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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 Views on Prevalent Religious Practices and Cults

As Hazur Maharaj was primarily a religious teacher, he was far more alive to the prevalent malpractices in religion than to social evils. He deals at length with outward practices and inherent defects in Hinduism. He is very pungent in his remarks on idol-worship, fasts, pilgrimage and mechanical recital of holy books. He declares that these activities alone cannot generate true love and devotion for the Supreme Being. The idol-worshippers, according to him, waste their time, energy and money in superficial adorations. He holds that the service offered to the ideal with body, mind and wealth cannot take a devotee very far on the road to true salvation; he may either gain some material benefits in this life or some temporary happenings in the next. As regards fasts and pilgrimages/, he regrets to find that the original purpose - purification of body and mind and elevation of the spirit - has been completely forgotten and those have degenerated into days of merriment, feasting and fairs. According to him, people who recite holy books but do not practise meditation, will reap no spiritual gains and will ever remain ignorant of the path to true redemption.

Hazur Maharaj has criticized the various forms of yoga prevalent in the country since the days of yore . He discards hathyoga as a purely external exercise which, instead of generating love for the Supreme Being, gives rise to pride and conceit. It is devoid of any spiritual benefit. Discussing the practice of pranayam, he says that it is difficult to perform it in the modern age. Its ancillary observances are so hazardous that a slight lapse or neglect may result in serious illness or even death. Hazur Maharaj holds that even ascetics find themselves incapable of practicing pranayam. For persons leading a family life, it is impossible to achieve any success. He further asserts that even if it is correctly and successfully performed, it will not lead to true salvation, because its gains are limited to the region of Brahmand. A few yogeshwar gyanis who mastered this practice in the past reached only the second grand division [spiritual-material region] of Brahmand and were lost in the ecstasy and bliss of Brahman. Hazur Maharaj has also described the various forms of mudra practices and has proved their futility for the attainment of real redemption. He asserts that the scope of this practice too is very limited. One who successfully performs mudra can only attain the stage of samadhi; and the bliss of samadhi, according to him, is short lived. Besides, the practitioner can never reach the region beyond pind. A study of Hazur's criticism of the cult of gyan shows that he possessed excellent knowledge of Vedanta. He holds that the propagators of advait believe in the existence of a non-dual reality but they fail to account for the emergence of maya from Brahman and jiva from maya, and in their ignorance call it anirvachaniya or mystery. Hazur Maharaj asserts that when they realize the Brahman through spiritual practice and declare him all-pervading, they are not incorrect because what they see and enjoy from that region is all Brahman. Lost in the ecstasy and bliss of Brahman far beyond the mayak creation, they feel as if they have attained the shuddha Brahman like a person who climbs a high mountain and fails to see what actually exists below, or like a person who dips down in the sea and cannot see anything except water. Hazur Maharaj further points out that the followers of advait could not notice the presence of maya (pure matter) latent in the form of seed in the region of Brahman. With regard to the theory of mayavad, he says that to consider the world as vikshep function of maya or illusion and at the same time regard it as vyavharik sat or real is a strange contradiction. Those who believe in mayavada , themselves perform all activities, he says that to consider the world as vikshep function of maya or illusion and at the same time regard it as vyavharik sat or real is a strange contradiction. those who believe in mayavada, themselves perform all activities, on material and physical plane, yet in theory they call the world a ''cosmic illusion. ''Hazur Maharaj points out that the secondary place assigned to bhakti is another glaring defect in advaitvada. He affirms that it is basically wrong to limit bhakti or upasana to rupwan rachna [creation having form] because in actual practice bhakti is performed from the beginning to the end. The individuality of the spirit entity is also ignored in advaitvada. According to him, when they find the vachya swarup of Brahman and his region subject to change and decay, they have no other alternative and means of escape than to advocate a complete merger of spirit entity in the laksh-swarup [formless] of Brahman. They, Hazur Maharaj holds, are wrong when they uphold that without getting access to gyan pad and merging with Brahman [Laya] one cannot attain salvation. He further finds no truth in the contention of the exponents of advait that "to know Brahman is to become Brahman.'' He agrees with them that through spiritual practice and inner contemplation, one can realize Brahman and reach the Brahman-pad but contradicts them when they say that he himself becomes Brahman. This concept is equivalent to that of an athiest. Finally, Hazur Maharaj points out that sadhana [spiritual practice] performed for the attainment Brahman will lead devotees only to the second grand division of creation, which does not mean true salvation on account of the presence of matter, though in the purest form.

