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September 02, 2008


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All that stuff about different coloured badges Brian made a shiver go down my spine. It smells of spiritual fascism.

I don't get it? Reading stories like this, and how they are retold, is imo more revealing about the person telling the tale than the organisation (in this case RSSB) itself.

The thing that really stood out was the "no colour badges (those who were looked upon as having no class)" comment. 'No colour'? Do they mean WHITE (as is confirmed later in the story; 'those in white badges sat...')? The story is told in terms of insinuation and inference that does not neccessarily reflect everyone who was there's experience & understanding.

I cannot help but read stories like the one above as kind of a meaningless propaganda. A *reading*, interpretation and/or recounting of events in the most cynical, negative & critical terminology POSSIBLE?

Did everyone of those no (white) colour/'class' of people interpret the events that day in that room the same way this emailer has, in secondhand, recounted? I seriously doubt it? What percentage of people in that room truely believed they were 'caged up'?

So what is being criticised? The flaws of a worldly organisation? I don't anybody, ever, has ever claimed perfection of the organisation? Anyone have any source for this claim/implied inference? Does anybody know of ANY worldy organisation (government, religous group, place of employment, club or union etc) that conducts all it's affairs without even the slightest criticism from any corner?

I did seva at Haynes Park UK for several years, regular (weekends and holidays). This consisted mainly of compost heap, digging, demolition, cleaning, general manual labour. I guess that makes me 'no' class or colour badge? Yes there are numerous flaws and organisational structures which can frustrate and seem 'unfair', no doubt. But what do we expect, sach khand on earth?

For me personally, *how* you deal with that seeming unfairness, 'class' structure, relative distance from the guru compared to the 'inside circle' etc etc WAS the entire point of seva. I took every person and every event as a 'instrument' of the guru's 'teaching', a situation within which I could truely learn humility, restraint, submission etc etc. Not as some game where I try to access proximity to the guru, or to get some special 'important' seva, or to position my ego in some other favourable situation.

In a sense, and I truely mean this, and I sheepishly must admit it almost still is bringing tears to my eyes, I remember my time at the bottom of the seva heap, literally in the manure pile by myself or a few close friends, feeling a love and devotion that was indescribable. I'm finding it hard to express my meaning in apt words....I guess what I'm saying is, that feeling of love intoxication was only opened up after I could allow my ego and it's likes and dislikes to recede, and when submission to the vagaries of the imperfect world (and RSSB organisation!) occured.....

What is the dynamic of seva (if we can accept it has a purpose or dynamic)? Is it the elite few 'inner circle' with access to the physical form that is Gurinder doing 'important' seva? Well, I don't know about how helpful seva is for them guys, or those with seva of importance, and why so many play politics and games etc (and some DO, and always will do), but I truely believe we've lost all and any insight we ever had into why we do seva in the first place. And once you're playing games of ego (seva with some other purpose than simply love & devotion), there will always be losses and failures, hurt and upset etc. Maybe the point of seva was to, errm, 'disentangle' yourselves from these very kind of games of give and take?

Don't get me wrong, I know not everyone in RSSB looks at this the same way. Are there 'proud' satsangis, proud of their important seva, closeness to the guru etc, and not really working on any kind of self-development? Of course there are! Hell, in all honesty, I don't even know if Gurinder himself genuinely has the same view of the purpose of seva?! But I DO know from personal practice and experience that it CAN have a truely transformative, uplifting and devotion/love engendering EFFECT, not just in the company of such organisational failings and control, of egotistical sevadars etc, but *BECAUSE* of them!! They were, in my experience, wonderful TOOLS for help in making ME change in positive ways.

And the story told above does, in my very meaningless opinion, nothing at all to make me have concern or worry for the satsangis and sevadars in this 'cult' of RSSB, I still think they're in a pretty safe environment for practicing 'seva'......

Manjit, you are right, this organization compares favorably to a public grammar school in the US.

Manjit, what you speak of, "seva," is something universal. Almost everyone who volunteers has the same feeling you speak of.

It's nothing special, nothing unique to RSSB, nothing that can only be had by performing service for a guru.

I feel much the same as you do whenever I do my volunteer work for our neighborhood association.

It's simply human kindness, laying aside our self-centeredness for a while.

