Faqir Chand is my kind of guru.
Though he started off with traditional ideas of what being a guru was all about, Chand came to realize that the mystical powers devotees attribute to gurus are merely manifestations of their own mind.
And as you can read below, Faqir Chand favored removing people from church, rather than bringing people into a church. Exactly how I feel! Churchlessness is the way to go.
This is my third post about Chand's philosophy, the previous posts being here and here.
I've been focusing on Faqir Chand recently because I know that quite a few visitors to this blog are interested in the "guru game." I stopped playing it about 15 years ago, but I realize how alluring it can be, and how difficult to give up.
Chand is sort of like a halfway house for those addicted to guru devotion. His teachings contain both some praise for gurus and also a lot of criticism.
In my current churchless frame of mind, I don't need any convincing that supernatural visions and mystical powers don't exist, being the product of delusions, illusions, or outright fraud. However, in my true believing days I would have benefitted from Chand's philosophy, since he ended up as a guru who exposed how gurus deceive devotees.
I much appreciate the numerous comments David Lane has been leaving on my blog posts about Faqir Chand, since he is an expert on Chand. Other people who have a stake in the guru game have written some comments about Chand that are untrue, so I'm glad Lane has been correcting the Chand'ian record.
Here's some comments from David Lane that I found especially interesting. I've boldfaced portions that struck me as deserving of emphasis.
Several years ago we had long discussions on Faqir Chand on RS [Radha Soami] studies and what he taught. I have long tended to favor the later Faqir writings and his most iconoclastic views, especially when he pointed out how little we actually know.
However, MBW and others pointed out that a close reading of Faqir shows he had a multi-leveled approach. Where for those in the beginning stages would indeed do dhyan, simran, and bhajan, and even have deep devotional feelings towards their chosen Istha-deva/guru.
But after this was achieved, Faqir would then stress realizing that the whole game was a projection of one's own mind and that we should let it go. I know this from personal experience as Faqir knew when he first met me that I was attached to Charan Singh and was in a very devotional frame of mind.
He then predicted the following (direct quote from the book published by Manavta Mandir called The Master Speaks to the Foreigners):
"There are two schools of thought. The aim of one school is to bring people into its circle. They bring people into their church. But I remove the people from the church also. To be in a Church is a blessing but to die in a Church is a curse. You cannot understand my views as yet, because you have to do a lot of work in your worldly life as yet. The present devotional ideas which you have now, will change after some years and then in the old age you will come to this line. This is my prophecy about you."
I think, of course, Faqir was right.
One begins to see through the "dogma" of RS and realize that much of what we believe is our own projection, our own desires. We think at first the guru is perfect or all knowing. Later, we mature a bit and see the humanness of it all. Which I think is a healthy and altogether wise thing to realize.
Now, at one end of Faqir's writings there is the advocacy of more typical Sant related ideas and then at the other, more radical end, there is a realization to go beyond it. This one can see in Faqir's classic HANGING ON THE GALLOWS metaphor:
"So, when did I realize the element? Since I have come to understand that I do not go anywhere. So, who goes in their inner visions? It’s their own mind, their own faith. So what do I do now? Because I was searching for my final abode or source, I leave the mind. When I go within and meditate, I leave the shapes, forms and colors. There is no form of the guru, no shape, nothing else. Only light and sound remain.
The entity that is inside me listens to the sound within and sees the light, that entity is something else entirely. The sound is something else. The light is something else. You listen to the sound within – you are separate from the sound. You see sun or moon inside, see light within. Light is separate from the one witnessing the light. When I search for that entity or witness, I CEASE TO EXIST."
Now, it should be acknowledged that Faqir was also quite traditional in some ways, especially on his views relating to sex. I have a couple of great stories relating to this that I should share one day. I will say this, however. Only someone like Faqir would say in open satsang at the age of 89 or so that the night before he had a "wet" dream and said that even at his age such things happened.
I can well imagine how the sangat "heard" that one! It was Faqir's transparency on his humanness that makes him so valuable, not whether he was enlightened or not (since that it is a theological question and open to endless debate).
