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The Enchanted Land

A Journey with the Saints of India

The Enchanted Land

Copyright © 2008 by David Christopher Lane

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission of the author.

Published by the MSAC Philosophy Group

ISBN 1-56543-084-0

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2

Printed in the United States of America

To Charan


This book was almost entirely written in the 1980s when I was still in my twenties. Each chapter, except the one on karma, was originally published as an article in a specialized magazine or journal. The chapters on the Sage, Saint, Yogi, Mother, Wrestler, and Master were first published in Fate magazine between 1984 and 1986. The chapter on Faqir was published in 1982 in Laughing Man magazine. The chapter on the Journey was published in 1986 in the journal, Understanding Cults and Spiritual Movements. And, finally, the last chapter on Karma was written for the Alt.meditation newsgroup on the Internet. As the reader will immediately notice this work is decidedly romantic and represents a significant departure from my other, more critical writings. All writing and all speech, as Mikhail Naimy so rightly points out in his lovely tale, The Book of Mirdad, is at best an honest lie. We never actually get the whole truth and nothing but the truth when we read books. We get instead partial glimpses, which, if we are lucky, reveal something of the majesty of our existence. But even when certain books unlock an insight at that very same moment they conceal something impor- tant from us. Why? Because all symbol systems (from mathematics to Sanskrit) are less than the totality from which they arise and to which they ultimately point. Although I am mostly known as a skeptic, especially among followers of new religions, I don't think that skepticism is the only approach to life or necessarily the most important vehicle to discover truth. I think we are, as our evolution indicates, a wide spectrum of possibilities and there may well be several ways to approach life's mysteries. One of those approaches which I certainly advocate and champion is interior exploration. That is, the day to day practice of focusing one's consciousness

to discover phenomenologically the source from which such awareness arises. This type of practice is usually known in the East as meditation and in the West as cease- less prayer. In both instances, however, the neophyte is attempting to explore a hitherto unknown world. Science is in many ways the extension of our five senses to explore the world without. Mystical religion is in many ways the inversion of our senses to explore the world within. They are not necessarily mutually exclusive, even though certain scientists and certain religionists have tried to act and argue as if they were. I have chosen to write about these yogis, saints, and sages of India because they are pio- neers of "going within." They are heroes of the inner quest. In physics we admire Newton and Einstein because they transformed the way we see the universe without. Likewise, in religion and philosophy we admire a Socrates, a Buddha, a Jesus, a Shankara, a Kabir because they have transfigured the way we see the universe within. Hence, the underlying bias of this book is that I really do believe there is something beyond the rational mind and that it is worth investing our time and energy in studying it. Now I don't think the reader should buy my line of argument hook, line, and sinker, and somehow believe that what these yogis and saints say is true. Rather, I would enjoin the reader to severely doubt what has been outlined here. Doubt it so much that you would want to conduct the experiment for yourself instead of relying on second-hand reports. Doubt it so much that you would want to learn the necessary technique for consciously inducing a near-death experience to see and hear what mystics have been proclaiming for millennia. Doubt it so much, in sum, that you would want to "test" the veridicality of mysticism itself. We talk so much of "testing" in the sciences but very few of us ever take up the challenge. Instead we rely on "authorities" to convince us of the truth of calcu- lus, the truth of quantum mechanics, the truth of molecular biology, the truth of evolution. Well, in each of those wonderful endeavors, which have greatly improved

humankind's understanding of the universe at large, there comes a point where one has to devote time and energy to understand the intricacies involved. To go within, to engage the voyage of light and sound, to apprehend stages of consciousness beyond the waking state, demands exactly the same tremendous effort that we exert in any academic endeavor. So this book is actually the natural extension of a truly skeptical mind which believes that science is not so much a body of facts as it is facet of being, an ap- proach to discovery. Yes, there is a science to interior states; yes, there is a method to the madness of mystics. And if we have the courage to follow science in the outer world, we should also have the same courage to follow science in the inner world. To be sure, this book does not tell the whole story, or even a fraction of the adven- ture, but it does lay out an alternative route for those interested in taking religious claims seriously. Although each of the mystics mentioned in this book may be partially a prod- uct of his/her time (with all the social and human limitations that such contexts entail), they do nevertheless point to something unique in human understanding. They point to a region well beyond the farthest reaches of our telescopes or our microscopes. They point to our very beings. Strange is it not that we have spent almost all of our time looking for the secret of life by extending our senses into the phenomenal cosmos and have spent comparatively little, if any, time probing the source from which these visions first arise. According to sages and saints, we are like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz who is trying to find her way back to Kansas only to learn after a long and arduous journey to the Emerald City that, alas, her means of transportation was with her all along--her precious ruby slippers. We too have ruby slippers; it is our very consciousness. By exploring it directly we too may have the ability to go home. That home, the saints argue, is the source of our longing, our yearning, and our nostalgia. That home, the saints argue, is our enchanted land.

Table of Contents



The Sage: Ramana Maharshi


The Saint: Sawan Singh


The Yogi: Yogananda


The Monk: Sushil Kumar


The Faqir: Baba Faqir Chand


The Mother: Yogini Mataji


The Wrestler: Pratap Singh


The Master: Charan Singh


The Journey: Light and Sound


The Karma: Cause & Effect?



Penetrating the heart of many human beings is a Great Nostalgia, an unend- ing longing for something that this world and its pleasures cannot satisfy. Such is the intensity of this yearning that anyone who surrenders to it fully is forever trans- formed. Indeed, the Great Nostalgia is the evolutionary call within man for that which ultimately transcends him. Rare, though, is the individual who truly listens to this plaintive call. Those who resist it are called "ordinary," "normal," "worldly." Those who hear its message are termed "sages," "saints," or "yogis." Three outstanding Indian mystics of the 20th century consciously submitted themselves to the unquenchable flame that burns in the soul of innumerable human beings. Theirs were heroic journeys which entailed tremendous perseverance, con- centration and steadfast devotion. They endured a process that defies description, transcending "the cloud of unknowing," "the dark night of the soul," "the hanging on the gallows," to achieve the summit of evolution itself: Self Realization. Each mystic, however, followed a different path. Ramana Maharshi, the Sage of Arunachala, was an exponent of Jnana Yoga, the way of Knowledge. Huzur Sawan Singh, the Saint of Beas, was a master of Shabd Yoga, the way of Sound and Light. And Paramahansa Yogananda, the Yogi of America, was an adept of Kriya Yoga, the way of Action. Although their paths were unique, Ramana Maharshi, Huzur Sawan Singh and Paramahansa Yogananda had much in common. They had all lived during the time of Mahatma Gandhi (witnessing the independence of India), became exceptionally well known as spiritual masters, stressed the need for love and devotion and died within a four-year span of each other (1950, 1948 and 1952 respectively).


To understand their life and work is to get a profound glimpse of our own in- finite heritage, because unlike the countless charlatans who parade around the world as masters, Ramana Maharshi, Huzur Sawan Singh and Paramahansa Yogananda were genuine mystics. Hearkening to the soul's inner cry for Peace, these men did not rest or find solace until they had uncovered the very truth of existence. Imbued with the Great Nostalgia, the Sage, the Saint and the Yogi returned to their native land, a country where there is no time or space and where love alone is the supreme law.


The Sage: Ramana Maharshi

There is no greater mystery than this-that being the Reality ourselves, we seek to gain Reality. We think there is something binding our Reality and it must be destroyed before the Reality (Truth) is gained. It is ridiculous. A day will dawn when you will laugh at your effort. That which is on the day of laughter is also now.

--Ramana Maharshi

Almost all human beings have a sense of self or "I-ness" which permeates

their consciousness. It is an undeniable feeling of individuality. Yet what exactly is this "I" motivating our day-to-day actions? Is it a physical sensation, the outcome of material processes? A mental perception based upon a unification of similar though- ts and ideas? Or a bracketing in consciousness itself, an illusory whirlpool in a field of infinite awareness? All of us at one time or another have asked, "Who am I?" But few have expe- rientially explored the query with the vigor that Ramana Maharshi did as a youth of 17. Instead of accepting temporary answers to the question, Ramana directed his inquiry with such zeal that he did not yield until the ultimate truth was realized. The remarkable feature of Ramana's enlightenment in 1896 in a small room in Madurai, South India, was its utter simplicity. Paul Brunton in his book A Search in Secret India retells it: "He [Ramana] was sitting alone one day in his room when a sudden and inexplicable fear of death took hold of him. He became acutely aware he was going to die, although outwardly he was in good health. He stretched his body prone upon the floor, fixed his limbs in the rigidity of a corpse, closed his eyes and


'Well, then,' said I to myself, 'this body is dead. It will be carried stiff to the

The Sage

dead? Is the body I? This body is now silent and stiff. But I continue to feel the full force of my self apart from its condition.' These are the words with which the Maharishee [Maharshi] described the weird experience through which he passed He seemed to fall into a profound conscious trance wherein he became merged into the very source of selfhood, the very essence of being. He understood quite clearly that the body was a thing apart and that the I remained untouched by death. The true self was very real, but it was so deep down in man's nature that hitherto he had ignored it." From this transcendental encounter Ramana emerged a new person. No long- er interested in the outward activity of his family and peers, he embarked on a journey to Arunachala, the holy "Red Mountain" in Tiruvannamalai, South India, which is a highly revered sacred spot among Hindus. The young sage arrived in the latter part of 1896 and never left the area until his death in 1950. Subsisting on a meager diet, possessing no material wealth, Ramana spent his entire life at Arunachala meditating or teaching others the way of Knowledge. What had he realized that was profound that it dramatically changed his life and the lives of thousands of others? The answer is deceptively simple: The world arises in a field of Conscious- ness. There is no beginning and ending to Consciousness. That very Consciousness is our True Self. Ramana's understanding was not born of a long intellectual quest but was based entirely on an experiential realization which resulted from a direct inquiry into the process of death. At every level of awareness, Ramana intuited that there was one all-pervading Being. This Being, the real and permanent "I," is the creator, sustainer and destroyer of the illusory ego, the "small I" which blinds man to his True Self. In our ignorance, we believe ourselves restricted to a particular form. In other words, "I am this body," "I am this person," "I am this personality" and so on. Yet the truth is quite


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the opposite: we are not things, as all particularizations are, but contents within the larger stream of consciousness. Our ordinary waking state illustrates this point: How do you know the world exists? How do you know you have a body? Surprisingly, the answer is: because you are aware-not because the body and the world reveal them- selves as ontologically real. Put simply, without awareness you cannot know anything that exists, much less the relative status of physical properties. Descartes' saying "I think, therefore I am" glimpsed this fact. It is not think- ing that creates "I am" but rather thinking confirms a priori the underlying "I am" or awareness which allows for mental processes. The world is not material; it is an aspect of consciousness. Our "small I's" do not create consciousness; they are merely products of it. Hence, Ramana Maharshi's realization should not be equated with solipsism (the philosophical theory that the self can know nothing but its own modifications and that the self is the only existent thing) as he clearly indicates the ego ("small I") does not create the world, nor is the world unreal. Quite the contrary, Ramana stresses finding the source from which the world and the ego appear per- manent and real. That source, Ramana argues, is Pure Awareness, the True Self of man. As Ramana himself so gracefully said: "There is only one Consciousness and this, when it identifies itself with the body, projects itself through the eyes and sees the surrounding objects. The individual is limited to the waking state; he expects to see something different and expects the authority of his senses. He will not admit that he who sees the objects seen and the act of seeing are all manifestations of the same Consciousness-the 'I-I' [Real Self]. Meditation helps to overcome the illusion that the Self is something to see. Actually there is nothing to see. How do you recognize yourself now? Do you have to hold a mirror up in front of yourself to recognize yourself? The awareness is itself the 'I.' Realize it and that is the truth." The beauty of Ramana's insight is that it was exemplified in his everyday ac- tions. Although he spoke little (usually in Tamil) and then in "terse and epigrammat-


The Sage

ic" terms, Ramana's presence was tangible to human beings and animals alike. Per- haps the most heartwarming stories surrounding Ramana's life concern his kindness toward animals. Monkeys, dogs and even cows were counted among his devotees, as they were peculiarly drawn to him. As well as being a strict vegetarian, Ramana always treated lower life forms with the utmost respect. Once when he stepped on a hornet's nest, he apologized verbally and did not move his leg while it was being severely stung. For most Westerners, the logic of karma extends only to human

beings but for Ramana it extended everywhere. He realized that all forms are ma- nifestations of the one supreme spirit. B.V. Narasimha Swami recounts Ramana's relations with animals: "A characteristic of Maharshi that strikes every visitor is the way in which he deals with animals, especially those living in the Ashram [the spiri- tual retreat built around Ramana Maha-rshi].Lakshmi has come; give her rice-food at once,' he says, looking from the hall through the window; and the newcomer thinks that some young girl had to be given her meal. But presently steps in a cow answering to the name Lakshmi. 'Have the boys been given their food?' he again asks. Probably there are little boys brought up here or come for a visit one would think. But presently a couple of dogs answer a whistle and each is told to take his

One watches the Maharshi for days, months and years and never finds

plate of rice

him calling any of these animals 'it' or treating it as less than a human being." Such was Ramana's love that even dangerous animals and reptiles did not harm him. A number of accounts relate that snakes, including cobras, reacted calmly in his presence. Ramana once remarked, "We have come to their residence and have no right to disturb them. They would not molest us if we are well-disposed toward

them." Naturally, if such benevolence was shown to animals, one can imagine how considerate Ramana was toward human beings. One poignant example of Ramana's ahimsa (nonviolence toward living things) arose when his ashram was robbed by six dacoits (thieves) on June 26, 1924. When


The Enchanted Land

one of his devotees wanted to strike back violently at the robbers, Ramana replied, "Let these [thieves] play their role [dharma]; we shall stick to ours [nonviolence]. Let them do what they like; it is for us to bear and forebear. Let us not interfere with them." When Ramana was hit on the left thigh by one of the ruffians, he at once said, "If you are not satisfied yet, you may strike the other leg also." As it turned out, the thief stopped. Eventually all the robbers were captured by the police after the escape from the ashram. Explaining his stance in the incident, Ramana commented:

"These [thieves] are only misguided men. They are blinded by ignorance. But let us note what is right and stick to it. Sometimes your teeth suddenly bite your own tongue. Do you knock them out in consequence?" Ramana Maharshi did not formally accept any disciples nor did he see himself as a guru or master. Nevertheless, both in India and abroad he attracted a large following of people impressed by his teachings and touched by his radiance. Among Ramana's admirers were Dr. Carl Gustav Jung, the famous psychologist; Dr. Paul Brunton, whose book A Search in Secret India made Ramana Maharshi well known; Arthur Osborne, his eventual biographer; and T.M.P. Mahadevan, the respected Indian philosopher. After a long illness, Ramana died of cancer at 8:47 P.M. on April 14, 1950. At that exact moment, writes A. Devaraja Mudaliar, "a meteor-like flash, leaving a trail of some yards long, appeared in the sky to the southwest and moved north east- wards to Arunachala Hill where it disappeared behind the peak. The light that was Bhagavan [Ramana] just merged in the Pillar of Light that was and is Arunachala, the Sacred Hill." True to his insight, Ramana did not grieve over the decay of his physical body but humorously referred to the cancerous growth on his arm as a "lingam." In India the lingam represents Siva, the destroyer-god. As to where he will go after death, Ramana Maharshi replied, "They say that I am dying but I am not going away.