Making "seva" into something special and sacred is ridiculous. As is forcing human kindness into a rigid mold by locking people up, not trusting them to do the right thing.

Hello Brian. I don't really believe you understood the point of my comments.

I don't think for a moment 'seva' is unique to RSSB, or 'special', or 'sacred'.

Though I do think it is a tad assumptive to assume that 'guru bhakti' engenders the exact same results or effects in human consciousness as does say being a volunteer at a charity. As it is assumptive to assume that ONLY guru bhakti and not volunteer work can create the same effects on consciousness.

I certainely believe you are being prematurely reductionist & assumptive when you say 'almost everyone who volunteers has the same feelings'. Personally I'm almost certain this is not true. There is far, far more nuance in subjective states of consciousness than this kind of reductionism allows. And I have no doubt whatsoever, that certain elements of 'seva' or 'bhatki' have the *very real potential* to generate states of consciousness that, no, most volunteers to NOT 'feel'. This isn't hypothetical theology, but a general observation of reality based on my experiences. I can very easily intuit/know how 'seva' without religio/mystical context can make one feel, as I also know from my own experience the very different effect WITH religio/mystical context too.

If it (shabd yoga or guru bhakti) didn't work for you, please don't make the mistake of assuming it never 'works' for anyone, and then correlating all kinds of more mundane states of consciousness with the *highest potential* of these practices! If even a million people don't get the 'correct' effect of seva, but one does, then there is still a legitimate purpose for it, even if for the multitudes it has another potential to cause harm.

There is, and always will be, those who know implicitly your contexualisation of certain experiences doesn't match the experiential reality of them. Hence, there will always be people who know that no, not everyone who volunteers for charity work has the same conscious experience as one who is doing guru-bhakti. Even if they do know it's not unique or special or whatever. You're talking about a whole other mindset, one that I was precisely countering in my post.

Besides all that, my point was something else entirely, actually.

Who exactly was 'LOCKED UP'? 'Not trusting them to do the right thing'? None of these kind of sentences make sense to me? Sniff of propaganda, an expression of anti-RS sentiment dressed up in righteous and reasonable rhetoric. But I just don't see it.

I hope one day we can all live in a world where we can all simply trust people to do the 'right thing', and that being 'locked up' is simply being told to stay in a room for a while....

The "Core Sevadars" story, IMO, is just a story. However, if true, and some "Locking Up" is occuring. I would suggest that RSSB engage in some "Fire Safety" training. This is an OSHA workplace required training program. JJ Keller is an excellant source on training literature and videos.

Manjit, if guards are posted at doors and told not to let anyone leave, I call that "locked up." Especially if when someone does try to leave, the guard frantically gets on a walkie talkie and calls for help.

We've had different experiences. I've done a lot of RSSB seva. I've also done a lot of volunteer work for other causes. I don't feel much difference between them. Yes, at times I felt that doing seva for the guru was special, but that sprang from a concept I had of the guru, not from the actual experience of volunteering in itself.

Sure, there's different volunteering strokes for different folks. I don't deny that. Christians feel great about doing their Christian service. Ditto for Buddhists, Muslims, Taoists, and RSSB'ers.

Your argument that if one person gets benefit from RSSB seva, then this proves its worth, doesn't make sense. All it shows is that people get satisfaction from all sorts of activities, which is obvious.

Having had over thirty years of intimate experience with RSSB seva, my main objection to it is twofold.

One, it fosters a sense of specialness that is common to most religious volunteering. It is this sense that appeals most to sevadars, which is strange -- because feeling special is an ego-enhancing thing, and thus runs counter to the supposed goal of seva.

Two, it is founded on a profound hierarchy and dualism that isn't as prevalent in other organizations where I've volunteered. RSSB sevadars are taught not to question, to obey orders unthinkingly, because the source of those orders is believed to come from God, the guru.

This is dangerous, because it takes people away from themselves and leads them to look for truth externally, rather than internally.

Once I gave a talk at a large Petaluma gathering. Going to a preceding talk, I saw that cell phones were being collected outside the hall. "What's up with that?" I thought.

I kept my phone. I felt good about making up my own mind. Universally, at meetings I've been to someone announces, "Please turn your cell phones and pagers off." And virtually universally, everyone does.

