that satsangis may view him as off the path or as ex-satsangi or Kal's next to kin or whatever...... but from my perspective I think he represents the best trait of a genuine satsangi...... he wants to associate with what he believes is the truth..... and if that takes him in a completely different direction than Path of the Masters, then good on him (as surfers in Australia might say).
Brian is still giving satsang, but just in a more radical way.
Nicely said, David. And not just because what you said expresses nice sentiments about me.
I completely agree that a true "satsangi," which means someone who associates with truth, isn't only a devotee of certain India-based religious groups who have appropriated that word to describe members of their organizations.
A seeker of truth cares a lot more about truth than the path a particular group or person deems to be the best way of finding it. If truth isn't found in one direction, a genuine satsangi changes course.
This makes the most sense when searching for spiritual truths, meaning of life truths, metaphysical truths, supernatural truths. External truths related to objective reality have evidence standing behind them, guideposts which tell someone whether he or she is approaching a certain realm of truth.
But religious, philosophical, and mystical truths can't be demonstrably proven. Only experienced personally. Which means they aren't true in the sense of being true for everyone. Just for oneself.
So both David Lane and I are committed to distinguishing between these two sorts of truths: objective vs. subjective, general vs. personal, provable vs. unprovable, evident vs. hidden.
I've got no problem with someone who says, "The truth as I see it is..."
It's when someone claims "I see the truth as it is, and you should too..." that's problematic. Because as David notes in his posting:
I came to the path when I was 17 and now that I am 56 I don't think that much has changed in me, except that I have grown a bit more skeptical (and more vocal about it) over the years.
I still meditate (my kids just yelled that I meditate too much!), I am still a strict vegetarian, and I still have a deep and abiding love/affection for Charan Singh.
But do I agree with all of Sant Mat theology? NOPE. Indeed, I don't think I ever agreed with it in the absolutist sense.
...I disagree with notions of "perfect masters" and Kal powers and all this kind of stuff which seems to me to belong to our mythological past.
...I think Kirpal Singh had it right when he said that "Sant Mat should be treated like ANY OTHER SCIENCE." And what is that (at least for me)?
Critically, analytically, and skeptically. So, yes one can still meditate and still be skeptical of the theology surrounding it.
It's natural to meld the objective and subjective sides of a spiritual path/practice when someone first embraces it. That is, we like to think that out of the thousands of religions, theologies, mystical belief systems, and such in the world, we have found the One True Path.
In addition, we feel wonderful about what we've found. So intellect and emotion, objective truth and subjective feeling, outer and inner -- they go hand in hand for a while.
Eventually though, a sincere seeker after truth, a genuine "satsangi," may find that this conflating doesn't work for him or her any more. The seeker has seen through the spiritual path's attempts to push demonstrable evidence that it is the One True Path into another realm: life after death or a reincarnated life, for example.
I've come to understand that living a meaningful life can't be postponed.
At least, it shouldn't be.
There's no solid proof, none at all, that the life we're living now won't be our one and only chance to experience the cosmos. We need to make the most of this chance. Living inauthentically, mistaking illusion for truth, failing to feel the marvelous mystery of being -- so sad.
Often we make life a lot more complicated than it needs to be.
I'm not saying that I am anywhere near answering the question, "What's it all about?" I just think that Julian Baggini has some good advice in his book with the same title (which I blogged about in Meaning of life is whatever you find meaningful.
Here's a quote from Baggni's concluding chapter.
The mere fact that life's meaning is available and potentially evident to all is a major challenge to those who see themselves as the guardians of life's significance: the priests, gurus and teachers who would have us think life's meaning is beyond ordinary mortals.
To challenge this view is to challenge the power others seek to exert over us by their claims to special knowledge. The main argument of this book is therefore democratic and egalitarian, in that it returns to each of us the power and responsibility to discover and in part determine meaning for ourselves.