The Sage

Where could I go? I am here." For the great Sage of Arunachala there was no death. He realized that the True Self of man is both birth less and timeless.


1. Swami Rajeswarananda, Thus Spake Ramana (Tiruvannamalai: Sri Ramanasramam, 1976), pages


2. Paul Brunton, A Search in Secret India (New York: Samuel Weiser, 1981), page 283.

3. Arthur Osborne, The Teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi (New York: Samuel Weiser,

1971), page 24.

4. B.V. Narasimha Swami, Self Realization: Life and Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi (Tiruvan-

namalai: Sri Ramanasramam, 1976), page 157.

5. Ibid., page 155.

6. A. Devaraja Mudaliar, My Recollections of Bhagavan Sri Ramana (Tiruvannamalai: Sri Ramana-

sramam, 1960), page 151. The use of the term "Great Nostalgia" is based on Mikhail Naimy's The Book of Mirdad (Clear

Press, 1983).


The Saint: Sawan Singh

The human body is a cage. Within it is imprisoned the spirit or soul, which is like a bird in a cage. The bird is in love with the cage and is always singing songs of attachment for the earth. If, however, the covers, or bodies, are cast off from the soul, the bird begins to taste the Truth, and the cage is shattered into fragments. The bird then flies away to its home, which is in Sach Khand [the Realm of Truth] When the veils are torn, millions of enrapturing joys which constitute the "peace that passeth understanding," are all attained.

--Huzur Sawan Singh (1858-1948)

Whatever the earth may temporarily offer us as human beings, one thing is certain: it is not our permanent home. Regardless of scientific and technological advances, the physical universe as we know it will sometime be unable to sustain life, either reaching a point of maximum entropy (a degradation of matter and energy to an ultimate state of inert uniformity) or collapsing in upon itself, taking in its course every living creature. Despite the misplaced hopes of evolutionists, humankind has a limited future-perhaps only a few million years. We are, in fact, only visitors to a land that is destined to die. Where, then, is our true home? According to genuine mystics from both East and West, humanity's real abode is neither physical or mental but wholly spiritual. That is, we are denizens of an infinite realm of light and love who have lost sight of our essential nature, mistaking a drop for an ocean, a shack for a kingdom, a stone for a jewel. As Ken Wilber eloquently writes: "In the beginning there is only Con- sciousness as such, timeless, spaceless, infinite and eternal. For no reason that can be stated in words, a subtle ripple is generated in this infinite ocean. This ripple could not in itself detract from infinity, for the infinite can embrace any and all entities. But this subtle ripple, awakening to itself, forgets the infinite sea of which it is just a

The Saint

gesture. The ripple therefore feels set apart from infinity, isolated, separate." As ripples in this infinite sea of awareness, we have grasped that which is impermanent:

the body and the world. An authentic master is one who has fully realized his/her prior oneness with the ocean (Transcendent Reality) and who manifests it in his/her outward life. Huzur Sawan Singh (1858-1948), honorifically called the Great Master of Beas, was such a realized soul. From early childhood he was irresistibly drawn to seek the eternal abode. Born in a Sikh family, Sawan was brought up with the sacred scriptures of his religion, the Guru Granth Sahib (a compilation of mystical poetry written by the Sikh gurus and other Indian and Persian mystics) which spoke at length about an inner music and light that lead a soul back to God. Deeply religious, Sawan Singh associated with a number of holy men whom he questioned about the nature of man's spiritual quest. None of these mystics could satisfy his longing. Sawan was looking for a master of the highest degree. Ironically it was the Satguru (true spiritual teacher) who found him instead. Sawan Singh recalls: "I was fond of Satsang and Parmarth [spiritual topics] from my childhood. I often associated with

sadhus and religious people

Later I was transferred to Murrie Hills. One day as I

was supervising my work, I saw an old Sikh going up a hill with a middle-aged lady Little did I think that he was going to be my master. He was no other than Baba Ji himself [Baba Jaimal Singh, one of the spiritual successors to Shiv Dayal Singh, the founder of Radhasoami] and the lady was Bibi Rukko. This I did not know at the time but found out later that Baba Ji said to Bibi Rukko, referring to me, 'it is for his sake that we have come here.' To which Bibi Rukko replied: 'But he has not even

greeted you.' Baba Ji said to her, 'What does the poor fellow know yet? On the '

On the fourth day I went to attend Satsang [the After several conferences with Baba Ji I was tho-

fourth day he will come to us meeting of Baba Jaimal Singh]


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roughly convinced and received Initiation [into the secrets of surat shabd yoga] from him on the 15th day of October, 1894." The turning point in Sawan Singh's life came when he met his spiritual guru, Baba Jaimal Singh, and took initiation under him in the path of surat shabd yoga (union of the soul with the divine inner sound). Such was Sawan's readiness that in just over nine years he became an acknowledged master within the Sant Mat and Radhasoami traditions. In fact, except for Maharaj Charan Singh, the Satguru at Beas from 1951 to 1990, Sawan Singh attracted the largest following of any shabd yoga master in history, initiating more than 125,000 people into the mystic practice. It is impossible to understand Huzur Sawan Singh's spiritual achievements without first noting that they were due to his close and devoted relationship with his

guru. Baba Ji looked after Sawan's worldly and spiritual welfare, stressing the need to transcend the physical frame altogether and attach one's consciousness to the inner light and sound which reverberates at the third eye. By following this stream of celestial currents, the soul gets release from the body/mind and ascends toward its real abode. Examples of Baba Ji's teachings can be gleaned from his letters to Sawan which have been published in an exquisite book entitled Spiritual Letters. Baba Ji instructs Sawan Singh: "You are always with me. And the real form of the Satguru [True Teacher] is the Shabd [Life-Stream-via light and sound] and that is always with you. I am very pleased with you. He is always with you. You should have no fears,

because kings and emperors-all- owe their power to the Lord

keep in touch with me. You are my very dear child. You will go to Sach Khand [the

Realm of Truth] in my company [via the Inner Shabd]

Shabd Dhun with love and devotion. Make your abode therein and let your mind be merged in the Dhun [Inner Sound]. Then you will enjoy the ras [spiritual pleasure]. But it is not a thing to be described. The surat [soul] will experience and feel it."

Listen every day to the

Wherever you go,


The Saint

How did Huzur Sawan Singh succeed in reaching Sach Khand, the eternal Realm of Truth according to the Saints, which is beyond time and space? First, by coming into contact with an authentic master; second, by explicitly following the instructions of his teacher (daily meditation, pure moral life, surrender of the body/mind/soul to the living presence of Shabd, etc.); and third, by realizing expe- rientially that his real Self is neither a body nor a mind but an effulgent wave of Consciousness. Because of the soul's age-old attachment to the body/mind, spiritual awaken- ing manifests in a series of stages which take the form, more or less, of an inner journey. Thus the path of light and sound entails leaving the physical body at will and entering into the subtle regions of existence hitherto unexplored by human

beings. To do this, one must penetrate the veil of darkness behind the eye center (variously termed the third eye, the inner door, the single eye) while living, so that when physical death comes, the soul will not be duped into settling for one of the lesser regions of light. When Christ said 2000 years ago, "In my Father's house there are many mansions," the saints interpret this as reflecting the inherent hierarchy of after-life experiences. The key to the practice of surat shabd yoga is not to be detained or led astray by any sights or sounds on the upward journey but to follow the celestial current to its terminal apex where all of creation has its transcendental source. As Huzur Sawan

Singh tells one of his Western disciples: "When you sit [in meditation]

mind is at rest and does not go out and unnecessarily think about other things. When, by Repetition of the Names [Simran] with attention fixed in the eye focus, you have become unconscious of the body below the eyes, then your attention will catch the Sound Current. Select the Sound resembling the church bell and discard all other sounds. Then slowly your soul will leave the body and collect in the eyes and become strong. Then fix your attention in the biggest star, so much that you forget

see that the


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everything else except the Sound and the star. Then this star will burst and you will see what is within and beyond. After crossing the star you will have to cross the sun and the moon [inner manifestations of light]. Then you will see the Form of the Master. When that Form becomes steady it will reply. This Form will reply to all of

your enquiries and guide you to higher stages

and Hindu philosophers will have spoken of seven skies [in universes of elevating

After crossing the star, the sun and the moon you will see that Form

which will never leave you, not even for a moment." Finally, the soul, unencumbered by any bodies (gross, astral or causal), will merge with the Supreme, achieving a state that defies description. The drop merges in the ocean; the wave flows back to the sea; the "I" reunites with its source. One primary obstacle, though, in the soul's journey back to God is that at each stage it must detach itself from the surrounding environment and ascend. In other words, to progress one's separate identity must "die." To go beyond this world, it is necessary to "die" to the attractions and pleasures that hold one down to the physical body. For the wave to realize its prior union with the sea, it must forego its exclusive attachment as a separate, distinct entity. Ken Wilber elaborates: "For in order to find that utter peace, the ripple would have to return to the ocean, dissolve back into radiant infinity, forget itself and remember the absolute. But to do so, the ripple would have to die-it would have to accept the death of its separate self sense. And it is terrified of this." It is for this very reason-the fear of "dying"-that most inhabitants of the earth do not venture beyond its domain. Falsely believing that we are natives in this land,

These stars are of the first sky only,


the saints argue that we have set up a substitute for our true home in Sach Khand. Hence, as Wilber argues, we go about seeking infinity in ways that actually prevent finding it: "Instead of finding actual Godhead, the ripple pretends to be god, cosmo- centric, heroic, all-sufficient, immortal."


The Saint

Huzur Sawan Singh saw through this drive to create substitutes for real tran- scendence and consciously surrendered his entire being to the inner Shabd. Because of his exceptional spiritual state, Sawan Singh was appointed by Baba Jaimal Singh to be his successor shortly before his death in 1903. Sawan Singh carried on his mas- ter's mission with remarkable aptitude, spreading the message of humankind's divine heritage throughout India. Huzur Sawan Singh established a large spiritual colony on the banks of the Beas River in the Punjab where Baba Jaimal Singh had resided since the latter part of the 19th century. Sawan named the colony Dera Baba Jaimal Singh in honor of his master. Having been a highly placed engineer himself in the military service, Sawan built a number of large buildings at the Dera to house the increasing flux of seekers. The most impressive of these structures, the centerpiece of the Dera, is the Satsang Ghar built in the 1930s to hold satsangs (meetings) but which soon proved to be too small. (Today the Satsang Ghar is used to hold initiations.) Sawan Singh gathered a large following of disciples from around the world. Among his devotees were Dr. Julian P. Johnson, Dr. Pierre Schmidt, Col. C.W. Sanders, Sant Kirpal Singh (founder of Ruhani Satsang), Sant Darshan Singh (founder of Sawan-Kirpal Mission), Baba Somanath, Pritam Das, and several gov- ernment officials in both the British and Indian ranks. Huzur Sawan Singh died on April 2, 1948, just days after appointing Jagat Singh as his spiritual successor. According to his devotees he was not a resident of this planet. Since childhood he had known that his real home was beyond the spatial limitations of the universe. He was a native of Sach Khand, the Eternal Realm of Truth, a saint who showed humanity that their origin was not of dust but of light-an unquenchable flame that burns in every living being for that alone which is everlast- ing.


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1. Huzur Maharaj Sawan Singh, Discourses on Sant Mat (Beas:

Radha Soami Satsang, 1970).

2. Ken Wilber, The Holographic Paradigm and Other Paradoxes (Boulder: Shambhala, 1982), page


3. Huzur Maharaj Sawan Singh, Spiritual Gems (Beas: Radha Soami Satsang, 1974), pages 3 and 8.

4. Baba Jaimal Singh Ji Maharaj, Spiritual Letters (Beas:

Radha Soami Satsang, 1984), page 37.

5. Huzur Sawan Singh, Spiritual Gems, op. cit.

6. Ken Wilber, op. cit., page 161.

7. See Juergensmeyer's Radhasoami Reality (Princeton University Press, 1991) and this author's The

Radhasoami Tradition: A Critical History of Guru Successorship (New York: Garland Publishing, 1992) for more information about the history of Radhasoami and shabd yoga.


