Ander's comment on a recent post has me fired up. Along with a strong cup of 100% Kona coffee that I brought back from Maui. Just used up the last bit of it. Can't think of a better caffeine-fueled activity than responding to one of Ander's baseless statements:
Its funny how u even proclaim the fact that u never actually practised for a long period of time more than 2 hours of meditation. Let along 4 or 5 or 10 that would be the appropriate hours after the 30 years on the path. The fact the u complain about sant mat is TOTALLY UNJUSTIFIED. IF someone comes and tells me ," ive been meditating for 30 years for 3 hours a day and i have seen nothing" then i would remain speachless, knot my head and walk away, cause i would have nothing to say. But coming out and saying, " an hour or so". is ridiculus. So you read all the Sant Mat books, U wrote a couple yourself, and still go out and buy 5 books a week. Nice. Nice.
Totally unjustified? Dude, you're so wrong. I was initiated in the spring of 1971. For over thirty years—until 2002 or so—I was damn near a model satsangi (disciple).
I never missed a day of meditation. Mostly it was for the full proscribed two and a half hours. Sometimes less. One and a half hours was a minimum, such as when my daughter needed after-work attention and I was working full time. I followed the other vows perfectly, aside from having a single drink at my ten year high school reunion, which was just too freaking weird to endure without a dose of alcohol.
So don't tell me that I can't complain about Sant Mat and Radha Soami Satsang Beas. I'm totally justified in doing so. Because I know more about this philosophy and this organization than most initiates. Not just book knowledge—direct experience also.
Or, lack of experience, when it comes to meditation. I'm typical in this regard. Over those three decades I talked with hundreds, maybe thousands, of RSSB meditators. Very few, perhaps none, had experienced what they were told to expect. Those flights to inner mystical regions and the meeting with their guru's radiant astral form.
With me, it wasn't for lack of effort. Again, I did everything right. And the results were wrong. Now, many of the faithful would say, "Brian, you expected too much, too soon." Give me a break.
Thirty years isn't too soon. A glimpse of the promised spiritual land isn't too much.
I had a strange relationship (or lack thereof) with my father, whom my mother left when I was four. By all accounts, and my own impression of him, he was a jerk. But when he knew that he was seriously sick, close to dying, he reached out to me when I was in my 30's.
It didn't turn out to be a Hallmark moment. Life isn't a slogan on a greeting card. But because my father phoned me up after some thirty years of ignoring his son, I was able to spend a single hour with him in a Boston hotel room. It was the most deeply frustrating and disappointing hour in my life. Yet I'm thankful beyond words that my father gave me this gift.
He was much more generous than my supposed spiritual "father," Charan Singh. When I was initiated by the guru, the claim was that his astral form had been implanted within my being, and that he would eventually appear within my consciousness and guide me back to Sach Khand, the highest spiritual region.
Well, I'm still waiting. My physical father, who nobody would call a saint, turned out to be more caring and compassionate than Charan Singh, who was considered a saintly soul. Go figure.
I've done a lot of that over the years—figuring—and have concluded that either the guru (1) deceived disciples into believing that he was someone that he actually was not (most likely), or (2) had mystical powers but didn't use them in a generous manner.
Either way, I'm entitled to a whole lot of complaining.
The psychoanalytically-inclined will see in my story a projection onto Charan Singh of the father-qualities that I never experienced in my all-too-human life. I plead guilty (or innocent, whichever). Yes, I wanted a spiritual father who wouldn't disappoint me the way my physical father did. And I'm angry that I didn't fare any better the second father-time around.
Ander, you mentioned my "bodyguard" volunteer, or seva, experience with RSSB. Yes, I had some rather minimal karate background at the time. However, even if I'd been a sixth degree black belt, it wouldn't have made much difference if a van full of Sikh terrorists had pulled up with automatic weapons.
I pondered such possibilities one seva time. It was 3:00 am in the morning. I was standing outside the bedroom where Charan Singh's successor, Gurinder Singh, was sleeping, trying to walk back and forth in the darkness as quietly as possible, lurking behind some bushes so I didn't appear too obtrusive.