Some rules are made to be broken, because they don't make sense. The guy who left the guarded building realized that. Good for him.

Well, this is an interesting subject, lots of different points raised.

First of all, I personally don't think I have or made *any* judgements about RSSB seva's so called 'worth'? From my pov, I was just recounting experiential truths, not making statements about worth. Actually, I don't feel that there is anything special about RS seva, or in fact that there is any 'worth' to it ultimately whatsoever. Much like everything else in life. I even consider normal 'seva' or charitable works, without any religous or spiritual connotations, to be *GENERALLY* a far more selfless and 'honourable' act.

However, I simply cannot deny the potential for altered states of consciousness, and indeed the potential for psychological and character 'development' within the RS seva structure, that is *perhaps* not as common a side-effect of volunteer work in the community. I don't for a moment believe that this full potential is unlocked by the majority, or even many, RS satsangis, but that's another matter entirely.

Again, I know from experience that RS seva has the *potential* for generating experiences where, for example, the question of 'specialness', doesn't even arise. Strictly speaking, seva is meant to be an expression of love, and in love there is no-thing or body except the guru/god and you. Ultimately, even these boundaries may blur. This is an experiential but subjective truth, any amount of debate about it doesn't negate it's experiential reality. For THIS kind of sevadar, questions of specialness will seem absurd. There is no such quantifying and measuring, comparing and contextualising; simply love, and the expression of that love. Do I believe that this is the state of all/many/most RSSB satsangis? Of course not! I'm talking about potential, and perhaps the original and true idealised purpose of it (seva).

Am I making value judgements about the WORTH even of this kind of seva? No! Just making an observation from WITHIN the RS conceptual model that, in a way, invalidates the inferences of your secret emailer's original story?

More to the point, the language of the original emailer indicates a strong partiality, a bias. A weaving of images (no colour - no class) that betrays a motive other than impartial observance.

Also, how sure are you of the exact 'truth' of what happened? Guards? Do you mean the brothers, sisters, fathers, sons, daughters etc of some of those who were in that hall? Do you know what the guy 'frantically' using his walkie talkie was actually saying (get the stun gun?! :-)??

Well, lets not beat around the bush. I'm an exer through and through. I'd never advise anyone on a 'mystical' path to do RS seva, or follow RS teachings myself. But in my experience with RSSB UK & in India, there was never anything remotely sinister or untoward. Maybe that's not the case with others, but the story above comes across as a little desperate to me? But each to their own. For me, there are indeed many things about the RS theology which are criticism worthy, but trying to re-paint RSSB as some criminal & sinister organisation by re-telling non-events (like that in the email to you) in a sensational manner is kind of defeating your purpose imo. Satsangis just won't resonate with the RSSB image being portrayed here. Even as an 'exer', I simply do not see it.

You know, a thought occurs (!). The title of this blog was 'the strange side of guru devotion'.

Well, yes. Actually, the entire idea of 'guru devotion' will be STRANGE to a western mindset. So the title of this blog is actually a narrowing of a far wider issue. There is no strage side, because the entire concept from the get go is strange.....to a modern western mind.

I really don't think the traditional dynamic of eastern guru-bhakti translates well in the west.

So, as a general rule I honestly don't believe guru-bhakti is a viable 'spiritual method' for the modern age, especially in the west.

Though I don't think that negates the potential it undoubtedly & experientially has.

What if the door had been left open?

What if there were no "guards"?

Would the sevadars have disobeyed "orders" (of GOD almighty himself)?

It almost reminds me of my time in school (Babaji's alma mater!!!), where permission to drink water (Sanawar summers)during class was denied. My daughter takes her bottle to class(here in the USA) and takes a swig as and when desired.

Where is the human free will....?

Does it even play a part in this organization?

I definitely have to agree with Brian. And Manjit seems to be missing the issue here. The issue (imo) is not about "seva", it is about control, abuse, disrespect, and inequality.

Locking satsangis (or anyone for that matter) up inside a room, and not letting them leave, and even placing guards at the door - especially at a supposed "spiritual" gathering - is just absolutely disgusting and criminal, and it clearly reveals the controlling, abusive and fundamentally disrespectful mindset and inequality which pervades the RSSB cult, and especially reflects it's leader Gurinder and his sick goons. People such as these, who fail to respect the basic rights and freedoms of other folks, are just not worth having anything to do with.

