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RADHASOAMI FAITH - A HISTORICAL STUDY: Birth of The Faith and Its Name

Prof. A.P. Mathur
M.A., PhD, F.I.H.S., F.R.A.S. (London)
Former Vice-Chancellor, Agra University, Agra, India

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The Muslim Mystics

The Muslim mystics attached more importance to the activities of the inner self than to the observant of outward religious practices and rituals. To them, God is pure Being and absolute Beauty. Purification, devotion and deification are the three main stages for realization. Repentance, abstinence, renunciation, voluntary poverty and trust in God are the methods of purification. Meditation, nearness to God, love, fear, hope, tranquility, contemplation and resignation are the means of devotion. Certainty, illumination and realization are the other names for deification. The path is divided into seven stages : observance of the law of service; service to God; love of God; renunciation of worldly desires;knowledge or contemplation of the nature, attributes and works of God; ecstasy in contemplation of God; union or seeing God face to face; and finally absorption in the essence of eternal Being.

The Muslim mystics based their thought upon two essentials: the teacher - pir or murshid - and love or ishq. The teacher is considered no less than God. perfect devotion to the teacher ensures speedy realization of Truth. As to love, a devotee is expected to possess an abundant store of it, and all beings who come in contact with him must of necessity be charged with his love. Many practices in Radhasoami faith appear similar to the practices of the Muslim mystics - total surrender to the worship of the perfect adept, the idea of the beloved (Supreme Being) and the lover (devotee), the intensity of pure love, the ideal of ever-absorption in the thought of the highest reality and the singing of emotional hymns.

Tulsi Saheb and His Teachings

In the early nineteenth century, Tulsi Saheb, a great saint of Hathras, introduced a spirit of rational religious reform. His sole purpose was to preach the gospel of love. He attempted a simplification of the Indian religion on the lines of medieval saints in order to make it accessible to the common man. He launched a campaign against reactionary practices such as tantrik sadhnas, prevalent in the Sant sects and deplored them as unbecoming and contradictory to their original teachings. He referred to various extant observances as followed by Kabir Panthis and asserted that they had developed a narrow vision, traditionalism and static sectarianism. He also found many anomalies in the teachings of the Sikh gurus as followed by their disciples and claimed that Sikhism had degenerated into ritualism and distortions against the gurus' basic tenets. Thus Tulsi Saheb not only tried to remove evil tendencies that had crept into the teachings of Kabir and Nanak but also reminded their followers that the medieval Sant sects were reformative ideologies whose original teachings had been ignored and twisted. He called for inner search, in accordance with Sant mat, and to stick to its anti-ritualistic form of spiritual socialism. He did not believe in caste distinctions and his followers included persons from all castes and creeds. He propounded a philosophy of inner spiritual realization under the aegis of Satguru. It is said that he did not adopt any guru for himself, but recognised the necessity of a guru to lead the individual on the path of spiritual enlightenment. He also revealed the inner spiritual secrets of Pind, Brahmand and beyond Brahmand and called his Supreme Being as Piya, Satpurush, Parmatam, Hans and Nirakar. He propagated vairagya, yoga, gyana and bhakti and attached much importance to the unity of Sant-mat. Bringing about a harmonious blending of terse metaphysical concepts and the spirit of scientific reasoning, he brought about a unique synthesis hitherto unknown to the Sant-tradition.

The founders of the Radhasoami faith caught the spirit of synthesis as sponsored by Tulsi Saheb and went a step forward in harmonizing philosophical concepts of inner truth with rational derivation. Like Tulsi Saheb they emphasized the necessity of a guru, the importance of shabd and yoga. In keeping with the Tulsian traditions, they vehemently criticised such followers of Sant-mat as has deviated from the original teachings.

The Theory of Shri Kripal Singh

Tracing the background of the formative influences on the Radhasoami faith, Shri Kripal Singh links up the history of spiritual heritage with last Sikh guru Gobind Singh. He holds that guru Gobind Singh traveled far and wide and went to Poona in Maharashtra and brought in his fold many a member of the Peshwa family. He presumes, but without any historical basis, that Sham Rao, the elder brother of Baji Rao Peshwa must have come into contact with Ratnagar Rao, a disciple of guru Gobind Singh and ultimately Sham Rao settled at Hathras and came to be known as Tulsi Saheb. But this statement is not historically true. Guru Gobind Singh died in 1708. The same year Sahu, son of Shivaji, became king of Maharashtra and appointed Balaji Vishwanath as the first Peshwa in 1713. Baji Rao I became Peshwa in 1720 and he was the eldest son of his father (Balaji Vishwanath).

Further Shri Kripal Singh's contention that Soamiji became a disciple of Tulsi Saheb and that he derived spiritual light from him, does not seem to correct, for , if Soamiji was born 'Almighty" as Shri Kripal Singh himself admits, there was hardly any need for him to have accepted the discipleship of anyone. Shri Kripal Singh does not seem to have realised the contradictions involved in his two statements. As such his view that the saint of Hathras bequeathed his spirula heritage to Soamiji is devoid of historical evidence.

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