Today someone asked me and someone else some questions about the meditation I did during the 35 years I was an active member of Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB), a religious organization headquartered in India.
Here's what Tony Wims said in a comment.
Hey Brian or Osho. Just curious: Did either of you ever see the light or hear the sound during meditation?
If you did, what stopped you from developing your perception further?
If you didn't, I'm actually really surprised that you didn't and you were initiated.
Were you following the precepts? ( If you didn't see/hear).
Did you not start by placing your attention at the 3rd eye center?
I know I shouldn't be, because anything is possible, but I'm very surprised to hear of initiates who left the path. Especially if they had even a brief glimpse of the light or a snippet of the sound.
Thank you in advance for your answer. Forgive me for asking if you don't feel like it.
Hey, I have no problem with questions about my meditation experience. But before I get to the answers, I'll share some observations about the assumptions underlying Tony's comment.
The main assumption is that there's such a thing as supernatural light and sound emanating from higher spiritual regions of reality. I used to believe this was true, but beliefs are different from what actually is the case.
There's no demonstrable evidence of anything supernatural, much less mystical light and sound. So the burden of proof rests on those who claim that there is, not skeptics like me who doubt the existence of realms beyond the physical.
Another assumption is that meditation is aimed at anything other than being fully in touch with what appears in one's consciousness. Yes, I realize that Tony is talking about a very special form of meditation, Surat Shabd Yoga, or uniting one's soul with a divine sound current.
Again, this is a religious belief, not a proven reality.
In fact, a comment Sonia left today appears to accurately describe how the current guru of RSSB, Gurinder Singh Dhillon (GSD), looks upon meditation. What Sonia says fits with the notion that Dhillon has moved RSSB to what's been termed v. 2.0 and v. 3.0.
@Tony Most people don’t recognize the light or sound.
GSD just said some people go to the doctor thinking they have tinnitus when really it’s the “sound”. He also said if you want to see lights go to a disco. He’s made it abundantly clear that seeing the light or hearing sound is not what meditation is about. Many people won’t recognize it. He said just do your meditation.
The reason he says all of this is because satsangis complain over and over and over again to him about not hearing the sound or seeing light during meditation.
And the only reason I’m sharing this with you is so that you will understand that your Master never promised you a rose garden—he never promises you’ll see light and sound and most of your fellow satsangis don’t have that experience.
That was my clear impression also from the three-plus decades I spent talking with countless (more or less) RSSB initiates, or satsangis. i used to do a lot of speaking on behalf of RSSB, where one of my favorite lines was "The easiest vow to uphold is the one against talking about your mystical experiences, because no one is having any."
The line always got a laugh.
And no one ever came up to me afterwards and said I was wrong. As Sonia said, most RSSB devotees aren't focused on experiencing inner lights and sounds. They're focused on other things: the guru, going to RSSB meetings, being a vegetarian, socializing with RSSB friends, and such.
Getting back to Tony's questions, in 2014 I wrote a blog post called "I'm asked about my RSSB meditation experience." These lengthy excerpts address the more recent questions from Tony.
In "Why I'm justified in complaining about Sant Mat" I wrote:
I was initiated in the spring of 1971. For over thirty years—until 2002 or so—I was damn near a model satsangi (disciple).
I never missed a day of meditation. Mostly it was for the full proscribed two and a half hours. Sometimes less. One and a half hours was a minimum, such as when my daughter needed after-work attention and I was working full time. I followed the other vows perfectly, aside from having a single drink at my ten year high school reunion, which was just too freaking weird to endure without a dose of alcohol.
So don't tell me that I can't complain about Sant Mat and Radha Soami Satsang Beas. I'm totally justified in doing so. Because I know more about this philosophy and this organization than most initiates. Not just book knowledge—direct experience also.
Or, lack of experience, when it comes to meditation. I'm typical in this regard. Over those three decades I talked with hundreds, maybe thousands, of RSSB meditators. Very few, perhaps none, had experienced what they were told to expect. Those flights to inner mystical regions and the meeting with their guru's radiant astral form.