The Yogi: Yogananda

The spirit of God, I realized, is exhaustless Bliss; His body is countless tissues of light

The entire

cosmos, gently luminous, like a city seen afar at night, glimmered within the infinitude of my being. The dazzling light beyond the sharply etched global outlines faded slightly at the farthest edges; there I saw a mellow radiance, ever undiminished. It was indescribably subtle; the planetary pictures were formed of

grosser light. I cognized in the center of the empyrean as a point of my intuitive perception in my heart. Irradiating splendor issued from my nucleus to every part of the universal structure --Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952)

Few books in spiritual literature compare to Paramahansa Yogananda's Au- tobiography of a Yogi. It is one of those rare works that in a single reading can transform the reader's entire outlook on life. Since its initial printing in 1946, Yoga- nanda's Autobiography has continued to enthrall seekers with its fascinating tales of miracles, saints and astral heavens. I first happened upon the book at our local library when I was barely 12 years old. I don't know exactly why I picked it out that particular day, but I do know that after studying it closely I was a changed person. No longer could I relegate "God" to the provinces of my own Catholic religion, for Yogananda demonstrated that even "Hindus" could personally experience the Lord in all of His (Her?) majesty. Indeed, such was the power of Autobiography of a Yogi that I embarked on a comparative study of the world's religions at the end of my seventh grade in grammar school. Yogananda's life was simply not normal in the usual sense of the word. True, he was brought up in a fairly wealthy Indian family (his father held a high position in the Bengal-Nagpur Railway) and attended school with other children his age. But Yogananda, unlike most boys in India or America, had a singular vision since infancy about the purpose and meaning of his life: he wanted to realize God. Yogananda, to

The Yogi

quote a popular phrase in mysticism, was "God-mad." And this "madness" took him on journeys throughout India to meet saints, yogis and mystics. Moreover, Yogananda possessed special gifts of the spirit which indicated (both to him and others) that he was divinely marked as a highly advanced yogi. First, in his earliest memories of infancy, he writes, "Clear recollections came to me of a distant life in which I had been a yogi amid the Himalayan snows." Second, suffering from Asiatic cholera at the age of eight, Yogananda was mi- raculously healed by looking at a picture of the revered Kriya Yoga master Lahiri Mahasaya. Yogananda writes: "I gazed at his photograph and saw there a blinding light enveloping my body and the entire room. My nausea and other uncontrollable symptoms disappeared; I was well. At once I felt strong enough to bend over and touch Mother's feet in appreciation of her immeasurable faith in her guru. Mother pressed her head repeatedly against the little picture." And third, Yogananda displayed an incredible strength of will when by sheer thought he made a boil appear on his arm. Yogananda recounts the incident: "Uma [his sister] complained of a boil on her leg and fetched a jar of ointment. I smeared a bit of the salve on my forearm. 'Why do you use medicine on a healthy arm?' 'Well, Sis, I feel I am going to have a boil tomorrow. I am testing your ointment on the

spot where the boil will appear.' 'You little liar.' 'Sis, don't call me a liar until you see

what happens in the morning.' Indignation filled me

Morning found me with a

stalwart boil on the indicated spot; the dimensions of Uma's boil had doubled [which Yogananda had predicted]. With a shriek, my sister rushed to Mother Gravely, mother instructed me never to use the power of words for doing harm. I have always remembered her counsel and followed it." In Yogananda's quest for God he met several remarkable holy men including the saint with two bodies, Swami Pranabananda, who reputedly had the ability to


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bilocate physically; Gandha Baba, the renowned "Perfume Saint," a master at mani- festing at will a variety of scents or even flowers; Nagendra Nath Bhaduri, the "Levitating Saint," whom both Yogananda and his brother Sananda Lal Ghosh saw floating in the air while engaged in his meditations; and Master Mahasaya, the "Bliss- ful Devotee" of the famous Sri Ramakrishna. None of these saints, however, served as Yogananda's spiritual guru. That was reserved for Sri Yukteswar whom Yogananda first met in Benares but whose ashram (spiritual center) was in Serampore and Puri. Under the tutelage of Sri Yukteswar, chief successor to Lahiri Mahasaya, Yogananda became a master of Kriya Yoga (literally, "union with the Infinite through a certain action or rite") which is apsycho- physiological method to revitalize the life current within man and to quicken his inner progress. Yogananda writes: "'Kriya Yoga is an instrument through which human evolution can be quickened,' Sri Yukteswar explained to his students. 'The ancient yogis discovered that the secret of cosmic consciousness is intimately linked with breath mastery. This is India's unique and deathless contribution to the world's treasury of knowledge. The life force, which is ordinarily absorbed in maintaining heart action, must be freed for higher activities by a method of calming and stilling the ceaseless demands of the breath.'" By mastering the breath through Kriya Yoga, Yogananda was able to open the ajna chakra (third eye-the inner vision) and leave his physical body at will. When a yogi is absorbed in sabikalpa samadhi he appears lifeless, seemingly dead, with no signs of bodily movement. This occurs because the life current-soul-is drawn from the body to be active on a different and higher plane of existence. In nirbikalpa samadhi, though, the yogi can commune with God without this appearance of lifelessness. Yogananda, it appears, was adept in both types of samadhis (divine absorption).


The Yogi

Perhaps the most interesting, if controversial, story surrounding Yogananda's life concerns the alleged existence of the Avatar Babaji, who supposedly has retained his physical form for centuries. This "deathless" Avatar, as Yogananda refers to him, is responsible for initiating Lahiri Mahasaya (1828-1895) into Kriya Yoga and keep- ing alive the pristine teachings for millennia. According to Autobiography of a Yogi, Babaji is on the same spiritual level as Christ, Buddha and Krishna. There's one catch, however: Babaji can be seen only when he ordains it. That is, Babaji may have a physical form but it can be seen only when the Avatar desires it to be. Hence, any encounter with Babaji is taken as highly auspicious. Yogananda himself writes of his meeting with Babaji as "the most sacred of my human experiences." What are we to make of Babaji? Are the accounts of his perennial existence true? We may never know, of course, unless we personally enter into the higher astral and causal worlds. Yogananda, however, is absolutely convinced of Babaji's existence and goes to some length in his Autobiography to convince skeptically- minded readers. Yogananda writes of his meeting with Babaji: "[After much time in prayer] at that moment there came a knock on the door of my Gurpar Road home. Answering the summons, I beheld a young man in the scanty garb of a renunciant. He entered my house. 'He must be Babaji,' I thought, dazed, because the man before me had the features of a young Lahiri Mahasaya. He answered my thought, 'Yes, I am Babaji.' He spoke melodiously in Hindi. 'Our Heavenly Father has heard your prayer. He commands me to tell you: Follow the behests of your guru and go to America. Fear not; you shall be protected.'" After receiving Babaji's and Sri Yukteswar's blessings, Yogananda departed for America in 1920 to spread the teachings of Kriya Yoga. He was well received and soon became something of a religious celebrity, attracting substantial crowds to his public lectures. In 1935 Yogananda codified his system as the "Self-Realization


The Enchanted Land

Fellowship" which was chartered under the laws of California as a nonsectarian and nonprofit corporation. During his 30 years in America, Yogananda drew several devoted followers, among them James J. Lynn, a wealthy businessman who helped finance the purchase of much of SRF's property holdings; Daya Mata, now president of SRF; and Richard Wright, his traveling secretary (and brother of Daya Mata). Yogananda also founded two remarkable church centers in California: the SRF Lake Shrine in Pacific Pali- sades and the Encinitas Colony overlooking the Pacific Ocean near San Diego. Both places still exist today, wonderful reminders of Yogananda's love for natural beauty. Paramahansa Yogananda died on March 7, 1952, minutes after giving a speech at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. Apparently Yogananda knew in ad- vance of his forthcoming death, having given several hints to his disciples. To one devotee he said, "My lifework is done." And to another, after the death of Sister Gyanmata, his most advanced woman initiate, he remarked, "Now that Sister is gone, there is nothing that holds me here." Nevertheless, it came as a surprise to his large following when news spread that their beloved Premavatar had finally breathed his last. He was 59 years old. Yet Yogananda demonstrated the truth of Kriya Yoga even after his depar- ture. His physical body did not show the normal signs of decay. It remained "in phenomenal state of immutability," according to Harry T. Rowe, Mortuary Director of Forest Lawn Memorial Park. In a certified letter, he stated, "The absence of any visual signs of decay in the dead body of Paramhansa [sic] Yogananda offers the most extraordinary case in our experience." The Great Yogi of America expected to defy death by transcending it. To his many disciples Paramahansa Yogananda awoke in a new world, one which his guru Sri Yukteswar had predicted would find them together: "You and I shall smile


The Yogi


Finally we shall merge as one in the Cosmic Beloved; our smiles shall be

His smile



1. Paramahansa Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi (Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship,


2. Ibid., page 10.

3. Ibid., page 13.

4. Ibid., pages 278-279.

5. Ibid., page 402.

6. The colony overlooking the waves at Encinitas has become a popular surfing spot. Appropriately

enough, it is known among surfers around the world as "Swami's Point." The waves here in the winter are among the best in San Diego.

7. Sananda Lal Ghosh, Mejda: The Family and Early Life of Paramahansa Yogananda (Los Angeles:

Self-Realization Fellowship, 1980), page 329.


The Monk: Sushil Kumar

When I first learned that renowned Jain monk Acharya Sushil Kumar was in- volved in the Nuclear Disarmament Rally in New York I was a bit apprehensive. Though the movement's aims are unquestionably worthwhile, they have only scratched the surface of a much larger problem. All too often we are besieged with platitudes that only accentuate humankind's troubles rather than alleviate them. It is noble to want to stop destructive weapons, but what about the mechanism which causes anger, hatred, jealousy, and violence in all of us? Rather than attacking the fundamental situation head-on, the peace movement expends a tremendous amount of energy on elliptical and secondary issues. The real culprit-that which is prompting inhumane actions in the first place-remains untackled. When I met with Sushil Kumar at his center in Long Beach, California, all of my preliminary doubts immediately vanished. For although Sushil Kumar is a strong advocate for nuclear disarmament, the elderly monk is quick to point out that re- stricting protests just to the crafts of war is shortsighted idealism. Sushil Kumar instead argues for finding the source from which all violent tendencies spring forth. If that area becomes our focus, he contends, then the question of a third world war would not even arise-much less the weapons in preparation for it. But what is it that drives us towards aggression? Is it biologically pre- programmed? Does environment, via our social structures, breed it? I had planned to pose these very questions to Sushil Kumar, but within five minutes from our initial meeting he had already answered them in a brilliant fashion. His response, which is echoed in the ancient Upanishads, is perhaps simpler than one might expect:

The Monk

"Wherever there is an other, fear arises." It is the emergence of the separate self-the "I"-ness, the egoic structure-which is at the heart of man's cruelty," Sushil Kumar stated. With the advent of self-awareness there also comes the presumption of what is "not self," and all of that (the environment, the world, "them") generates fear. This fear drives human beings to protect the self from all that threatens its separate existence. But such a strategy can only end in failure and a life-long narciss- ism, a denial of the universe and what it offers. Paradoxically, the more one tries to retain the self, the more one eventually loses it in the fight against the "not self" (the world). A tragic double bind indeed! What is the solution? There's only one, Sushil Kumar postulates. Give up the false idea of an independent self and begin to see the creation as one indivisible whole. Unless the individual surrenders its infantile posture towards life-one which is reflected in the obsessive fear of death-then the end of wars, nuclear or convention- al, will never be secured. As Sushil Kumar elaborated, it is easy to wage battle with "others" who have "not seen the light or true path" but it is very difficult to conduct the real war, which must take place within ourselves. As our conversation moved from the volatile issue of nuclear proliferation to the ancient Indian philosophy of Jainism, which traces back to at least 600 B.C., it became quite apparent to me that Sushil Kumar's whole message was based upon the principle of ahimsa, non- injury and respect toward all living things. Indeed, it is this ideal which has served as the guiding light to his spiritual practice and political ideology. To show loving kindness in all directions, without recoil, to every creature, great or small, ugly or beautiful-this, Sushil Kumar stressed, was the ultimate mes- sage of Jainism. However, he emphasized that ahimsa was not the property of any particular faith but is the spiritual inheritance of all men and women. Throughout history there have been various degrees of non- violence which has been practiced, ranging from simple non-injury to human beings alone to the


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extreme of not hurting insects or vegetation whenever possible. Jainism's uniqueness has been in its rigorous adherence to the doctrine of ahimsa in all forms. Followers of Jainism are strict vegetarians, abstaining from meat, fish and eggs. They also do

not drink alcohol or take mind altering drugs. Though there is no "God," as such, in Jainism, devotees do hold that the true reality of the universe is spiritual in nature. It is the goal of all devout Jains to extricate their souls from the realm of matter in order to achieve absolute freedom or liberation. To achieve this enlightened state, the disciple must work very hard on herself, circumventing the tendency of the mind to focus outward on the world and its pleasures. Instead of allowing more karmas to accumulate, which only keeps the soul imprisoned, the devotee must give up his evil tendencies and transcend the realm of prakrita (maya or illusion). Obviously, therefore, Jainism advocates a path of extreme asceticism. Since the obligations are so severe, Jainism has two levels of adherents: the holy man (monk) and the layman. Both divisions, though, have strict injunctions in common.


Elaborates David G. Bradley in his book A Guide To The World's Religions: "

Jains must take five vows: not to harm any living creature (ahimsa); to be absolutely truthful; not to steal; to be chaste in thought and deed; and to practice non- attach- ment to the world by strict limitation of possessions. For the holy man, the last two require celibacy and poverty. Perhaps the main Jain contribution to Indian life is the teaching of ahimsa, a principle followed later by many Hindus, and made world- famous when advocated by Gandhi. Jains follow it to the extreme. Thus a monk will sweep a path, or a chair, with a soft brush before treading or sitting upon it to avoid even the tiniest insect; and hospitals for maimed and sick rats have been maintained.

In addition to these five vows, the monk has thousands of detailed rules to follow, mostly extensions of the ideal behavior enjoined by the vows. The 'three jewels' of right faith, right knowledge, and right conduct are stressed for all. The layman must


The Monk

avoid agriculture, since ploughing, for example, kills worms, hence most Jains en- gage in merchandising and banking."* Sushil Kumar, though a highly respected leader of Jainism in India, represents a radical departure from the typical Jain monk. He does not wear a face mask (a characteristic of most Jain leaders), nor does he refrain from traveling by plane or motorcar. Rather, his approach is that of a spiritual scientist trying to display the self-evident truths inherent in all religions. It was for this very purpose that he founded the World Conference of Religions in 1957 in Delhi. Sushil Kumar believes that all religions have some truth but that no religion has a monopoly on reality. He teaches what is known as Arhum yoga, a meditative discipline which is founded upon Matrika Vidya, the Science of Sound. In order to practice Arhum yoga, though, it is advised to seek the guidance of a competent master. The Jain Meditation Center explains why: "Guru is a Sanskrit word meaning dispeller of darkness. The authentic Guru is that being who takes us from darkness to light; from ignorance to enlightenment. Shaktipat is the ancient formal ceremony whereby the Guru and disciple accept each other. They inwardly exchange promises and the teacher accepts responsibility for the disciple's spiritual progress. The Guru-disciple relationship transcends time and space, life and death, it is the spiritual Guru who greets and encourages the newly departed soul. If we think of the Guru or even speak of him with love, we feel his peace." With the preponderance of gurus in the East and West, and the ostentatious- ness of many of them (Bhagwan Rajneesh and his fleet of Rolls Royces, for exam- ple) it was refreshing to see the genuine humility and friendliness of Sushil Kumar. He expresses the very thing which millions of protesters around the world are praying for: peace. We can talk forever about Nuclear Disarmament, the approach- ing "New Age", or the "Aquarian Conspiracy," but how many of us can simply be


The Enchanted Land

peaceful, happy and loving? The Peace movement must begin in our own hearts. Then, and only then, can it spread and have a lasting effect.


