Sheena (a pen name) wrote a compelling book, "Memoirs of a Seeker."
Though Sheena describes the guru to whom she was once devoted only as "Guruji," and doesn't name the center headed up by Guruji, it is clear that the guru is Gurinder Singh Dhillon, the leader of Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB), a spiritual organization headquartered in India at a place commonly known as the Dera.
I've written several blog posts about Sheena's book. I liked how she wrote so honestly about losing faith in Gurinder Singh after coming to the Dera and doing volunteer work that brought her into close contact with the guru. You can read excerpts from her book, and my defense of Sheena, in these posts:
Sheena has been reading the posts and related comments on this blog. Today she sent me this message. I'll share some thoughts about what Sheena says after the message. "Satsangis" refers to RSSB initiates. "Hukm" means command or divine order.
I deeply appreciate your mature, fair reviews and comments, for respecting others need for anonymity and staying with the subject instead of playing Sherlock Holmes as some are doing. Makes you a trustworthy and honourable man! My comments/questions to satsangis who constantly have debates on your blog:
- Who Sheena is, is inconsequential. If Sheena wants to remain anonymous, she must have good reason and the constitutional right to stay anonymous.
- Why do they spend time reading your blogs and then spend even more energy and time arguing when their faith and belief are supposedly intact? Sense of insecurity, doubts?
- Why do they react to criticism so ferociously when RSSB declares "Critics are our best friends?" Is their faithlessness coupled with lack of following Master's 'hukm'? Doesn't reflect well on both the disciple or teacher.
- They claim that the teachings are important. Yes, teachings are important when following a religion or a spiritual path. But isn't it equally important for the teacher to follow 'his' teachings too? Or are the teachings only for disciples?
I agree with everything Sheena says.
Regarding her first point, the message of her book is indeed much more important than the messenger. So far I haven't heard any commenter take issue with the accuracy of her disturbing stories about Gurinder Singh, including that he ignored a report of sexual molestation at the Dera.
Regarding her second point, I also find it strange, and amusing, that many RSSB devotees spend a lot of time reading my churchless posts and commenting on them.
I've become an atheist after belonging to RSSB for 35 years. I spend zero time on blogs, websites, or discussion groups praising the glory of the RSSB guru and the RSSB teachings, because I'm confident in what I believe and don't believe. So I think Sheena is right. Arguing on this blog does seem to show a sense of insecurity and doubts among RSSB initiates.
Regarding her third point, I've heard that the critics quote is indeed what Gurinder Singh has said to his audiences. Yet the attacks, insults, and threats I get regularly from supposedly "spiritual" RSSB devotees does go against their guru's words about viewing critics as our best friends.
Regarding her fourth point, Sheena directs our attention to a crucial difference between the teachings of RSSB (a branch of Sant Mat), and traditional religions like Catholicism. Here's how Wikipedia describes Sant Mat:
The expression Sant Mat literally means "Teachings of the Saints" – the "Path of Sants (Saints)", "Path of Truth", "Right or Positive Path". As "point of view of the Sants", the term Sant is pivotal. Derived from the Sanskrit sat (सत) and has overlapping usages (true, real, honest, right). Its root meaning is "one who knows(is) the truth" or "one who has experienced (merged into) Ultimate Reality." The term sant has taken on the general meaning of "a good person" but is properly assigned to the poet-sants of medieval India.
According to the RSSB teachings, Gurinder Singh Dhillon, like previous RSSB gurus, is considered to be a modern living saint. As such, supposedly he has taken on the godly qualities of someone who has directly experienced, or merged with, an ultimate divine reality.
So if the guru acts like a normal flawed human being, which includes being desirous of making lots of money, enjoying the company of pretty women, and ignoring reports of sexual misconduct at the organization he oversees, this is a much bigger deal than if Catholic priests, or even the Pope himself, exhibit immoral behavior.
Jesus is a long-dead "saint" to Catholic believers. Nothing a living Catholic can do affects their belief that Jesus is the Son of God who came to earth to redeem a sinful humanity.
On the other hand, Gurinder Singh Dhillon is a living "saint," so his actions do reflect on the validity of the RSSB teachings. As Sheena aptly said, "Yes, teachings are important when following a religion or a spiritual path. But isn't it equally important for the teacher to follow 'his' teachings too? Or are the teachings only for disciples?"
This goes a long way toward explaining why so many RSSB devotees are unwilling to face unwelcome facts about Gurinder Singh's business dealings and the stories about him that Sheena relates in her book. They attack the messengers -- such as the Indian business press, Sheena, and me -- rather than admit that the guru they believe in is a flawed human being, just as we all are.
Gurinder Singh Dhillon