In my conversations with Darshan Singh, for instance, I noticed he told me things in private that he would most likely NEVER say in public. So I am not in the least surprised that these gurus (from Charan to Kirpal to Darshan to whatever) would confess honestly about not knowing of their respective appearances.
We even have Charan on record saying he was unaware of appearing to a woman in her prayers. Sawan in Spiritual Gems saying something similar as well. Faqir's point is an obvious one and we have overwhelming proof that these gurus know much less than is advertised.
No need to mention a current guru losing 700 million dollars (jk)! I think of Faqir as an existential guru. As Faqir said near the end, "In the process of evolution, I appeared or manifested. Similarly, you also appeared. I did not exist before, and I won’t exist again."
Or, more poetically, "In that place there is no happiness or unhappiness, no truth or untruth, neither sin nor virtue. There is no day or night, no moon or sun, There is Radiance without Light." P.S. if you wish to understand the "humanity" of Faqir, his last letter from the hospital before he died is remarkable for its utmost honesty..... will post that later.
Dear Dogribb, Faqir even criticized his own guru as not being as forthcoming as he should. While Faqir acknowledges that there are various levels of instructions, the most radical part of Faqir is when he wishes to question why these gurus were not as forthcoming as they should be. Here is a quote from a 1980 satsang in London,
"Today’s gurus – they don’t tell us anything. They keep repeating – Shabad, Shabad, Shabad, Guru, Guru, Guru. Look at the lives of Gurus. Nirankari guru died and gave his throne to his son. The Beas ones put their grandson on the throne. Hansa established his son as a successor. In this world, may Paramatma or supreme lord save us from these gurus. These gurus have fooled us and looted us. They did not tell the truth."
Since Ishwar Puri is fond of making stuff up about Faqir Chand that is completely not true, I think it is important to set the record straight.
(1) Faqir Chand did not appoint anyone of his family as successors. Instead he appointed several of his disciples to carry on his teaching, including Dr. I.C. Sharma (whom I have met on several occasions), Yogini Mataji (Tripta Devi), and Bhagat Munshi Ram.
(2) As for Faqir's son, Faqir told Mark Juergensmeyer this: "My own son is well placed. He draws about Rupees 2500 per month. He is a big metallurgist, Russia returned." He never worked as a guru. Ishwar simply made that story up.
(3) As for Yogini Mataji, she refused to continue being a guru and wouldn't initiate anyone and went into relative seclusion. Here is the only movie I know that has film of her....https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3NYQXjIRBfs
What may look like a miracle (and I am sure it seems like such to the person who has such experiences) is, according to Faqir, isn't due to any guru as such, but rather the intense faith and devotion which (using Faqir's own words) becomes "creative" and produces the desired effect.
Faqir gives a number of quotes relating to this. Here is just one:
"The individual worships, adores and makes offerings to some living guru, image, god, or goddess according to his own faith, belief and devotion; in return he gets the fruit of his own devotion and faith. The guru, of the worshipped, gets credit and involves himself in the false prestige and fame. While the worshipper achieves his end, or motive due to his own faith and belief. In fact, the guru or the worshipped does nothing to fulfill the desires of the devotee; it is all the faith of the latter."
I don't think visions of Faqir or related incidents are miracles at all. Rather, they are merely projections by various individuals who then ATTRIBUTE such things to Faqir or to other gurus. The mind is a great conjurer and it is us (usually after the fact) that then attribute this or that apparition to one guru or another.
A good example of how this works is provided by Faqir Chand himself, where to his great credit he tries to see if he could come up with a rational explanation for why he had a vision of his guru Shiv Brat Lal before ever meeting him and even then getting the "correct" address of his ashram.
Here is Faqir's narrative:
"In the meantime I got a permanent job in the Indian railways and was posted as Assistant Station Master at Baganwala. But my craving to see the Lord did not diminish; rather, during this time it reached its peak. Once I wept for twenty-four hours continuously for a glimpse of the Lord. Doctors were called in. They administered medicine to me. At about five o'clock in the morning I saw in a vision the form of Maharishi Shiv Brat Lal. He drew water from a nearby well and helped me take a bath, and then told me his address in Lahore."
