It’s always a pleasure to hear from a like-minded soul: someone who approaches spirituality with a scientific bent and isn’t shy about questioning dogmas that don’t seem to make sense.
Yesterday I got an email from Cynthia, who is, like me, an initiate of Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB). She shared what brought her to this spiritual path and also what has caused her to draw away from it.
Below is the core of her message, mildly edited for clarity and readability. When Cynthia told me that it was fine to post her words, she asked me to make sure that she didn’t say anything incorrect about RSSB. So I changed her “And why are all the Masters related?” to “And why are so many of the Masters related?”—since not all of the RSSB gurus have been members of the same family.
I resonate with Cynthia. She’s right: RSSB is indeed a religion, though the organization makes claims to being a science. When I read the list of what doesn’t sit well with her, for every item I said to myself “right on, sister.”
She says that now she likes the idea of “not being on a mission to accomplish something during meditation.” That’s a great notion. The incongruence of desiring to attain desirelessness, or willing to give up your will to a higher power, has become more evident to me in my own meditative practice.
Thanks for sharing, Cynthia. Here’s her message:
Looking back, I believe that Sant Mat came along when I was feeling the need to connect with a spiritual path that could offer me “purpose,” structure, and connections with like-minded individuals. I have always been very open-minded and willing to learn from others, and I saw Babaji [Gurinder Singh Dhillon, the present RSSB guru] as another teacher on my spiritual educational path.
I was not sure about the “GIHF” [god in human form] aspect, and chose to view the Master as “especially enlightened.” I liked the fact that we were told that through meditation, we could achieve the same state, although it would most likely take many years. I am a scientist by training, and I liked the scientific aspect of the Path.
I did pretty well for the first few months. Sometimes instead of meditating, I would spend the time reflecting on things in my life and reading the books. I had a few good experiences with meditation, achieved a nice relaxed state, and felt good. I was fine with the [eggless vegetarian] diet this whole time and learned how to love it and live it.
At the end of November I entered my typical year-end reflective period. I had some quiet time to think about my "spiritual work" and what I wanted to commit to for the next year. For whatever reason, I had begun to have a different perspective of Sant Mat: that it was really a religion, even though they say it is not. Here is a list of what is not sitting well.
--RSSB initiates are the “chosen ones” and have been selected to go back to the Lord. What does this mean for the others, like my husband, who are not initiated?
--The Master is GIHF [god in human form]. If we are all drops from the same ocean, why do we need someone outside of ourselves to connect us with what is already supposed to be a part of us? How can one person take on the karma of 3 million people? Why would he have to? How can someone else be responsible for the good things that happen to us? And why are so many of the Masters related? A family business, perhaps? And no female Masters?
--We are all equal “drops” but RSSB discriminates against homosexuals, as evidenced by Charan Singh’s quote [see this Church of the Churchless post].
--The over-the-top obsession with the diet restrictions, so much that it has become a way of life for satsangis [RSSB initiates]; what ever happened to everything in moderation?
--The fact that we are isolated from each other by not being allowed to meditate together or talk about our experiences, which just serves to elevate the Master all the more (I would love to hear his meditation stories).
--We can't interface with God directly.
--The mind is an evil force to be overcome (which discourages questioning about the Path, as you have experienced).
--We need to obey and worship the Master or bad things will happen to us; I feel like I am back in Catholic church again, or back home as a little girl with mom and dad saying that God is putting black marks about me in his "book" when I misbehave. Give me a break.
--Stories like someone secretly feeding an initiate an egg, and causing that person to come back in the reincarnation cycle, or the one about Babaji wanting to dig up all the flowers at Dera [Indian headquarters of RSSB] because their beauty is distracting satsangis from their meditation.
Well, there's the main list. I think that I am finally ready to accept responsibility for my own spiritual growth.
I have read the RSSB sections of your blog and enjoyed every minute of it. I went to the bookstore yesterday and got a copy of Hagen's “Buddhism Plain and Simple,” and finished it this morning.
I like the idea of “no self” and that all of us are interconnected and constantly changing. I know that since I am not freaking out about leaving RSSB that it must be the right decision for me. I have learned a lot about myself from the two years I spent on the Path, and my personal spirituality has accepted some of the RSSB teachings.
I do believe that meditation is a useful process, and I plan to continue doing it. I like the idea of just listening to my breathing and not being on a mission to accomplish something during meditation; I do enough of that in my worldly work. I am not sure what to do about my diet. I will go back to eating eggs, but I am not sure what I will do about the rest. I went out to lunch today, knowing I could eat anything on the menu, and I just couldn't do it.
Well, Brian, thanks for listening.