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July 09, 2005

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Dear Brian,

You wrote-
“Then the obvious intent is for this advice to be promulgated widely far beyond the original individual recipient”

Yes for other individuals to whom this advice may be suited. It is not possible for the masters to meet everyone so many people get their answers from the books and different people get their answers from different books in answers to different questions. In other words they pick what they feel is useful. I believe this is the intent and if a disciple tries to generalize it, then it is his/her folly.

If we believe that the masters have some spiritual power , then they have an insight which extends beyond sensory perception. It is possible then that their answer is based on some knowledge that we may not be aware of. It could be situation/ person specific as you mentioned. The point is that i feel it is unfair for a person to judge a spiritual teacher unless he/she shares the teacher's level of awareness. Furthermore in case of your personal situation, it was the disciples and not Master Charan Singh who tried to stop you from executing your decision. I find it unfair that the Masters are judged on the basis of the actions of sevadars. This is not a perfect world and the imperfections serve a purpose in that they help us to learn and become better. It seems to me that it is not the Master's intention that the the sevadars should be a group of perfect people. For then what purpose would the seva serve ?

Ultimately we are on this path for a reason. We are drawn to the Master and the teachings. Until direct experience happens we stay on the path because of this “gut feeling”. If we lose this “ gut feeling” we are free to follow other paths. The Masters never criticize any other spiritual path. So why should we judge them on things which are far from the core of the path. I believe the core is the personal practice of meditation and the personal relationship with the Guru. It seems investing oneself into the behavior of the community- “ satsangis” is moving away from this core.

Best Regards,
Ramnik

Brain wrote: This realization struck while I was in the midst of writing my third book, “Return to the One,” which is about the spiritual teachings of a 3rd century Greek philosopher, Plotinus. Radha Soami Satsang Beas wanted to add a Mystics of the West series to their existing Mystics of the East series. I agreed to write this book in cooperation with RSSB, hopefully fulfilling both my own literary goals and those of the spiritual organization to which I had belonged for so long.
Given the length this post already has achieved, it would unduly stretch the reader’s patience if I were to go into many details of the eight-year process of researching and writing “Return to the One.” I’ll just say that it was enormously fulfilling. And also enormously frustrating.
Fulfilling, because I came to love Plotinus’ marvelous blend of grounded rationality and soaring mysticism. Frustrating, because I came to realize that high-ranking people in the RSSB organization were surprisingly beset with such human frailties as egotism, a controlling nature, closed-mindedness, and an unwillingness to compromise.
Greetings Brian: I have read your article closely and offer these questions and comments. I hope they do not offend in any way.

Question:
It would be useful to know a bit more about how you came to see the organization as beset with those qualities (egotism, controlling nature, closed-mindedness, and unwillingness to compromise). Would it be possible for you to flesh this out a bit? I have also noted those qualities when working with certain RSSBers. However, being ignored, manipulated, let down, lied to seems to be the not infrequent fate of those whose seva assignment was substantial and protracted. Pulling weeds in North Carolina is safe. Writing books for RSSB really isn’t, in my opinion. However, on a more sober note, very sorry to hear of your negative experience[s]. It sounds like the [Dera?] officialdom thrashed you. As for expecting better of a spiritual group, it is sometimes comforting to remember we are all in the human group and never leave that [practically speaking]. This may help explain the lively persistence of the less than admirable qualities you mention.
You wrote that your work was cast aside. (?) Can you have your book published elsewhere?
You also shared that you are not bitter. I think it would perfectly understandable if you were indignant. If it is of any consolation to you, this appears to happen frequently in RSSB, mostly Western sevadars whose seva assignment was protracted and involved with the hierarchy there. I would be somewhat surprised if there was not at least some measure of “personal crises”. Generally it takes that to turn to a new religious/philosophical venue after being very heavily invested.
Your wrote: “For it finally had dawned on me that just as the RSSB people in leadership positions had failed to be spiritually transformed after many years of diligent devotional practice, so had I. “
One can’t really know, though, if another is diligent in their devotional practice. And even if they were, RS theology does not lay claim to renovation, but salvation – that is, the goal is not transformation in the garden but escape from it.