Now on the surface that seems somewhat remarkable given that Faqir consciously wasn't aware of Shiv Brat Lal (he was then a relatively obscure guru) and got his address correct.
But later Faqir reasoned that because Shiv Brat Lal was a prolific writer, then he may have come across one of his writings or magazines and in so doing got a picture of what he looked like and also the address which was listed in one of those writings.
These two things (picture of Shiv Brat Lal and the address)--though not consciously remembered--manifested in his dream-vision and Faqir took that as a wondrous sign. Faqir deflated the miracle.
I suggest that what seems paranormal looks less paranormal the more information we get about what really happened. I know from my own life that this is true, since I have written extensively about how my own Teaching Assistant, Michelle Lopez, had a vision of Charan Singh dying almost exactly at the time he died.
It is a remarkable story, no doubt, but one that I believe can be explained rationally without having to invoke miracles and the like.
I also got a chance to go through much of Faqir's correspondence which he shared with me back in 1978 where there were many letters about him appearing to so and so and how it was amazing. Faqir would at each turn tell me that he knew nothing about it.
Thus, these stories about Faqir are not miracles, though the disciples may believe such. They are what the mind can produce under stressful circumstances.
Dear S, Concerning Charan Singh and not knowing about him "appearing" to a woman in her prayers. It is an interesting story. Here is what happened.
Back in 1984 I published a two part article entitled "The Enchanted Land" for FATE Magazine. It described my visit with several shabd yoga gurus, including Charan Singh, Partap Singh (Tarn Taran), Yogini Mataji (Tripta Devi), Faqir Chand, etc.
Well, the chief editor of FATE magazine wrote me an urgent letter and said that a Catholic woman from Oklahoma was trying to [get] in contact with me. They asked for my permission for her to call me. I said yes, not knowing exactly what all the fuss was about.
It turns out this woman, who was deeply Catholic, was praying one morning when she had an unexpected vision of a spiritual being with a turban and a long beard who told her that she would learn more about him the next day. She then reads the current issue of FATE magazine (I think she looked through it at the magazine store) and in it she saw a picture of Charan Singh that was embedded in my article.
She was wonderstruck since she claimed that it was the same person she had a vision of in her prayers. She wanted to talk to me about it so we had a long chat on the phone. She knew absolutely nothing about Radhasoami or Sant Mat or even eastern philosophy.
I wasn't sure what to make of it (being skeptical by nature), so I suggested she write Charan Singh directly about it and see what he said concerning it. She did and Charan wrote a 4 page letter back to her (a bit unusual, given that his letters were not more than a page or two).
She then contacted me and we went over the letter line by line. In that letter and in no uncertain terms Charan explained that he was UNAWARE of appearing to her or to others who claimed such things. He suggested that it was a product of her own mind and he had nothing to do with it. Hope this helps.
Dear Brian, thanks for blogging about Faqir Chand. He is a very interesting subject.
Before I go on, I think it is important to realize that all these gurus (of whatever stripe) are human beings, with all the different quirks and distinctive personality traits that go with it.
Having met lots of shabd yoga gurus during the past forty years, I found Faqir Chand unique.
You could ask him any question and he would never shy away from it. Moreover, Faqir (to his great credit) consistently said that he could be wrong and that his point of view was not final. That was entirely refreshing to me.
I say this because one can see a progressive quality in Faqir's writings from the earlier days to near his death.
So here are some answers to the questions that both Spence and Brian posed:
1. First, Faqir came to believe that all the inner regions were ultimately illusory and that even the inner sounds were illusory. As Faqir said in London in 1980:
"Like I said yesterday, I have realized that all these stages of Sahasraradala Kamal, Trikuti, Sunn, Maha-sunn are the play of this mind. Visions are based on the thoughts one keeps. This play of whatever one sees within (i.e. visions) is based on samskaras (impressions and suggestions). They are not the same for everyone. Visions or images vary from person to person."
