Writing recently about how the current guru of Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB), Gurinder Singh Dhillon, threatened people whose village is involved in a property dispute with RSSB, got me to thinking about how different things are guru-wise compared to the time Dhillon's predecessor, Charan Singh, headed up the organization.
I was initiated by Charan Singh in 1971. He died in 1990. So for nineteen years I was exposed to how Charan Singh handled being guru.
This included two weeks in 1977 I spent at the Dera, RSSB headquarters in India, when I got to hear him speak and answer questions in English at evening meetings along with having two brief personal interviews with Charan Singh.
Plus, I read all of his books numerous times, listened to cassette tape recordings of him speaking and answering questions, and repeatedly watched several RSSB videos made during the time Charan Singh was guru.
There was never any doubt in my mind that Charan Singh was a deeply warm, friendly, honest, humble, sincere, compassionate person. Let's leave aside the question of whether he was God in Human Form, as the RSSB teachings say.
Charan Singh was an exemplary person. He fulfilled his duties as RSSB guru with grace. The only "scandalous" talk I ever heard about him was that he had disciples bypass India customs through some scheme involving watches, if I recall correctly.
The fact that I can't remember this very well shows that it wasn't a big deal.
Compared to what Gurinder Singh Dhillon has been accused of, it's absolutely nothing. I have no problem recalling most of the scandals the current RSSB guru has been enmeshed in, though I may have omitted some in this 2020 post, "RSSB guru's life should be closely examined."
Here's an excerpt from that post, which nicely sums up why I think it makes sense to pay close attention to how Dhillon has been behaving. In short, not very well, especially compared to previous RSSB gurus.
Dhillon is a public figure. He is the leader of a religious organization with millions of followers. He is shown in You Tube videos that are viewed by many.
And Dhillon also has been the subject of many stories in the Indian financial press regarding the involvement of the guru, his family, and close associates in a financial scandal where allegedly hundreds of millions of dollars were illegally siphoned off from companies once controlled by the Singh brothers, who are relatives of the guru, into shell companies and unsecured loans to the Dhillon family.
Here's a sampling of blog posts I've written about the questionable activities of the RSSB guru.
Malvinder's criminal complaint casts light on RSSB guru's role in financial fraud
Devastating criticism of Gurinder Singh Dhillon by a RSSB insider
Delhi Police financial fraud charges point to RSSB guru's involvement
Gurinder Singh Dhillon, the RSSB guru, accused of making death threats
Sheetal Talwar talks about death threat made from RSSB satsang office
Sheena's "Memoirs of a Seeker" throws light on Gurinder Singh Dhillon
Bloomberg story shows Gurinder Singh Dhillon's shady business dealings
RSSB guru appears to have lied about his financial problems
It is easy for a guru to appear all spiritual, loving, and trustworthy when he or she is sitting on a stage, surrounded by fawning followers, with nobody asking tough questions about the guru's personal life outside of his religious duties.
But none of us is only who we are at our best public moments. There's much more to us that only comes to light in private moments. Knowing the full picture isn't important when it comes to most people we know.
For example, I don't need to know the private life of my doctor, hair cutter, plumber, or electrician, because this isn't relevant to my relationship with them. However, in the case of a guru who is considered to be God in Human Form by his devotees, a trusted spiritual guide with upstanding morals, it definitely is highly relevant how the guru behaves in his private life.
I just spent an enjoyable four days, Monday through Thursday, watching every prime time minute of the Democratic National Convention. It didn't feature just the public side of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. It also showed lots of details about their personal and private life.
That's the only way to understand who a politician really is. And it's also the only way to understand who a guru really is. You can't claim to be a "perfect" guru if in your personal life you're doing some decidedly imperfect things.
So if you're a member of Radha Soami Satsang Beas, ignore the admonition to not be interested in the guru's personal life. Sure, usually a person's private life should be off-limits to public scrutiny. But not when a person occupies an important public role, like wanting to be President or Vice-President of the United States.
In that case, as in the case of a guru who supposedly is a highly elevated spiritual being capable of guiding people back to God. it makes sense to get to know the entire person, not just their public persona.