Like I said in my last post, I enjoy reading the regional Radha Soami Satsang Beas newsletter because it reminds me of what I like and dislike about what used to be my chosen faith: Sant Mat.
The current RSSB guru, Gurinder Singh, is notoriously adverse to having his talks recorded or transcribed. Plus, he rarely writes anything for public consumption. So the only way of learning about his pronouncements, aside from seeing him in person, is second hand.
In the September 2007 newsletter, Vince Savarese offers up an interesting snippet:
We turn now to the words of the Masters on how to become an ideal satsangi [RSSB initiate]. Baba Ji [Gurinder Singh] last month in Fayetteville told the sangat [congregation] that ceaseless prayer, a Christian practice, is the same as our simran practice. We are to keep the remembrance of the Lord always with us.
This caught my eye because I'm a big fan of both "The Cloud of Unknowing," the classic medieval guide to Christian mysticism by an unknown author (likely an English country parson), and "Open Mind, Open Heart" by Thomas Keating, a modern take on The Cloud of Unknowing's meditative practice.
Which actually is quite different from that of RSSB and Sant Mat. So Gurinder Singh's equation of the two isn't accurate, in my considered judgment.
Naturally I'm intimately familiar with the RSSB "simran," or repetition of five holy names given to the disciple at the time of initiation. These serve as a mantra that is supposed to be repeated not only during the time of mediation, but also throughout one's waking hours when the mind isn't otherwise occupied.
Christian "ceaseless prayer" encourages the use of a short word, preferably one syllable. The Cloud of Unknowing recommends "God." It doesn't matter much what word is used, whereas RSSB simran is supposed to be solely of the five holy names – which supposedly are the names of rulers of higher realms of reality beyond the physical.
This points to a significant difference between Christian and Sant Mat meditation, one that makes me tilt toward the Christian approach to mysticism. The Cloud of Unknowing, as befits its title, preaches the value of honestly saying "I don't know."
But now you will ask me, "How am I to think of God himself, and what is he?" and I cannot answer you except to say "I do not know!" For with this question you have brought me into the same darkness, the same cloud of unknowing where I want you to be!
For though we through the grace of God can know fully about all other matters, and think about them – yes, even the very works of God himself – yet of God himself can no man think.
Contrast this with the Sant Mat notion that the guru, a person like you and me, is to be viewed as God in human form. In the RSSB meditation practice, visualization of the guru's physical form is to be done along with the mantra meditation, or simran.
This would be anathema to Christian mystics, who warn of the danger of thinking about anything other than the one syllable word, since God won't be found in anything other than an open consciousness that has no expectations concerning the nature of divinity. The Cloud of Unknowing says:
Should he (the thought) ask, "What is this God?" answer that it is the God who made you and redeemed you, and who has, through his grace, called you to his love. "And," tell him, "you do not even know the first thing about him."
And then go on to say, "Get down," and proceed to trample on him out of love for God; yes, even when such thoughts seem to be holy, and calculated to help you find God. Quite possibly he will bring to your mind many lovely and wonderful thoughts of his kindness, and remind you of God's sweetness and love, his grace and mercy.
If you will but listen to him, he asks no more. He will go on chattering increasingly, and bring you steadily down to think of Christ's Passion…Before you know where you are you are disintegrated beyond belief! And the reason? Simply that you freely consented to listen to that thought, and responded to it, accepted it, and gave it its head.
RSSB initiates, on the other hand, are supposed to imagine that the guru is with them always, like an invisible friend that no one else can see but they can talk to (usually mentally, but some speak aloud to the guru as if he was actually physically present).
I've done this on occasion, but it always seemed more than a little strange. I much prefer the approach of Christian mysticism, which eliminates the middleman between the meditator and the mystery of God. This Cloud of Unknowing passage is wonderfully Zen like.
Therefore strain every nerve in every possible way to know and experience yourself as you really are. It will not be long, I suspect, before you have a real knowledge and experience of God as he is.
Even when I was strictly following the RSSB meditation practice, I looked upon it much more as a scientific consciousness experiment rather than an exercise in religious devotion – as most initiates do, and as the above-quoted newsletter enjoins.
