Most people give less thought to choosing a religion than to picking out a new car. Ford and Toyota owners tend to be loyal to their favored automobile company, but if they find that a different brand has a better vehicle, they’ll jump ship.
That’s the way it should be. Why stick with something that isn’t a good fit for you? Yet religious affiliation is strongly inertial. If you were born in a Christian culture, most likely you’ll end up embracing Christianity. Ditto with Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and other religions.
More and more, though, we’re moving in the direction of a global culture. Thomas Friedman says, “the world is flat.” Meaning, connected. So now there are many more choices available on the cultural menu. Religiously, you can be a Nebraskan Buddhist or a Tibetan Baptist.
It all depends on your spiritual taste buds. Take some bites of a faith that seems promising. Consider how pleasant this sample seems. Ponder the digestibility of its teachings.
In the end it comes down to a simple “Yum!” or “Ugh!” (with many gradations of liking and disliking, of course). When asked why they chose or rejected a particular religion, many people respond with little more than a “It felt right,” or the obverse.
Nothing wrong with that. Just as no reason needs to be given for hating green peppers—this comes naturally to me—it’s fine to let spiritual preferences remain unexplained.
But I enjoy a thoughtful explanation none the less. Such came into my hands recently in the form of an email from Mike Weston, with whom I’d corresponded previously. Mike has been looking into the pros and cons of becoming an initiate of Radha Soami Satsang Beas, a group that I’ve been associated with since 1970.
It was interesting to learn what he’s concluded. And why. Here, with Mike’s permission, is his story. Read on.
I had written you a few years back and at the time we had exchanged some interesting ideas regarding our feelings about “The Path.” Back then I was a “seeker,” someone who had been exposed to the discipline by an initiate who I respected and had come to know through a common business interest. I was intrigued by its message, felt a great affinity for its doctrines and wanted to become part of it.
I made an effort to learn as much as I could about it, traveled to Fayetteville to see the “Master” and attended numerous satsangs. But I never made the move to get initiated. There was an unsettling element about the whole thing that was holding me back, yet I didn’t want to completely abandon it because there was so much about it that I was attracted to.
Now things have changed for me and I have made a decision to reject the program, and my reasons are along the same lines as yours. I have read all the correspondence on your website and see a consistency and non-contradictory element to it all. I think you are on the right track.
To me, I think it’s a shame that so many people are following so blindly this “emperor who wore no clothes” paradigm, probably out of fear but with good intentions. Yet for another reason also. I have coined an expression many years ago based on my experience living in this reality. It is: “Repetition breeds acceptance,” and it applies in all walks of life.
Some examples: If you listen to rap music enough you will have a tendency to start to like it although you would swear otherwise after your initial exposure. If you live in a corrupt society where oil prices, among other things, are based on the greed of the controlling forces to the detriment of the masses, then (and then is right now) you will be delighted that you are now paying “only” $2.50 a gallon. Repetition breeds acceptance at work!
I also define this condition as an “inertia” of situations. Just as an object in motion tends to stay in the same motion, and an object at rest tends to stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force, I think the condition is more general and applies to the human condition—its thought process, activities, and ideologies. In my opinion, if one is truly a truth seeker, then he must resist this tendency and always have an open mind so as not to get locked into one way of thinking and always be ready to “change.”
Concerning objective reasoning versus intuitive reasoning:
I have an advanced degree in math, have taught on the graduate level, and put two corporations together, so you might say that I am an objective thinker. I accept things only that can be proven, via logical deduction, and make my own decisions and determinations based on my own reasoning. Yet, things are not that simple.
For example, if you read a couple of Brian Greene’s books such as “Fabric of the Cosmos” and “Elegant Universe,” you learn about quantum mechanics. It has been shown that on the subatomic level you simply can’t “know everything” about a facet of reality such as a particle’s position and motion.
Not because we are not yet smart enough or lack the proper technology, but because it would violate certain laws. Somehow the particle knows when it is “observed” even if it is by a subtle indirect observation and acts measurably differently when it is being observed than when it isn’t.