And anyone, such as those pathetic satsangis who would actually put up with being locked inside of a room (not to mention being treated as low-class and made to sit in the back of the hall), is a nothing more than a damn fool. People who foolishly suck-up to such tyranical gurus and allow themselves to be pushed around by the controlling cult-goons... they deserve the abuse they get.

The RSSB has become nothing more than a typical sick cult, rife with abuses of power and gross inequality, and its followers nothing but a bunch of pathetically lame and groveling sychophants.

The RSSB is a shit-hole... and its phony leader is big fat turd, and its followers have piss-soaked sponges for brains. Period. End of story.


You raise many good points about interpretation and the strangeness of guru bhakti in the west. David wonders where the "human free-will" is in the organization-----but he misses one important point--noone is born into sant mat. I know many, especially indian families, where there are many satsangis, may (intentionally) condition their youth to sign up, but I think the organization does a good job in making sure that folks aren't coerced into asking for initiation.

Brian, you talk about walking to the "beat of one's own drum." This is precisely the type of attitude that doesn't mesh well with guru bhakti. This is because "walking to the beat of one's own drum" is a western concept, perhaps especially an American, even NY, life, liberty, and happiness for all, melting-pot attitude. "one's own drum" in RSSB thought is usually seen as the mind with it's downward tendencies, dragging the disciple away from the goal. The essential point here though is that in Guru Bhakti, the disciple performs acts of discipline out of love, not coercion, force or self-repression based on fear.

you think I have a
piss-soaked sponge for a brain? :(

Why do people love the guru? Is it because he is polite and has a well-combed beard without many boogers and crumbs in it?...well, maybe a few, but not many. Nobody's perfect, but they say the sat guru IS perfect, so maybe there aren't any boogers in his beard. Nary a one. Gotta love the guy for that.

Anyway, it certainly isn't because they have a personal relationship with him...except in imagination. Most satsangis never get closer to him than 10 meters or so. Maybe if they have a special yellow badge they get a little closer..by his grace, of course.

They love the guru because of what they think he can do for them and who they imagine he is...their god and saviour. Ultimately, their love is selfish. It's all about what he can do for them and what he represents. Would they be carrying dirt on their heads in service to him with grit in their loving, tear-streamed eyes if they believed he was any less? If he was just an appointed figurehead?

If they knew the guru could do nothing for them regarding "salvation", that he was "just another slob on the bus", would they love him then? Would he be sitting on the dais gazing over tens of thousands, or at the most, ten?

I think Edward summed it up best.. it all sounds like a grammar school where the rabbi has a turban on his head instead of a duck.

Well not really Adam ...but you know... like if you think that locking people in a room for a time with guards barring the doors is somehow cool and acceptable, then your brain is probably more like moldy swiss cheese with lots of holes in it. :o]

oh, yes, and then sometimes the turban wears the baba, so sad

Hey Tao.

I forgot about this issue until I read this comment: "And Manjit seems to be missing the issue here. The issue (imo) is not about "seva", it is about control, abuse, disrespect, and inequality.".

Well, I feel this is incorrect that it needs addressing! I honestly believe both you & Brian and maybe Tucson have all missed my 'point' entirely...

The issue of seva was not my point at all, really. As I clarified to Brian on more than occassion.

My POINT is that the actual story of the 'abuse', 'locking up', 'guards' etc etc, is MORE than a little suspect. It reads like propaganda, quite transparently.

To take this story seriously without any kind of questioning would be, imo, tantamount to accepting an anecdote of mediumship or telekenetic powers without question and then running with all the various implication of it. Which is what all of you appear to be doing. (so no, the issue of seva was a side-issue, not my 'point')

Very, very poor reasoning and discrimination, if you ask me. But each to their own fictional narrative I suppose....

A democratic vote beforehand would have prevented the mini sevadar uprising.

The Sevadars who made the undemocratic decision were aware that not all devotees can restrain themselves. So it was an exercise in enforced restraint over physical closeness. Restraint was the object valued over and above the other. I am just wondering if the decision makers were sitting up close? Look, Sant Mat is not a democracy. Why does the Dera make such a good holiday?... because the Western non-Indian satsangis are treated like the high caste in very pleasant accomodation.