With me, it wasn't for lack of effort. Again, I did everything right. And the results were wrong. Now, many of the faithful would say, "Brian, you expected too much, too soon." Give me a break.
Thirty years isn't too soon. A glimpse of the promised spiritual land isn't too much.
In "Q and A about me and Sant Mat" I wrote this in response to another question that I'd gotten:
(2) Why do you think you never had a spiritual experience despite 30 years of devoted meditation?
Like I've been saying in several posts lately, including here, I'm not sure what "spiritual" means anymore. I had plenty of experiences in meditation.
What I didn't have was the sort of out-of-body, astral projecting, soul-flying, blasts of cosmic light and sound experiences that the Radha Soami Satsang Beas version of Sant Mat tells disciples to expect in meditation.
A few days after I was initiated I heard loud bell sounds inside my head while I was meditating. These never came back. I've had other glimpses of inner light and hearings of inner sound, but these could be (and probably are) produced by the brain, not immaterial soul or spirit.
Over more than three decades I've talked with lots of fellow RSSB initiates about their experiences in meditation. More accurately, their lack thereof.
When these people spoke honestly and openly (which usually isn't done in the formal satsangs, or talks), I learned that my lack of mind-blowing meditation experiences was par for the course in Sant Mat.
So there you have it.
Naturally I had lots of experiences in meditation. It was impossible not to have them, since I was awake and aware for most of the 1.5 to 2.5 hours of meditation I did each day for over thirty years. (Yeah, I'd fall asleep occasionally.)
I feel like I gained a lot from all that meditating.
It was a mix of "mantra meditation" (repeating a word or words to concentrate the mind) and "open awareness" meditation (trying to be still, mentally and physically, and being aware of what passes through consciousness).
Thus even though Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB) views its meditation technique as something special, actually it is very much in the meditation mainstream. Mantras and open awareness are used in many other meditative practices.
The RSSB meditation did focus on "going within," though, to a much greater extent than mindfulness practices do. That is, the initiate was supposed to direct his/her attention to the third eye, or eye center, which supposedly was a gateway to higher realms of consciousness.
Now my daily meditation usually involves more of a balanced approach.
I like to follow my breathing for part of the time, either counting breaths or simply being aware of my breathing body doing its thing. I also enjoy mantra meditation. Usually I choose different words than the Five Holy Names taught by RSSB, but for old time's sake I'll occasionally return to the mantra I repeated for so many years.
It's difficult for me to describe what I experienced during my RSSB meditation years. As noted before, I've sat for tens of thousands of hours in meditation. How is it possible to sum that up in a few words?
I laughed; I cried; I was joyful; I was sad; I was peaceful; I was restless; I felt at one with the cosmos; I felt alone. And so much more.
One of the key things I learned was the difference between what my conscious mind does, and what the rest of my mind does. Well, let me rephrase that, because I no longer believe there are two entities inside my head: me, and my mind.
There is just one: brain/mind, or whatever you want to call it.
I used to enjoy, and still do, the sensation of either repeating a mantra, or doing nothing, and being aware of what happens inside my head when the brain/mind aspect called "I" isn't trying to direct the show of consciousness.
As anyone who meditates knows (or anyone who is alive knows)... a lot happens.
The brain/mind, like an iceberg, consists of a whole lot more than our conscious awareness, will, intention, and such. Dualistic forms of meditation, which see a distinction between soul and mind, or pure consciousness and impure consciousness, consider those unintended goings-on to be a distraction. Non-dual forms of meditation, such as mindfulness and Zen, don't.
To them, as to me these days, what happens in the brain/mind is what is happening. To deny it is to deny reality. Thoughts come and go. So do emotions, perceptions, intuitions, and much else.
Thus whereas I used to believe that God and the guru were responsible for what happened within my consciousness when I wasn't trying to make anything happen, now I realize that the part of brain/mind outside of conscious awareness is responsible.
I still feel that I'm part of something much larger than myself. I just don't call it God, or divine. It is me. And the world, which really isn't different from me.