You wrote:
”Yet the difference between us was that they were much closer to the leader of this religious group, the guru, than I was. They also were much more intimately tied into the inner organizational workings of RSSB than I was.”
Are you suggesting that should have made them more spiritual? Possibly proximity made them (more so) self-concerned sycophants.

You wrote:
“What I observed happening—and my psychotherapist wife agrees with me on this—is that holding a position of power in a religious organization exacerbates the common human tendency to assert one’s ego and exert control over other people.
Simple egotism and a desire to dominate are transformed into a more complex self-righteousness which justifies frailties as positive qualities. For example, closed-mindedness can be misconstrued as unquestioning faith and inability to compromise as acceptance of revealed truths.”
Yes, I can see that. It is hard to have a special assignment from “God” and not get drunk about it I suppose. Maybe no matter how much one might shuffle modestly and do the humble pie there is pride and possessiveness. There is a certain amount of self-importance that must coagulate unless one is empty of “self” in some cosmic sense. So, Brian, do you honestly think that you had no egotism or closed-mindedness in conjunction with your seva?

You wrote: “ Religious organizations are dead. They’re legal and cultural figments of the imagination. They have no reality, no vitality, no consciousness, no love, no compassion. “

In the case of the RSSB, maybe it is akin to a dysfunctional family. It has vitality, is quite alive, but somewhat dreadful. I kinda feel sorry for disciple’s caged in the organization. Why some are/were eager to give away what little intellectual sovereignty they had would be perplexing if not for the obvious. People are understandably enthralled with the idea of being part of something great and wonderful.
You wrote: When people fall into the trap of saying “I’m a Christian,” “I’m a Muslim,” or “I’m a satsangi” (in the case of RSSB), they enclose themselves in one more layer of illusion. This further distances them both from God and from their fellow human beings.

That comes with initiation.(?) Initiation makes one divided from the non-initiated…the rest just follows that, IMO. An initiated person is planning through meditation to escape from Pinda. Not everybody is on that ship, be it imaginary or not. So the label gets slapped on and gates go up instead of down. It is frightening to think of oneself as corporeal, an animal, and really a flash in the pan, i.e., that one is (in the big scale of things) totally unimportant. Sant Mat makes you feel important enough to save.

You wrote: “Like this fair façade, their spirituality may be superficially attractive. Yet a closer examination reveals that it lacks depth and is flimsily propped up by artificial supports: dogma, blind faith, self-righteousness, unquestioned adherence to arbitrary moral codes.”
Yup, I saw a lot of that as well. BUT, I also experienced beauty, laughter, and simple humanity. Sometimes I look at RSSB as a big, largely dysfunctional family. In the family there is sweetness mixed in with obnoxious and totally unpleasant behaviors. And where the noxious behaviors tend to roost, in my experience anyhow, is in the seva arena, especially seva assignments necessitating interaction near the summit of the family hierarchy. The Vaticanesque opera with its endless fomenting Machiavellian shenanigans is worth avoiding, unless one really is willing to risk getting jerked around and not take it personally. I certainly wouldn’t be up to it.
But I am curious. Why is it that you are concentrating on the behavior of other disciples rather than on your commitment to the guru? [it is a devotional path and all of that]. Where does the incumbent Master fit into this for you? It is as if guruji disappeared from consideration in your essay, and that the struggle between you and some organizational mules at the Dera lead you to despair. (???)
At any rate, your symptoms suggest to me that you had some very difficult experiences. I suppose this means you are not a designated speaker anymore??; if so, that is really too bad. I enjoyed your talks and insights enormously. And your thoughts below are precious.
Respectfully -- BAB


Based upon my personal experience, here’s some advice:
It’s un-organized religion that will make you a better person and point you toward the reality of God. Don’t let anyone or anything stand between you and what you seek. Worship without any intermediaries.
Become your own church. Just don’t organize your faith. Organization is a structure. What we want to do is break down the barriers between us and God, not construct new ones. Let reality speak to you in its own formless fashion.
Above all, love one another. I may not be a Christian, but I certainly subscribe to this part of the gospel. If people in your religious organization aren’t demonstrating that they understand the importance of love, flee. It’s much better to love on your own than not love as a group.


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