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RADHASOAMI FAITH - A HISTORICAL STUDY: Conclusion

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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Radhasoami Faith - Its Special Features

  1. 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). 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." Love, therefore, is the keynote of Radhasoami faith.

  2. 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. 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 treater as "elder brother or friend or a sadhguru."
    The idea of dependence on a guru in matters of religion does not seem to be injurious or invalid. Dependence on human factors has not been ignored in any religion. The divine light was revealed to Buddha and mahavira. The Bible and Quran were revealed to Jesus Christ and Prophet Muhammad. Even the Vedas bear testimony to the ancient rishis, expressing their inner realizations and intuitive experiences in literature. The medieval sufis and saints revealed unto themselves the formless Supreme Being and lit up the lamp of love to enlighten others. Dependence on human factor is, therefore, the normal attribute of human nature. The history of various religious sects bear testimony to the fact that decadence resulted from lack of able religious leaders to carry on the mission further.
    But over-emphasis on the guru of the time in the tenets of the faith led to its ultimate split. In course of time, numerous branches and numerous gurus sprang up to distort the original teachings of the faith. Originally a faith of love and unity, it has been tending to degenerate into externalis and blind worship. A true speaker is baffled at the multiplicity of gurus which the faith present today and finds it difficult to find a true guru among them. The mandates of the founders regarding the selection of a read adept have been lost sight of in personal competition and selfish rivalries. Pure spiritualism propagated by the faith decayed fast because of mercenaries who allowed fissiparous tendencies to grow and strike at the roots of the faith.

  3. 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: "Practice and observe the results yourself." They introduces 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 practiced in the country in the past or present. It can be practiced by all alike – men, women, old, young, rich and poor. A person leading a family life with all his temporal preoccupation 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 humanity 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.

  4. 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, 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 person. 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.

  5. 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 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 knows 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 worshiper of Brahman, will not attain true salvation because freedom from mind and matter will not be attained even after the attainment of Brahman. Those 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.

  6. A Synthetical Movement – It provides a Midpath. As would appear from a study of the philosophy of the faith, the founders made it a synthetical movement. Some of its teachings are inspired by original Hindu thought whereas others can be traced to medieval saints and sufis. Farquhar tries to trace the influence of the Buddhist scheme on its cosmogony. The emphasis upon love appears to be the continuation of Vaishnavite traditions and the idea of congregational prayer is taken, perhaps, from the Sikh order. Farquahar, who attempted to trace Christian influence in all the religious movements of the nineteenth century, says with regard to Radhasoami faith: "The unknown Supreme is constantly called the Heavenly Father; His Will is frequently emphasized…Works of faith and charity, the spirit of service and prayer…the forms of worship in regular services apart from the adoration of the guru are Christian." But in fact the Radhasoami faith is purely and India faith. Neither Christianity, nor western impact could leave any imprint upon it. Many other thoughts and practices are derived from the mystic traditions of medieval India. However, the faith presents a message of unity, assimilation and synthesis, adorned with the luster of pure love.

    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 detachment from the world. Thus as a grihastha (householder) one can fulfill worldly duties and still be a true virakta (unattached being). It is in fact a unique message.

  7. Contribution to Socio-Religious Reforms. Like all other contemporary reform movements, the Radhasoami faith at democratization of the honeycombed Hindu society. The exponents of the faith raised their voice against the caste prejudices, purdah(veil for females) system and the pitiable condition women. Swami Dayanand and the leaders of Brahmo Samaj advocated sweeping changes in the deep-rooted customs so much so that their approach appeared to be revolutionary. The founders of Radhasoami faith recommended slow but steady progress. They struck at the roots of the caste system because they found such distinctions unworthy of a faith based on spiritual love and devotion. Hazur Maharaj gave a clear mandate that all Satsangis (practitioners of faith) should act like members of one family. J.N. Farquhar observes : "within the meetings of the sect there is a good deal of freedom. Men of all castes mix freely each other, and even on occasions dine together....there is a sort of free happy fellowship..." The faith thus stands for humanitarism and universal brotherhood. No human being is insignificant whether he be rich or poor, high or low.
    Some satsang centre favour inter-caste marriage and widow remarriage. Marriages are performed in satsang without any pomp and show. Hazur maharaj had raised his voice in favour of women's emancipation as early as nineteenth century when he advocated equal educational opportunities for women on spiritual grounds and discarded the purdah system. The founders of the faith believed in ameliorating the condition of women in a gradual manner, but did not favour complete westernization. A faith which attracts people of all castes, creeds, colours and nationalities provides a natural meeting ground at the time of Bhandara (feast after religious congregation) when all the followers dine together with the common feeling of unity. It becomes apparent when all of them persue the common ideal of love for Waqt Guru. In spite of their different languages, manners, customs and states they seem to enjoy perfect emotional integration.

  8. Contribution to Literature and Art. The founders of the faith have written books on religion, both in prose and verse. The prose writings form a valuable contribution to the growth of Hindi language and it early development. The metaphysical concepts, experiences and thoughts are conveyed to the reader in an intelligible manner. Their language draws words from Arabi, Persian, Urdu, Punjabi, Gujarati, Rajasthani, Awadhi and Brij dialects that produces a synthetic effect. The books of verse consist of religious prayers, hymns and devotional songs. In poetry Kabirian influences often become apparent, The rhythm, with chhand, matra,rasa and alankar, is judiciously maintained. Often, the spiritual flow gets spontaneous expression. The doha and chaupai (as in Ram Charit Manas of Tulsidas) are mostly taken to be the form of verse, which is at its best when it deals with the themes of love and separation of the spirit-entity from the master and Supreme Being. A few books have been written in English that reflects the personalities of their authors. The style is captivating and language flawless. The religious literature of Radhasoami faith has a sublime quality and the Aristotelian attributes of "the power to instruct, to delight and to move."
    In the fields of art and architecture, the contribution of the faith, though not much, is unique in some ways. The samadhis of founder gurus - Soamiji Maharaj at Soamibagh and Hazur Maharaj at Pipal Mandi (both at Agra, India) are magnificent buildings. The layout and designs are remarkable. The use of Marble is a continuation of the medieval tradition. The work of relief carvings in marble, fine inlay work and cutwork are good specimen art. The exquisite beauty and perfection of art not only appeal directly to the heart but also leave a lasting impression upon the mind. The rich inlay work in fine designs and use of lively colours are special feature of the samadhi of Hazur Maharaj. The mosaic work is equally praiseworthy.

  9. Corporate Life. Striking a balance between spiritualism and materialism, attachment and detachment, God and the world, the Radhasoami faith fetches 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 mis-adjustments. Some of the centre have founded numerous educational institutions, industries, factories, cooperative stores, dairies and the likes. The enlightened 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 adherents of different religions who have always been enjoined upon to practice 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 Radhasoami faith on honest living as a precondition to spiritual progress.
    The Radhasoami faith, thus, holds corporate living. The attempts at Dayalbagh and Beas prove that "work is worship." The recent emphasis at some of the centres on agriculture is in keeping with the national demand of "grow more food" with the help of scientific implements and modern tools. Economic betterment is, then, another addition to faith, because corporate farming and a network of industries and educational institutions have opened avenues of employment and added to the material and intellectual wealth of the country. It also sets up a model of self-sufficiency and self-less service. The socio-economic progress and religious pursuit of spiritual progress has to be judiciously maintained.

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