For further reading refer to Padmanabh S. Jaini's The Jaina Path of Purification (University of Cali- fornia Press, 1979) and the booklet, Why I Don't Eat Faces: A Neuro-emotional Argument for Vegetarian- ism (Walnut: Mount San Antonio College Philosophy Group, 1995).


The Faqir: Baba Faqir Chand

"People say that my Form manifests to them and helps them in solving their worldly as well as mental problems, but I do not go anywhere, nor do I know about such miraculous instances." --Faqir Chand

After meeting personally with Baba Faqir Chand, it became exceedingly ap- parent to myself and Professor Mark Juergensmeyer (who visited Manavta Mandir in late August of 1978. See Juergensmeyer's book Radhasoami Reality (Princeton University Press, 1991) that the old sage was something of an anomaly amongst Indian gurus. For, although Faqir Chand had a rather large and devoted following (numbering in the thousands), he absolutely disclaimed himself of any miracles attributed to his spiritual work, saying quite frankly that they were products of either the devotee's previous karma or intense faith. Indeed, it was this very insight which led Faqir to his own Enlightenment. When Faqir Chand began to initiate disciples into Surat Shabd Yoga, at the request of his master Shiv Brat Lal, a most curious thing happened. His devotees began reporting that Faqir's radiant form appeared inside their meditations. Others related miracles that were caused by Faqir's prashad (blessed food), letters, or advice. However, all during this time Faqir claims that he had absolutely no knowledge or awareness of his form appearing to distant provinces or performing miracles to the sick and dying. As Faqir himself wrote: "People say that my Form manifests to them and helps them in solving their worldly as well as mental problems, but I do not go anywhere , nor do I know about such miraculous instances." (Faqir Chand, The Essence Of The Truth, Hoshiarpur: Faqir Charitable Library Trust, n.d./1976?).

The Faqir

It was at this point when Faqir asked himself: "What about the visions that appear to me? Are they a creation of my own mind, and does my guru also not know about his appearances to me?" Only then, according to Faqir, did he realize the truth: "All manifestations, visions, and forms that are seen within are mental (illusory) creations." (Faqir Chand, The Secret of Secrets Hoshiarpur: Faqir Charitable Library Trust, 1975). After his realization, Faqir began preaching his belief that all saints, from Buddha, Christ, to even his own master Shiv Brat Lal are ignorant about the miracles or inner experiences attributed to them. In a paper given to the American Academy of Religion in March 1981, I used the term "The Unknowing Hierophany" to de- scribe what Faqir Chand believes; that is, a "Divine" vehicle within the temporal world that is unaware of its spiritual manifestations. A revised form of this original paper was published under the title "The Hierarchical Structure of Religious Vi- sions," in The Journal Of Transpersonal Psychology (Volume 15, Number 1). Though Faqir is probably the most outspoken, other great religious leaders, saints and mystics have expounded on this same unknowingness. However, it is not seen by most (especially devotees) as an explanation of their subservience to the Great Mystery, but rather as a statement designed to exhibit the saint's humility, or as a tacit attempt for concealing his real mission and purpose. Jesus, for instance, is reported in the Gospel of Mark as asking the crowd that was following him, "Who touched me?" After this, a woman who had suffered from a flow of blood for twelve years came up to Jesus and told him about her plan for a Divine cure. By a brief touch a miracle happened, as she was cured from hemorrhag- ing. At this Jesus said, "Daughter, your faith has made you well." (Saint Mark, trans- lated and edited by D.E. Nineham, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1976). The famed sage, Sri Ramana Maharshi, when asked about Jesus' power to per- form miracles, substantiates what Faqir Chand had taught for over forty years: Was


The Enchanted Land

Jesus aware at the time that he was curing men of their diseases. He could not have been conscious of his powers. Such manifestations are as real as your own reality. In other words, when you identify yourself with the body as in jagrat , you see gross objects; when in subtle body or in mental plane as in svapna , you see objects equally subtle; in absence of identification as in Sushupti, you see nothing. The objects seen bear relation to the state of the seer. The same applies to visions of God (Talks With Sri Ramana Ma- harshi, Volume I, II, and III. Tiruvannamalai: Sri Ramanasramam, 1972, pages 17 and 355). Along with this "unknowingness" there is also the internal, ever-present su- preme knowledge which saints and sages have described as the hallmark of Enligh- tenment. Jesus said, "The Father and I are one." The Sufi martyr, Mansur al-Hallaj, shouted before his execution, "ana'l-Haqq" (I am the Truth). Sarmad, the Jewish- Indian saint, exclaimed, "I am King of Kings." And Meister Eckhart, in slightly different language wrote, "The eye with which God sees me is the same eye which I perceive Him." These quotations illustrate that mysticism is concerned with spiritual know- ledge: the relationship of the soul with God, and not with any secondary psychic abilities which may arise as a result of intense spiritual discipline. However, this kind of knowledge (the internal, ever-present supreme know- ledge which saints and sages have described as the hallmark of Enlightenment) CANNOT be equated with logical, objective learning. The former is the realization of one's eternal nature, a transcendental experience of oneness. The latter is con- cerned with dualistic thinking, knowing about things--that which is based upon an illusory division of the world into two separate components: the subject and the object. Thus, when saints talk about the ultimate knowledge , they are referring to the Ground of Being, that which is the condition for all subsequent conditions.


The Faqir

Consequently, an Enlightened master may not know anything about academic subjects such as quantum mechanics, anthropology, or critical history. As Ken Wilber astutely comments, "I have yet to see a guru run a four-minute mile with his `perfect body' or explain Einstein's special theory of relativity with his `perfect mind.' Perfection lies only in conscious transcendence, not in concrete manifestation." (Spiritual Choices, New York: Paragon House Publishers, 1987, page


Even though Faqir Chand was not conscious of his miraculous powers or his healing gifts (nor, evidently, are most other gurus), does it necessarily hold that all masters are likewise ignorant about their visionary manifestations? Moreover, is it true that all religious visions are individual creations, determined by the faith and concentration of zealous devotees? At first glance, the answer would appear to be "yes," because many internal visions are not of factual and historical human entities, but of amalgamated characters, mythic beings, and fictional heroines--some whose life stories may be entirely based upon the writer's own creative mind. For example, Paul Twitchell made up the literary figure, Rebazar Tarzs, claim- ing that the Tibetan monk was over 500 hundred years old and resided in a remote region in the Himalayan mountains. Although Rebazar Tarzs does not, in fact, exist, devoted followers of Paul Twitchell's religious movement, Eckankar, claim to have extraordinary visions of him. What is transpiring is fairly obvious: when one ascends to a different level of awareness (like in Out of Body Experiences -- OBE -- or Near Death Experiences -- NDE --) they interpret the inner light according to their own particular cultural background. Sikhs see Guru Nanak, not Moses; Catholics see the Virgin Mary, not Buddha; and Eckists see Rebazar Tarzs, not the store clerk at 7/11 (for more on this phenomenon, see my chapter, "Gakko Came From Venus: The Invention Of A Religious Tradition," in Exposing Cults, New York & London:

Garland Publishing, 1993).


The Enchanted Land

However, on closer inspection it becomes apparent that some masters claim to know about their subtle interactions with disciples and that certain visions may not be merely due to extreme faith or concentration. This psychic awareness, as it were though, apparently arises spontaneously and is not the product of any sustained conscious manipulation. A classic example of a fully conscious bilocation experience comes surprisingly enough from Ramana Maharshi, a sage who did not show even the slightest interest in psychic powers or abilities. Recounts Arthur Osborne, Ramana's biographer:

About a year after his first meeting with Sri Bhagavan, Ganapathi Muni expe- rienced a remarkable outflow of his Grace. While he was sitting in meditation in the temple Tiruvottiyur he felt distracted and longed intensely for the presence and guidance of the Bhagavan. At that moment Sri Ramana entered the temple. Ganapati prostrated himself before him and, as he was about to rise, he felt the Maharshi's hand upon his head and a terrifically vital force coursing through his body from the touch; so that he also received Grace by touch from the Master. Speaking about this incident in later years, Sri Ramana Maharshi said:

"One day, some years ago, I was lying down and awake when I distinctly felt my body rise higher and higher. I could see the physical objects below growing smaller and smaller until they disappeared and all around me was a limitless expanse of dazzling light. After some time I felt the body slowly descend and the physical objects below began to appear. I was so fully aware of this incident that I finally concluded that it must be by such means that Sages using the powers of Siddhis travel over vast distances in a short time and appear and disappear in such a myste- rious manner. While the body thus descended to the ground it occurred to me that I was at Tiruvottiyur though I had never seen the place before. I found myself on a highroad and walked along it. At some distance from the roadside was a temple of Ganapati and I entered it."


The Faqir

This incident is very characteristic of Sri Bhagavan. It is characteristic that the distress or devotion of one of his people should call forth an involuntary response and intervention in a form that can only be called miraculous (Arthur Osborne, Ramana Maharshi And The Path of Self-Knowledge, Bombay: Jaico Publishing House, 1982, pages 93-94). See THE MEETING: An Untold Story of Sri Ramana Ramana's experience of bilocation indicates that Faqir Chand's categorical statement about all gurus not knowing about their visionary manifestations may need qualifications. Simply put, some saints appear to know about their miraculous appearances. The number of these "fully aware" mystics, however, is so incredibly small that it is not an exaggeration to say that Faqir Chand's "unknowing" hypothesis explains 99% of all the so-called guru visions in the world. The overwhelming majority of inner visions are projections of one's own mind which have no substan- tial "reality check" with either the outer world or the higher inner regions. Further- more, the object of devotion in these transpersonal encounters are, for the most part, not aware of their role. The Chandian Effect, so named because Faqir Chand was the first Sant Mat guru to speak at length about the "unknowing" aspects of visionary manifestations, designates two major factors in transpersonal encounters: 1) the overwhelming experience of certainty ( ganz andere/mysterium tremendum ) which accompanies religious ecstasies; and 2) the subjective projection of sacred forms/figures/scenes by a meditator/devotee without the conscious knowledge of the object/person who is beheld as the center of the experience. Thus, the general Chandian Effect covers almost all transpersonal visions. Ramana's experience and others like his represents a very small, bracketed, "special" case scenario. As such, it warrants further inspection, but should not be miscon- strued as a general reference point with which to adjudicate transmundane happen- ings.


The Enchanted Land

Concerning these "special cases," Sawan Singh, a deeply admired master in the Surat Shabd Yoga tradition (1858-1948), for whom both Faqir Chand and his teacher Shiv Brat Lal had tremendous regard, wrote that the outward guru can and does know about the inner condition of his disciples. This knowledge, Sawan Singh pointed out, is conveyed to the physical master via the inner Shabd (Divine Sound), though only in extreme cases where the outer master's attention is needed (see Sawan Singh's letters to American and European disciples in Spiritual Gems and The Dawn of Light published by the Radhasoami Beas Satsang). Writes Sawan Singh to one of his disciples:

Now regarding your question about the Inner Master and that Inner Master guiding the disciple, first of all, what is the Inner Master? The Real Saint or Perfect Master is one with the Supreme Lord, having merged His Being with the Supreme. Now, as the Supreme Lord has all power, so do the Perfect Masters. He can do as He pleases, and anywhere and always, so that He may better work with, protect, and instruct and guide His disciples. Every time He gives the initiation to anyone, He creates an Astral Image of Himself in the disciple. And from then on, the Master never leaves the disciple. The Double, or Other Self, or Image of the Master is sometimes what we call the Inner Master. Now, if anything occurs in the life of the disciple that requires the personal attention of the Master, here (in India) in the Body--this Inner Master at once reports to the Conscious Master (in India) and the Conscious Master gives the thing his personal attention. The Master sometimes calls these Doubles of Himself his agents. They do his work, taking care of all his dis- ciples. They have the power to act without limit. They can do what the Master wishes Them to do, and They obey His orders. The human side of the Master here (in India) may not know what is going on in the life of that person. It may be on the other side of the globe. He will not be aware of the details, but He can know them if He wishes. But manifestly, you see how difficult it would be for any one man, as


The Faqir

man, to go to all parts of the world and take care of so many. If the Master had a million disciples, He would have an Astral Double of Himself in every one of them, and that Agent of the Master would look after the disciple at all times, reporting to the Master here (in India) only in case of extreme emergency.” (extract from "A Letter By The Great Master To A Disciple," Science Of The Soul, June, 1985). Hence, according to this perspective, the outward master does not know most of the time. Similar to Ramana Maharshi's experience, the Beas master learns of his visionary manifestations on only special occasions. The modus operandi behind how certain masters could possibly know about their disciple's spiritual experiences is explained in a remarkable passage by Da Kalki (alias Da Love Ananda; Da Free John; Bubba Free John; Franklin Jones):

After that time [that is, after Da Free John achieved Enlightenment], when I would sit for meditation in any formal way, instead of contemplating what was arising in myself, I would contemplate other beings as my own forms. Instead of my own psychic forms arising, the psychic forms, minds, and limitations of others would arise. I was aware, visually and otherwise, of great numbers of people, and I would work with them very directly on a subtle level. In some cases, these people would soon contact me and become involved with me in a personal relationship. Others were people I already knew. I would work for them in the subtle way, and then watch for signs and demonstrations in their outward lives of the reality of that manifestation. I tested everything in this manner. (Bubba (Da) Free John, The Enlightenment Of The Whole Body, Clearlake: Dawn Horse Press, 1978, page 38). Please see NOTE regarding Da Free John below. Charan Singh, the late head of the Radhasoami Satsang at Beas, for instance, chose disciples for initiation by simply looking at them. I have personally seen thousands of people file directly in front of Charan Singh and in a matter of a few


