In Christianity, the Ten Commandments are permanent. But in Eastern guru-centered religions, God's emissary on earth (often termed a "perfect living master") substitutes for holy scripture.
So what is supposedly moral and what isn't can shift with the times as one guru succeeds another, or as the same guru decides to issue new edicts to the faithful.
Case in point: some recent comments on a post of mine about Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB), an India-based religious organization I was a member of for about thirty-five years, have clued me in to the fact that smoking and medical marijiuana have joined the list of RSSB no-no's.
The first commenter said:
Brian, have you heard that smoking of ANY kind is now banned???? Cigarettes, E-cigs, pipes etc....all tobacco products. What in the hell is up with that? It's now under that second vow which used to just encompass mind altering substances such as narcotics and alcohol. What is up with "amending" the sacred vows??? I don't go to satsang [spiritual meetings] very much but today when I went and someone read an article that mentioned it, I was like....WTF.
Which was followed by:
If I understood it correctly, the non-smoking requirement is for people currently applying for initiation. Us oldies? Well a memo went out from Dera [headquarters in India] many months ago stating that smoking was detrimental to ones health and highly discouraged. But it did not say us addicted oldies were required to quit. Funny, we use to be able to smoke in the guesthouse rooms in the olden days. Here today, hell tomorrow?
This is from RSSB SPAIN NEWSLETTER of Sept. 2014 which may guide you on the subject:
...POINTS OF INTEREST: New Requisite for Initiation:
As of immediate effect, an applicant for initiation must also have abstained from all tobacco products (including electronic or e-cigarettes) and medical marijuana for a minimum of one year before applying for Initiation, and thereafter permanently.
Initiates who smoke, now know the Master’s position on this matter and should proceed accordingly.
Now, it's scientifically obvious that smoking is bad for people. However, vaporizers of various kinds, including so-called e-cigarettes, reduce the health risk by a lot. Arguably those devices help wean smokers off of the more dangerous regular cigarettes.
And living as I do in a state (Oregon) where medical marijuana is legal -- along with recreational marijuana in a few months -- I'm well aware of its health benefits. Some people with serious medical conditions, including cancer patients on chemotherapy, find that medical marijuana helps them much more than prescription drugs with bad side effects.
So logically this is a curious decree from the current RSSB guru, Gurinder Singh.
There are plenty of consciousness-altering substances which remain OK for prospective and current RSSB initiates to use, such as: caffeine (coffee, tea, chai), anti-depressant drugs, and anti-anxiety drugs. And if a physician prescribes medical marijuana for a health condition, why should this be prohibited while other psychoactive drugs with powerful adverse side effects are fine to use?
We aren't talking logic here, though. I know this from personal experience.
I was a devoted member of RSSB when Gurinder Singh decided that adhering to a vegetarian diet meant not eating animal rennet, an ingredient in some cheeses. You can't believe (or maybe you can) how this threw RSSB initiates who believed that the guru was God into a rennet-studying frenzy.
Overnight, eating cheese became a Talmudic sort of exercise for many devotees. A huge amount of research went into studying which brands of cheese were "kosher," so to speak, and which weren't.
I not-so-fondly recall sitting with groups of RSSB initiates in restaurants where a hapless waiter would be asked detailed probing questions about what kind of cheese was put on a pizza, say. Sometimes the waiter would be asked to go back into the kitchen to read the label on a cheese container and report back on what sort of rennet was used.
I wasn't nearly as concerned about ingesting minute amounts of an animal product.
To me another RSSB vow was much more important: meditating every day for somewhere close to the proscribed 2 1/2 hours. If my consciousness needed uplifting, acting upon it directly seemed more crucial to my spiritual progress than obsessing over what sort of cheese was put on a pizza.
This sort of rigidity and dogmatism, though, is a hallmark of obsessive religiosity. Capricious human-made rules are taken as the Word of God. Adhering to them is considered to guarantee one's salvation; breaking them is viewed as falling into sin.
Crazy? Yes. But this is apparent only now that I've achieved some sanity.
Those still in the grip of some form of religious fundamentalism will keep on believing that whatever a holy book, or holy person, says, must be obeyed. (Of course, different holy books and holy people issue contradictory moral edicts.)