I thought I'd try to glean some broader meaning out of "My strange RSSB initiation story," since that tale I told a few days ago was so personal.
Maybe that isn't possible. Perhaps my thirty-eight year journey from devout true believer to skeptical churchless agnostic is so idiosyncratic, it doesn't hold any lessons for someone else.
Well, let's see.
I'll take a stab at resurrecting a few reasons (so far as I'm aware of them) that led me to join a religious group. I'll also try to briefly share how those reasons morphed as my involvement with Radha Soami Satsang Beas waxed and waned.
(1) Lure of the Way Out There. In the '60s we said "Far out!" a lot. Also, "That's trippy." Along with countless others, I enjoyed exploring some of the farther limits of altered consciousness states.
Psychedelics were one way to get there. An Eastern form of meditation where you were told you could travel to the astral plane and way beyond, seeing inner lights and hearing inner sounds along the way -- that seemed a natural other way.
I read Julian Johnson's "Path of the Masters" as a mystical travel guide, which it was intended to be. I looked forward to learning what lay beyond the tiny corner of the physical universe I knew about now.
When a whole bunch of spiritual practice didn't lead to any discernible soul uplift, despite following instructions nearly to the letter, I began to think, "Hey, what's going on here?" (Answer: not much)
Was I a thrill seeker looking for meditation fireworks? Yes. Was I disappointed when the inner sky of consciousness turned out to be almost entirely dark and silent? Yes.
Are current true believers going to read this and think, "HIs shallow ego-centered expectations did not deserve to be fulfilled by the guru (or God)"? Yes. Is that in itself a shallow ego-centered thought? Yes.
(2) Looking for a place to call home. A philosophical place. A believing place. By the not-so-ripe age of 22 I'd already run through a lot of notions about the meaning (or lack thereof) of life.
I'd gone from mild Catholicism to Bob Dylan'ish whatever to Flower Power mind-expansion to Sartre existentialism to sort-of-Zen something-or-other to Yoga self-realization.
And I still was questioning, "What the hell is life all about?"
Damn! I was about to graduate from college. With a major in psychology and a minor in humanities. I should have the answers by now!
So I leaped into the embrace of a teaching led by a guru who assured his disciples, "Don't worry. Be happy. Just do what I say and it'll all become clear before too long."
Now, admittedly before too long came with a small print footnote that read "could be three more lifetimes, if you're a dim-witted recalcitrant karma-heavy spiritual fuckhead." But naturally I didn't think I was, nor did any other of my fellow bright-eyed RSSB newbies.
As years, and then decades, passed, I grew more comfortable with not-knowing. I didn't have such a strong urge to know all the answers. I could say to myself, "I'm clueless." And sometimes even speak those words out loud (at least to our dog).
In "Evidence of my steadily declining divinity" I wrote:
When we had to drag everything out of the crawl space above our garage, I found a 1970 photo that hadn't seen the light of day for quite a while.
I was struck by how I appeared so wise at 21, and, let's admit it, Christ like (leaving aside the minor detail that no one knows how Jesus looked).
Now, at 58, I don't know nothing about God and all that. I'm on a downward trajectory that has culminated in my Wu Project. But I'm confident there's further to fall.
How right I was. I'm 60 now. I know even less than I did two years ago.
The good news is that being spiritually homeless feels more and more homelike to me. When you don't confine yourself within dogmatic walls, your habitation is always close at hand.
(3) Wanting a friend in Jesus. Or some other personalized divinity. I'd had enough with wandering alone through the stark landscape of Zen Buddhism and existentialism. I wanted a companion who'd accompany me to Ultimate Truth.
When I studied with my Yoga teacher, who blended Christianity with Eastern mysticism, I went to a Christian supply store and bought a picture of Jesus. Who, as noted above, looked a lot like me at the time (which I liked).
I'd talk to the picture before I meditated on my mantra. Sure, now I know I was talking to myself, but it didn't feel that way back then. I enjoyed having a friend who watched over me.
Then I learned about Sant Mat and the perfect living saint, Param Sant Satguru Hazur Maharaj Charan Singh Ji.
(Indians give a whole lot of appellations to revered gurus; it took me a long time before I could simply say "Charan Singh" without feeling like a lightning bolt was going to strike me).
Now I had a Jesus figure to follow with an important benefit: Charan Singh was alive.
You could listen to tapes of his talks. You could read books he'd written. You could watch videos of him. You could write a letter to him and get a reply. You could visit him in India, or wait for him to tour your country.
But otherwise Charan Singh was Jesus in a turban.
I didn't realize this for many years, until I was struck by how many once-devout Christians had joined the RSSB fold. They barely needed to change their belief system, Christianity and Sant Mat were so compatible.