The Enchanted Land

seconds he turns his head to the left or to the right, indicating whether the seeker was accepted or rejected for Nam-Dan. Nam-Dan is a ceremony where the living Satguru gives the "Gift of Nam" or Initiation to chosen disciples. It includes precise details about how to meditate and withdraw one's consciousness from the physical body by means of a three-fold method: simran (repetition of holy name(s)), dhyan (contemplation of the inner light or the guru's form within); and bhajan (listening to the divine sound current). There are several movies which have filmed this unusual selection process for Nam-Dan, including Satguru (London 1976), The Dera Documentary (Dera Baba Jaimal Singh, Beas, India, 1970's), and Guiding Light (Dera Baba Jaimal Singh, Beas, India 1983). I personally witnessed the event inside the famous Satsang Ghar at Dera in the Winter of 1981. Needless to say, it is an awe-inspiring sight, and one which I confess is beyond my limited comprehension. During his second world tour in 1970, Maharaj Charan Singh was asked the following question: "Is the physical Master aware of all the initiates' inner expe- riences?" Charan Singh's answer demonstrates that the outer master does know about his visionary manifestations. Responded Charan Singh: "Our real Master, as I just told you, is the Shabd and Nam. And when we are connected with that Shabd and Nam, that Shabd and Nam takes care of us. The physical Master, of course, is aware of all that. [My emphasis.] But, you see, it is Shabd and Nam which is our real Master, that takes care of everything." (Thus Saith The Master, Beas: R.S. Founda- tion, 1974, page 150). Another example of extraordinary manifestations which go beyond Faqir Chand's hypothesis of unknowingness comes from Baba Jaimal Singh, the first guru of the Beas satsang and a personal disciple of the founder of Radhasoami, Shiv


The Faqir

Dayal Singh. In the following excerpts, Jaimal Singh details a most remarkable physical bilocation of his guru. Recollects Baba- Ji:

Once, during Christmas, the army units were allowed four holidays. As I had no official duty assigned to me during that period, I felt that I could best spend it in meditation in my room. Accordingly, I told the cook that I should not be disturbed, that if I needed food I would personally ask for it. Also, if anybody asked for me, he should be told that I was out. It so happened that soon thereafter my presence was required for writing some accounts. However, as my door was locked, everybody who came to call me went back disappointed. Meanwhile, the officer of the Unit had demanded full account from the clerk who really did not know what to do in my absence. Just when a thought crossed his mind that he should report my absence to the officer, he saw me and heard me say to him that he should take down the ac- count. This the clerk did. Such accounts were rendered three times daily, and were thereafter sent to the officer concerned by the clerk immediately after he got them. This continued on all the four days during which I was engaged in meditation in my room. However, I knew nothing about it, for I would leave my room only at four o'clock in the morning and ten o'clock at night just to answer nature's call. When the holidays were over and I came out of my room, I was called in for accounts for the day previous only. I explained to the clerk that I had been confined to my room for the last four days and had not given any accounts at all for the entire period. The clerk then called the two persons who had been present at the time the accounts were rendered. One of them even produced the paper from which I had actually dictated, saying that I could myself ascertain whether this was the account written by me in my own hand. When I examined this paper, I found it to be exactly what it should have been. I silently meditated upon Huzur Swami Ji's Feet and bowed in gratitude for His unbounded Grace in representing me during my absence and carrying out the job assigned to me for that period (Baba Jaimal Singh, Spiritual


The Enchanted Land

Letters Beas: R.S. Foundation, 1984, pages 13-14). In the same book Jaimal Singh relates several other extraordinary bilocation experiences.Although Jaimal Singh's experience was extraordinary, there have been other reports by mystics of similar physical bilocation excursions. The important point to remember, though, is that such experiences are the exception , not the rule in mys- ticism. The value of Faqir Chand's revelations of ignorance is that most gurus (I am tempted to say all ) in India and elsewhere are in the same lot, but falsely parade their attainments to sincere, if gullible, disciples. Faqir's startling insights show that most religious visions are, in fact, products of one's own mind. When I use the term "mind" here it should be equated with "imagination." Naturally, all visions are of the mind in the strict sense of the term, but those ma- nifestations which cannot be correlated by others either in this world or the higher worlds are, for the most part, merely vivid extensions of one's imagination. However, we should not take Faqir's confessions as precluding the possibility that certain rare saints do have access to knowledge far beyond our comprehension, and that being residents of those higher regions have the ability to directly transmit such information to their respective followers. If I may interject a personal note here, I must confess that I find myself more and more agreeing with Faqir Chand and his claims of unknowingness. As a sea- soned observer of the guru scene, most of what I discover is petty human motiva- tions. To be sure, there are gurus who have deeply impressed me with their compassion and humility (Charan Singh being, at least for me, the most impressive), but I have yet to unearth an airtight, empirical case for genuine psychic powers. There are always some uninspected loopholes which reveal that natural (versus supernatural) processes were involved. I realize that my skepticism will turn off a number of parapsychology buffs, but in light of Occam's Razor I see no overwhelm- ing evidence to suggest that Faqir Chand's autobiographical admissions are not right


The Faqir

on the mark. For further clarification see: Siddhi, Apportation Revisited, Chaos Magic and Joriki: Mind Power in the Zen Tradition. Moreover, we should keep in mind that Faqir Chand's use of the term "ignor- ance" has two meanings. First, Faqir uses the term in an absolute sense equating "Ignorance" (with a capital "I") with God, thereby agreeing with many saints and mystics that the Lord is an unqualified Mystery (as Shiv Dayal Singh put it: "Wonder, Wonder, Wonder; Wonder hath assumed a form"). In this reference, there will most likely be little debate with Faqir Chand. However, Faqir also uses the term "ignor- ance" to describe his realization that gurus do not know about their visionary ma- nifestations. As we have noted, there may be exceptions to this general rule, though they have yet to be empirically verified.


The Mother: Yogini Mataji

Since Baba Faqir Chand's death in September of 1981 a number of his dis- ciples serve as gurus. Outstanding among these is a middle-aged woman respectfully called Yogini Mataji who currently lives in a small room on the third floor of the Manavta Mandir ashram in Hoshiarpur. On my second trip to India in the winter of 1981-82 I was not informed befo- rehand that Mataji was living within the temple compound. So it was a pleasant surprise when I arrived at Manavta Mandir to learn from Dr. J. L. Jaura, the present administrator of the ashram, that one of Faqir Chand's most advanced disciples was living only a few yards away across the courtyard. I could tell by Jaura's expression that he regarded her as a remarkable woman. Knowing that saints seldom talk about themselves, I asked Jaura to tell me her life story. I learned that Mataji had shown saintly qualities even as a young child. Al- though she was married at an early age, as is the custom in India, she did not con- summate the relationship because of her singular devotion to God. Nevertheless, as befits a genuinely good person, Mataji personally chose another wife for her hus- band, who desired to raise a family. When the second wife died several years later, Mataji, not forgetting her responsibility, sought out another wife for her husband. During all this time Mataji applied herself to intense devotion to God. Her spiritual quest came to fruition when she visited Baba Faqir Chand, the renowned shabd yoga master. At their first meeting Baba Faqir Chand declared that the young woman was already a saint. And on that very day Faqir also appointed her a guru for a number of his women disciples. She has since then been affectionately addressed as Mataji ("Mother dear").

The Mother

On the night of my arrival at Manavta Mandir, Dr. Jaura invited me to visit Mataji. I readily agreed to the Doctor's kind invitation and was startled when I first saw Mataji as she opened the door to her cloister. I had met her before! Her face also bore an expression of surprised recognition. We had met three years earlier in the home of our mutual friend Swami Yogeshwar, an elderly Christian monk. At that time I had not been informed of Mataji's exalted status but I clearly remembered her exuberant smile and loving eyes. Mataji immediately gave me a strong hug, welcom- ing me as if I were one of her children. Mataji exuded a sense of joy and happiness. We talked for more than three hours about a variety of subjects, but I was most intrigued with Mataji's experiences on the inner spiritual planes. I asked her what it was like to leave the body. Mataji responded with a beautiful description of how consciousness can be released from the mortal frame by attaching itself to the stream of celestial music radiating from the top of the head and beyond. To do this, she said, one first must be initiated by a genuine mystic who has gained access to the higher realms. The practice itself, although it may take years to master, sounds relatively simple. The body should be kept perfectly still with one particular posture held for at least three hours. One may choose a cross-legged position (like the yogis in the lotus pose) or a more comforta- ble, relaxed position in a chair. Keeping the back erect and the mind alert, one continuously repeats God's name as given by his/her guru. This simran, as Mataji termed it, should be done with one's attention centered behind closed eyes. Coupled with this physical stillness and ceaseless repetition of God's name, the next step is to contemplate the light within. At first, Mataji pointed out, there will be only darkness but eventually light will appear in the form of either small flashes or small star-like points. In any case, one should focus on the radiance, keeping one's simran intact and allowing the light to draw the soul inward. The third and most important step, Mataji said, is to listen to the sound that issues forth from


The Enchanted Land

the light. It is this internal music which will numb the body and allow the conscious- ness to leave its ordinary dwelling. By riding this current of light and sound, like a fish going upstream, the soul will be able to go back to its original home. On the journey within, however, the soul must be guided by a true master so as not to be detained in any of the lower illusory regions. According to Mataji, what near-death patients experience is only the beginning of a vast sojourn into great universes of light, love and beauty. Personally I was overcome with the profundity of Mataji's account. Although it seemed plausible, especially given the findings of near-death patients who have been resuscitated, the soul's journey in the beginning stages appeared too difficult. How can one sit so still, repeat only holy names and think of God constantly? "By falling in love," Mataji answered serenely. "Because when one is truly in love nothing but the beloved can enter one's mind. So the secret of surat shabd yoga and of mysticism," she goaded, "is not necessarily practice and more practice, but love. To be so devoted to one's Lord that nothing can stand in the way-this and nothing else is the truth of Sant Mat," Mataji stressed. It was hard for me to leave Mataji that night after such a peaceful and de- lightful visit. I did, however, see the "dear mother" one more time before my depar- ture. Early in the morning I was ushered into her room to pay my respects and also to thank her for the previous night's delightful conversation. However, I was a bit surprised when I saw Mataji. She was smoking a small Indian cigarette. Now I must confess that I didn't imagine that yogis, especially female yogis, smoked tobacco. But here was Mataji doing exactly that and puffing away nonchalantly, completely obli- vious to my childlike notions of how gurus should behave. But, after a few moments I realized how stupid I was in being surprised by the simple act of Mataji's smoking. In the West we sometimes wrongly assume that masters and sages are non-human, as if they didn't get hungry, didn't get sleepy, or didn't urinate. This is not the case,


The Mother

of course, and every mystic I have met is thoroughly human. Each have their own peculiar tastes and dislikes. Each are very normal in their own way. What makes these individuals distinctive is their steadfast devotion to discover the truth within themselves. Instead of searching outside for peace, these mystics focus the majority of their energy to seek the truth within. Spend any time with such enlightened sages and you will automatically feel the pull to do the same. I think this is perhaps what impressed me the most about Mataji. She put on absolutely no "airs" about her attainment. She was down to earth, personable, affec- tionate, and not self-conscious (in the bad sense of that term) in the least. She was simply delightful and I found myself won over by her graceful, natural charm. It was also at that moment when I realized the extent of Mataji's enlightenment. As I bowed my head to say good-bye to the "smoking" mother, Mataji said, with a smile, "You are my maharaj, my guru." At first I was a bit thrown off. I reflected to myself, "What could she possibly mean by that statement. I don't even know how to get train directions from Delhi to Hoshiarpur, much less know the inner secrets of the universe." Then it struck me and I understood her meaning. Instead of seeing God in only one form, Mataji sees God in every form, even in someone as completely ignorant as myself. To Mataji, the beautiful saint of Manavta Mandir, there isn't just one God and many sinful creatures, or a God of Light and a World of Darkness; rather there is only one God manifesting throughout a myriad of forms.


The Wrestler: Pratap Singh

Very little is known in the West about the lineage of Radhasoami gurus at Tarn Taran, a small Sikh city about 20 miles outside Amritsar. In the Punjab, how- ever, the satsang is well known and its following numbers in the thousands. I had hoped for several years to meet the then current head of the sect, Sri Pratap Singh. But it was not until August 1978 that I boarded a bus for Tarn Taran (the name literally means "a raft which carries one over a large body of water"), a

town most famous for its large golden gurdwara (holy Sikh temple). Once arrived there, I had to ask the local rickshaw wallas for directions to the ashram. Pictures of

a saintly looking Sikh on display in many of the shops made me feel hopeful. Luckily

I found an old rickshaw driver who knew the way to the spiritual center. At the front

of the compound I met the ashram's gatekeeper whose knowledge of English was exceeded only by my five words of Hindi. We greeted each other with a clear and drawn out "Radhasoami." I was ushered into an open, rather empty-looking cour- tyard. A few people, whom I took to be sadhus, were lying in some shade (the heat was 100 degrees and the humidity felt like 90 percent). One of the first things I noticed in the ashram was a series of pictures of the different saints at Tarn Taran. Most noticeable, in the center of the back wall, was a picture of the founder Baba Bagga Singh. He had a powerful lion-like face. There were also photographs of Sant Deva Singh, the second master in the lineage, and of the late Jagat Singh of Beas. It was around noontime when I saw Sri Pratap Singh. I liked him immediately.