Now taking a jump in reasoning, I have come to the conclusion, especially in the field of metaphysics, that you can’t “know everything” (or maybe even anything) with certainty. Thinking you do will always get you into trouble. I believe that the best we can do is live in a quandary of uncertainty where opposing points of view are possible. This may be unsettling, but I think it is the most realistic.
Note that the ”ego” does not have too much power or hierarchy, but is just a part of everything and everyone else in this reality. Just as you can’t pick yourself up by your own bootstraps and a puppet can’t comprehend how it was created, we simply will not objectively and scientifically be able to come up with all the answers.
Then, so what is the “way” to gain understanding of our existence and reality? In my opinion, it is to follow our innate intuition.
In a related matter, I would like to talk about what I consider the most important and powerful force in the universe, “Love.” In mathematics and set theory one of the properties is the existence of an identity element. There is always one and only one. It has the property that it bonds all the elements in the set, by not changing them when acting upon them.
In the set of all numbers with the operation of addition the identity element is 0, in the operation of multiplication it is 1. I bring this up because in the set of all living beings, the only bonding element I know that transcends language and station on the wheel of life is “Love.”
And if you try to capture love and own it or control it with regard to another living entity, you will lose it. You can experience it but you can’t possess it. “If you love something, set it free; if it comes back, it is truly yours; if it doesn’t, it never was.” Love is Unity in the set theory of all living beings, the binding force that is universally felt, and perhaps is “God” in spirituality.
Following your intuition, which is an intensely personal thing, is my “Path.” Know yourself. Get in touch with yourself in as honest a way as possible. Meditation is a very good start, and may help you find answers. But they come from within and you must find them for yourself.
In the end it really may not matter if we do or not. Our understanding, if it’s at all possible, probably won’t make a difference on what happens, but of course we like to know. When you go in for surgery, in essence you are surrendering to a situation you have no control over. But naturally you still like to know what your chances are.
Remember: What is real does not change; anything that changes, that is impermanent, is not real. Love is real, the soul is real. This I know intuitively, and to me that counts more than if it were part of some objective experimenter’s conclusion. You must find your own truths and realities.
One of my personal conclusions: In the field of science and math, all numbers can be expressed uniquely with just two elements—the numbers 1 and 0 (binary system). But in the field of life all of the creation requires only one element, because we are all part of the same soup, no one better than another, all manifestations of the same entity which I will call “God.”
Shorter Mike Weston: I reject Sant Mat because it doesn't add up...intuitively speaking.
Posted by: R Blog | October 07, 2006 at 10:17 PM
Mike - Why do you say that people are following the path blindly. Isn't it possible that they are following their intution and accepting the Radha Soami path just as you are following your intution and accepting the "follow your intution" path? Regards, Dinesh
Posted by: Dinesh Moorjani | October 08, 2006 at 11:40 PM
I found Mike's decision to forgo becoming an RSSB believer to be reasonable and practical. I also found his wish to remain open-minded to be wise.
However, I found his statement: "...we simply will not objectively and scientifically be able to come up with all the answers", to actually be rather contradictory and closed-minded, relative to what he had previous said.
If one is truly open-minded, then one must acknowledge and accept that it is also always possible that one may indeed be able to "come up with", or discover, understand, and even know "the answers".
"Not knowing" as Brian says, or self-honesty open-mindedness is clearly a good thing. But then just because one may "not know" at the present, does not mean that it is impossible to achieve true knowledge, and the answers to the great questions. It is better to only speak about ones own self, and not attempt to speak and make conclusions for all.
You just don't really know if and what someone else may indeed know.
Posted by: tao | October 09, 2006 at 03:37 PM
In answer to Dinesh Moorjani:
Life realizations are intensely personal and those are my personal feelings based on personal experience. Yours do not have to be the same as mine. I think it is important to establish as sound a foundation as possible from which to draw your conclusions, to your and only your satisfaction and watch out for the "power of suggestion."
