Spiritual consciousness, to me, is to explore the knowledge of the spirit and its origin or reservoir through intuitive realization. The proper course of attaining higher levels of spiritual consciousness for a sincere lover of the Supreme Being, according to Hazur Maharaj - the second Guru of Radhasoami Faith - is "to acquire knowledge of the secrets and the order of creation and the means of traversing the distance between his dwelling in the body (the pupil of the eye) and the abode of the Supreme Being, the prime source of everything; and to start on his journey with fervour and perseverance with the avowed object of one day reaching the presence of the Most High and Beloved Supreme Father."
Love and dedication are the basic driving forces to attain success in life, whether temporal or spiritual. As a scientist, unless driven by a passionate zeal to find the truth, finds it difficult to surmount the hurdles in his path, so does a spiritual seeker, devoid of love and devotion, fail to attain any tangible result in his spiritual pursuit. Love and devotion are therefore the cardinal values in any endeavour to succeed. The medieval Bhakti traditions ushered by saints laid great stress on love and devotion for Guru and the Supreme Being. Radhasoami Faith, which is the culmination of the Sant traditions, lays great emphasis on love and devotion for the Guru and the Supreme Being. Hazur Maharaj says that "a heart devoid of love or affection is as hard as stone and does not form a suitable receptacle for the light of Heavenly Grace and Mercy... The Supreme Being loves and takes special care of those who love Him with all their heart and soul and gradually draws them towards Himself - the Centre of Pure Light and Attraction."
Bhakti has been defined as "the worship of a personal deity in a spirit of love." Bhakti is adoration and devotion fixed upon the Lord after acquiring knowledge of the attributes of the adorable one. Thus, Bhakti is the emotional aspect of religion; its root lies in the feeling or affective side of human consciousness.
Sants such as Kabir Saheb, Guru Nanak, Dadu Dayal, Paltu Saheb, Jagjivan Saheb, and Tulsi Saheb inspired the humanity and led it from darkness to light through their mystic revelations and easy teachings. The message they delivered to the suffering humanity forms the backbone of Santmat. Nabhaji says, "Kabir refused to acknowledge the caste distinctions or to recognise the authority of the six schools of Hindu philosophy, nor did he set any store by the four divisions of life prescribed by Brahmins. He held that religion without Bhakti was no religion at all and that asceticism, fasting and alms-giving had no value if unaccompanied by Bhajan, that is, devotional practice." The mission of Kabir Saheb was to preach a religion of love which would unite all castes and creeds.
The traditions of Kabir Saheb were continued by Guru Nanak. The mission of Guru Nanak was the unification of the Hindus and the Musalmans so that the wound of society might heal up and the conflict of religions might end. Guru Nanak preached that there is one God in the world and no other and that Nanak, the son of God, speaks the Truth. For Guru Nanak, God is great, high, formless (nirakar) and flawless (niranjan) and when manifested is the satguru.
The main contribution of the religious movement started by Guru Nanak is a union of Bhakti and Yoga, an asceticism of the heart combined with the fulfillment of the worldly functions of body and mind, the recognition of a living Guru who reincarnates himself in the successor, the idea of Satsang and religious recitation with love and fervour.
The mysticism of the Sufi sect is apparent in the concept of Supreme Being who is regarded as the manifestation of Love and Light. He is all love and can be attained only through love. The devotee should take true shelter (saran) and keep full faith and devotion in His feet for the attainment of salvation. The Muslim mystic who sets out upon the path of union (wasl), of absorption (fana), always needs a spiritual guide, for they say that if a man has no teacher, his Imam is Satan. The whole machinery of Sufi Monism moves round the pivot of preceptor (Pir or Sheikh). The notable Sufi saints were Maulana Room, Shams Tabrez, Hafiz, Mujaddid Alif Sani and others.
With Tulsi Saheb, a new rational and logical thinking sprang up in Sant traditions. Tulsi Saheb tried in an absorbing manner to explain the Sant teachings rationally and logically. Thus a new tendency of harmonious blending of metaphysical concepts and scientific reasoning dawned in the nineteenth century. The message of Tulsi Saheb was one of unity and synthesis of the true Sant teachings.
