Sometimes visitors to this blog ask me, via a comment or email, if I'm bitter about the thirty-five years I spent as a devotee of the Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB) spiritual teachings.
Meaning, I guess, do I feel letdown, deceived, or maliciously manipulated by the guru who initiated me in 1971 (Charan Singh) and/or his successor, Gurinder Singh, who became the head of RSSB after Charan Singh died in 1990?
The truthful answer basically is no. My feelings about my "divorce" from Radha Soami Satsang Beas are pretty much the same as my feelings about the ending of my marriage with my first wife.
We had mostly good times. No regrets there.
And the bad times? Well, this is what happens when an important intimate relationship goes sour. At first it's tough to adjust, but eventually there's a realization that you're better off after the splitting-up. As the saying goes, "It's darkest before the dawn."
I'm happier now than I was as an active member of Radha Soami Satsang Beas. I feel more contented with my life. I'm no longer focused on a far-off goal of god-realization, so I enjoy the here and now more intensely and passionately.
There is, though, a bit of bitterness that lingers in my psyche. Once in a while I think about something guru-related that irritates me. It bothers me when it comes to mind -- and I feel justified in this botheration (yes, it's a word).
Because it sure seems that a guru should know whether he is God. This isn't something that would pass unnoticed, like barely elevated blood pressure or a mild asymptomatic illness.
Back in 2006 I asked, "Who is the guru?"
A biblical scholar, Bart Ehrman, said that four words could describe Jesus: a liar, a lunatic, the Lord, or a legend. Since legend only can apply to someone who is dead, I eliminated this as an option for the RSSB gurus while they are alive.
I also chose to discount the possibility of "liar," favoring another L-word.
So I muse over my recollections of Charan Singh and Gurinder Singh, trying to decide whether they’re best described as liars, lunatics, or the Lord.
None of the three appellations seem to fit, lunatic least of all. Each of them clearly was/is of sound mind (Charan Singh died in 1990). They could be liars, but their essential good-heartedness and decency argues against this. On the other hand, their evident imperfections prevent me from grabbing onto the “Lord” hypothesis.
Is there another L-word that better fills the bill? One springs to mind: loyalist. Perhaps when a successor is appointed to fill the shoes of a highly-regarded guru, loyalty both to his predecessor and to the surrounding organization prevents the newcomer from crying out, “Hey, I’m not God! I’m just a man filling the role of a guru.”
Five years later, my attitude has changed. The RSSB guru is considered to be God in human form by his disciples. This is serious stuff.
Many devoted initiates, both Indians and those of other nationalities, center their lives around a belief that their guru possesses a divine power to guide them both now and after death -- until the soul returns to God, who is found to be one and the same as the guru.
If the guru really, truly, actually knows that he is God, able to do all kinds of miraculous supernatural things, then he should be upfront about this. However, this isn't what the RSSB gurus do. They play the "I'm nobody special" game, which their initiates strangely consider to be a sign of divinity.
Well, maybe "I'm nobody special" is the truth. The guru knows that he isn't God, yet chooses to allow his devotees to believe that he is.
In my previous post I excused this as the act of a loyalist. Now, I see it much more as the act of a liar. If a CEO knows that a product his company sells is dangerously defective, yet allows customers to believe that it is fine (in the case of a RSSB guru, perfect), this would be seriously negligent behavior.
Ditto with a guru who realizes that he isn't the divine being his devotees believe him to be, yet persists in selling his enlightenment/god-realization product.
So, yes, I do feel somewhat bitter when I think about this: either Charan Singh and Gurinder Singh actually are God in human form, or they are liars. I find the former possibility extremely unlikely.
Which leaves me with the latter.
Like I said, this is serious stuff. Businesses knowingly sell crap to people all the time. "Buyer beware" should be in the back of every customer's mind. I accept this. But there's a big difference between stretching the truth when selling a car and when selling salvation.
If a RSSB guru isn't the god-realized being his disciples consider him to be, he should come clean and set the record straight. Not in veiled self-deprecating comments that could cause devotees to say "Oh, how humble is the guru; how marvelously he veils his divinity."
But rather in a straightforward statement: "I am not God. I know no more about what, if anything, lies beyond the physical than you do. I am a fellow seeker, not anybody special."
Either the guru is God, or he isn't. He knows which is true. Failing to be honest with his initiates about what he knows -- that's inexcusable.