Not long after I started this churchless blog, I wrote a post called "Bursting belief bubbles."
In it I talked about feeling really special when I still belonged to Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB) and believed I'd been chosen by God and the guru for a spiritual journey only available to a few.
I used to believe in belief. It felt good to believe that my religious beliefs were better than other peoples’. I recall standing in line at a movie theatre, feeling exactly like someone standing in line at a movie theatre, when I remembered to do my guru-given mantra.
Instantly I thought to myself, “I’m special. I’m unique. I’ve got a spiritual practice known to only a few.”
I stood straighter. I looked at the spiritually impoverished human beings around me with proudly compassionate eyes. “Ah, I have something they don’t. How fortunate I am not to be them.”
Now I pray, “God, whatever or whoever the hell you are, burst my belief bubbles and lead me not into self-righteousness. Blessed be reality.”
Several recent comments left on this blog by Amar reminded me of how I felt back then. He makes some similar points about his involvement with RSSB.
Here's one of Amar's comments.
GSD refers to Gurinder Singh Dhillon, the current guru of RSSB, who is enmeshed in a massive financial fraud scandal involving hundreds of millions of dollars (the rupee equivalent, since the guru lives in India). Seva means volunteer work or service. So a sevadar is a volunteer.
To everyone who has opinions on this, it's great that we can all communicate on a platform Brian has provided. We don't all agree on each other's perspectives, which is okay. Let's just remember to be open to all possibilities if we can.
Here's what I've been thinking on today, and it helped bring back into focus why I feel the way I do.
I do feel betrayed on the one hand. I feel taken aback at the comments here also, because I used to think the same way. Very humbling to view my own arrogance and pride in being included as one of the chosen ones.
So, it's not the fraud, the court orders, the filings by Malvinder on the scale of the money distributed apparently without his knowledge, or the complete silence from GSD. It's that he is involved in it. Doesn't matter how much complicity/money involved: it's the fact that he's involved in it.
It looks like it's become an obsession to build properties and purchase land for the sake of putting up buildings, for the purpose of doing seva. Gives him an excuse to get out of India and travel. Why not build one large complex in each continent and be done with it? Why have so many?
It's like an addiction to being a massive landholder. But that's just my take on it.
The inaccessibility, the arrogance, the expectation of having lavish accommodations not only in renovating his own place at the Dera (which only a handful of people can actually go into, and is apparently really over the top), but at all the other locations around the world.
While most of the sangat sleep on the ground or in the large metal sheds at the Dera, while he and his good friends sleep in air conditioned upscale bungalows, eat separately, and have everything done for them. Sevadars are sevadars, regardless of their position. Right?
There's a saying that goes,"Sometimes you get too big for your own britches." Maybe RSSB has gotten too big for it's intended task.
Another comment by Amar delves into some specifics of how the RSSB seva system works. It's indeed strange that a practice intended to inculcate humility leads to so many inflated egos.
There are many people who have stood guard during GSD's official visits abroad, including me. There's nothing humiliating about it. At the time you feel privileged for the honor. Writing books or giving satsangs, or any other seva is considered a privilege. With this privilege comes arrogance, entitlement and ego.
I found myself doing it or becoming aware of it and it made me sick. A lot of people have it, and a few don't.
One example of this is that all sevadars have to park away from the main hall. But hey, if you're in the "Management Team", you can park right next to the main doors. Some even have the balls to park in the handicap spots because they don't want to have to walk the extra 20 feet.
Once you understand the behind the scenes antics of the senior sevadars at these RSSB locations, you find nepotism.
Majority of these individuals don't get rotated in the seva rotation. It's created a a kind of class system within the sevadars. If you have a degree or high education, you certainly can't put them out in the scorching heat to park cars or do pat downs.
What nonsense! When they can't find any higher educated individuals to man the "cushy" seva's they go down the totem pole to the next group of people. Kind of like the Hindu caste system... Brahmins, the Khatriya's an so on.
If you've been coming for seva for years but don't meet the invisible criteria, then you get called next. Of course they deny this, but when you get up close and hear the discussions and see it in action, it's there. Believe me or not. Just putting it out there.
Here's a third comment from Amar that starts off with some great advice.
Everyone's gonna die one die. That's the only guarantee. We don't need a mystic to tell anyone that.
Live a good, honest, happy life. Be active and engaged with an open mind, and the world becomes a fascinating place to explore.
Those that feel they are better than the rest or entitled to special treatment because of their job title or seva position, even the guru, are not acting in good faith with their own Self.
When there are "senior" sevadars visiting an RSSB site, they are put up in the "guest" quarters, given special lunches and dinners and special treatment. If all sevadars are equal, why the special treatment? If a sevadar travels from across the country, he doesn't get a special breakfast, or lunch, he eats with the rest of the sevadars at the common eating location. These others don't.
If everyone is equal, then why special parking, special eating, special lodging?
This permeates all the locations RSSB is located. It starts with the guru getting specially built, sound proof houses on the sites, with special meals, and driven in fancy cars. Only those trusted to be in the near vicinity are allowed. So this trickles down to the board members, Reps and Chairman of the board across North America.
The entire sangat sees this, but these "higher ups" are oblivious to the perception this creates. This is that RSSB caste system I mentioned before.
UPDATE: Amar just left this comment on his comments. Naturally I had to share it. But otherwise I'm not commenting on his comment about his comments. But if you want to comment on either his comments, his comment about his comments, or my decision to not comment on his comment about his comments, comment away.
Just to follow up on Brian's compilation, that this is what I've experienced and seen myself. If you're lucky and in an area that doesn't have this vibe around it, consider yourself blessed and move along with your journey. I've been exposed to all sorts of people over the years from different places of different seva rank, and they're all the same.
Ego is tough nut to crack.
Where there are humans, there will be the mind and the mind is a bitch to control. We all fall prey to it at some point. I've seen GSD get pissed and get angry at his accommodations. They weren't set up properly. We all get angry. We all get disappointed, and egos will be bruised. But if we choose to follow a perfect living master, then the bar gets set high. That's where we can get into trouble.
GSD says this often, don't put me on a pedestal.
Everyone thinks he's trying to be humble, but I think he's being honest. He's trying to tell everyone he's not what they think he is. He's just like us, in a seva that he probably wished he never took on. But I guess when you get dealt with a mind blowing ego swelling seva like that, you have to play along and maybe it just consumed him.
At any rate, I'm moving on and there is no hatred from me on GSD, just disappointment.