I used to follow a guru. Now I don't. So I don't need any persuading that gurus are completely unnecessary to live a spiritual life or to meditate in a satisfying fashion.
But if you're someone who still clings to the idea that gurus possess special wisdom or powers, the message of Faqir Chand could help you wean yourself from those erroneous assumptions.
Until I ordered a book about Chand from Amazon about a week ago, what I knew about him came from a few essays and videos by David Christopher Lane, who brought this book into being: "The Unknowing Sage: The Life and Work of Faqir Chand."
In the summer of 1980 Lane asked Chand if he would write his life story before he left the world. Chand agreed. Good timing, since Chand died on September 11, 1981, leaving a description of both his life and spiritual philosophy that makes up the bulk of "The Unknowing Sage."
Basically, Faqir Chand came to an understanding that bears a lot of resemblance to Buddhism: the essence of spirituality is realizing that you are not an individual "self" (or soul). Without that realization, any mystical or inner experience, no matter how profound, leads one astray, since it merely is a reflection of your own mind and possesses no objective reality.
Instead, Chand viewed himself as a "bubble of super consciousness." However, the bubble doesn't possess any mystical powers, not does it know the secret of the universe. So after practicing surat shabd yoga for many years, at the age of 92 Chand said "I do not care for the sound and light too."
He goes on to say:
Now, after having a long experience of my life, I feel that most of the past mahatmas and the present gurus by keeping the secret Truth unrevealed/undisclosed have been unfair to the public and have often exploited them. They have taken undue advantage of the ignorance of the people.
They have built their own big buildings. They have made air-conditioned rooms for themselves. These gurus enjoy themselves and the poor people being ignorant give their hard earned money to these gurus at the cost of their comforts and those of their children.
I love Faqir Chand's frankness and commitment to speaking the truth. I plan to share more quotations from him in other blog posts. For now, here's how "The Unknowing Sage" starts out.
This introduction is unsigned, but I assume it was written by David Lane. It's a good overview of Chand's unknowingness that he attained near the end of his life. I've boldfaced parts for emphasis.
Faqir Chand [1886 to 1981] was a remarkable Indian sage who spent over seventy-five years practicing an ancient meditation technique, popularly known today as surat shabd yoga, which attempts to induce a consciously controlled near-death experience,
Mastery of this experience, according to adepts of the tradition, enables one to experience regions of light and sound beyond the normal waking state, providing glimpses into higher realms of consciousness.
After the end of World War One, Faqir Chand was recognized by his own guru Shiv Brat Lal and others in the movement to be an advanced shabd yoga mystic. According to Faqir's own account, he could almost daily leave his body at will and experience exalted states of awareness.
Nevertheless, Faqir Chand was not satisfied with these attainments and sought something higher and more permanent.
Eventually Faqir realized that no matter how subtle or blissful a meditation experience may be, it did not in and of itself constitute the ultimate in spiritual realization. Rather, the ultimate truth was that no experience could capture or contain the transcendental mystery of Being.
In the highest stages of development man does not develop a keep sense of omniscience, but a radical and irrevocable understanding of unknowingness.
In sum, one realizes that he or she is nothing but a mere bubble in a sea of existence that is infinite in all directions. As such, the bubble simply surrenders its entire being to that Power which is, in truth, living it.
Thus Faqir Chand became quite outspoken about how gurus, masters, prophets, and mystics, posing as all-knowing beings, have deceived millions of followers by duping them into believing that they have omniscience and omnipotence when in fact they have neither.
What enlightened sages possess, rather, is access experientially to a higher spectrum of awareness, which, in turn, reveals not final or absolute truth, but a growing awareness of how truly mysterious life really is. As Shiv Dayal Singh, the founder of Radhasoami, poetically put it: "Wonder, Wonder, Wonder: Wonder hath assumed a form."
Coupled with Faqir's tacit realization of unknowingness, he also exposed for the first time in the Sant tradition how visions of religious personages are the products of one's own inner development.
For instance, when one undergoes a near-death experience and beholds a Jesus or a Nanak or an Angel in the middle of the light at the end of a long, dark tunnel, it is not the esteemed figure who is himself orchestrating the encounter. Rather it is the neophyte who is projecting the sacred personage on to the light from his/her own biological and cultural history,
The light may indeed be a transcultural phenomenon, part and parcel of a higher order of awareness or merely a neurological event, but the interpretation of who resides in that light (Is it Jesus? Is it Nanak?) is entirely a personal affair, shaded by the nuances of an individual's sojourn for tens of years on a planet we call Earth.
Faqir is perhaps best known for his frank admissions of ignorance surrounding his miraculous appearances to disciples during times of need. He unilaterally confessed that he was never aware of appearing to his devotees.
Nor did Faqir Chand claim that he had understood the secret of Reality. As he said on many occasions, echoing the words of such greats as Lao Tzu, Socrates, and Nicholas of Cusa: "How can I make any claims about attaining the Ultimate. The truth is that I know nothing."
Hence, Faqir Chand raised the slogan of "Be-Man," arguing that to become a human being, endowed with discrimination and compassion, is a great thing in itself. To be spiritual, Faqir would assert, necessitates that one become a true man (or woman) first.
The Mt. San Antonio Philosophy Group, while not advocating any one position in philosophy or religion, established the Faqir Chand Library Series in honor of vichar, "clear thinking." As the late Sardar Bahadur Jagat Singh, a contemporary of Faqir's once stated, "Clear thinking is 90% of spirituality."
Future volumes in the series will include works in both science and religion that promote the Chandian spirit of honest and frank criticism. this volume, The Unknowing Sage, represents the first comprehensive study of Baba Faqir Chand's life and work in English.