I’m a skeptic. That’s my nature. But if you’re a believer, more power to you. Skepticism feels right to me. Belief feels right to most people, since belief in a “God” of some sort is a decided majority opinion, particularly in the hyper-religious United States.
I understand the allure of belief in a higher power. Faced with the uncertainties of life—death, disease, distress (to name a few)—it’s tremendously reassuring to consider that you’re being cared for and loved by God or some other manifestation of divinity.
Such as a guru. In response to my “Who is the guru?” post, Nick left a thoughtful comment. Among other things, he wondered what benefit there would be if a guru who is considered to be God in human form disabused the faith of his followers, even if that faith weren’t founded in reality.
Basically this is a “if it feels good, believe in it” attitude. I agree that it’s hard to argue with feeling good. In India millions of people who live tough lives are disciples of gurus such as Gurinder Singh, the current spiritual leader of Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB).
During my two visits to the RSSB headquarters I’ve seen the power of belief reflected in the loving eyes of those Indian devotees. Here are two photos from my 1977 trip, when Master Charan Singh was the guru. These are the captions I wrote on the back of the pictures:
“A (crooked) photo of the Master passing through the outdoor kitchen where meals are prepared free of charge for the throngs at Bhandara time. Several of the numerous large pots filled with a type of lentil soup can be seen at the left.”
“Another area of the kitchen just after the Master has passed by. These women are making chapattis (like tortillas) on metal sheets with a fire underneath. About 20 other fires were in this shed, and as the Master walked by all the women sang devotional songs with such love that it made your hair stand on end. One of the most moving sights that I’ve ever seen. Such love is rare these days.”
It still is rare, about thirty years later. That sort of love is precious. If you’ve got it, keep it. However, love shouldn’t be dependent on the opinions of others, such as me. I used to consider that Charan Singh was divine. Now I’ve arrived at an agnostic not-knowing.
Such may seem like back-sliding to the bhaktis (lovers) who consider skeptics like me to be intellectual hair-splitters whose overly-active minds throw up a dust storm of ideation over the simple clarity of the guru’s godliness.
Could be. But, as Popeye says, “I yam what I yam.” And you are who you are. Who I am (or yam) doesn’t affect who you are when it comes to religious belief or non-belief. If my mere asking “Are you sure?” demolishes your faith, there wasn’t much substance to it and it’s better off demolished.
Nonetheless, entreaties like this on the Radha Soami studies discussion group still move me. I empathize with this Indian disciple’s pleading to please, please stop criticizing the RSSB gurus. But why seek out such criticism on the Internet to begin with? It isn’t as if skeptics are standing outside his house with a loudspeaker blaring unwanted heresies into his ears.
Each to his own. That’s my watchword when it comes to religious belief or disbelief. Who can argue with that? If you’re a believer, have faith. If you’re a skeptic, doubt. Reality isn’t affected by your state of mind, I’m quite sure of that.
If the guru is God, he’ll still be God even if someone screams “He’s a fraud!” And if the guru isn’t God, no amount of saying so will make it true.