Hazur Maharaj is extremely critical of those who after reading a few books on vedanta style themselves as true gyanis and even Brahman. According to him, they do not deserve the right to handle even the holy scriptures, because they have not gone through the four prescribed stages- vairagya, vivek, khatsampati and mumokshita - which should be essentially completed prior to the undertaking of the study of the scriptures. Hazur Maharaj calls them as mere sophists who would never attain true salvation. He believes that such men have indiscriminately distorted and ignored the original injunctions of the propagators of the cult of knowledge. They do not conduct any spiritual practice nor have they any control over their body and mind. Their knowledge is theoretical and superficial, and they suffer from self-deception . They are so egoistical that they do not pay attention to the teachings of an abhyasi guru [one who practices yoga] .They demand adoration for themselves, but discard the cult of bhakti. They pay visits to fairs and pilgrimages and lead the innocent people astray.

Hazur Maharaj does not look with favour upon the cult of atheism also. He says that the creator is clearly discernible in each and every form of life and so is the purpose and function of creation. He also warns those who regard pleasure as the end of life and believe that the spirit entity is annihilated after death. Hazur Maharaj asserts that the existence of the spirit entity in every living being can-not be denied because it is not subject to change or decay. According to him, human life is meant for some higher purpose; it has been bestowed with finer faculties to attain spiritual heights and elevation. Hazur Maharaj has expressed his satisfaction with the reformative activities of the contemporary religious societies in condemning static external ritualism, but he does not approve their method of working. These societies, he hold, do not lay emphasis upon the necessity of a spiritual adept and internal practices and hence do not give a correct clue to the approach to the true Supreme Being. He further feels that the people join these societies only to get prominence in social life.

Hazur Maharaj is astonished to find that the original teachings of the Vedas and Upanishads have been forgotten by those who claim to revive ancient religious traditions. He affirms that the Vedas exhort the jivas to attain Om shabd through internal practices, but the champions of  ''go back to the Vedas" do not actually conform to the Vedic spirit. Neither do they enquire about the secrets of the shabd which should be practised internally, nor do they understand the imperatives about a brahmneshthi guru who being conversant with the secrets of shabd-Brahman fully knows the technique of the internal path.

Hazur Maharaj considers all such religious practices as superficial and holds that they cannot lead to true salvation. According to him "those who follow rituals, ceremonies, external observances, moral principles and such other things but do not understand the secret of real truth or the truth of truths, are in fact following a religion based on scanty information furnished by revelation of a lower order emanating from the presiding spirit or genius of the second or third grand division, where untruth and comparative less truth hold sway".

True religion or faith according to Hazur Maharaj is that, "which leads a sincere seeker to the region of real truth...the most sublime mansion where nothing but the truth of truths dwells and manifests its unrivalled glory in splendid refulgence." His truth of truths is "unchangeable, immortal, full of everlasting and unbounded bliss and felicity unalloyed with any form of matter". To sum up the attainment of this truth of truths is, according to him, true and perfect salvation. He asserts that the Radhasoami faith alone reveals to jivas the true path leading to the final redemption from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth - the ultimate goal of a true seeker.

Appraisal

A perusal of his life and his views on socio-religious practices reflects Hazur's rational approach towards the glaring problems of the day. He can be definitely styled as anti-ritualistic and anti-traditionalist. He neither favoured asceticism nor recommended the cult of pseudo-sanyas. He asserted boldly that the real detachment from the world and worldly objects would not be secured by leading the ascetic way of life; it would be possible only by living the life of a householder wherein one meets a variety of ordeals and afflictions everyday. In religion as well as society, Hazur Maharaj advocated the policy of golden mean and struck a balance between extremist and conservatives. Presenting a frank evaluation of prevalent religious practices, he advanced his argument in a scientific and philosophical manner. His religion can be defined as the "eternal quest after truth" which rested upon the mighty pivot of love and on his spiritual socialism.

He pleaded for the education of women and discarding of purdah system on spiritual grounds. His programmes for the amelioration of the lot of Indian women might appear today too moderate and scanty, but looking at the state of affairs during his time, his recommendations to improve their lot seem to be adequate to win for him the title of an "emancipator of Indian women". His approach to caste prejudices prevalent in his age appears to be realistic when he discarded man-made social distinctions, again on spiritual grounds. He refused to examine the utility of prevalent religious practices and cults and felt that they did not provide any means for the real progress and elevation of the spirit entity.

Thus it is beyond any doubt, that he laid much more emphasis on the spiritual than material aspects of life. The glamour and achievements of the world had no significance for Hazur Maharaj. He found real contentment in the perfect ideal of spirit elevation. He can, therefore, be called a spiritualist who imparted spiritual fervour to every walk of life. Though he did not touch political problems, it would not be an exaggeration to say that he was a great moral force in the nineteenth century.

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