The Radhasoami Faith moved a step forward. The leaders of this sect, as best as they could, tried to rationalize the abstruse metaphysical concepts, simplified the Sant teachings and laid great emphasis upon the need of the Guru of the time. They put forth in a vivid manner the intricacies of Shabd, the practice of Surat-Shabd-Yoga and clearly spelled out the secrets of cosmogony.
For the attainment of perfect salvation, Radhasoami Faith shuns all paraphernalia and external observances and rituals. It has emphasized upon the pure love in the holy feet of the Supreme Being and the Guru.
Meaning of the holy name ‘Radhasoami’
The special features of Radhasoami Faith can be summarized as follows:
- It is the Name of the True Supreme Being
In the Radhasoami Faith, the ultimate reality is Radhasoami. In Hinduism and its branches the ultimate reality is Brahman and Isvara. Brahman is considered to be the highest reality in Vedanta. The founders of Radhasoami Faith, however, came forward with a new concept. According to them, the Brahman of Vedanta is limited to the second grand division of the creation which they call ‘spiritual-material region’. They hold that the Brahman is not the true Supreme Being or the highest reality because he is not perfectly free from mind and matter. They assert that though spiritual components predominate in Brahman, there is Maya latent in the seed form and a Supreme Reality having the least admixture of Maya cannot be styled as the highest truth. They envisaged the highest and the first grand division of creation as the region of the true Supreme Being who is absolutely spiritual and totally free from mind and matter. Such a Supreme Being they have named as ‘Radhasoami’. In view of the said difference between Radhasoami and Brahman, the meaning of the word is not Krishna or the Lord of Radha. A casual observer however gets confused and straightaway starts interpreting it for Krishna, as Farquhar did when he observed: "It is necessary also to realize that the real meaning of Radhasoami is Krishna as Lord of Radha (His cowherd mistress in the latest cycle of myth) that Soami is only a curious phonetic misspelt of Swami."
A careful study of the beliefs and practices of the faith shows that symbolic worship is totally rejected in it. The founders have openly criticized the traditionalism and ritualism of Hinduism. As such their, Supreme Being cannot belong to that category. Besides, the name of Lord Krishna occurs in the writings of the first Guru who designates Krishna as the incarnation of a lower region who can never grant salvation to the jivas.
- It is the True Shabd and Dhunyatmak Name
The founders assert that Radhasoami is a dhunyatmak name because it is the true shabd. Shabd is energy and sound both. When there was no creation, pure and absolute spiritual energy rested in an ellipsoid. Through divine will, creation started and the Supreme Being first manifested Himself as shabd. The creativity in the pure spiritual energy led to a commotion which was accompanied by a pure spiritual resonance or a holy sound. The founders of the faith assert that Radhasoami is the all-pervading sound force in creation and a devotee can listen to this resonance within himself during the spiritual practice.
- Soami is Ocean and Radha its First Wave
The founders of the faith have a few allegorical interpretations to put forward to explain the two components of the word - Radha and Soami. The second guru says that the Supreme Being may be compared to an ocean. A creative ocean cannot be perceived without commotion. The first wave of the endless ocean is Radha. The original current is not different from, but is identical with, the ocean itself and as it comes out so it is ever drawn towards it. The creative ocean, therefore, is Soami and the first original wave just identical to the ocean is Radha. The two together form the supreme ocean full of spiritual bliss and truth. Hence Radhasoami.
- A Scientific Explanation
Pt. Brahma Shankar Mishra, in his writings, tried to explain the name on scientific grounds. According to him, the components of Radha and Soami represent in their letter form and in articulate speech the sound accompanying the spirit current and its focus. Comparing the action of the spirit force to that of a magnetic force he says: "The ions of Ether observed in a magnetic field are subject to two forces (given out by the two poles of magnet). At one pole, it is storage of energy and at the other it is its depletion. The ions are subjected to tremors. This is the first effect in the sphere of the attractive force. Similarly, prevailing attraction in spirit force can resolve into attraction currents which are made up of a series of attractive impulses. The letter sound Radha is accordingly the nearest approach in articulate speech of the subtle sound accompanying the action of the spiritual current. Soami is the prime source of the currents". Thus Radhasoami is the source of all creation.
