Yesterday this comment was left on a Church of the Churchless post, "Great BusinessToday video about RSSB guru and Singh brothers." The commenter wondered how to break the news about Gurinder Singh Dhillon's financial misdeeds to Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB) devotees who had put a lot of faith in their guru.
Dear Brian Thanks for your blog and exposing the truths!! It is really sad to learn all the truths of recent events. I had a feeling somethiing is corrupt but it still came as a shock when my intuition was confirmed with facts.
I am not part of Sant mat myself but do know people that I love that is. They don’t know yet and I just don’t have the heart to break this news. I can just imagine that if your whole belief system was based on the idea of a perfect living master and to found out he is not so perfect after all, will pull the rug underneath you.
Especially this path’s standards are so high in terms of diet and moral life. How do you break such news to somebody you love while you know their world will be shattered? How have other Satsangis took the news? Is it best to just keep quiet and wait till truth be revealed? Ruth
Ruth asked some good questions.
Since I was a member of RSSB for 35 years, and embraced the Sant Mat teachings for almost all of that time before I stopped believing in them, I've had to deal with the same difficult process of breaking away from a spiritual philosophy that used to mean so much to me.
All I can do is suggest the following advice, which I've shared in a "laundry list" form -- because everybody is different, and I want to give people a variety of ways to deal with disillusionment in a spiritual path or religious dogma. So I'm going to list these ideas as they come to me, without trying to arrange them in a particular fashion.
(1) Truth, Sat in an Indian language, has to be our primary concern. Without truth, we're lost in a maze of falsehoods. So whenever truths are revealed about a guru, master, religious leader, or whoever, those truths should be embraced, not pushed away.
(2) Truths can be painful. But the pain of living a lie, or living in illusion, is greater. Yes, fantasies can be fun. But eventually fantasies are revealed to be much less substantial than truth, since truth always wins out in the end. Why? Because reality is hugely more powerful than illusion.
(3) This is one of my all-time favorite sayings. When I used to give talks at RSSB meetings (satsangs), I'd often cite this quote from Philip K. Dick: "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." So if a spiritual or religious belief is given up, nothing is lost, because reality is beyond beliefs.
(4) When we expect someone to be perfect, we're bound to be disappointed. So don't expect perfection. Not of your spouse, friend, relative, co-worker, boss, political figure, or... a guru. Everybody makes mistakes. Some are innocent mistakes. Some are willful mistakes. Regardless, expect imperfection, not perfection.
(5) Taoism, which I'm drawn to as a philosophy, says that the world is made up of yin and yang, light and darkness, positive and negative, substantial and insubstantial, embracing and rejecting, and so on. Opposites are what make the world go 'round. If we welcome only one side of a pair of opposites, we're ignoring a big part of reality.
(6) Often people think, "If such-and-such happened, my life wouldn't be worth living." But usually, when that thing does happen, life is still very much worth living. We humans are resilient creatures. Don't underestimate your capacity to adapt to a difficult situation, and then move on from there.
(7) It's natural to want to feel special, which includes being part of a special group, one especially favored or beloved by God. However, what if God, or the cosmos, actually doesn't play favorites? What if it doesn't matter whether someone believes in this or that, but simply does their best to be a good human being? (As you can guess, this is how I consider reality operates.)
(8) Consider: out of all the religions, spiritual paths, and mystical teachings in the world, what is the chance that you have come across the Only One that is objectively true? Very small, right? Yet almost every believer feels that they have found that Only One. Isn't this more than a little egotistical or self-centered?
(9) What people often find most satisfying about a religion or form of spirituality isn't so much the concepts that make up that teaching, but the good feeling they have from being part of a group that accepts them, welcomes them, supports them. Yet it is possible to have that same good feeling after someone leaves a certain group, because there are countless groups that accept, welcome, and support.
(10) Think about how many changes have occurred in your life. Most likely you've changed homes, friends, jobs, cars, lovers, pets, hairstyles, clothes, sports, and so much else. So it isn't strange that people also change their religion, spiritual path, or mystic teaching. This is normal.
(11) Doubts also are normal. Often people who belong to a certain religion or spiritual group wrongly believe that everybody else in the group but them has perfect faith, because usually expressing doubts isn't welcomed. Believe me, almost everyone has doubts, whether they admit this or not.
(12) Trust yourself. If you trusted yourself when you decided to join a religion or form of spirituality, also trust yourself if you decide to leave it. Don't be led astray by a group's teaching that leaving it will bring horrible consequences, such as a nasty afterlife. Almost every group has ways to keep members from leaving. Know that you are stronger than those ways.
(In case you're wondering, yes, this 1976 cartoon really was drawn by Charles Schulz. Read the comments on that post.)