He has a large nose and a robust physique. While the saint of Tarn Taran and I conversed, Kishori Lal Maini, secretary of the Dera, acted as translator. We dis-

The Wrestler

cussed the history of the group and I discovered that Bagga Singh was a disciple of Baba Jaimal Singh, one of the successors to the founder of Radhasoami. Bagga Singh founded his satsang at Tarn Taran in the early part of this century. After his death in 1944 Sawan Singh of Beas, who had been a close friend of the founder of the Tarn Taran satsang, appointed Deva Singh to carry on the spiritual work. The current head, Sri Pratap Singh, was installed by Maharaj Charan Singh after Deva Singh's death in the early 1960's. The Tarn Taran and Beas satsangs enjoy a friendly and unique association. The present leaders of the two centers are good friends, often seen together giving spiritual discourses. Pratap Singh discussed with me the practice of shabd yoga and how one might succeed in listening to the inner sound. He stressed the need to do as much simran as possible, that is, the repetition of a holy name or names at the third eye center. His argument was that unless one concentrated one's attention during the day away from the exterior world, then when one sat for meditation the world with all its attractions would again arise within the mind. The several hours one devotes to meditation, Pratap Singh argued, were not enough precisely because those hours were spent reminiscing about the day's events and not necessarily focusing on the task of going within. I was reminded during Pratap Singh's conversation of Jagat Singh's admonition to do simran as if one were collecting or counting precious jewels. Each repetition of a word or words should be done with the mind fully attentive, much like a jeweler who inspects each diamond with meticulous care. Pratap Singh also displayed during this time a wonderful sense of curiosity. He seemed fascinated by my wrist-watch and wanted to know how much it cost me in America. When I told him the price (I think it was around $20), he seemed duly impressed and thought I got a good deal. Indeed, I felt tempted to offer it to him, but knowing that gurus like Pratap Singh did not accept gifts, I thought it might be rude so I held back. About this time, one of Pratap Singh's disciples brought us chai


The Enchanted Land

(tea) and apples. As we ate, Pratap Singh kept teasing his disciple in a playful way. Though I couldn't understand what exactly Pratap Singh was saying in Punjabi, it was obvious that both of them were having a good time. Pratap Singh's laughter was contagious and I found myself laughing out loud, despite the fact that I had no clue about what was so funny. Indeed, it was Pratap Singh's sense of humor that I found so appealing. It is refreshing to be able to talk with a guru who does not take himself too seriously. From my travels and research authentic gurus are not distant and aloof; rather they are like close family and relatives. In America we have been misled by the influx of Indian pseudo-masters who seem more devoted in taking your wallet to their personal bank than in taking your soul back to God Thousands of Indians die every year from malnutrition but certain "God-Realized" gurus drive Rolls Royces and live extravagantly off their devotees' contributions. Genuine gurus, of course, don't charge money, nor do they claim miraculous powers. They are, contrary to our misconceptions, normal human beings who have surrendered (not inflated) their egos out of love for God. Hence, legitimate masters are givers to humanity, not beggars. Perhaps no one has presented a clearer guide to the objective indices of a real saint than Julian P. Johnson in his landmark text The Path of the Masters:

“1. Real masters never charge for their services, nor do they accept payment or any sort of material benefits from their instructors. 2. Masters never boast of their mastership or of their spiritual powers or attainments. If any man claims to have attained the highest in spiritual development that claim of itself may be taken as conclusive proof that he has not attained so much. 3. Masters never go about beg- ging their living. They are always self-supporting. 4. A real master never performs miracles for public exhibition." “ On the other hand it is a mistake to imagine that mystics are always engaged in prayer, fasting or austerities and not concerned with "worldly" activities. I quickly


The Wrestler

learned this is not the case. To be a saint does not mean that one gives up the world and its pleasures but that one understands the changing nature behind the universe and hence its unreality as a fixed and permanent structure. I must admit, however, that I was a bit shocked when Sri Pratap Singh informed me of his fondness for wrestling. The famed saint of Tarn Taran a wrestler? I could tell by the twinkle in his eye that he loved the sport. In fact, he described his recent contest with his friend the late Dr. Randolph Stone, founder of Polarity Therapy, at the house of Maharaj Charan Singh, India's most revered saint. I don't know who won the contest, but if I were a betting man I would place my money on the saint of Tarn Taran. To be sure, Pratap Singh is a kind and wise guru, but he is also quite hefty and fit. I don't think Dr. Stone had a chance. Shaking Sri Pratap Singh's hand for the last time, feeling his grip growing tigh- ter, I was very tempted to challenge the guru to an arm wrestle. But alas! I was too shy. Of course, Pratap Singh would have none of that, so he stood up and gave me a huge bear hug. Till this day I can still recall how strongly he squeezed me. I can also never forget the warmth and friendliness of the saint of Tarn Taran.


The Master: Charan Singh

The shabd yoga guru who has the largest following in both India and around the world is Maharaj Charan Singh of Radhasoami Satsang Beas. His following is said to be well over a million, a remarkable number considering that the esteemed saint does not advertise and his disciples do not proselytize. Maharaj Charan Singh has drawn accolades from both followers and outsiders. As Professor Philip H. Ashby of Princeton University notes: "The present Master, Charan Singh, is the grandson of the Great Master who before becoming Master in 1951 was a lawyer in Sikanderpur in the Punjab. Born in 1916, a man of great physical and personal charm even to non-Satsangis and now at the height of his intellectual and spiritual powers, he is obviously a worthy successor to the Great Master. As I can testify from personal conversations with him and by observation of him in the midst of his devout adherents, the leadership of an Indian religious sect such as the Radha Soami Satsang of Beas does not fall upon men who are charlatans or insincere, as some people in the West might suspect. Penetrating through the fervent adulation and worship of the colony, the objective nonadherent must admit to being in the pres- ence of a highly gifted and spiritually sensitive leader." I have had the good fortune to meet Maharaj Charan Singh on nine occa- sions. I will never forget the first time I saw the exalted saint in India in late July of 1978 in the midst of the intense summer monsoons. It was an amazing sight to see nearly half a million people from all over India come to pay their respects on the last Sunday in July. Each year a bhandara (spiritual celebration) is held in honor of the birthday (July 27, 1858) of Huzur Sawan Singh, guru and grandfather of Maharaj

The Master

Charan Singh and pilgrims from all over India come to have the darshan (sight) of their beloved living master. Since I was staying in a hostel in Amritsar some 30 miles away I had to take a bus to reach the town of Beas. As I got off the bus at Beas in the early morning, I was astounded to find thousands of Indians converging on the Dera (as the colony is affectionately known) by every conceivable mode of transportation. The road from the little town of Beas to Dera Baba Jaimal Singh is about three miles. Along this pathway I saw Punjabis, Rajasthanis, Tibetans, Japanese, Europeans and almost every nationality on earth making their way to see Maharaj Charan Singh. There were mothers with week-old infants, grandfathers well over 90, rich men, beggars, the crippled and the blind-all of them eager to be in the company of this saint. The heat was intense but it did not stop the determined pilgrims from filling the air with devotional hymns, laughter and a growing sense of anticipation for what was to them the greatest occasion on earth. As I approached the Dera gates, I saw in the foreground the large exquisite Satsang Ghar, a beautiful meeting hall in the center of the colony which is visible for miles, its white domes topped with shim- mering gold. I made my way to the large field just behind the Satsang Ghar where Maharaj Charan Singh was to speak. I was told later that the crowd numbered well over three lakhs (300,000). As far as my eyes could see, row upon row of men, women and children sat cross-legged waiting for their beloved saint. When Maharaj Ji, as he is warmly called, ascended to the dais, a sigh of relief ran through the crowd. Once on the elevated platform the sage, with his beige turban, long white beard and sparkling eyes, bowed his head to the gaddi (seat) which he was about to assume. I was told earlier that this was in respect for his own guru Sawan Singh and for the audience that had congregated. For about 10 minutes Maharaj Ji sat quietly giving darshan to the multitude which had assembled to see


The Enchanted Land

him. It was an astonishing experience to sit with several hundred thousand persons in total silence. After this brief but intensely moving period, Maharaj Charan Singh gave a discourse in Punjabi on the teachings of mystics in the Sant Mat tradition. Maharaj Ji's message was simple but profound. We are in essence drops of love from the sea of God. Because of our association with the mind and body (and our exclusive attachment to them) we have lost sight of our real Self. Thus God in His infinite mercy assumes the form of a Saint in order to lead the soul back to its Original Home. Instead of limiting ourselves to sensual pleasures, which in the end leave us unhappy and discontented, Maharaj Ji stressed the need for surrendering our entire beings to the Ocean of Love of which we are intimately a part. To help us do this Maharaj Ji advised the practice of surat shabd yoga. By attuning ourselves to the Life Current which proceeds from the Heart of Anami Purush in the form of light and sound, we could finally achieve union with our true self, thus finding the joy we seek. After the satsang, Maharaj Ji proceeded to the langar, a vast kitchen where se- vadars (volunteer workers) were preparing food for the pilgrims. This meal, which is completely free, is provided daily in the Dera. On this occasion, however, there were over one million chappatis (whole wheat tortillas) served. The task is enormous but the langar runs smoothly under the tireless sevadars and Maharaj Charan Singh's expert guidance. As I walked around the Dera, undoubtedly the cleanest, best- kept town I have seen in India, I could not help thinking of its uniqueness. Who could have imagined 90 years ago that a somewhat obscure sadhu living in the middle of a veritable wasteland would be the seed for one of the world's largest spiritual centers? The lineage of saints at Beas is impressive. Jaimal Singh, the first in line, was one of the chief disciples and successors to Shiv Dayal Singh, the founder of Radhasoami. Upon his death in 1903, he was succeeded by his most devoted disciple, Sawan


The Master

Singh. It was Sawan Singh, the "Great Master," who built the foundation for Dera. Under his reign, the large Satsang Ghar, which is T-shaped with several minarets, was constructed in the 1930's. He attracted a substantial following-men and women from all over the world. Jagat Singh, a distinguished chemistry professor, followed the Great Master in 1948. His leadership lasted only for three years; nevertheless, he is revered as an example of a karma yogi who discharged his duties with love and detachment. Upon his death, Maharaj Charan Singh was appointed as the living Satguru. Jagat Singh had great regard for Maharaj Ji, once calling him Shah-en-Shah, "King of Kings." Perhaps of all the masters at Beas, Maharaj Charan Singh has brought about the most social change. He has done away with caste restrictions in the colony, a more difficult thing to do than one might expect in post-Gandhi India. Maharaj Ji also has donated all of the spiritual property in his name (legally given to him by the previous master Jagat Singh), which is worth millions of dollars, to a registered society. He himself, I learned, does not accept gifts, nor does he receive any money whatsoever for his services. Rather, Maharaj Charan Singh lives off his own earnings from a family farm in Sirsa. Unbelievable joy radiates from the faces of Maharaj Ji's followers at the Dera. The driving force in the colony is to be in the presence of their beloved master. This sacred play, as it is called, takes two major forms: 1) Whenever Maharaj Charan Singh is in his car, by some unknown albeit accurate process, hundreds of people line the streets, anxious to get a glimpse of his face and gentle smile; and 2) whenev- er work needs to be done around the center volunteers eagerly sign up. Why? Be- cause Maharaj Ji usually oversees the project. But in the Dera there is also a deep sense of mutual love. I was pleased to learn that real saints are not measured by the amount of worship or adulation they


The Enchanted Land

receive but by the degree of service they themselves provide. In all of India I found this distinction most apparent when I was in the company of Maharaj Charan Singh. As I left the beautiful spiritual colony at Beas, memories of James Hilton's Shangri-La came to mind. I remembered thinking as a child how wonderful it would be if such a place really existed. Leaving the Dera gates, I realized it was not a fanta- sy or an overly romantic dream; there really can be a paradise on earth, not deter- mined by geographics but by the devoted hearts of men and women. In such a place, where there are genuine saints, where human beings are sincere in their quests, then everything becomes transformed. Then there can be truly an enchanted land.


The Journey: Light and Sound

Although there has been much written and discussed in the last decade about higher levels of awareness, relatively little work has been done on outlining practical ways for experiencing transcendent states of consciousness. In this chapter we will focus our study on the surat shabd yoga tradition of India, which, due to its clearly elaborated process and technique, offers a viable method for those interested in understanding and correlating mystical insights. Such a phenomenological analysis will hopefully enable us to nurture the seeds for a transpersonal science, one that meets the necessary requirements of a genuine scientific enterprise. As Ken Wilber (1983a) points out: "1. Instrumental injunction. This is always of the form, 'If you want to know this, do this.' 2. Intuitive apprehen- sion. This is a cognitive grasp, prehension, or immediate experience of the object domain (or aspect of the object domain) addressed by the injunction; that is, the immediate data-apprehension. 3. Communal confirmation. This is a checking of results (apprehensions or data) with others who have adequately completed the injunctive and apprehensive strands." Our examination, based largely upon the writings of the Radhasoami masters (including Shiv Dayal Singh, Sawan Singh, Baba Faqir Chand, et al.) and modern non-dual/monistic thinkers (Ramana Maharshi, Da Free John, and Ken Wilber) will as unfold as follows: A) A brief outline of surat shabd yoga tradition and practice, especially in relation to other spiritual traditions, e.g., kundalini yoga. B) A pheno- menological description of how the surat (soul/attention) leaves the physical body during meditation and commences an inner voyage of light and sound through vast regions of existence. C) A summation of how surat shabd yoga can serve as a model

The Journey

methodology for firsthand encounters with spiritual realities, marking a safe and definitive program for future trans-empirical excursions. Overall, my thesis is that this type of undertaking, allowing for a deeper grasp of mystical dimensions, will help promote further studies in consciously induced near-death experiences which have a rigorous experiential and testable basis. Unlike other yogic disciplines in India, such as kundalini, surat shabd yoga does not advocate breath control (pranayama) or a series of physical postures (asa- nas/mudras) as part of its practice. Rather, it is concerned with withdrawing con- sciousness from the nine apertures of the body (eyes, ears, nose, mouth, genitals, and alimentary canal) and transcending the corporeal frame and its limitations altogether. This is accomplished by attaching the mind's attention to an inner light and sound which is believed to be radiating behind the proverbial "tenth door" (the "third eye" of the Hindus), anatomically located behind and slightly above the physical eyes (Shiv Dayal Singh, 1970). When consciousness becomes totally concentrated at this pivotal point "between the worlds," the soul, according to the saints in this tradition, leaves the body and experiences in elevating degrees higher regions of bliss. The distinctive characteristic of surat shabd yoga is its emphasis on listening to the inner sound current, known variously as shabd, nad, or audible life stream. It is through this union of the soul with the primordial music of the universe that the practice derives its name (surat--soul, shabd--sound current; yoga--union). To be able to achieve a consciously induced near-death state takes great effort. Hence, masters of this path emphasize a three-fold method designed to still the mind and vacate the body: simran, dhyan, and bhajan (Charan Singh, 1979). Simran, the repetition of a holy name or names, draws one's attention to the eye center, keeping thoughts from being scattered too far outside. Such sacred remembrance is similar in form to the use of a mantra or special prayer, except that


The Enchanted Land

the name(s) are repeated silently with the mind and not with the tongue. This stage, according to practitioners, is the first and perhaps most difficult leg of meditation. Dhyan, contemplation within, is a technical procedure to hold one's attention at the third eye focus. In the beginning this may be simply gazing into the darkness or re-imaging the guru's face, etc., but it eventually develops into seeing light of various shapes. Out of this light appears the "radiant form" of one's spiritual master, who guides the neophyte on the inner voyage and becomes the central point of dhyan.

Bhajan, listening to the celestial melody or sound, is the last and most impor- tant part of surat shabd yoga, because it is the vehicle by which the meditator can travel to exalted planes of awareness. Whereas simran draws and dhyan holds the mind's attention, it is bhajan which takes awareness on its upward ascent back to the Supreme Abode, Sach Khand. Naturally, mastery of surat shabd yoga is not an overnight affair, but involves years of consistent application and struggle. The desired results, adepts in the tradition agree, being largely due to the earnestness and day to day practice of the seeker.


