Often comments added to a blog post by other people are the best part of something I've written.
Such was the thought that went through my mind on April 28, when I read a comment by tAo that he'd submitted to my "Another RSSB initiate bites the dust" post. With minor editing, I've copied it in below to give it wider attention.
Though the subject is the Sant Mat philosophy that forms the basis of the teachings of an Indian organization, Radha Soami Satsang Beas, seemingly much of what tAo says applies to any religious group.
I agree that many of those who become "churchless" don't do so because of a lack of mystical or spiritual experiences while they're members of a "church." Rather, the opposite is true.
Often they have profound realizations. However, what is realized leads to a conclusion that truth lies in a different direction from what their organization teaches.
tAo also makes a good point when he distinguishes between (1) mystical experiences of purported higher realms of reality, and (2) intuitive insight into the nature of reality.
It's sort of like the difference between (1) having a marvelous dream, and (2) waking up. No matter what is experienced in a dream, it is still illusory -- not to be confused with awakening.
Here's tAo's submission. He is commenting on previous comments to the post, which I've shown in italics.
George posted the following comments:
"One has to let go of the intellect to pierce the veil and connect with a different state to achieve some sort of mystical experience or gnosis."
-- But that which you describe is not the actual practice of shabda yoga. First, the intellect can not and need not be let go of. Shabda yoga meditation is simply listening to an 'inner' sound current and seeing an 'inner' light. And also, there is no "connect with a different state".
The prescribed meditation is to put attention upon the inner sound current (the "shabda" or "nam"), and that is itself the goal. From then on, the shabda then supposedly draws the consciousness of the practitioner into higher and higher subtle planes, and supposedly, ultimately beyond the realm of the mind into a transcendent purely spiritual realm. The "mystical experience" that is achieved, is simply the action of drawing of the individual's consciousness (the "surat" or "soul" in Radha Soami (RS) parlance) beyond the body and material plane, and up into inner higher subtle planes, supposedly eventually reaching the imperishable spiritual realm.
"These mechanical tenets [...] them being tools to try and open up the mind and release it from the supposed clutter of the intellect."
-- No... again, the practice of shabda yoga meditation is not done to "open up the mind and release it from the supposed clutter of the intellect". It is done specifically to bring the attention of the practitioner to directly perceiving the shabda/nam or the inner sound current (which supposedly emanates from the highest spiritual plane), which then supposedly has the power to automatically draw the practitioner's consciousness upwards into higher more subtle inner planes.
"Those that have had a mystical experience continue to follow RS, while those that do not become disillusioned."
-- I don't agree. It is actually more the opposite. Most of those who do continue to follow RS, have by and large achieved little or no mystical experiences; and many of those who have left RS (or "disillusioned" as you say), have indeed had unique and profound mystical experiences (but not derived from or related to the practice of RS meditation), but which the RS meditation has not brought about and not proven effective in achieving such experiences.
So I would not say that those who stay with RS are the ones who have achieved "mystical experiences". They only stay because they hope and believe in the promise of someday achieving those experiences, not because they have had any experiences.
These are all things that are much more obvious to those of us who are very knowledgeable and experienced in Sant Mat, and not to people like yourself who basically have little understanding and knowledge and no experience in Sant Mat. There is no criticism in this. It is simply a matter of having correct understanding of what is the actual practice and the goal of Sant Mat, of the shabda yoga meditation.
"Those that enter RS with a western questioning mind geared more towards rationalism, would seem inherently predisposed away from entering into this different state."
-- That may be true to some extent, but the eastern mind can be very inquiring as well. But neither eastern nor western is more predisposed. Achieving results in shabda yoga is much more simply a matter of focusing upon the inner sound current, and having experience of traversing the inner subtle planes as outlined in the Sant Mat cosmology.
"But this seems to be [...] that one has to risk one's mind as it were, to let it go totally, and i'm not sure if the disillusioned ex-satsangis were ever truly able to do this."
-- I beg to differ with that notion as well. It is the "disillusioned ex-satsangis" who are really the ones who have "let it go" far more than the RS believers who hold on to Sant Mat dogma and beliefs. The believers have not "let go" at all. They are rigidly holding onto the master/savior figure, the body of dogma, and the hope that the practice (shabda meditation) will deliver them to the goal.
[George's comments to Brian]:
"The goal of RS is to unite with the sound, othewise why do it?"