- It denotes two spiritual components: the Lover and the Beloved
Radhasoami Faith is the religion of pure and spiritual love. Love denotes two components, the beloved and the lover. The prime source of all love and spiritual energy is the beloved and is therefore known as Soami. The first wave of love and spiritual energy arising from its source and then being attracted towards it again, is the lover and therefore is known as Radha. The Supreme Love is Radhasoami, identifying both the components and fusing them into one.
- Radha is Adi-Surat and Soami is Adi-Shabd
As already explained, Radhasoami is the spiritual resonance reverberating incessantly in the highest region of creation where no mind and matter exist. The original resonance of Adi-Shabd (First Sound) is Soami. Radha is the creative force which emanated from Adi-Shabd. In other words, Soami is the storehouse of the shabd and so it is called Adi-Shabd. Radha, being the first creative force, having its source in Adi-Shabd, and completely identical to it, is known as Adi-Surat. Radhasoami together signify the storehouse of shabd which is sound and energy both. In the human manifestation Soamiji Maharaj is Soami and Hazur Maharaj is Radha.
The Radhasoami Faith has gained popularity in modern India as a simple cult of love and devotion. It has made an impact on people who are fed up with materialistic trends of the present age. It provides a solution to those who are eager to embrace a religion which is free from external ritualism but full of intuitive contemplation and devotionalism.
- A New Concept of the Supreme Being and His Abode. The founders claim that the concept of the Supreme Being as enunciated by them had so far been unknown. They call Him as Sat Purush Radhasoami Dayal. The Brahman with both His aspects, vachya and laksh, is dependent upon the Supreme Being Radhasoami for His own existence and creation. The founders assert that the Brahman of Hinduism, Allah of Islam and God of Christianity are the Lords of the spiritual-material region or the second grand division of creation which is not free from mind and matter. Brahman is in fact kal or the universal mind with purest form of matter latent as seed in Him. Brahman and His region cannot escape change, decay or dissolution. The founders envisage a new concept of the Supreme Being who is absolutely free from mind and matter and is the ocean of love, peace, intelligence, bliss, mercy, light and spirit. He is all-pure and all-spiritual and His abode known as Radhasoami Dham or Dayal Desh is also all-pure and free from any admixture. The spirit entities are the particles of the true Supreme Being and as such their original abode is Dayal Desh. A worshipper of Brahman, they hold, will not attain true salvation because freedom from mind and matter will not be attained even after the attainment of Brahman. Those who strive for total redemption from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth must, therefore, try the attainment of Dayal Desh - the region of Radhasoami Dayal.
- The Theory of Spiritual Sound is Scientifically Explained. The founders assert that Surat-Shabd-Yoga is an improvement upon sahaj yoga of the medieval saints - shagal-i-awaz of Sufis, pranayam and hathyoga of Hinduism. They base their spiritual practice upon the theory of sound. According to the founders, sound is the real guide of the spirit-entity. As in a dark and dense forest, they argue, one can find out the way to destination by catching the sound coming from a certain direction, so a practitioner of Surat-Shabd-Yoga listens intuitively to the spiritual sounds resounding in the different regions of creation. In the course of spiritual practice, the spirit-entity can catch the eternal sound-current which is refulgently resonant in the highest region. Then alone it can attain the highest ecstasy and bliss leading to true salvation. The founders give a scientific explanation of the theory of the spiritual sound-current. Describing the economy of creation in detail, they hold that the theory of ‘spiritual sound’ has been testified in many religions of the world.
- A Practical Religion - Blending of Bhakti and Yoga. The founders of the faith have essentially made it a faith of actual practice and behaviour. The philosophical moorings and thought-processes are subsidiary elements in it. It is through practice alone that teachings would prove efficacious. The founders of the faith set the motto: "Practise and observe the results yourself". They introduce a mode of spiritual exercise - Surat-Shabd-Yoga - and claimed to have based it on scientific lines. The practitioner of this yoga would derive practical benefits in the world and feel no pain at the time of death. An abhyasi dies while living. He gets absorbed in the bliss and ecstasy of higher and spiritual life and attains the status of a sthitpragya. Hardly does he feel the joys and sorrows of the world. The founders assert that Surat-Shabd-Yoga is the easiest and best of all modes of yoga ever practised in the country in the past or present. It can be practised by all alike - men, women, old, young, rich and poor. A person leading a family life with all his temporal preoccupations can practise it as effectively as a recluse.
