Fairly often I hear from devotees of Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB) who urge me to cease my heretical wanderings and return to the fold, as if I’d run off into a burning building and they’re standing on safe ground with a megaphone calling “Brian, get out of that crazy place and come back to us!”
Well, I picture myself standing right behind them saying, “Chill out, dude. We’re both on the same page here. I’m still 100% devoted to the true RSSB teachings. We just differ as to what true means. If you don’t mind me saying so, it could be that I’m farther from the flames of delusion than you are.”
So, the spiritual brothers and sisters who consider themselves part of the RSSB faithful and hope to wake me up from my churchless slumber are facing a tougher task than they recognize. For I don’t see myself as having strayed from the mystical path. Rather, I feel that I’m closer to the Way now.
Thus I’m either doubly deluded—believing that my RSSB heresy (delusion #1) actually is the true RSSB teaching (delusion #2)—or I’m not deluded at all. Or…neither, which I’ll toss into the “not deluded” category.
Here are some quotations from three RSSB gurus that point to what I mean:
Gurinder Singh: “We should burn the books.” “How do you know that I’m not a fraud?”
Soami Ji: “Unless I see with my own eyes, I will not believe the sayings of the Master.” “Know yourself by yourself, and do not rely on the sayings of anyone else.”
Charan Singh: “May your love of the form culminate in the love of the formless.” “Outward forms of worship are better than doing nothing at all, but we should not spend our whole life involved with these games.”
Need I say more in defense of my faith? No, but of course I will.
Gurinder Singh doesn’t mean that we should literally burn the RSSB books. What I think he’s saying is that conceptual knowledge is far less important than direct experience in spiritual practice.
Yet most RSSB initiates fill their heads with thoughts, images, emotions, and imaginings rather than emptying themselves and becoming receptive to unvarnished reality. I used to do this too, so I know whereof I speak.
I’d sit every Sunday in a satsang hall, adorned with photos of the guru, listening to a speaker read from an RSSB book, which taught that after death the Master would meet the disciple and take him or her to Sach Khand and the lap of God.
I’d feel grateful that I wasn’t a deluded Christian who at that moment was sitting in a church, adorned with images of Jesus, listening to a preacher read from the Bible, which taught that after death Christ would meet the disciple and take him or her to heaven and the lap of God.
Eventually the absurdity broke through. I was decrying religion founded on blind faith, yet I had embraced a religion founded on blind faith.
So I started to focus on what I considered to be the essence of the RSSB teachings. Like Soami Ji’s advice: “Know yourself by yourself, and do not rely on the sayings of anyone else.” Including the Master. Indeed, how do we know that he is not a fraud?
By going beyond the forms with which fraudulence can be concealed. Anybody can talk or act spiritual. We can’t sense the soul (if such exists), just the body, and what the body does.
The guru who initiated me, Charan Singh, advises that love of the formless should be our goal. Amen to that.
I’m taking his advice seriously. I wonder if those who write to me, urging that I return to adoration of the guru’s physical form, to attending well-organized talks, to helping construct and maintain the structures at satsang centers, are as committed to taking Charan Singh’s words to heart.
For a long time I thought that outward forms of worship led somewhere. I don’t anymore.
Life is short. Why spend all of it engaged in those sorts of worshipful games? Charan Singh, I agree with you. That’s why I still consider myself to be your devoted disciple.