At least, the way Charan Singh presented the RSSB teachings in relation to the Bible. He interpreted St. John and other gospels in a fashion that made Jesus into a guru, just like him, who had been sent by God to retrieve marked souls and take them back to heaven.
Cool! I was a marked soul! I had a friend in
Jesus Charan Singh!
It was marvelous, to feel so cared for, so looked after, so guided through life and death, so assured of a wonderful hereafter.
I still wish that all this were true. However, now truth has come to be more important to me than fiction. One of the appellations above is "satguru." Sat means truth.
In 1971 I became a satsangi, a disciple of a satguru, who went to satsang meetings. There's a whole lot of "sat" in the RSSB teachings. I liked that.
I'm still deeply attracted to "sat," to truth. So much so, I can't bring myself to believe what doesn't seem true to me, no matter how attractive those beliefs look.
> The good news is that being spiritually
> homeless feels more and more homelike to
> me. When you don't confine yourself within
> dogmatic walls, your habitation is always
> close at hand.
In the Buddhist precepts ceremony, there's a line about "entering the homeless life." In ancient times, it literally meant leaving home and living as a wandering monk. The line remains in the ceremony today... I think precisely because of the metaphorical meaning Brian gives here.
A Zen teacher once told me that we seek religion etc as a way to find some sort of solid foundation for our lives. But if we're really sincere in our inquiry, we see that there's NO solid foundation... and then this lack of foundation becomes our foundation.
> I'm still deeply attracted to "sat," to
> truth. So much so, I can't bring myself to
> believe what doesn't seem true to me, no
> matter how attractive those beliefs look.
It's superficially seductive to believe in some special, higher Truth that we may reach someday... a Truth that only special people like us attain. Yet isn't it so much better to recognize the Truth that's already appeared in this moment, and is always apparent to all beings?
When I left the ashram in India, some friends there thought it was an act of great pessimism, that I no longer considered the ashram to hold a Special Holy Higher Truth. To me, though, it was an act of supreme optimism, as I no longer saw Truth as limitted to that tiny Holy Place, but as manifest in all things.
Posted by: Stuart | December 10, 2008 at 09:28 AM
Stuart, nicely said. I bounce back and forth between seeing truth as something fixed and objective, and something fluid and subjective.
Both are aspects of truth, it seems to me. But heck, I could be wrong about that too.
Posted by: Brian | December 10, 2008 at 10:35 AM
To say "...I no longer saw Truth as limitted to that tiny Holy Place, but as manifest in all things" is right.
If I'm picking up the spiritual teachings "truthfully," then the whole purpose is being at home wherever we are. Wherever and whomever we are is Truth ... ain't it?
Posted by: Jayme | December 11, 2008 at 11:46 PM
As we need our father to guide us in taking our first step at our own, after birth same way we need Guru for knowing how to go back to God our real home.
Comparing Guru with normal human being is just a foolishness and nothing.
Regarding ur comments about party in Dera Where Baba ji is taking charge on the stage, You are lucky that u were there but unfortunately your bad luck that u have taken it as wrong.
Any how I will pray to Lord to give some noble thoughts to you.
Posted by: Satsangi India | January 04, 2009 at 12:23 PM
Another of the typical same old same old from another "Satsangi India" I see.
Yes, we all DID "need our father to guide us in taking our first step"... that is when we were little infant toddlers, and we had not yet learned to walk.
But... that is a far cry from needing some supposed "Guru". And btw, there is NO need to "go back" anywhere.... not back to "God" or go back "home". Home is wherever one is at the present moment, and "God" is merely an outworn imaginary idea that religious goofballs use in a self-righteous and condescending manner towards FREE men.
Moreover, Satsangi India's so-called "Guru" is NOTHING BUT a "normal human being"... and to think anything otherwise, is stupidity beyond "foolishness".
And regarding Satsangi India's comments about this "Baba ji" fellow prancing around on stage like a pathetic jackass... unfortunately Satsangi India's "bad luck" is such that he/she is also a jackass too - a "real" retarded jackass.
Any how I will pray to Lord George Burns to give Satsangi India enough intelligence so as to have an basic ability to think. For then, Satsangi India may actually be able to learn to walk the walk... instead of merely talk the talk.
Posted by: tAo | January 05, 2009 at 12:19 AM
Well brother "Rotten Salami"(Says it all)im glad u r so fortunate to know the walk...and u should know then that everybody has the "free will" to belive in what he thinks is right.enjoy ,radha soami
ss (struggggellling seeker)
Posted by: manwell | March 25, 2009 at 03:46 AM