So, restraining ourselves or being restrained by others, may both be important in developing certain refining qualities under varying conditions and circumstances. The prefects at the grammar school are not perfect and so may err on the repressive side.

I disagree with both Manjit and Catherine.

Here is why I disagree:

Manjit is saying that the story about the sevadars being locked up is very suspect and questionable. Manjit feels that whoever wrote that account probably has some another agenda. However, this account is all we have at present... that is, until we have more additional corroborative info. So based upon the info presented so far, the actual physical locking of people inside a guarded building (and treating them as though they cannot restrain themselves if asked to do so), just so that they will be prevented from taking seats in the front, is deplorable and also an obvious violation of their rights. If the RSSB-A management & sevadars wanted particular seats reserved for particular people, then they should have simply regulated and controled that as people entered the auditorium and were assigned their seats. The actual physical locking-up or caging of anyone or group of people inside of another building is highly inappropriate and more importantly it is a direct violation of their rights. There are other more appropriate ways to insure that people get seated in the desired or proper seats.


Catherine is saying that there was a "sevadar uprising", and that "not all devotees can restrain themselves" and so therefore must be forcebly restrained by others.... that these low-level sevadar people somehow needed to be restrained until others of higer status were seated in the front seats.

Catherine also says that "Sant Mat is not a democracy". And she goes on to say that "restraining ourselves or being restrained by others, may both be important in developing certain refining qualities under varying conditions and circumstances".

Unless Catherine means something other that how this appears and sounds, I have disagree will all of these ideas. Because:

(1) Who says that those people could not or would not restrain themselves if they were given the chance and asked to do so? Were they given the chance? No apparently not - they were treated as un-self-restrained animals.

(2) Restraining people and preventing them from taking closer or front seats by physically locking them up inside of aother building for hours is clearly abusive and criminal. There are other far better and more proper ways to regulate the flow of people into the appropriate seating.

(3) Sant mat may not be a "democracy", BUT the United States IS. And more importantly, the USA (which is where the Petaluma, California RS event took place) is a Constitutional Republic in which ALL people have fundamental RIGHTS, whether they be standing upon public OR private property. Locking people up inside a building with guards posted at the doors to forcebly prevent them from leaving, is in fact a criminal violation of their Rights. Just because the RSSB itself is a kind of cult dictatorship, does not allow the RSSB (or any of its members) to violate other people's rights within the USA. In this case, any one of those people (if they were in fact actually locked up as was reported), could bring both criminal charges and a civil lawsuit against the RSSB-A AND its sevadars for physically locking them up inside of a building against their will.

(4) And lastly, the notion that "being restrained by others, may both be important in developing certain refining qualities under varying conditions and circumstances" is an absolute load of rubbish. The RSSB nor any of its goons has any damn business in physically restraining of other people for any such reason, and that includes for "developing certain refining qualities". This is just blatant bullshit. There is no such justification at all.

Well, I live just near Haynes Park and sometimes actually get up
there. But I am happy to say I have never experienced any of this
stuff. Not on any visits, and many visits I make when the master is
there, by luck. But I have never witnessed any of this stuff.
Regards, Anne.

All this talk about required seating arrangements made me kinda laugh and think a little. I'm a small thinking person.

Over the years, I have attended hundreds of (non-religious) lectures and work-shops. Most people tend to seat themselves in the back of the room. I prefer to seat myself, up front, close to the speaker. I love asking questions, and conversing close to the lecturer. Many times, I am all alone, up front.

Yeah, I have noticed that. Everyone avoids the front so that leaves it nice and empty. Have a seat!

I think you are only raising a storm in a tea cup.

All these are parts of any organisation.

And if they were locked up for 2.5 hours, they could have done Bhajan and simran and thanked the Guru.

After all, RSSB is a spiritual organistion. is it not?

The only area where I disagree with RSSB is the way they claim what I may call spiritual aristocracy (Al Camino). Tht their path is the highest and the greatest. Or else, such behaviours are par for course in the spiritual arena. Read Zen.