Posted by: Mike Weston | October 10, 2006 at 04:25 AM
I don't agree at all with your interpretation of what I said. Firstly everything I say is exactly my opinion and nothing more, unless I'm discussing a fact that has been proven scientifically. I never speak for anyone else. The beauty of it all is that I find that a harmonious rapport exists when reading something that you "grok" with. I do feel that we will never know all there is to know about all of reality because then we could go around and recreate ourselves, and it seems to me that the more we learn about something, the more new mysteries open up, so we never reach that "know it all" endpoint. Life would sure be boring otherwise, although you can argue it is anyway. A trick by Kal to keep us trapped here, like a beautiful rainbow, I don't think so, watch out for the power of suggestion again. The only way we will know for sure what is real is either through objective scientific analysis or direct experience (watch out again), but intuition plays a big part in getting the ball rolling on the right track (ask many of the great song writers).
Posted by: Mike Weston | October 10, 2006 at 12:20 PM
I did not say that any such "know it all endpoint" can, or need be reached. I was simply pointing out that you had said yourself that: "we will not be able to come up with all the answers". However, you cannot say that with any significant certainty. Consciousness and the universe seems to be a mystery, but the mystery is not necessarily bound to remain unknown forever. A present mystery does not prohibit a future understanding. Clearly, there is the Known, and the Unknown, but there may, or may not be, the Unknowable.
Also, it is not clear what you meant by your comment: "A trick by Kal to keep us trapped here..." I am not a subscriber to such notions and related belief systems. The term "kal" itself simply means "time". Also, "objective scientific analysis" is contained within and is bound by the observer, by consciousness. Intuition is quite fallible and offers no proof of anything. On the other hand, tacit direct experience, in terms of the awakened state of pure Self-knowledge, transcends relative and objective intellectual knowledge.
Posted by: tao | October 11, 2006 at 08:41 PM
On my previous visits here you have outlined that the sages, jnanis and realisers have in a sense 'solved' the 'mystery' through non dual Self realisation.
So in that sense it is not a mystery waiting to be solved.
According to my reading of some of the sages, and my own 'insights' it is perhaps confusing to talk of 'being' and 'knowing' in the same sentence.
Being implies simply abiding and resting in the flow of what is (whatever it is), whereas when we talk of 'knowing' it implies an immediate objectification and thus a separation into duality.
This would be Krishnamurti's description of the knower and the known, for instance.
Obviously these are only words, and the sages also talk of 'knowing' as gnosis or being. Words are indeed maya, as Buddhism suggests.
Posted by: Nick | October 12, 2006 at 01:16 AM
I enjoyed your statement, "If one is truly open-minded, then one must acknowledge and accept that it is also always possible that one may indeed be able to "come up with," or discover, understand, and even know "the answers."
I prefer to agree with that statement too.
Many of the "like-minded" agree too.
We all can debate the process of "Enlightenment," or, even if there is a process in the first place.
However, I personally am in tune with your statement.
Posted by: Roger | October 12, 2006 at 10:58 AM
Forgive me for being stupid and obvious, but that was a rather abstracted explanation of why he did not join Rahda Soami. Yes, it was interesting, but I kept waiting for the punch line, the point where these lofty thoughts were applied in a practical way to the subject of the article.
Posted by: gordon lakeland | October 29, 2006 at 06:43 PM
You wrote: "So in that sense it is not a mystery waiting to be solved."
I don't think that I indicated anywhere that it was a "mystery waiting to be solved".
You wrote: "it is perhaps confusing to talk of 'being' and 'knowing' in the same sentence."
Being is pure Knowledge, and pure Knowledge is not "objectification" or a "separation into duality".
Posted by: tao | October 29, 2006 at 11:23 PM
Just to gain some clarification.
You said in response to Mike Weston;
"Consciousness and the universe seems to be a mystery, but the mystery is not necessarily bound to remain unknown forever. A present mystery does not prohibit a future understanding".
Do you mean here that the mystery will not remain unknown with Self realisation?
