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RADHASOAMI FAITH - A HISTORICAL STUDY: The Second Guru - His Life and Work

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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His Literary Works

The literature produced by Rai Salig Ram Bahadur deals essentially with the fundamental tenets of the Radhasoami faith. He wrote many books in Hindi, Urdu and English. His prose includes six volumes of Prem Patra Radhasoami. His style in Hindi is easy and intelligible. Persian and Urdu words are so aptly interwoven with Sanskrit and Hindi that the whole thing presents a picture of unique linguistic entity. His language is a model for those who are looking for a solution of the language problem.

His writings directly appeals to the reader's heart. Prem Patra is the original source of information about the philosophy and tenets of Radhasoami faith. These volumes are indispensable both for devotees and critics. Highly philosophical and abstruse topics - theory of creation, emancipation of soul, meaning of the name "Radhasoami" and effective practice of surat-shabd-yoga, importance of love and devotion for the Supreme Being and the Santsatguru - have been dealt with succinctly in these volumes. The meaningless rituals and abhorrent social practices of the time have been logically evaluated and a comparative study of prevalent religious practices and cults has been clearly presented. Also expounded is a code of moral conduct for the followers which also prescribes remedies for overcoming various types of interference in their daily spiritual practice.

Hazur's book of poetry presented in four volumes is entitled as Prem Baani Radhasoami. Along with some philosophical elucidations, Prem Baani is a dynamic force of love. The hymns create a soothing effect and generate divine love in the minds of true devotees. Lyrical as the compositions are, they leave a deep spiritual impact of Hazur's mighty personality upon the reader. They are fascinating as well as thought provoking.

His other publications in Hindi are Sar-Upadesh, Nij-Upadesh, Guru-Upadesh, Radhasoami Mat-Upadesh, Radhasoami Mat-Sandesh and Jugat Prakash. Hazur's only work in English is Radhasoami Mat Prakash. In lucid and captivating style, he has eloquently explained the tough concepts of Radhasoami faith and given essential information to a casual reader about the significance of the faith. His language is simple but forceful. He is careful in his choice of words and logical in his approach to religious topics. Even Farquhar, a critic of all critics, is full of appreciation and praise for this book.

His Views of Social Problems of the Day

In denouncing the evils prevalent in Indian society, Hazur Maharaj's approach is that of a cautious reformer who believes in gradual but steady progressive change. Holding the caste prejudices as unbecoming he brings out that the caste system not only provides rights and privileges to people but also enjoins upon them certain duties, responsibilities and obligations for humanity in general. Quoting a Sanskrit couplet in this connection, he asserts that one cannot be called a Brahmin by virtue of his birth alone. He who goes through the four stages of knowledge prescribed to attain Brahman, can alone claim to be a Brahmin. He further writes that in matters of religious devotion the distinction of caste is a sin. He refers to the various avatars and bhaktas of Hinduism who belonged to lower castes, but were held in esteem in the past and are held in veneration even today.

According to him, the gradations in satsang can only be determined by the extent of love and devotion a satsangi has for the supreme being. One who is nearest to the Almighty is superior to all others. Hazur Maharaj admitted people from all castes to the Radhasoami faith and treated them on equal footing.

The Hazur is quite eloquent in his criticism of the treatment meted out to women in Indian society. He raises objection to purdah system on spiritual grounds. He upholds the equality of woman with man, since the spirit entity is equally present in both. He categorically asserts that high status in learning or devotion to religion cannot be attained by living in purdah. On the contrary, he says, such women become so backward and dull that they fail to give proper training to their children. He permitted women to join the satsang, take initiation into the practice of surat-shabd-yoga, and perform guru-bhakti. He challenges the traditional belief that the husband is the virtual guru of his wife and says that a husband, ignorant of his own spiritual well-being, can never direct the wife to the right path. As such, a woman has as much claim to search and adopt a true guru as a man. Defending women's participation in satsang, he emphasizes that women attending satsang were better than those who visited temples, attended fairs and observed other uninspiring rituals and exposed themselves to all sorts of risks in the crowd.

Hazur holds that Indian women are crippled on account of their illiteracy. He pleads for their education as he feels that women are as eligible as men to receive it. He is pained to see that women are so heavily loaded with household work that they do not get enough time for study. He feels that they should receive sufficient education to correspond with their relatives, to maintain domestic accounts and to real the holy scriptures. He thus presents a compromise between the orthodox sections of society and the radical reformers inspired by the west.

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