-- The goal is not so much as to "unite" with the sound, but rather to simply hear and meditate UPON the sound current (and light)... so that the sound & light current (shabda/nam) will then draw the consciousness (or 'soul') up into higher more subtle realms and beyond... eventually to the spiritual realm. So the practice is not to "unite", but rather to focus and maintain attention upon the sound. [The practice also includes internal repetition of a mantra, and visualization of the form of the guru]
"Mechanical tenets for achieving this, i.e. vegetarianism, purity, etc are surely all just tools forming part of a method that have been found through practical experience by the saints/satgurus through the ages to supposedly be the best method for achieving such a connection or unity."
-- Yes that is generally true of many paths, but in Sant Mat those things (vegetarianism, purity, etc) are simply peripheral aids intended to assist in a more effective meditation... and they are not the primary practice.
"the plain intended meaning, which is [...] some sort of unity or connection with a creative force or sound where one experiences this gnosis or direct intuitive insight into the nature of reality."
-- That is somewhat correct, but not specifically. Yes, the "intended meaning" or purpose is to "connect" with the shabda/sound-current, but that is not really stated as being to have "direct intuitive insight into the nature of reality".
The stated purpose of "connecting" and meditating upon the sound current is all about facilitating the so-called "soul" to be drawn up through and beyond the material, subtle, and mental planes... and into the (supposed) supreme transcendental spiritual realm. The practice and the goal of Santmat is not generally stated as being for any so-called "direct intuitive insight into the nature of reality". That is much more the orientation of traditions such as Ch'an/Zen, and advaita vedanta, jnana yoga, siddha yoga, and dzogchen.
"Such a feeling must surely be overwhelming if experienced [...] Why would someone get off the RS path having had such a profound experience."
-- Again, the reason that people remain on the RS path is not because they have had, but because they have NOT had "such a profound experience". They remain because they are seeking that, and because they believe that Sant Mat will eventually give them that.
It is far more likely that those folks who HAVE had "profound experiences" realize that such experiences are not at all dependent upon, or limited to Sant Mat. In fact, some of the practices and beliefs of Sant Mat may be impediments to realizing such mystical experiences.
But ultimately, all such supposed "mystical" experiences are phenomenal, transitory, and they do not equate with actual realization/recognition or as you say "direct intutive insight into the nature of reality".
"The love for their guru and his teachings would be massive."
-- The so-called "love" for the guru is simply an aspect of cult mentality. It is not actual real love, as the disciples never have any closeness or proximity, or any actual personal contact or interaction with the guru... the guru who basically remains aloof and inaccessible to the masses of followers.
"Perhaps I have misunderstood your reasons for leaving Sant Mat."
-- Yes, I believe that is definitely the case. But that is not your fault. To really understand why someone would leave, requires that you know quite a lot about the RS path, its dogma, its practice, its guru worship, its authoritarianism, its organization and sangat, and various sorts of other aspects that a non-initiate would not be privy to, or familiar with, or have had any direct experience of.
I hope this helps you to get a better picture as to the actual practice and intended goal of Sant Mat.
"I don't assume to know a single thing about ultimate reality. I find such a concept in itself quite overwhelming and am not even sure such a state or means of perception exists."
-- Thats good observation and thinking George. I agree with you.
"My limited understanding [...] is that RS is one of many mystic traditions that supposedly allows one to enter into some sort of raised consciousness in which one is able to unite with something bigger, with the one or ultimate reality or whatever."
-- Yes, that's more or less the supposition of Sant Mat.
"I understand it is a feeling like being in love, like returning home to the source and so on and so forth."
-- No... thats not really quite how it is, or how it turns out.
"I have never experienced this."
-- But that is irrelevant. You HAVE experienced many other things that are no less important and meaningful. There is nothing special that you do not have. Life itself is what's its all about, not some particular special meditation experience or extraordinary altered state. There is nothing lacking for you to gain, in that respect.
"What are people after? What were you after? I mean why did you not just go the zen route or yoga if it was mere meditation and clean living you were after?"
-- Its all simply a matter of the vagaries of the search. Each person's process and journey is unique.
"I don't assume that any form of religion - mystical, mainstream or otherwise - provides any type of higher knowledge, but am interested in trying to find out."
-- Thats a reasonable question. But the best path (in my opinion) is to be content with, and proceed on YOUR OWN unique path, as it is revealed and lived from moment to moment.
"It sounds like my understanding of RS is incorrect and that many people entered RS for other reasons, which means i obviously totally misunderstand the main aim or goal of the tradition itself."
-- Yes, that's much what I was trying to tell you awhile back. But you reacted in a negative way. Yet I and others have been trying to better explain Sant Mat to you. Its not your fault. It takes awhile to correctly understand what Sant Mat is all about.