In due time, if the process is complete, the individual spirit current or substance is slowly with- drawn from the body. First from the lower extremities which become feelingless, and then from the rest of the body. The process is identical with that which takes place at the time of death, only this is voluntary, while that of death is involuntary. Eventually, he is able to pierce the veil that intervenes--which in reality is "not thicker than the wing of a butterfly"--and then he opens what is called the "Tenth Door" and steps out into a new world. The body remains in the position in which he left it, quite senseless, but unharmed by the process. He is now in a world he never saw before --(Julian P. Johnson, 1952)


The Journey

Before the inner voyage of light and sound can begin, the meditator must be- come adept at withdrawing his/her attention from the world and concentrating one pointedly at the third eye center. Accordingly, when the neophyte has achieved even

a modicum of success, having sensations of numbness just up to the solar plexus,

flashes of light will begin to manifest. At first it appears that the light is coming and going, causing the phenomenon of bright sparks, but in actuality it is the mind which

is ascending and descending (Charan Singh, 1958, 1967, 1973, 1979).

The feeling of physical insensibility is one of the important "acid tests" to de- termine if the mediation process is proceeding correctly. Starting in the feet, numb- ness rises slowly through the lower extremities, until the entire body feels like stone. When such a voluntary paralysis occurs, the meditator gravitates more to the inner universe than to the outer one. According to the masters (Julian P. Johnson, 1974), it is the function of simran to instigate this type of benumbing impression, which releases the mind from its constructing hold on the material corpus. It is at this junction when the meditator senses an intense feeling of upward movement, as if being literally pulled by a magnetic force. This sucking effect is the direct result of one's attention moving inward away from the outer orifices. Though

it but a preliminary stage, the student experiences first-hand what it is like to have an

out-of-body sensation. With practice, the meditator finally does achieve total out-of- body consciousness, traveling at immense speeds through regions of darkness, not dissimilar in content to reports of clinically dead patients who have been resuscitated (Raymond Moody, 1975, Kenneth Ring, 1980, Darshan Singh, 1982). After complete withdrawal from the physical body, the neophyte's capacity for inner sight (nirat) and sound (surat) increases tremendously, enabling him/her to see and hear clearly what was only thought before to be a figment of religious imagi- nation. Accompanying this ability is also the realization of a super-conscious state of


The Enchanted Land

awareness, remarkably more vivid and lucid than the ordinary waking state (Sawan Singh, 1974). To understand how such a new degree of consciousness can be awakened, it is important to see how awareness moves through various degrees of clarity. In the waking state, for instance, attention is centered behind the eyes at the back of the head. But, after eighteen or so hours, we notice a movement downward and inward from this station towards the throat (Jagat Singh, 1972) culminating in sleep. Like- wise, after about eight hours, we sense a rising upwards to the eyes, with the final termination being, of course, our normal, everyday consciousness. In both of these cases, our common language expresses in a graphically simple way the process of awareness: "We fall asleep; we wake up," "My eyes are heavy;" "I feel so awake and high." In yoga psychology the farther down one's consciousness descends the deeper the sleep (or unconscious) state; the further up it ascends the higher the awareness (super-conscious). The pattern is quite clear; clarity increases steadily the more one ascends (not vice versa). Ken Wilber (1979, 1981) has beautifully described this spectrum of consciousness as having a definite hierarchical structure, with the higher orders subsuming and transcending their lower counterparts. The following account, primarily based upon Shiv Dayal Singh's Hidayatnama is filled with rich mythological characterizations, metaphors, and illustrations. For anyone steeped in science, the account will sound too fantastic to be true. However, we should keep in mind that although Shiv Dayal Singh's description may be limited to the analogies of the 19th century, his fundamental insights are consistent with mystics from time immemorial. When reading Shiv Dayal Singh's descriptions of the inner regions we should always keep in mind that trans-rational experiences cannot be adequately contained by the inherent boundaries of human language. Let us not confuse a map for the real territory or a menu for the meal.


The Journey


When your eye turns inwards in the brain and you see the firmament within, and your spirit leaves the body and rises upwards, you will see the Akash in which is located Sahas-dal-kanwal, the thousand petals of which perform the various functions pertaining to the three worlds. Its effulgence will exhilarate your spirit. You will at that stage, witness Niranjan, the lord of three worlds. Several religions which attained this stage and took the deity thereof to be the lord of all, were duped. Seeing the light and refulgence of this region they felt satiated. Their upward progress was stopped. They did not find the guide to higher regions. Hence they could not proceed further.

--Shiv Dayal Singh, Hidayatnama

Although the wondrous journey out of the body in surat shabd yoga medita- tion begins in darkness, eventually the meditator glimpses keen points of light, much like stars filling up a black midnight sky. The student is advised to focus his/her attention on the largest and brightest of these "stars" (Kirpal Singh, 1974, 1975, 1976), which with repeated concentration will burst revealing a radiance similar to that of a sun (Sawan Singh, 1970, 1974). When this light explodes, a brilliance com- parable to a full moon will pull one's attention even further within. Out of that light, according to the masters (Julian P. Johnson, 1953), known as Asht-dal-kanwal ("Eight petal lotus"), the resplendent form of one's guru will appear. This marks the half-way point in the disciple's ascent, since from here on one is guided to the upper regions by the radiant form of the master (Sawan Singh, 1974). Hence it is by com- parison an easier progression for the soul than the withdrawal of the mind current from the body. Along with the seeing of light, consisting of different colors and hues due partly to a particular person's karma (Faqir Chand, 1978), the meditator also hears a variety of different sounds. At first, as the concentration becomes finer it will as- sume a more distinct tone, not dissimilar to the tinkling of bells. Indeed, it is the bell sound which is to be held onto, as its melody will help lead the soul into the first


The Enchanted Land

region, known technically in Radhasoami as Sahas-dal-kanwal, but also termed in other traditions as the astral plane, turiya pad, etc. (Swami Muktananda, 1974). Entrance into the pure astral plane, though heralded as a magnificent achievement, is, according to Sant Mat, but the beginning of the inner voyage. It is alleged by many saints in the tradition (Kabir, Tulsi Sahib, Sawan Singh, etc.) that several great religious leaders mistakenly believed that the light and sound of this region were of the Absolute Lord. Instead of realizing that the manifestations were partial glimpses of a higher reality, they worshipped them as the totality of God. This kind of error is perhaps the chief reason why the Sant Mat and Radhasoami move- ments stress so much the necessity of a living guide (Charan Singh, 1974). Above all else, the masters emphasize, test thoroughly whatever appears inside meditation. [The main test advised by the mystics is to repeat slowly the holy name or names which were given at the time of initiation; also verify the authenticity of one's expe- riences with the outer guru for his/her validation.] Each major region of consciousness has its own center and guiding lord. In Sahas-dal-kanwal the ruler is known as the lord of light and is the creator of all the universe in its jurisdiction (Julian P. Johnson, 1974). However, the extent of each ruler's power is limited and circumscribed by the next higher deity, who, likewise receives its creative energy from above, etc. This governing hierarchy, like the kun- dalini chakra system, is based on the concept that all spiritual evolution (and even material transformation) was preceded by an involution (Charan Singh, 1973). Therefore, the meditator must pass through several regions of light and sound before attaining true enlightenment. In order to overcome the many barriers and obstacles on the way, the guru instructs the student not to attach him or her self to any particular vision, as they are merely signposts along the way (Charan Singh, 1979; Faqir Chand, 1976). In fact, all of the intermediary lords, or centers of power, are not to be venerated but tran-


The Journey

scended. It is for this reason that the Beas branch of the Radhasoamis and Sawan- Kirpal Mission in agreement with previous saints, give out five holy names as their meditation mantra. Each name represents the presiding lord and his relative spiritual energy; to the meditator they serve as passwords, so to say, to insure safe passage into the next level of consciousness (Charan Singh, 1973). Obviously, the concern here is that a student may get stuck or retained in one of the lower realms, believing that he/she has reached the ultimate, when, in fact, what they have attained is illusory and impermanent. Surat shabd yoga literature is replete with stories of would-be masters who have been duped on the inner journey (for instance, see the book Anurag Sagar which goes on in detail about sages being misled in their meditations).


At the apex of this Akash (in Sahas-dal-kanwal), there is a passage which is very small like the eye of a needle. Your Surat (spirit) should penetrate this eye. Further on, there is Bank nal, the crooked path, which goes straight and then downwards and again upwards. Beyond this passage comes the second stage. Trikuti (having three prominences) is situated here. It is one lakh yojan in length and one lakh yojan in width [millions of miles in inner space; an expression describing tremendous dimensions]. There are numerous varieties of glories and spectacles at that plane which are difficult to describe. Thousands of suns and moons look pale in comparison to the light there. All the time, melodious sounds of Ong Ong and Hoo Hoo, and sounds resembling thunder of clouds, reverberate there. On obtaining this region, the spirit becomes very happy, and purified and subtle. It is from here onwards that it becomes cognizant of the spiritual regions.

--Shiv Dayal Singh, Hidayatnama

Progression to successively higher regions of existence is secured in Radha- soami and Sant Mat through listening to the finer shabd (sound) melodies. As re-


The Enchanted Land

marked before, it is the bell sound which leads the soul into the first region. Subse- quently, access to the next stage, Trikuti, is garnered by attaching one's attention to the powerful rhythm of drums (or, clashing thunder). However, on the sojourn between the first and second regions, one must pass through bank nal, a crooked tunnel which can ward off spirits from progressing further. An interesting descrip- tion of this particular stage comes from a letter written by a disciple of Sawan Singh, dated January 30, 1945 (Rai Sahib Munshi Ram, 1974):

My progress again started from 9th January. Sometimes I could see light and get some taste, but there was not upward progress. One day I saw three paths and after many days my soul started following the middle one. It is not a straight path but a sort of crooked tunnel which goes on narrowing as one moves forward. At one place it was so narrow that I had to crawl forward on my stomach. There were many snakes and scorpions in this path but through Your mercy they all appeared dead and did no harm to me. I felt absolutely no fear because I was conscious all the time of your presence and your Shabd Form. Further on, the path narrowed still more and a sinner like myself could never go through it without Your mercy and grace. It is like a round tunnel and it is all lightened up with a beautiful circular light like that of the morning sun. It appears as if the sun is rising. I tried to pass through this sun but could not do so and therefore came back through this tunnel. This happened about two or three days ago.Trikuti, so named because of the three huge mountains of light situated there, is the home of the universal mind where individual karmas have their origin. Saints point out that this region is the most difficult to traverse because it means surrendering one's mind entirely. Since such a task is almost impossible immediately, the soul stays within the boundaries of the second stage for a considerable duration. The spectacles of Trikuti are reported to be so enticing and spectacular that the meditator often does not want to go on further. Indeed, the inner master some-


The Journey

times prevents the student from beholding the sights in fear that he/she will become too saturated with joy and forget his/her real mission (Rai Sahib Munshi Ram,


Faqir Chand, a radical teacher in the Radhasoami movement who presented a number of startling interpretations on the nature of religious visions (Lane, 1983), believed, on the basis of over seventy years of meditation, that the reason Trikuti is so hard to overcome is due to the fact that whatsoever one desires it manifests accordingly. Literally, worlds upon worlds can be created by sheer thought in the second stage. Thus, the soul can be trapped by an infinite set of cravings, wants, and wishes, which continually attract the mind to ephemeral pleasures (Faqir Chand,


Furthermore, in the grand design of the cosmos, there is a negative force whose sole purpose is to detain the soul from transcending to higher states. This power is known as Kal (time/death), the lord of the mind, in the terminology of the saints in the Sant Mat and Radhasoami traditions (Julian P. Johnson, 1974). Kal is the antithesis of the positive current, Sat, which constantly goes back to the Supreme Lord, Anami Purush. Kal's force is downward (instead of upward) toward the crea- tion. Hence, Kal, though also a manifestation of the Absolute on a lower vibration, represents the main obstacle in the ascent of the soul. The only way a sincere stu- dent can conquer Trikuti is by withdrawing the spirit from the mind itself, just as the mind separated from the body.


The refulgence of this region (Daswan Dwar) is twelve times that of Trikuti. Pure pools of ambro- sia, called "Mansarovar," abound here. There are innumerable flowers and gardens. Spirits, like beauties, dance at various places. At every place fountains of nectar are overflowing and the streams of nectar are


The Enchanted Land

gushing out. How may one describe the splendour and decoration of this region! There are platforms of diamonds, beds of emeralds and plants of jewels, all studded with rubies and precious stones. Bejeweled fish, swimming in pools there, display their beauty and ornamentation, and their glitter and sheen attract attention. Beyond this, there are innumerable palaces of crystals and mirrors, in which spirit entities reside at their respective spots, as allocated by the Lord. The denizens there are spiritual and free from physical taints. Full particulars of these regions are known only to Sants. It is not meet to describe them in greater detail.

--Shiv Dayal Singh, Hidayatnama

Certain saints report that there are ten passage ways in Trikuti; the first nine are local leading the aspirant only to outlying parts of the second stage. The tenth door, though, opens up into the third region, a dimension beyond mind and matter appropriately entitled Daswan Dwar ("tenth door," so named because of the key passage way in Trikuti). The third region is exceptionally auspicious, since the student leaves the mind plane altogether and realizes for the first time his/her true Self; as a pure drop of infinite light and love. From Daswan Dwar the pull is inherently upwards; no longer does Kal's negative power attract the free spirit. Like a butterfly liberated from its inhibiting cocoon, the soul flies forth unencumbered to its original and true abode. The lord of this region is known as the "Detached One" and the shabd mani- fests as a sarangi (stringed instrument) with white light shimmering like diamonds. Daswan Dwar's refulgence is so brilliant that it dims twelve-fold the reddish light of Trikuti. Although the sound current is one constant audible life stream, it has four major gradations: anahad (unstruck); sar (essential); sat (true); and nij (original). For instance, in the third region, the shabd transforms from anahad into sar, which is the movement from the mind to the soul current. Progressively, sar shabd leads into sat shabd, which finally ushers in the nij current of the Supreme Lord, who is absolutely beyond all expression (Bubba [Da] Free John, 1977).