The way I see it, astrophysicists studying how gravity affects light from far-off galaxies don't look through their telescopes and think of Einstein while they're conducting their observations. Yes, Einstein is the "guru" of gravity, but he was an individual person and gravity is a universal power.
Einstein pointed others toward understanding the nature of gravity. However, gravity exists independent of Einstein. Similarly, Christian mysticism recognizes that whatever comprises the root of ultimate reality – call this "God," or call it anything else – isn't going to be known by looking through a consciousness that contains familiar objects, mental or physical.
The lens of a telescope has to be clean and clear before it reveals light from across the universe. Likewise, Christian mystics seek to still their minds and strip away obscuring thoughts, perceptions, and imaginings.
Sant Mat and RSSB meditation, on the other hand, places before the mind words that conjure up impressions of higher spiritual realms, along with a memory of the guru's physical form.
That's a lot of clutter. I prefer the sweep-it-clean approach of the Cloud of Unknowing.
Let go this "everywhere" and this "everything" in exchange for this "nowhere" and this "nothing." Never mind if you cannot fathom this nothing, for I love it surely so much the better. It is so worthwhile in itself that no thinking about it will do it justice.
…In this exercise every speculation of the natural mind is to be utterly and completely rejected and forgotten. Then there will be no fear of fantasy or falsehood to foul the naked feeling of your blind being, or to draw you away from the real value of this exercise.
For if you think about anything in particular except your own bare, blind existence – and this, remember, is God's purpose and your own – then you are on the wrong track; you are back again at your speculating and guessing; and this distracts and separates you not only from God but from yourself as well.
The following are some excerpts from a book called beyond the dream by Dr Thomas Hora which I studied his teachings for three years. It was his teachings that allowed me to see that the origin of suffering was ignorance. These excerpts may have something to do with your topic or not. His website is PAGL.
“Man is unavoidably prayerful at all times. Without realizing it, we live in a condition that requires us to pray in order to have a sense of direction in life. Without prayer we judge by appearances and tend to become disoriented. Our senses are not adequate to provide us with reliable information about Reality. We tend to wind up with misdirected modes of being-in-the-world. Whatever we cherish, whatever we hate, and whatever we fear are our gods, and we pray to them all the time.
Prayer can be thought of as a mental hygiene principle. Sanity depends on being in touch with Reality. Thus, prayer is an existential necessity. We are not talking here about religious prayer, which is mostly petitionary. We define prayer as a constant conscious endeavor to be aware of our place in Reality”
Posted by: william | September 11, 2007 at 04:32 PM
D'ont believe for a second that Christian Mysticism eliminates the middleman-Jesus is always part of their equation.“Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray while standing in synagogues and on street corners so that people can see them. Truly I say to you, they have their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:5-6).Makes me want scream anytime I read about a "Prayer Breakfast" or support for School Prayer.
Posted by: D.J. | September 11, 2007 at 06:42 PM
Strength of prayer can not be undermined.In general, God/ Godman is the centre point towards whom the utterances are made. People are known to have made prayers to photos/ statues and have drawn enough strength to achieve their goals. Ekalavya made a clay image of Drona ( his Godman) and made daily prayers and literelly worshipped him. The world knows his feats and amply exhibits the strength in prayer.
It is my personal experience that even a prayer made in the name of a friend or even an unkown entity gives strength to achieve a mundane goal for which I can say with conviction.Regarding, spiitual goal my fingers are crossed.
I am finding it rather difficult to put things in words.
I shall appreciate if someone else from blogsters helps to put the things straight...................
with love to one and all,
Posted by: Rakesh Bhasin | September 12, 2007 at 07:57 AM
I pulled out the calculator and figured you have performed roughly 10,000,000 repetitions of simran if performed at the rate of six rounds per minute, 2.5 hrs daily for 30 years...give or take a few million for time spent nodding off and extra simran during the day.
According to you, this practice has been unsatisfactory other than keeping you out of the bars and steakhouses.
Tao has been encouraging us to chant Hare Krishna. What if after 30 years of this the results are similarly unsatisfactory?
I know, we're not supposed to be concerned with results, just loving surrender.
