I love questions. And me. So when someone asks me questions about me, I'm in double love.
Today Georgey left a comment on this post that included five questions. I started to reply via another comment, but then realized that even though I'm practicing non-verbosity through Twitter now, I needed the space of a blog post to do the answers justice.
Georgey started with...
No problem. I'm a revealing guy. Here's the questions and my answers.
(1) Why and how did you turn to Sant Mat initially?
"Why" has so many layers and levels. "How" is easier to tackle. I've told the (strange) story of how I became a Sant Mat initiate here.
Having done the devoted disciple thing with a Yoga teacher who melded his crazy style of Christianity with various Eastern teachings, including a Greek Orthodox'ized version of Sant Mat, I smoothly flowed into accepting Charan Singh as my guru.
Looking back on my 22 year-old self from my current 60 year-old perspective, I can theorize about some psychological "why's."
Having spent just one hour with my father, the notion of a cosmically close relationship with a wise, kind, loving bearded much older guru must have appealed to my father-deprived psyche. Plus, Charan Singh liked to speak about God as the Father.
Also, I applied for initiation in 1970, which was, obviously, right after the '60s. I'd just graduated from a college in the San Francisco Bay Area, so had been immersed in the free wheeling Flower Child sex, drugs, and rock-&-roll culture.
Some stability in the form of religious rules and vows was a counterpoint to the chaos of the sixties. I'd started on a straighter and narrower path through my yoga practice. That continued with the following thirty-three years of so of Sant Mat practice.
(2) Why do you think you never had a spiritual experience despite 30 years of devoted meditation?
Like I've been saying in several posts lately, including here, I'm not sure what "spiritual" means anymore. I had plenty of experiences in meditation.
What I didn't have was the sort of out-of-body, astral projecting, soul-flying, blasts of cosmic light and sound experiences that the Radha Soami Satsang Beas version of Sant Mat tells disciples to expect in meditation.
A few days after I was initiated I heard loud bell sounds inside my head while I was meditating. These never came back. I've had other glimpses of inner light and hearings of inner sound, but these could be (and probably are) produced by the brain, not immaterial soul or spirit.
Over more than three decades I've talked with lots of fellow RSSB initiates about their experiences in meditation. More accurately, their lack thereof.
When these people spoke honestly and openly (which usually isn't done in the formal satsangs, or talks), I learned that my lack of mind-blowing meditation experiences was par for the course in Sant Mat.
(3) Do you believe such spiritual (transcendental) experiences actually exist or that they are creations of our minds?
I lean toward the second hypothesis -- mind created -- but am open to the "actual" possibility. What helps tilt me in the skeptical direction is how members of different faiths almost invariably experience what their religious teachings tell them to expect.
Christian mystics feel the presence of Jesus or a personal God. Hindus, something quite different. And so on. If Buddhist monks came back from a meditation session and said, "Islam has it right! Allah is the One!," I'd pay attention.
But this happens extremely rarely. Yet the word "actually" in this question points toward a reality largely independent of human expectations, desires, mental conditioning, and the like.
At the least, it seems clear that meditators tend to experience what they expect to experience.
Sant Mat, in fact, instructs initiates not to pay attention to any inner sights or sounds that aren't accompanied by the presence of the guru. So this is a good example of a faith trying to prohibit certain inner experiences that aren't consonant with party-line teachings.
(4) These Sant Mat gurus might be fairly remarkable people, albeit with flaws, did you ever get the feeling you were in the presence of some sort of ultra-enlightened being?
I gave myself that feeling -- which was aided by all the hoopla and devotional rituals surrounding the RSSB gurus. But I never saw any evidence that the gurus really were "ultra-enlightened" (whatever that means).
They forgot things. Made mistakes. Misspoke. Just like a normal human being. Yes, they had charisma and what the current guru, Gurinder Singh, likes to call "the gift of gab."
But I'm a good public speaker myself. And I'm sure not enlightened. Unless I'm unaware of my divinity, which I'm pleased to consider as a possibility (my wife, however, would beg to differ).
Speaking of my wife... her skeptical non-Sant Mat self would frequently say, during our nineteen years of marriage, "I'd like to see what the guru is doing twenty four hours a day, not just during his public face time."
Her point, based in part on her experience as a psychotherapist, is that people can project an idealized image, and others can resonate with it, which is at odds with how they are at unguarded moments.
Laurel has had some close-up time with Gurinder Singh. She sees him as just a normal person, nothing special. This also is how I saw the guru when I didn't recognize him, as described here.
(5) Do you ever wonder if you would get back on the Sant Mat path?
Not really. But this question gets me doing so. Answer: almost certainly not. At least, not in the way I viewed the path before.
One of my favorite Church of the Churchless posts is "Believers, I'm even more deluded than you think." This pretty much answers your question.
I don't consider that I've left Sant Mat. Meaning, to me there's a core of non-religiousness in this teaching which is a useful guide to seeking whatever reality (if any) lies beyond appearances.
It's the same core that is in almost every mystic teaching that I've studied or have heard about. I'm still on that pathless path.