I always enjoy getting emails from people who used to be churched, and now are churchless.
Usually I hear from initiates of Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB), as that was the "church," Eastern religion variety, I belonged to for 35 years.
Recently I've gotten two messages from former satsangis, as RSSB initiates often are called, using an Indian term. Each warmed my heart, since the emails described how the people realized that the RSSB dogma didn't match up with truth.
One person included a nicely caustic observation about RSSB satsangis.
I have pointed out that you could compare Satsangis to Navy Seals. They train every day by meditating, they eat only certain things. Eventually, you should see some form of result. All I have seen are fat lazy Navy Seals. That training produces zero results. In fact I think it creates more psychological disorder.
You won't get much of an argument from me about that. My main caveat regarding the Navy Seal analogy is that members of this elite American military group actually do train hard every day.
But RSSB initiates, not nearly as much, especially when it comes to meditation, which is supposed to be done for 2 1/2 hours a day.
However, most satsangis do seem to stick to a vegetarian diet, along with not drinking alcohol or using recreational drugs. And quite a few attend the equivalent of RSSB church services every week, satsangs.
So you'd think all this religious activity would produce some positive changes in RSSB initiates, even if their meditation didn't match up to the ideal. I agree that those changes often aren't apparent, which makes the "fat lazy Navy Seals" analogy an apt one.
I also agree that many satsangis end up more psychologically screwed-up after years of RSSB practice. My theory about why this happens is that the RSSB teachings are highly dualistic.
Satsangis are supposed to make their top priority leaving this physical world behind and supposedly rising to higher regions of reality. This fosters an over-attachment to the RSSB guru, and under-attachment to family members, friends, and other loved ones.
Thus rather than being of service to people in your immediate surroundings, many satsangis prefer to travel long distances to perform "seva" (volunteering) for RSSB, such as building or maintaining the centers where RSSB meetings are held.
Often this leads to an unhealthy attraction to their chosen religion, RSSB, since that focus takes time and energy away from being a good spouse, parent, friend, companion, or whatever to people who previously were near and dear to the satsangi.
In December 1977 I went to India for two weeks around Christmas. I'd been initiated into RSSB in 1971 and had never seen my guru, Charan Singh, in person. I was married with a five year old daughter. I'd gotten a temporary appointment as a manager with Oregon's State Health Planning and Development Agency and was waiting for it to become permanent.
My wife, Sue, wasn't happy with me going to India, given our circumstances. It cost quite a bit to get there. We'd gotten Celeste, my daughter, her first real bicycle. Sue wanted me to be home for Christmas. But I chose to put my devotion to RSSB above my devotion to family.
It turned out that I had an amazing two weeks in India, a time with Charan Singh I'll never forget. And after I got home, I ended up getting a permanent appointment to the manager position. But I readily admit that perhaps spending Christmas with my wife and daughter would have been as memorable as going to India, though I doubt it. Regardless, I put my relationship with RSSB above my family duties.
I also believe that the RSSB teachings lead initiates awry by emphasizing the Five Deadly Sins of lust, anger, greed, attachment, and egotism -- which actually are normal aspects of being a human, so long as they aren't engaged in to an extreme.
This causes many satsangis to be hyper-conscious of engaging in "bad" thoughts and actions, sort of like Christians who fear the Devil leading them astray. Not mentally healthy, for sure.