I've grown accustomed to lawyers saying strange things, especially in this age of Trump, but this message from Gurinder Singh Dhillon's lawyer is especially weird.
Dhillon is the guru of Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB), a spiritual organization headquartered in India.
Recently several Indian business publications have published detailed stories about how the guru and his family, plus RSSB followers, are deeply implicated in shady financial dealings involving the Singh brothers, Malvinder and Shivinder, who are the guru's nephews cousins. [Someone emailed me with a genealogy analysis that seems to show they're the guru's first-cousins once removed.]
The journalists who wrote the stories noted that neither Gurinder Singh Dhillon nor RSSB officials have been willing to answer questions about those financial dealings.
But today someone sent me a message that Michael Cooke, who says he is Gurinder Singh's lawyer, has been distributing in response to the uproar created by the revelations about how a supposed God-man is implicated in the gain, and then loss, of billions of dollars in some exceedingly unseemly ways. BBJ (BabaJi) is a reference to the guru.
~ Message by Michael Cooke
Wow. Below I've copied in the story of the mud platforms, which is a Sikh tale relating to two of the gurus in the Sikh heritage. Radha Soami Satsang Beas has retold it in some of their books.
As you can read, the story is about how a guru made his followers build, then destroy, mud platforms over and and over in a seemingly capricious fashion. Only one follower obeyed his guru to the bitter end, and he was rewarded by becoming the next Sikh guru.
Let's unpack the strange stuff in Michael Cooke's message.
First, Cooke says that Gurinder Singh Dhillon is "using Bloomberg to get his message across." So we're supposed to believe that the guru, who is considered to be God in Human Form by the RSSB teachings, is somehow mystically controlling the journalists who wrote the Bloomberg story, "The Billionaires and the Guru: How a Family Burned Through $2 Billion."
Now this goes against the updated version of the RSSB teachings Gurinder Singh Dhillon has been talking about, where the guru says that he is just a human being like everybody else who can't forgive sins or erase karmas.
But apparently this message hasn't gotten through to the guru's lawyer, who still believes Gurinder Singh has special powers. Like being able to get Bloomberg to write a story that casts the guru in a critical light.
Well, Michael Cooke has the answer to that: Gurinder Singh is testing the devotion of his disciples by doing stuff that looks to be ethically wrong, and maybe even illegal, because he wants those disciples to meditate assiduously so they can learn who the guru really is, not who he appears to be.
This is an argument that would be laughed out of court, obviously.
"Your honor, and members of the jury, my client isn't guilty as charged because his apparent misdeeds actually were part of his mission from God. He acted wrongly so that most people would make the mistake of thinking, He acted wrongly, whereas those with a certain mystical vision would be able to see that he really was acting rightly. The fact that your honor and the jury don't have that sort of vision doesn't matter. Just believe me, and come to a not-guilty conclusion."
So Michael Cooke and other true believers in RSSB dogma are trying to have it both ways.
The guru is acting like God, "hunting souls," when things are going smoothly, and the guru is also doing God's will when things go badly -- because now his disciples won't be able to rely on what they know about the outer form of Gurinder Singh Dhillon, who is enmeshed in many questionable business dealings, but rather seek an inner form of the guru who doesn't have those weaknesses.
This whole "mud platform" thing strikes me as an authoritarian's dream story.
Yes, I realize that this story means a lot to Sikhs and others who view unquestioning obedience as a manifestation of love for God and the guru. However, the story also can be used, as Cooke is using it, to justify looking away from apparent wrongdoing by a spiritual leader.
Here's the story. Read it. Then decide whether you want to be a person who does whatever someone else says, or a person who thinks and feels for themselves, choosing to avoid behavior that seems to be wrong or misguided. I want to be that second type of person.
When Guru Amar Das wanted to select the capable disciples from among His followers, He devised a test. Remember, Masters always test their followers, each in His own methods. These tests are for the advanced disciples - those who have advanced by the Master's grace - and usually they are not aware of what is happening.
Guru Amar Das told each of His disciples to make a raised platform out of mud, and they were all willing and anxious to begin. We are usually quick to jump and obey, but how long can we keep it up? When they had each made one platform, He inspected them and decided that they were not satisfactory, and should be made again. They all remade them; but when the Master inspected the work, He told them that they were still not satisfactory, that the clay was not the right type and should be brought from another place. This was done, and the platforms were remade.
Again the Guru declared that they were not right, and the disciples remade them once, twice, thrice more. When Guru Amar Das inspected the platforms again, He was still not satisfied and told the disciples that they should change the site, shift all the clay to a different place, and there remake the platforms again. When they got to the new site and the clay was moved there, the remaking started again. Again and again the Guru rejected the work once, twice, ten, twelve times. Again the site was changed and the clay carried over.
You may wonder how many disciples were left doing the work. Very few; for one by one they had left, until only Jetha Ji remained. Jetha Ji later became Guru Ramdas when He succeeded Guru Amar Das. But at the time of this story, Guru Amar Das was over 120 years of age, and the people who saw Jetha Ji faithfully doing this work told him, "Why waste your time like this? Your Guru has become old and senile, He is not in His full senses; He tells you to make and remake these platforms again and again - is this the action of a sensible man?"
When he heard these words, Jetha Ji cried. He was a soul of no small enlightenment, and could see the Light of God working in his Guru. He could not bear to hear people speaking of Him thusly. Through his tears he said, "Brothers, you do not understand: the whole world's thinking may be wrong, but never my Guru's, for He is the only Awakened One, the God-realized Guru. If He tells me to make and remake these platforms my whole life through, it will be a joy to do so, for I want only to obey His orders."