In the Sant Mat faith, the guru is considered to be God in human form. Believing disciples, of whom I used to be one, are fond of looking for signs of his divinity.
Since obvious miracles aren't evident, nor other overt indications of godliness, it's necessary to look upon the guru with devotional eyes to see his saintliness shining through.
The current Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB) guru is Gurinder Singh Dhillon. I've seen him quite a few times, including some personal interviews.
He strikes me as a fine intelligent, well-spoken, personable guy. I liked him.
But is Gurinder Singh God? My bet is "no."
However, I still enjoy digesting evidence regarding this question -- which arises in every philosophy (generally Eastern) that elevates a spiritual or religious teacher to the ultimate height.
Recently I heard some news about goings-on last month at the Dera, RSSB's headquarters in India.
Reportedly Gurinder Singh emphasized "doing nothing" in meditation. I can resonate with this advice. It's pretty much what I've experienced the past thirty-eight years in my own daily meditative practice.
When I went to the Dera in 1998 I heard Gurinder Singh express the same sentiment. He was asked a question about meditation and replied, "How difficult is it to do nothing?"
That's just about the only thing I can remember him saying during the two weeks I was in India.
Must have made an impression on me. Nothing has a way of slipping through the cracks of one's psyche.
Now, obviously an emphasis on nothingness, the via negativa, doesn't point toward divinity -- much less prove that the emphasizer is God. But it shows that in this regard at least, Gurinder Singh's philosophy is akin to the teachings of some highly respected sages.
Meister Eckhart. Plotinus. Saint John of the Cross. Ramana. Rumi. Lao Tzu. Buddha. To name a few.
They all stressed the mystery, ineffability, and interiority of ultimate reality. If you can sense it, describe it, or understand it ... that isn't IT.
Which makes another bit of news about Gurinder Singh more than a little incongruous, in light of his "do nothing" theme.
I heard that at the Dera Christmas party, where skits traditionally are performed, there was a whole lot of singing, dancing, and laughing going on. First with Gurinder Singh as part of the audience. Then the guru took the stage himself.
And proceeded to do karaoke. Enthusiastically.
I'm not sure what songs he sung. Some Beatles tunes were among them, I believe. ("Nowhere Man" would have been an appropriate via negativa theme song.)
When I told my wife about Gurinder Singh doing karaoke she said, "He sounds like a regular person." That was my basic reaction also.
If everyone who grabs a microphone and sings along to some oldies and goodies is God, then we've got a surfeit of saints roaming the Earth.
Yet my understanding is that most of those in attendance on a party-on December Dera day viewed the guru's performance as another manifestation of God tending to his sheep by feeding them with his karaoke'ized presence.
Well, I admittedly tilt toward the rational side of the spiritual spectrum.
This is the enigma and the paradox of faiths that simultaneously try to (1) make God into a formless all-pervading conscious energy, and (2) a thoroughly human guy or gal.
Maybe there's a way to reconcile these seeming discordancies. I doubt it, though.
When religious believers try to have things both ways -- God as universal ultimate reality and God as personal best friend -- what we get is confusion, not truth, in my thoroughly personal opinion.