Before I put away the RSSB newsletter that was the focus of my last post, I wanted to address the curious case of when doing good isn't really a good thing.
At least, if you've adopted a fundamentalist mind set. I'm familiar with that mental condition, because it was an integral aspect of my psyche for many years.
What happens is that your religious faith becomes the lens through which life's experiences are filtered. Everything takes on the hue of the dogmatic teachings that you've assimilated.
So in Sant Mat (my experience has been with the Radha Soami Satsang Beas branch of this movement), seva or service is considered to be important. This basically means "volunteering." But since the seva is done for the guru, or on his behalf, the work takes on a special taste.
Bhakti (devotion) flavored. There's nothing wrong with that. Selfless service in a spirit of love is good. However, if we limit ourselves to only serving people under the auspices of a religious group, this is limiting.
Quite a few RSSB disciples think nothing of driving hundreds of miles to perform weekend seva at one of the centers built by the organization, such as those in Petaluma, California and Fayetteville, North Carolina. That's admirable. But is it any different from performing a secular sort of service closer to home?
Apparently, judging from what I read in the May 2007 newsletter. Vince Savarese wrote that the sense of separation from God and the guru comes from our own ego.
This force in the mind is what urges us to enjoy old habits, create doubts, cause frustration. In contrast ego also directs us to achieve great noble ambitions, do good deeds, achieve noble goals for ourselves and society.
The more I thought about it, the stranger that statement came to seem. Savarese praises oblivion, which I assume means complete union with God. What should you do until you're obliterated, though?
Again, RSSB puts great emphasis on doing good deeds on behalf of itself—the organization. If this is a manifestation of ego, then why are disciples urged to contribute money, help construct buildings, organize local weekly meetings, and many other activities?
Because the good works done for the guru are considered to be of higher value than good works done for other people. Christians have it all over Sant Mat in this regard. Most preachers urge their flock to give of themselves to the poor, needy, and infirm. By contrast, I rarely, if ever, recall a RSSB speaker encouraging the faithful to volunteer time and energy for any cause other than RSSB.
The result, from my years of observation, generally produces more egocentricity among disciple sevadars, not less. The oh-so-special good works done for the oh-so-special guru create an oh-so-special feeling of, well, specialness among the faithful.
I know, because I had those feelings for several decades. And I knew many others with a similar attitude of "It's so wonderful to be serving God incarnate! I'm the selfless servant of the guru, which puts me at the foot of the Lord!"
It's hard to be humble when you're so close to the highest divinity. I'm happier now just being a run-of-the-mill do-gooder, helping out where and when I can, not considering that I'm any better or worse than any other volunteer.
My wife just got back from walking over thirty dogs at the Salem Humane Society. That doesn't count for much in the eyes of Sant Mat, but it sure does for me. And for a bunch of canines who had been cooped up in their kennels and needed to go.