I called a couple of friends in Petaluma to see if they could corroborate this story. What I heard was that the people with white badges were not actually locked up. Rather, guards were placed at all the exit doors and they were told not to leave. On Wednesday there no one was allowed on the Petaluma center premises unless their name was on a special list, including the sevadars who had been coming on Wednesday for years. My suspicion is the 100 or so who got to go to the party all were dong "seva" while he was there because it is said he likes to see this. If anyone doubts this story I suggest they call Petaluma and talk to anyone who goes out on Wednesday. One person I talked to has decided to quit doing seva after 8 or so years because of this incident. At least 2 people have written Baba Ji and management about this. I am NOT an exer, but this kind of thing makes me sick and I see a beautiful spiritual practice slowly becoming a highly organized and sometimes abusive religion. I figure after 50 years or so they will figure out how to treat their congregations better, just like the large churches do.


I go to haynes Park regurlarly and I have never hear of people being locked up or having to sit at the back of the room. Its first come first seated and gets filled up from the front to the back.

Its very orderly and in my eyes a perfect sangat with a perfect master.


The problem was regarding satsangis being "locked-up" at the big RSSB center in Petaluma California... NOT at Haynes Park, in the UK. So just because this sort of thing has not happened in the UK, it does not make excuse for the incident that occured in California. That incident has apparently been reported by several separate and different people.

I was not there so I cannot say what happened, only what has been reported. My point was simply that IF IT DID HAPPEN, then it is totally inappropriate and wrong not to mention unlawful to force anyone or any group of people to be held against their will inside a building with guards at the doors to prevent them from leaving.

So just because you come along and say that (in your experience) this kind of thing has not happened at Haynes Park, that does not change the fact that apparently IT HAS HAPPENED at Petaluma... and so that reflects very poorly of the mentality and the actions of those persons who were responsible for that incident.

As for the "perfect sangat with a perfect master", well that's just your biased opinion. The notion of a "perfect sangat" and/or a "perfect master" is meaningless because it really is nothing more than an abstract idea in your mind.

Regarding the perfect sangat at Haynes park. I have been there many times when the master was speaking and my experience was indeed positive - it was entertaining, the atmosphere was pleasant and the talks were interesting in the way that I could easily quiet my mind during them ( although the long lines at the toilets were not so pleasant ). But that happens to me every time I take my time to for example drink green tea or play guitar or feel the cool air outside or attend a concert or attend a philosophy seminar or play in a band. This state of perfection does not have anything to do with the "perfection" of the master but with calming yourself down so that you can be present in the moment. Anyway, I have been to many satsangs in my country and they are increasingly becoming more morbid in atmosphere with the strong division between those who walk the path and those who do not, so I really get nothing from them. I mostly see confused people who bring to mind the early christian theologians who traded honesty with absolute certainty in their system of thought. Because they were not honest with themselves they became increasingly dogmatic and started ( probably out of subconscious fear ) a strong kind of dualism between those who follow the Truth and those who don't. The idea of heresy was thus ( again ) born - out of the need to have strength over the world outside and over people, because they themselves did not have strength over themselves. This is exactly what's happening in RSSB.

What a sick cult. I am glad I have left it far behind.

Recently I heard the Gurinder Sigh apologized to all the sevadars in Petaluma for what happened. I assume this means he personally verified that sevadars had in fact been locked up in a barn. His letter started with the words "It is with a heavy heart, and I take full responsibiliy for what happened" and later said "when I find that my visits do not bring harmony amongst you but rather dissension." This letter was read numberous times in petaluma accoding to my source.

petaluma, huh? check out amba house.org jayasvala doesn't claim to be a guru, is accessible thru email, answers all, and invited humble unknown me over for prasad. you guys are hanging out with the wrong crew.

I think one of the lessons from the above post, is NOT to just see RSSB as a flawed path, and that there is a better crew at Amba house, but that being a follower period puts you in a very vulnerable position. It basically says you know nothing, and that's how its going to stay. How else will organizations such as RSSB and Amba house have any meaning or value?

I wonder how many of RSSB’s members have ever thought about the number of days per year they throw away because that are commanded to mediate 2 1/2 hours per day-
Works out to be over 45 days - that’s right ! 45 days a year. Each and every year‼️

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