The faith also presents a harmonious blending of yoga and bhakti. The key to Surat-Shabd-Yoga lies with the guru of the time. A practitioner must, therefore, practise bhakti of the guru as a prerequisite to successful performance of yoga. When the practitioner serves the guru with body, mind and soul and with all love and humility and dissolves his ego, he himself witnesses a transformation of his life within and without, and achieves remarkable progress in spiritual pursuit. The founders have, thus, delivered the message of love on practical grounds. They have affirmed that the path of love excels everything. True and selfless love is itself the yoga. Surat-shabd-yoga is the devotional mode of self-realization.
- Emphasis on Love and Devotion. Reviving the bhakti traditions of Medieval India, the founders of Radhasoami Faith emphasize the devotional aspect of religion. According to them bhakti alone would bring salvation to the suffering humanity. One should engender true love for the formless Supreme Being and take shelter (saran) in his divine will (mauj). In a nut-shell, Radhasoami Faith is a gospel of love. Love towards the holy feet of Radhasoami Dayal, love towards the Guru of the time and love with all the human beings is its cardinal message. Love, therefore, is the keynote of the Radhasoami Faith.
- Advocacy of Guru-Bhakti. The tradition of guru-bhakti (devotion to the guru) has been revived by the exponents of the Radhasoami Faith. The guru, they believe, is the manifested Supreme Being and as such it is guru-bhakti through which one would attain redemption from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth. A total surrender of body, mind and soul at the feet of the guru is a pre-requisite of bhakti.
The relationship between the Supreme Being, the Guru and the Jivas has been well compared with ocean, its wave and a drop. The Supreme Being is the ocean of all bliss, light, life, sound and truth. The Guru is the wave which is always in union with the ocean and not different from it and the Jiva with the same attributes is a drop far away from the ocean. This contact between the drop and the wave is the true Bhakti. Therefore, emphasis has been laid upon establishing contact between the Guru and the disciples at all levels, that is, physical, mental and spiritual. This contact would be developed through the company of the Guru, both external and internal. The external company of the Guru is called the ‘external satsang’ and the internal company of the Shabd form of the Guru is called the ‘internal satsang’.
Such an ideal devotion had been practised by Hazur Maharaj towards his guru. The source of eternal solace is, thus, the guru of the time. The founders assert the necessity of choosing the right guru and renouncing the false one. They have warned followers against the dangers of being led away by ignorance and compulsion at the time of selecting the guru. They further assert that only when the essential form (shabd-rupa) of the guru has been revealed to the follower through inner experience, he should adopt one as his guru; otherwise the guru should be treated as ‘elder brother or a friend or a sadhguru’.
- The Four Essentials of Radhasoami Faith. There are four essentials on which this faith bases its tenets:
- Sant Satguru
- Sat Shabd or Satnam
- Sat Anurag (sincere love for the Supreme Being and Sant Satguru)
By the Sevaand the Satsang of the Guru the spirit entity would slowly and slowly shake off the coverages and would be able to catch the sound currents and one day reach the Ultimate Abode. The whole process may take a period of four lives which may be shortened in the case of more ardent devotees.
- The Doctrine of Grace and Mercy. The most significant feature of this faith is the Doctrine of Grace and Mercy. The Supreme Being is full of grace and mercy, so is His human manifestation. Therefore, the natural attributes of Sant Satguru are grace and mercy. Hazur Maharaj has said, "Grant Merciful Radhasoami Thy Grace and Protection." The human beings are so infirm and helpless that they cannot perform the prescribed spiritual exercise. They will always need assistance of superior spiritual personage. Hazur Maharaj has showered the Supreme grace and mercy, particularly on the practitioners of the Surat-Shabd-Yoga, and generally on all such jivas who seek shelter from the miseries and sufferings of this world, and dependence of the devotees on His kind patronage and protection shall always be required. In a nutshell, we can describe it as the Doctrine of Grace and Mercy.
