With permission, I'm sharing an email that I got from an American of Indian heritage who is outraged at how "brown" people are treated when they go to the headquarters of Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB) in Beas, India.
I've been to Beas twice, also called the Dera.
RSSB is a spiritual organization which talks a lot about oneness, humility, love, and such, but I have to agree with this person: there's a lot of hierarchical inequality in RSSB which can look like racism (and maybe it is). Westerners are treated much differently from Indians, getting special treatment and access to the guru.
Anyway, here's thoughts on this subject from my email correspondent. I've added some explanatory definitions [in brackets] after words that will be unfamiliar to many readers.
Hello Brian, just wanted to say how much I appreciate your blog being up there for people who finally snap out of their haze and realize that RS Satsang is a cult. Took me 30 years to realize that.
I just found out from someone that "White people" in Dera [RSSB headquarters in Punjab, India] are told they are not supposed to talk to Indians in the Dera.
This along with the fact that Indians have to give in all their electronics whereas white people can keep them, and white people have a special Christmas party with Mr. Gurinder Singh [guru of Radha Soami Satsang Beas] and Indians are not allowed unless married to a white person.
Have you heard of any of this? I'd love to see it addressed on your blog.
I think people need to know about the ridiculous inconsistencies that happen in Dera. My favorite part, when you point out an inconsistency, is when someone responds back, "Well it's the sevadars [volunteers], not the Master. He is unaware of what's going on." What a joke! He is the HEAD of what's happening!
I myself stopped going to satsang [devotional meetings] about 3 years ago, but my entire family still goes so I still hear a lot about what's going on.
I was born and raised in America, and I remember visiting Beas for the first time at the age of 13, and finding out upon arrival that our family had to stay in the "Indian Hostel". My first reaction was WHAT THE ##$%?? I was outraged.
Born, raised and brought up in America... I was a full blown American and I was going to have to stay in a hostel that had amenities for an Indian lifestyle when I myself was American, but my skin was brown?! And because of the color of my skin I was unable to stay in a place with American lifestyle amenities?
Wow. That was truly racism at it's finest. I'll never forget that as my first impression of Beas.
But what did I know, right? I was just a little kid and I didn't understand the true meaning of the teachings, and Babaji [Gurinder Singh, the guru] was just trying to "accommodate" the foreigners. Hhhrmph! Well why wasn't he accommodating me? Didn't I need the same pandering as other people from America?
30 years later, now of course I see a whole different picture. My question today would be, why on earth are you treating some people one way, and other people another way? Aren't we all supposedly supposed to be equal in the eyes of Sant Mat? What a joke.
I feel ill when I see old people, blind, hobbling and unable to walk getting yelled at and being told to sit on the ground, when perfectly capable, healthy young people are given cushions and chairs and a seat up front. Oh but wait! Babaji is all knowing, so they must just be fulfilling their karmas right? Being punished for a past life?
And yes, I had heard that a very special private Christmas party gets put on every year for all the Westerners. They laugh, dance, sing and joke with Babaji. It's a "great time" to get up close and personal and see the "master" acting normal.
I also heard that if a brown person is married to a white person then and only then can a brown person gain entry into this party. Scoff Scoff Scoff Scoff! I am now married to a white person and can easily gain access to this party, but pigs would have to fly before I ever even consider participating in something as hypocritically ridiculous as this.
I feel so crass using the words white and brown to describe people, but what can I do? If I have to talk about Sant Mat those are the descriptors I have to use because that is how they set the bar for treating people.
I see people as people. Humans. Sant Mat classifies them into categories from "VIP's" to "They Don't Matter". White, Brown, Black, money, property, usefulness. It appears that who you are and how you're classified will decide the fate of how you are treated in the Dera and in the cult.
I heard that Westerners (translated as "White people", because how could someone of color born and raised in another country be considered a Westerner?) were told not to talk to Indians while at the Dera.
So let me get this straight. Jim Jones and Punjabi Singh both attend satsang every Sunday in America or England or Australia and have fun, laugh and even meet up for lunch... but when they arrive in Dera, Jim Jones is told not to talk to Punjabi Singh because he is Indian and it is "Master's orders"? Does that make sense in any way shape or form?
Mr. Gurinder Singh has all the latest toys, wears the best brand names, flies in his own private jet, owns stocks in Religare and made his own sons Billionaires through that. I am not saying it's wrong to want or have those things but don't you think it's just the tiniest bit hypocritical for a supposed Master and messenger of God who PREACHES simplicity and asceticism to not follow those rules himself?
I'm not saying... but Just saying.