2. Faqir was appointed a guru by Shiv Brat Lal some 21 years before his guru's death. As he himself confessed:
"Hazur Data Dayal Ji called me in his room. I was already waiting for the moment. I went inside. Lo! His Holiness with a strange blend of affection placed in my hands one coconut, five [coins], made a frontal mark on my forehead and bowed himself to my feet saying,
'Faqir, you are yourself the Supreme Master of your time. Start delivering spiritual discourses to the seekers and initiate them into the path of Sant Mat. In due course of time, your own satsangis will prove to be your True Guru,' and it is through your experiences with them that the desired secret of Sant Mat will be revealed to you.'
Touched by these words, I experienced both joy and sorrow within me. Hazur noted both expressions on my face and asked for clarification.
I humbly said, 'Your Holiness, I am myself ignorant of the Truth, how can I lead others on this sublime path? And when the thought that I have become a degree holder and would deliver discourses and initiate people flashed within my mind, I felt that I had become something and thus a spark of joy.'
Hazur then said, "Faqir, you may be suffering from ninety-nine shortcomings, but one sure virtue of Truth which is within you will lead you to your goal in life. You will not only redeem yourself but will help many others to attain release."
In 1981, Faqir said,
"Further R. S. Dayal writes that he heard the conch-shell sound and the omkar vibration inside. I have explained in a book why a meditator hears inside him sounds of bell, conch, omkar, flute and sitar. All these are manifestations of the mental plane.
Since this knowledge came to me, I ceased to be caught up in the whirlpool of the mind and transcended it. Now, I took upon all these manifestations as mere maya. Therefore, now, even if I try to catch these sounds, I do not get them, because their value, as something real, has vanished for me who has transcended the mind."
3. Faqir stopped initiating anyone formally after 1942, but he continued to give satsang and tried to argue that we should go beyond the mind, even beyond light and sound, and find the source from which all this appears.
Faqir explained his own way of speaking:
"I believe that the intensified faith of these devout persons becomes creative and produces these results. Many so-called gurus misappropriate the credit for similar happenings, which take place in their disciples, whose own true faith should be held responsible for those results.
By the lack of moral, courage and honesty on the part of pseudo-gurus, credulous disciples are kept in the dark and fleeced under fake pretenses.
I alert the faithful but simple minded satsangis, to beware of such sneaks and their false claims. I had been commanded by my Gurudev [Shiv Brat Lal] to introduce plain speaking into religion, so I am duty bound to proclaim the truth behind these miracles, and to save the simpletons from exploitation.
If I do not reveal the truth, I can, by keeping satsangis in the dark, extract from them large sums of money by claiming fake credit, for the miracles that no doubt do happen."
Brian is correct to ascertain that Faqir argued for something beyond light and sound, and in this way dovetailed with the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
He called it hanging on the gallows.
Here is a quote:
"What conclusion did I reach? When I found out that I do not manifest or appear within anybody, then I also leave the mind (and all its appearances). Then remains light and sound. Every two or three months or sometimes every three days, when I go and search for that entity that listens to the sound, then my being disappears.
What remains? Nothing.
Now I think to myself – if I have become something by reaching that place, if I can do something, then I should be able to remove all the problems that the world is facing right now.
If they could, the ancestors from the past would have removed their problems or difficulties. Baba Sawan Singh would have removed his troubles. Swamiji would have alleviated his disease. Kabir had kidney problems for ten years in the old age.
So what did I understand? What is my realization of this supreme element (Tatva)?
I am a bubble of the supermost consciousness. In the process of evolution, I appeared or manifested. Similarly, you also appeared. I did not exist before, and I won’t exist again. Only one element will remain from which this bubble came into existence.
That element is Sound. It’s name is Naam.
That Naam is not the sound of bells or conch. It’s not the sound of Veena. It is the principle sound (Saar Shabad). This is what the bani of saints mentions – Saar Shabad.
So after reaching this, what happened to me? What did I gain? I found peace. What did I gain at this age of ninety-four? Peace."
Will write more tonight..... particularly in response to Jay (hi Jay, always good to read your ideas!).