- It Provides a Midpath. The teachings of the Radhasoami Faith lay stress on a midpath. One should neither renounce the world, nor become over-absorbed in it. It is essentially a faith of detached participation in worldly activities. The founders of the faith assert that true love and devotion at the holy feet of Radhasoami Dayal will generate true detachment from the world. Thus as a grihastha (householder) one can fulfil worldly duties and still be a true virakta (unattached being). It is in fact a unique message to people engaged in materialistic pursuits.
- Corporate Life. Striking a balance between spiritualism and materialism, attachment and detachment, God and the world, the Radhasoami Faith teaches the lesson of corporate life and better-worldliness. It emphatically professes that one should adopt honest means to earn one’s livelihood. Religion is not only an ethereal pursuit, but a positive remedy to all socio-religious maladjustments. The followers believe that with the foundation of Radhasoami Faith in 1861, there came into being not only a faith but also a new way of life. They assert that followers of different religions who have always been enjoined upon to practise abstinence and austerity, have often slipped into a life of indolence for want of an impelling motive for better living. Therefore, there is an emphasis in the faith on honest living as a precondition to spiritual progress. The faith, thus, holds corporate living to be an essential concomitant of enlightened living. The socio-economic progress on religious lines is a novel contribution of the Dayal Bagh group.
The faith is growing everyday. However, the founders of the faith have clearly spoken against proselytization and have introduced it primarily for genuine seekers or samskaris. It has been able to attract seekers after truth as also those who are prudent, sensitive and able to see the efficacy of a true religion. People of lower strata of society, primarily villagers, have come to join the sought relief in the principle of spiritual equality. The faith also appears to interest those who believe in mystic revelation. Some Muslims belonging to Sufi and other liberal schools of Islam have joined it as they see a resemblance between their shagal-i-awaz and its Surat-Shabd-Yoga. Some Europeans and Americans are also drawn towards the faith as their own materialism has failed to offer them real happiness.
There are strong integrating elements in the norms of life and principles of moral conduct among the followers of Radhasoami Faith. Irrespective of their belonging to different leaders and different satsang centres, they greet each other with the holy name of Radhasoami. This salutation is not only unique among them but it also knits them in a common bond. Another affinity in various groups is the daily routine of satsang or holy service whose programme is largely the same. The special meetings of satsang are held on special occasions when followers assemble in large numbers to pay homage to their guru. The special features of such congregations are also similar at the different centres.
The annual Bhandara of the past guru is observed with zeal and enthusiasm by almost all branches and groups. The basic spirit of the Bhandara is maintained by all leaders and no satsang centre has yet stopped it. The annual meet and community dinner present an ideal of the essential unity of the faith. The followers of Radhasoami Faith are not only strict vegetarians but they also observe total abstinence from liquor and intoxicants. No change is yet discernible in different centres with regard to the "do’s" and "dont’s".
The practice of a common devotional and spiritual exercise - Surat-Shabd-Yoga - is followed by all branches and groups. It signifies their basic unity. Leaders of almost all groups lay primary emphasis on the fundamental importance of shabd and guru of the time. All of them strictly believe that the secrets of shabd would be revealed through the aegis of Satguru. They grant initiation by explaining to the initiatee the fixed point of concentration and a definite posture for yoga. They provide almost identical information regarding the performance of inner practice. The followers of Radhasoami Faith have the common basic idea of self-help and the community is very active and enterprising in this regard. With self-help they march forward to mutual help.
The message of true and selfless love is so poignantly preached and practised in the faith that it could never be extinguished. The Surat-Shabd-Yoga would escape all decadence. Therefore, if one really wants solace, and attain spiritual consciousness, it is advised that he should completely surrender at the feet of Radhasoami Dayal, and my call is - "Go back to Soamiji Maharaj and Hazur Maharaj in order to march forward on the path of salvation with the grace and mercy of the Sant Satguru."