High quality seva. Seva that most disciples would die for. And I was prepared to. I'm pretty sure about that. I'd stand there under the stars wondering, "What would you do if, god forbid, some armed terrorists roared up the street and stormed the house?" (At the time, violent Sikh separatists in the Punjab were active and weren't friendly toward RSSB.)
I was strongly committed to Sant Mat and the guru. I had given it my all for over twenty years. I was ready to give more: my life. I couldn't conceive of cowering and remaining alive if Gurinder Singh was attacked. I'd rather die than live with that dishonor.
So again, don't tell me that I'm not justified in criticizing the group that I was more than willing to sacrifice myself for. I gave RSSB and the guru all that I was capable of for a long time, asking little in return.
As you said, Ander, I wrote three books for the organization. I've lost track of how much time I put into that seva. Seven years, probably. Many days I'd research or write for several hours. Few initiates, I bet, have committed that much to RSSB. So, yes, I feel justified.
In the course of writing those books I read every book published by RSSB from cover to cover. And believe me, there's a lot of them. I took notes on the contents and organized them. I'm as familiar with the Sant Mat philosophy as anyone. I've talked the talk and I've walked the walk.
So, yes, I feel justified. In the mid-1990s I got a phone call from India. Faith Singh, head of the RSSB Publications Department, told me that Charan Singh (who died in 1990) always had wanted to have a little book that he could hand out to people who wanted to know the spiritual rationale for vegetarianism.
This book project had hit some hurdles. Faith said that the present guru, Gurinder Singh, had told her, "Give Brian a call." It took me no time at all to say, "Sure, I'll take on the book."
Several years and countless hours of writing work later I got another phone call from India. Faith said, "You really need to come to the Dera [in the Punjab} so we can finish editing the book together. But I have to tell you, it probably will be published as part of a series of introductory Sant Mat books. The authors aren't identified. So you won't be credited."
"No problem," I told her. "I'll come to India." Which I did, and spent two weeks working on the final edits. In the end my name was put on the book. I was pleased. Yet I was content to be the anonymous author, because I was devoted to Sant Mat and my guru.
So, yes, I feel justified.
When I used to give satsangs (talks) for RSSB, one of my favorite subjects was passion. I'd say that someone who runs headlong in one direction, then turns around and dashes just as quickly the other way, is going to get to his destination quicker than a person who steadily plods along in one direction.
My basic nature is to be passionate and committed. My first marriage lasted eighteen years, many of them unhappy. I stuck with my wife for as long as she wanted us to stay together. My second marriage is into its seventeenth happy year. I've been having my hair cut by the same woman, Betsy, for thirty years (my longest female relationship!). It took me twelve years to earn a martial arts black belt. I felt like quitting many times. I didn't.
So, yes, I feel justified. I gave Sant Mat and RSSB my best spiritual and meditative shot. I did as I was told, but I didn't get the results that were, if not promised, told would be forthcoming with a high degree of probability.
After devoting nine years to traditional Shotokan karate, I was at an impasse. I knew that my martial arts skills were progressing, but the Shotokan powers-that-be who presided over rank examinations didn't like what they were seeing. So I faced a choice: stick with a style that obviously wasn't suited for me, or take the leap and leave my familiar martial arts home.
I leapt. And have no regrets. None at all. Barriers are meant to be leapt over. Back in 2000 I found inspiration in a heretical Shotokan karate web site, "Shotokan Planet." What Rob Redmond, a longtime karate practitioner, said applies equally to spiritual training:
If your karate instructor cannot get you to expertise within ten years, then you have a stinky instructor. A ten year veteran of a karate club who trained regularly should be every bit the match of the JKA [Japanese Karate Association] instructors who came to the West all those years ago. If not, then your instructor isn't doing his job or you are not training regularly.
The axiom should therefore be reprinted with a different line of text. Karate training that requires a lifetime is bad karate training. For every student, there is a time when training ends. For people who make their entire world revolve around a karate dojo, that time is death.
For everyone else who simply wishes to learn to take a different perspective on themselves, that time could be after six months or ten years, but the time eventually comes. Know when it has come, and have the courage to recognize it and do the right thing by yourself.