Currently I’ve got a heretical reputation in the Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB) branch of Sant Mat, which means “teachings of the saints.” Earlier though, I wrote a couple of books under RSSB auspices, one published directly by the organization and one that was published commercially, then bought and resold.
My Church of the Churchless blogging led to me being fired as a RSSB speaker. And regularly I get emails from other RSSB initiates who take me to task for supposedly having strayed from the core Sant Mat teachings.
In my own mind, though, I consider myself a true Sant Mat disciple. For the foundation of my spiritual practice is this hypothesis: that unity is the ultimate nature of the cosmos, not multiplicity.
This also happens to be a eminently scientific hypothesis, which is why I embrace it.
Physicists are seeking a theory of everything, not multiple theories. The big bang that brought the universe into being started as a unitary “superforce,” which later manifested as the four forces of nature (gravity, electromagnetism, plus the strong and weak nuclear forces).
I was reminded of what a true disciple I am when I picked up the January 2007 issue of Spiritual Link, a magazine published by RSSB. I read one of the articles, “Reliance on the Master,” and found myself thinking: “Whoever wrote this is a heretical satsangi (initiate), not me.”
Here’s why the article is wrong, along with countless other misguided RSSB initiates, and I’m right. The goal of Sant Mat meditation, and its other supportive spiritual practices, is to merge with a universal power called shabd. Universal, not personal.
The guru who initiated me, Charan Singh, said:
This Power pervades everywhere and therefore it has been sometimes described as Universal Consciousness.
But the article I read points the reader in a wrong direction: toward the individual physical form of the guru. The anonymous author says that we should “develop a mental stance where we consciously rely on the Master when embarking on any act, whether meditation or anything else.”
It’s evident from this article excerpt that “Master” means a person, not an all-pervading power.
One can never achieve the attitude of being carefree without worry without also achieving a degree of reliance on the Lord and his manifestation, the Master. Constantly remembering how our Master cares more about our welfare than we do ourselves helps us gradually give up worry. Masters urge us to rely on their grace for our needs, spiritual and worldly, and not on our own devices.
Heresy! I reject this twisting of my guru’s teachings. I turn to Charan Singh’s own words for proof that anyone who relies upon a person for support, spiritual or otherwise, is far from understanding what Sant Mat is all about.
Surrender implies surrender to Shabd, which is the Real Master or Guru, and not to any physical form. We should, by constant practice, not only contact the Sound [Shabd] but merge ourselves into It so that It will take care of us entirely, in every situation and in every respect.
Shabd is the same as Tao is the same as Spirit is the same as any other name given to the universal power that lies at the heart of reality. This is the essence of every deep mystical teaching: that only One is really real.
Of course, there are degrees of realizing this unity. So long as we’re alive, it isn’t going to be possible to leave aside dualities: male/female, right/wrong, virtue/sin, all that divisive stuff.
But spirituality is about moving beyond separateness, not embracing it.
When the universal power of the cosmos is considered to reside in a particular person, the ugly side of religion is given a reason for being. My way is considered to be the only way, because my guru, prophet, or savior is God and yours isn’t. Nyah, nyah.
I like to call the One, “Tao.” Yet if you prefer another name, great. Just don’t claim that you have a special relationship with an all-pervading reality. That’s non-sensical. And also, non-spiritual.