I’m wondering if there’s been a new release of Sant Mat, a north Indian spiritual philosophy centered around the need to follow a God-realized guru. It certainly seems that way from the remarks of several Church of the Churchless commenters.
Maybe version 2.0 has superceded the original Sant Mat that I was initiated into thirty-five years ago, and which I’ve written about in two books distributed or published by Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB).
Though now I’ve been called “Beas’ most articulate critic” (and not only by myself), I still have a genuine fondness for Sant Mat, a.k.a. Radha Soami teachings, and I want to be sure that I’m keeping up with the latest theological developments.
So if you’re a member of RSSB, help me out here. Am I wrong in assuming that the current RSSB guru, Gurinder Singh, has updated the Sant Mat philosophy? Since Gurinder Singh doesn’t write anything for publication, nor allow his talks to be recorded, nor permit attendees to take notes about what he says, it isn’t easy to make a comparison between the original Sant Mat teachings and the new guru’s version.
But here’s the impression that I get from hearing Gurinder Singh speak four times, spending two weeks at the Dera in India eight years ago, and reports I’ve gotten via this weblog and other sources about what he’s said more recently.
Sant Mat v. 1.0
--The guru is God in human form
--The guru is perfect, possessing God’s divine qualities
--God has chosen certain souls to return to Him
--God delegates the guru to initiate these “marked souls”
--Without initiation by a perfect guru, God-realization is impossible
Sant Mat v. 2.0
--The guru is a human who is seeking God, just like us
--The guru is imperfect, just like us
--Whether we want to pursue God-realization is up to us
--The guru is a spiritual guide, not a savior
--There are many paths to God, not just Sant Mat
This is just an off-the-top-of-my-head summary of several seeming differences between the old and new Sant Mat (or more accurately, RSSB) philosophies. However, if I’m even halfway right about v. 2.0, then kudos to Gurinder Singh. For this is a considerably improved Sant Mat, being closer to a science and further from a religion.
However, I’m a bit skeptical that either the RSSB organization or formal teachings really have changed to this extent. My take is that Gurinder Singh’s breath of fresh spiritual air is being diluted by those RSSB’ers who are either unwilling or unable to understand that this 2006 version isn’t your grandfather’s Sant Mat.
For example, a friend told me that when he went to India he’d hear Gurinder Singh say “We are all gods” when asked if the guru indeed was God. After the meeting ended my friend would ask other attendees what they thought of that rather heretical utterance. Most of them didn’t know what he was talking about. They only had heard what fit with their v. 1.0 conception of Sant Mat.
The winds of change may be blowing, but not in the mind of the typical RSSB initiate. Which isn’t surprising, given that Gurinder Singh has been so reticent to write or speak on the record. The current guru likes to say that he has nothing to add to the historical Sant Mat teachings, so the old books, tape recordings, and videos still serve as the official RSSB party line.
I could be wrong (naturally), but in my more optimistic moments I sense an increased openness in RSSB. This supposedly mystical organization has been heading down the road of becoming a hidebound religion, but maybe Sant Mat v. 2.0 will fix the dogmatic, fundamentalist glitches that are keeping this mystic philosophy from being a true spiritual science.
We can only hope.