But after another 30 years, there won't be much time for a third chance.
Posted by: Tucson Bob | September 12, 2007 at 02:43 PM
To Toa, Tucson Bob, and all the good people who are questioning.. What the heck is going on here????
To keep ones options open, is always a good thing... I think it is important to mediate, and keep a peaceful mind.. But, we are already in bondage just having to live here without knowing why.. So, for me, I feel better to enjoy and protect God's creation while living here. Without a creation, there would be no one around to praise the creator.. I like thinking that 5 names might help, but, I was also freed from the land of Egypt and am still trying to obey all that God wants from me, for doing that, for my ancestors before me..God is very harsh in long run... Keep your options open, get a glimpse at least of anyone that is rumored to have touched God's hand.. But, probably it's only inside us and no one else. So, kiss your hand, touch your heart, and respect yourself.. find something to mediate on from time to time.. And once in a while keep a peaceful mind, then go out and have fun, this is a great place to party with friends and family.. We may really only be here once.. Blessings ...
Posted by: Land of Par | September 12, 2007 at 03:13 PM
“Without a creation, there would be no one around to praise the creator.”
Not sure the creator wants any praise. Need for praise is a human need based in wanting to overcome our own self hate which has its origin in ignorance (ie unawareness or not knowing).
As far as meditation I suspect all the mediation in the world will not enlighten us if our consciousness is not “ready” to be enlighten. There appears to be an evolution of consciousness or unfoldment occurring and our personal effort may or may not be a factor or one of many factors.
Even after enlightenment there is a long journey ahead of us to fully become “that that is” always knowing at least intellectually that we are already “that that is”. Perfect and magnificent paradox that allows oneness to become twoness.
Those that tell you they already are that that is (isness) without having the creative ability, vitality, and intelligence of that that is are in my mind speaking from the delusional false self. i.e. ego.
Land of par after rereading you post I realize I was nitpicking your post so please accept my apologies as the rest of your post is very well stated at least in my unenlightened mind.
Posted by: william | September 12, 2007 at 03:47 PM
Those that tell you:
"Even after enlightenment there is a long journey ahead of us to fully become “that that is” always knowing at least intellectually..."
"Those that tell you they already are that that is (isness) without having the creative ability, vitality, and intelligence of that that is"...
...are in fact speaking from the delusional false self. i.e. ego.
Posted by: tao | September 13, 2007 at 11:40 AM
Thanks for your comments.. I agree about humans needing to overcome self. Not sure it's self hate.. I certainly don't hate myself. but have felt a need to say thanks somehow, for having good health and mental capacity. Personally I feel very blessed in this life to not be struggling with health issues. So, my mantra today, would be 'thank you, oh, thank you to my inner being for sustaining my life force in ongoing comfort" . This is a remarkable place to live out a life... What I don't understand is why the whole planet hasn't progressed to place of harmony by this time in history. And I love the statement made earlier.. Why should we need a middleman to connect us to the truth? Now, don't get me wrong.. I believe in teachers for all things, to bring us from the darkness into the light. Teachers to give us more knowledge for greater performance on all levels of life.. But, the teacher is not the end, or their teachings.. I would still be needing Miss Doney my first grade teacher, if that were true.
Like the wonderful film "Proof". We take the knowledge and keep growing from there.. We acquire more knowledge and grow again. I can't speak of anything about an after life because nothing yet has opened that door.. But the core of my soul, encourages me to read your point of view, to read their point of view and as much as I can read until I have to go get physical and hit a little golf ball, as far, and as straight, as I possibly can..
Good Day, from the Land of Par
Posted by: Land of Par | September 15, 2007 at 10:55 AM
None....you're ego has and still is in the way.....
Posted by: .......... | December 29, 2007 at 08:48 AM
Anonymous commenter, I always find statements like yours fascinating. You apparently know so much, you know all about my ego and the "way," plus how my ego relates to the way.
That's a lot of knowing. Or rather, supposed knowing. I don't understand why it is egotistical for me to say "I don't know" (as I did in this post), while your know-it-all comment isn't filled with ego.
Posted by: Brian | December 29, 2007 at 11:09 AM