Periodically I get email messages from dissatisfied initiates of Radha Soami Satsang Beas. They’ve come to regard the RSSB (or Sant Mat) philosophy with considerable skepticism.
Because I believe in the potential of a genuine spiritual science, which requires that the results of spiritual “experiments” be openly discussed, I’m pleased to share these messages when the author gives me permission. Bob did, so you’ll find his story below. It’s well written and provocative.
I’m still a vegetarian and feel that I always will be. The idea of eating animal flesh after thirty-seven years of meatlessness turns my stomach. But Bob’s reentry into meat-eating was a positive experience for him. Vive le difference.
He makes some good points about the relative karmic nastiness of liquor, steak, and doughnuts, arguing that doughnuts take the cake (so to speak). Here’s what Bob had to say:
I was initiated by Charan Singh back in 1970. Went to the Dera in 1974 and 1984. Stuck to the diet and went to many satsangs until shortly after he died in 1990. Gurinder Singh turned me off and I began to see RSSB for what it really is...a cult/religion that expects blind faith and delivers nothing in return except a false sense of security that one has when they believe by some stroke of unfathomable Grace that they, out of billions of people, have somehow found the one true path to ultimate spiritual bliss and liberation under the protective wing of an almighty Master...not. It's like Jesus with vegetables, meditation, and banwar gupha thrown in.
I never was much of a meditator. Oh, there were periods where I managed to crank out 2.5 hr. sessions (I went four hours once), but usually I lasted less than an hour, and much of that time was spent nodding off. I felt a little guilty about not putting in my time and somewhat inferior to all the highly evolved satsangis who I imagined were hearing peals of celestial thunder and learning many "inner" secrets which, of course, were not to be shared with anyone.
I would look around the room wondering who was experiencing inner regions. If someone seemed particularly focused and calm, or to have some intangible quality (imagined or real), I suspected they were among the chosen ones. But not to worry, Master will reveal the inner splendor when by his grace your time has come. In the meantime you just have more karma to work out. He knows best. You may be almost finished boring through the darkness of the mountain to the sudden burst of light on the other side. By the time Charan died, I wasn't meditating at all.
The alarms went off one day in '81 when we were invited to a beautiful beach by some acquaintances. They knew we were vegetarians and went to the trouble to make us avocado sandwiches instead of the meat sandwiches they were having. Unfortunately they used regular mayonnaise and we had to refuse them, spending the day crunching carrots. This made me very uncomfortable, refusing their hospitality to avoid maybe 1/20 of an unfertilized egg.
It seemed highly irrational to me unless I was truly allergic to eggs. Was I really going to be condemned to rebirth if I ate a bit of this offending substance? Would my vibration become coarsened in such a way that meditation was going to become even more difficult? I never did really get the egg thing, but I still figured Master knew best....eating unfertilized eggs could lead to eating fertilized eggs. Sort of like marijuana leading to heroin use. And the rennet thing. Gurinder has even ruled that out now. Reminds me of the Jains who tiptoe around insects and wear masks to avoid breathing and killing microbes.
Looking back on all this, I realize I was very naive to buy into Sant Mat, but it wasn't entirely a waste of time. The moral structure of the path did help me to live a pretty clean, honest life which kept me out of many of the troubles others have. But at the same time I avoided a lot of opportunities (too worldly) that could have enriched my life. It gave me an excuse to be a slacker as far as being ambitious and reaching my potential in certain ways.
These days, I enjoy reading non-dual, advaita vedanta, zen, ch'an, taoist philosophy. I am sort of nowhere in particular as far as spirituality is concerned which I think is a step in the right direction on the path of no path.
It was interesting going back to eating meat. About eight/nine years ago the heavy grain/starch vegetarian diet was causing me to show some pre-diabetic tendencies. I was putting on weight and getting some arthritis. I read a couple of books that pretty much convinced me I was on the wrong diet for my physiological type. My first non-veg meal in 28 years was salmon cooked by my wife, also vegetarian, who by this time was ready for a change. No problem.
It felt weird to find myself eating meat after so many years, but physically, no problem. I gradually introduced more meat into my diet over a period of several weeks. My first red meat, easily digested, made me feel satisfied, strong, calm, centered, and I was under the impression that so-called "rajasic " food was supposed to agitate me. On the new diet my cholesterol/triglyceride profile improved, I lost 20 lbs., blood sugar swings stabilized and the arthritis went away just by cutting back on grains and replacing them with animal protein.
I am among the majority of humans who do best with some kind of meat in the diet. Maybe a veg diet is adequate if you are sedentary with your hair tied to a bar over your head so that you don't nod off while doing bhajan for seventeen years in a back room. But I wasn't up to that kind of asceticism. I was athletic, a runner, and the body requires plenty of high quality protein to recover from hard workouts. You don't get that from tofu and rice. There is no doubt in my mind that I would have performed better had I been eating steak and rice.
There is suffering and cruelty in the commercial meat industry that is improving but will always be there. But people forget that the cows are going to die one way or another anyway and it ain't gonna be fun for them. Would their fate be better in nature with wolves gnawing on their entrails while still conscious? Or starving through a hard winter or drought? Life feeds on life and since that's the way things are set up, I doubt it's a sin to participate in an honest way.
I've seen cattle raised where I used to live. They hang out in green pastures munching grass all day with their buddies. They mate and live a pretty decent cow's life. If they're sick or injured, they get treated or quickly put down. One day the truck comes to take them to the feedlot where they get to stuff themselves with grain. Finally, they are herded into the slaughterhouse for what is usually a quick kill. Sometimes something goes wrong and an animal has a rough time of it and somebody gets a tough steak. Generally, it's not so bad, relatively speaking, in this dog eat dog world.
About the Sant Mat prohibition against intoxicants: Why does a satsangi have to vow to never allow wine to pass his/her lips as if we all were going to become alcoholics as a result and do foolish stuff which will increase the karmic load? Come on. We're adults here. How about a vow to never get mad, to never cuss, to never eat too many doughnuts?
A gut load of doughnuts will do more to ruin your meditation than a piece of steak any day. And if you keep eating doughnuts, eventually you will get fat with diabetes and heart disease which will make it hard to meditate. Then your health becomes a financial burden on the family. Finally you have a heart attack while driving and mangle some people who sue you and wipe out your family's financial security. All this because of doughnuts. I say doughnuts are worse than booze. There are more fat, sick people than there are alcoholics.
If they were really wise, the masters would ban doughnuts instead of liquor or at least add them to the list.
Anyway, enough said.