It's just that your paragraph here has a more collective and objective feel to it, in the sense of a mystery being solved by science. Apologies for reading into what you are saying, but thats all that can be done sometimes.
For what its worth (and I don't sense you are saying this at all) I don't see how consciousness will ever be 'solved' by scientific reductionism, as it involves breaking consicousness apart into subject and object.
Posted by: nick | October 30, 2006 at 01:02 AM
I hate to rain on your parade but the inner experiences are very real for us exp ONES>>>better luck next time around. At that point try to leave the intellect where it belongs. Behind.
Posted by: doctor heal | November 30, 2006 at 11:48 AM
doctor heal, please tell us more. In detail. About your experiences. How did you achieve them? What were they, exactly? Why are you sure they are genuine?
Don't leave us unfortunate ones in the lurch. Place your spiritual knowledge where it belongs. Out front.
Posted by: Brian | November 30, 2006 at 01:36 PM
You are starting to sound like me!! These irritating questions, they spread like a virus. Oh curses..........
Posted by: Roger | December 01, 2006 at 05:53 AM
Yes, Roger, we're infected with reasonable skepticism. I'm happy to have that malady.
This won't surprise you, but I exchanged some emails with "doctor heal" and he declined to share any more info about what he knows, and we don't.
What a tease. I'm leaning toward blogging about this tomorrow, as this attitude of "I know spiritual truths that you don't but I can't tell you what they are" galls me.
Posted by: Brian | December 01, 2006 at 10:25 AM
Excellent idea for a future blog.
There are so many references to, "finding the answers from within." It would be nice to have some awareness as to what is actually meant by that!
Some reference meditation, such as the following, I found on a particular website:
In a very general sense, there are two forms of meditation. One requires that one focuses the mind on something concrete, such as the breathing process, a concrete object or a word or a thought, and there is what may be termed as "formless meditation", in which one focuses on the inner silence, inner self or on nothing at all. This form of meditation can only be practiced after one is well trained in the first form.
Here are a few general suggestions and tips help:
1. It is important to meditate every day.
2. Meditation should be approached with patience, love and an open mind. This is the attitude that brings results.
3. Do not meditate when you are tired.
4. Find a place where you can be alone and undisturbed.
5. Sit in a comfortable position with the spine erect.
6. Take a few slow deep breaths.
7. For a minute or two, evoke in your mind some pleasant memory.
8. Think for about one minute about the benefits this practice will bring you.
9. Start meditating calmly, yet with focused attention. The more focused the attention is, the easier it is to ignore thoughts and other distractions.
10. Start with a simple meditation, such as:
a) Focusing your attention on your incoming and outgoing breath.
b) Thinking about an inspiring quote.
I know, I have asked this question before, I'm still trying to put a few of the pieces to the big puzzle together.
Any comments from our group, would be nice.
Posted by: Roger | December 01, 2006 at 11:52 AM
I must say that what You write Mike in no way interfere with my experience of living with RSSB:s so called teachings in 35 years now, rather I think it very beutifully describe the essence of Sant Mat, love, intuition and an open mind. I am quite certain that Your love, intuition and an open mind will lead You in the right direction.
Regards Anders Backman
ps hope i got the english right.
Posted by: Anders Backman | December 10, 2006 at 12:38 PM
It was interesting to learn what he’s concluded. And why. Here, with Mike’s permission, is his story. Read on.
Radha Soami are a spiritual group of people's organization.
Posted by: John | November 28, 2009 at 01:56 PM
To Mike or whoever wrote this,
Usually, I don't pay much attention to what others say, but your words ----
(To me, I think it’s a shame that so many people are following so blindly this “emperor who wore no clothes” paradigm). wonders me that which RSSB satsang you have attended & which Master you have seen. This is so in true, Master' S body is all covered, all the times with nice & clean full dress.
Following any path, is your choice but writing something like that, is unacceptable. God bless you.
Posted by: K | December 30, 2016 at 10:18 AM