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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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A New Religion Based on Sant Traditions

The founders of Radhasoami faith, in keeping with the spirit of the age, established such principles and practices as might suit the requirements of the common man and also might guide the true seekers after the highest truth. The birth of the faith in 1861, appears to be the final stage in the development of Sant traditions. The founders have claimed through their writings that the original books of all the inspired religions bear testimony to the superiority and efficacy of the surat shabd yoga and that their faith is not based on any other religion. The second guru writes:"The Supreme Being, Himself, who appeared on this earth in human form and graciously performed the functions of a Santsatguru for the benefit of degraded humanity." and that the Radhasoami faith is based upon the direct precepts of the Supreme Being Himself.

In fact, the first guru propounded- a thought and philosophy entirely novel and hitherto unrevealed to the world. His concept of the Supreme Being, Creation, Salvation, Karma and finally Guru-Bhakti and Surat Shabd Yoga may sound similar to many a prevalent theory in various religious cults in the country ; but after a careful study of the tenets and essentials of the faith, one comes to the conclusions that in the originality of their interpretations and in the essence of their practice, they bear no lineage to any of the other past or present religions. The first guru adopted no one as his guru and guide. His writings appear to be casual outbursts of divine voice, emphatic and straight, entering deep into the reader's heart. He conveyed the message of the highest reality in such manner as if himself had perfect and eternal communion with the highest and sublimest. He revealed the secrets of his faith through the most beloved of his disciple and his true successor, Hazur Maharaj.

Thus the bhakti of the guru of the time and surat shabd yoga are, in their essence the original contribution of the Radhasoami faith, introduced in conformity with the spirit of rational research within one's own self. The Radhasoami faith gave a call that had long been ignored and forgotten. The faith may correctly be described as an incessant quest after the spiritual truth and ultimate realization of the true Supreme Being. whom the founders gave an extraordinary name- Radhasoami.

The Meaning of The Name Radhasoami

The entire thought and practices of the Radhasoami faith, centre round the name Radhasoami which seems to be unique in the Sant traditions. A curious reader finds it strange as to why a faith which rejects the whole Hindu pantheon has a name - Radhasoami. A.L. Srivastava observes : "Probably the designation of the founder Swami and that of his wife Radha suggested this name. To distinguish the nomenclature of the new sect from Hinduism, it was named Radhasoami." But, I do not agree with this contention as the wife of the first guru had no role to play in the satsang. If at all she were called Radha it was an adoration of the disciples for their guru's spouse. They regarded Soamiji Maharaj as Supreme Father and his wife as Supreme Mother. However, it seems to be necessary to explain the real meaning and significance of the name as held by the founders of the faith.

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 whom 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 straightway 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 misspell 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 symbolism. 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.

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 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 from the supreme ocean full of spiritual bliss and truth. Hence Radhasoami.

A Scientific Explanation

Brahma Shankar Misra, 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.

Radhasoami is Soamiji Maharaj

The second guru used to address his guru as "Radhasoami Saheb". When Hazur Maharaj practised the spiritual exercises of surat shabd yoga and attained the highest spiritual truth, he listened internally the refulgent resonance of Radhasoami incessantly resounding in the first and highest region of Creation and found his guru identical with the Highest Spiritual Being. He was then filled with divine grace and holy light of love. As such, he addressed him as "Radhasoami Saheb" and considered him to be the incarnation of the Supreme Being.

Radhasoami is Santsatguru

Maintaining the revelations of the second guru, the followers of the faith designate the living Satguru as "Radhasoami". In fact, a devotee who practises surat shabd yoga and attains such spiritual heights as to identify the Satguru with the Supreme Being can alone reveal the secrets of this name. But as the Satguru is the human manifestation of the Supreme Being and is known as His son or representative in the world, he is generally addressed as "Radhasoami". Such a one possesses all the attributes of the Supreme Being and like the tidal wave of the ocean, remains in constant union with Him.

It is Also the Name of The Sect

Followers of the faith are knitted in one organization known as "Radhasoami Satsang". It was named thus when the first guru established the organization in 1861. The reason, evidently, is that devotees are required to keep the name of the Satguru constantly in their heart; by giving this name to the organization the first guru perhaps also meant to provide a built-in reminder to them about the holy name. It is, therefore, logically correct to name the sect as "Radhasoami Satsang".

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