The Journey

One of the central attractions in the third region is Mansarovar, "a vast pool of immortality" wherein the soul is cleansed of residual samskaras (past impres- sions). Elucidates Sawan Singh (1970): "When the Sikh Gurus built the Golden Temple at what is now the City of Amritsar they surrounded it with a pool of water, to represent on earth the Mansarovar Pool or Lake, of the third Spiritual Region. This pool they called Amritsar, which has the same meaning as Mansarovar--the pool of the Nectar of Immortality. In the same way, the Indian Rishis and Munis (sages and holy men of the past), called the confluence of the Ganges, Jamuna and the now vanished Saraswati, Tribeni, to symbolize on earth the meeting place of the three great streams of refulgent Light in Daswan Dwar. But the real thing that gives liberation lies within and not without." Although Self-realization is achieved in Daswan Dwar, the student has not merged back totally with the Supreme One. Consciousness is identified with the drop/bubble, but not yet with the ocean of love in its awesome entirety. Thus, the soul must evolve even further to achieve full jivan mukti, "liberation while living." The face of the Self has been discovered--consciousness beyond body and mind is experienced to be the true reality--but the primordial body of the Absolute remains unattained (Sawan Singh, 1974). Perhaps the most frightening phase in the meditator's exploration is through the region known as Maha Sunn (great void) which is located between Daswan Dwar and Bhanwar Gupha. Though the soul is said to contain the light of twelve suns, its brilliance is blinded by the impenetrable darkness which precedes the fourth region. In fact, saints rarely discuss this stage, as it can only be crossed with the help of the inner guru. Outlines Shiv Dayal Singh (1970) of this plane:

Having sojourned there (Daswan Dwar) and having enjoyed the glory thereof for a very long time, the spirit of this Faqir proceeded on, in accordance with the instruction of the Guides. After traversing five arab (one thousand million) and


The Enchanted Land

seventy five crore yojans upwards, the spirit entity affected ingress into the bounds of Hahoot and witnessed the panorama of that region. There the expanse of ten neel (one thousand million) is enveloped in darkness. Depth of this dark region cannot be fathomed. The spirit went down one kharab yojans, still the bottom was nowhere to be found. Then it (the spirit) turned up and proceeded on the path chalked out by Guru. It was not considered advisable to go down right to the bottom of this region. This region is called Maha-sunn. There are prison cells for the condemned spirits, ejected from the Court of the True Supreme Being. Although these spirits are not subjected to any trouble, and they perform their functions by their own light, yet, as they do not get the darshan of the Lord, they are restless. However, there is a way of their remission also. Whenever Sants happen to pass that way with the spirits rec- laimed from the lower regions, some of these spirits fortunately get their Darshan. Such spirits go along with the Sants who very gladly take them to the Court of the Lord and get them pardoned. To cross the abyss without such a guide is impossible according to the mas- ters (Shiv Dayal Singh 1970), because the ascent is not Self-centered but God- centered involving the mauj (will/grace) of the Supreme Lord. In a sense, what we are witnessing is the ultimate surrender. First, the physical body has to be given up (sensory paralysis; out-of-body experience, etc.), then the lower and higher mind (in the stages of Sahas-dal-kanwal and Trikuti), and finally the soul itself (in Sach Khand), which is nothing but a mere bubble in the ocean of Infinity.


The spirit, thereafter, went to Hootal Hoot, which, in Hindi, has been described as Bhanwar-gupha. There is a rotating swing here which all the time in subtle motion, and the spirits ever swing on it. All round, there are innumerable spiritual islands from which the sounds of "Sohang Sohang" and "Anahoo Anahoo" rise all the time. Spirit entities playfully and rapturously enjoy these sounds. Whiffs of scents of


The Journey

various kinds and sweet fragrance of sandal are enjoyed by the spirit there and the melodies of flutes are heard, while it proceeds onwards. [Other characteristics of this region cannot be reduced to writing, as they can be realized by the spirit only when it reaches there after performing Abhyas.] --Shiv Dayal Singh, Hidayatnama

Upon arriving in Bhanwar Gupha, the soul's nirat (power to see) and surat (capacity to hear) attain a state of satisfaction (Julian P. Johnson, 1953). This con- tentment, according to Shiv Dayal Singh's account, is due to perceiving a most intriguing and wondrous structure within the Rukmini tunnel in the entrance to the fourth region. Exactly what this sight is has not been explained by any Radhasoami saint in print. Like all experiences in the upper regions it must be encountered first- hand to be understood, not simply referenced in its decidedly mythological analo- gies. Bhanwar Gupha is the funnel of the entire creative process from Sach Khand downwards. Its very name exhibits the tremendous power inherent within the region: "whirling vortice". The lord of this realm is termed Sohang ("I Am That"), a descriptive-mantric term which implies a conscious intuition on the part of the soul with its higher identity. The shabd currents in Bhanwar Gupha are so sweet and enchanting, accord- ing to the Saints, that souls live entirely off its invigorating nectar, desiring nothing but darshan of the presiding lord and the manifestations of light and sound. Kabir, the most famous of the medieval saints, describes in his writings (or, at least, those attributed to his pen) how hansas (pure spirits) live on spiritual dweeps (islands) with magnificent palaces for transmundane enjoyment. Faqir Chand, in his Yogic Philos- ophy of the Saints (1980), gives a more psychological interpretation of the medita- tor's experiences in the fourth region: "When in the course of meditation man reaches this state of Bhanwar-Gupha he experiences that there was none except his ownself. This centre is compared with Bhanwar which means whirl. At this centre a wheel rotates like a cradle. It means that at this centre a wave springs out of the surat


The Enchanted Land

of the meditator and again merges in its own source, or say, it rotates around its own source and produces the sound of Sohang-Flute. The Shabd of this centre is so effective that the meditator enjoys the pleasure of being one with the Supreme Soul."


On crossing this place, the spirit entity reached the outpost of Sat Lok, where melodious sounds of "Sat Sat" and "Haq Haq" were heard as though coming out of vina (harp). On hearing this, the spirit penetrated further on rapturously. There rose to view the silver and golden streams full of nectar, and vast gardens, each tree thereof is one crore yojans in height, and crores of suns and moons hang from them as flowers and fruits. Innumerable spirits and Hansas sing, chatter, and play on those trees like birds. The wondrous beauty of this region is ineffable. While enjoying it, the spirit entered Sat Lok and came into the presence of Sat Purush. Now as regards the glory of the person of Sat Purush, each hair of His is so brilliant that crores of suns and moons look pale in comparison. How may one describe His eyes, nose, ears, face, hands, and feet; They are all nothing but refulgence, even to describe them as oceans of light does not give the remotest idea adequately. After witnessing the glory of this region the spirit proceeded on to Alakh Lok and got darshan of Alakh Purush. Thereafter the spirit entity went on and attained Agam Lok. The spirit entity sojourned there a long time and on going beyond, it got the darshan of Radhasoami, that is, Anami Purush, and merged in Him. Radhasoami Dham is boundless, infinite, endless and immeasurable. It is the Nij Sthan, the special resting place of Sants (Faqirs). That region is the Ultima Thule of all Sants, and all speech and description end here.

--Shiv Dayal Singh, Hidayatnama

Though it has been a long time coming, the soul after traversing the lower realms finally reaches its real home, Sach Khand (true region), where even the subtlest duality between the spirit and God are transcended. The Supreme Being, Sat-Chit-Ananda (Truth, Existence, Bliss), is found in Its pure form only in this region, the saints stress. All of the previous planes of existence are but reflections of this infinite abode (Shiv Dayal Singh, 1970).


The Journey

On being admitted to Sat Purush's court, the soul revels in delight, for the in- ner guru has delivered what he promised: God realization. However, a curious thing happens when the student beholds the Supreme Lord for the first time; the guru is seen as not different from Sat Purush, but rather they are one and inseparable. All along it was not just a human being or an inner spirit guiding the yearning soul but, according to the Saints, the Absolute itself. Now, at this crucial transformation, the student realizes the Supreme Truth that he/she is also not separate from the divine master or the Lord but in eternal unity with them. This enlightenment, unlike the partial glimpses of insight in the intermediary realms, is permanent and lasting; it is the very root of all manifesta- tions, projections, and creations. One without a second; infinity without measure.

Although Sach Khand is the last and final stage, according to the Saints, there are three further levels within it of intensification: alakh (invisible), agam (inaccessi- ble), and anami (nameless). Upon merging with Sat Purush, the spirit is taken up further into the very depths of the Absolute, experiencing what no words or approx- imations can adequately describe. Shiv Dayal Singh (1970) says it is but "wonder, wonder, wonder; wonder hath assumed a form." Faqir Chand, in this usual iconoc- lastic manner, describes the highest state as follows: "Beyond Agam is only realiza- tion. I do know that there is something in me that listens to the Supreme Shabd.

I used to listen to bells, thunders, and vina, but

now I listen only to one sound, which is an unbreakable tune, about which I cannot say any word. It is what it is. Now at this age of ninety two years I do not care for the Sound and Light too. Why? Because Light is seen by Me (Sat Purush/Anami)

and Sound is heard by Me. Then who is great? Light or Sound or He who sees it and listens to it? So far, my realization is concerned, bubble will merge in the ocean. "

Light will merge in the Light

What is that? That I do not know

(Faqir Chand, 1978)


The Enchanted Land

According to the Saints it should be remembered that Sat Purush is not some mysterious God which is vastly greater than our limited selves. Rather, it is, in the most profound sense, our very beings. We are not less than it, nor greater than we are it. No subject, no object, just pure unqualified Being in an ocean of infinite creative power. It may appear that the Master and God are separate from the dis- ciple, but in truth they are but expressions of the same Whole, the same One (Cha- ran Singh, 1979).


The preceding phenomenological description of the soul's ascent, although undoubtedly fascinating, leaves many problems and unanswered questions, not the least of which concerns the notion of Self realization and God realization. Though we have seen, in a rather armchair fashion, what occurs to consciousness during surat shabd yoga meditations, the ultimate validity of such a process has been left unexamined. For instance, what is considered to be the goal in kundalini yoga (sahasrar chakra) is regarded as but the first stage in shabd yoga. Likewise, jnana yoga (the causal path of knowledge) posits that its method bypasses both kundalini and shabd by directly inquiring into one's conscious existence--the source of awareness itself (Bubba [Da] Free John, 1977). Hence, what we have here is not only a conflict in transpersonal methodologies, but a paradox over what constitutes ultimate truth and reality. Is shabd yoga higher than kundalini? Does the Advaita Vedanta tradition (jnana yoga) transcend all other spiritual disciplines? The answers, of course, are not easy or forthcoming, except if we happen to belong to a particular school of thought and are consciously or unconsciously preju- diced in our analysis (Lane, 1984). Instead of resorting to quick and premature


The Journey

conclusions, so as to resolve an emotional religious debate, what is needed is a suspension of belief and a program for action which incorporates experientially the various techniques outlined in the contrasting yogic systems. Our purpose here will not be so much to determine which path is higher, but to correlate the findings in an intelligent and comprehensive way. Surat shabd yoga, I suggest, is quite suitable for such a scientific endeavor in that it lends itself to a series of repeatable experiments. With a group of like-minded experimenters, fruitful discussions and inter subjective dialogues can be based upon direct mystical encounters instead of just imaginative philosophical speculation (Ken Wilber, 1983). Although many religious advocates claim that mysticism cannot be reduced to science, it should be understood that what goes under the name of spirituality is not exempt from rational inspection. Rather, I would argue, it is not only viable that mystical insights come to the public eye for closer scrutiny, it is necessary. We can no longer turn our backs to the glaring fact that the most important issues in life (the purpose of human beings, life after death, the concept of God, etc.) are often left to the closed systems of dogma and ritual. Genuine science, in the larger context of the term, is naturally amiable to purview any event in human life, if only allowed a reasonable chance. We are, though most of us do not like to admit it, scared of that which we are not sure of. How does the kundalini yogi, or the shabd yogi, or the jnana yogi know he/she has the "highest" path? Regardless of what we may argue or wish to be the case, the bottom line in all religious aspirations is that we do not know absolutely. This ignorance, instead of being something to fear, should be made the very basis of our transpersonal science. Science, in the end, does not provide ultimate knowledge, but presents an ev- er-widening vision of human life. The necessary seeds for nurturing this larger perspective are more actual experiments in consciousness studies and less juxtaposi-


The Enchanted Land

tioning of doctrines. Though we may not want to live in a world void of certainty, reality rejoices in it, with change being the only constant knowable. Hence, surat shabd yoga should be utilized as a practical methodology for transpersonal experiences with the keen understanding beforehand that it will serve as a tool for an open system of investigation; one which accepts the writings of previous masters as useful guidelines but not as unquestionable books of dogma and law (Charan Singh, 1967). Only in this way, can such a yogic discipline be regarded as scientific. It is my contention that the future of transpersonal psychology depends more on the actual transformation of individuals or communities via rigorous spiritual experimentation than the endless theoretical debates between scholars over which path is highest, fastest, and most reliable. Road maps go a long way, no doubt, in helping one find direction, but they do not take a would-be traveler anywhere. Transpersonal science, at least in the beginning stages, will be mostly concen- trated on safe transcendent excursions. Shabd yoga, like other disciplines of its kind, is one useful way to experience transmundane realities. However, its ultimate onto- logical status, as with other spiritual paths, is best left open.



The Journey

Chand, Faqir. Science of God Realization. Translated by Swami Yogeshwar. Hoshiarpur: Manavta Mandir, 1978. Chand, Faqir. Jeevan Mutki. Translated by B.R. Kamal. Hoshiarpur: Manavta Mandir, 1976. Chand, Faqir. Yogic Philosophy of the Saints. Translated by B.R. Kamal. Ho- shiarpur: Manavta, 1980. Eliade, Mircea. Yoga: Immortality and Freedom. Translated from the French by Willard R. Trask. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1971. Free John, Bubba [Da]. The Paradox of Instruction. San Francisco: Dawn Horse Press, 1977. Johnson, Julian P. Path of the Masters. Beas: Radha Soami Satsang, 1974. Johnson, Julian. With a Great Master in India. Beas: Radha Soami Satsang,


Lane, David. "The Hierarchical Structure of Religious Visions." Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, Vol.15, 1. Lane, David. The Radhasoami Tradition. New York: Garland Publishing, 1992. Lane, David. "Transcendental Sociology". The Laughing Man Magazine, Vo- lume 4, number 4. Moody, Raymond. Life after Life. Atlanta: Mockingbird Books, 1975. Ring, Kenneth. Life at Death. New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan,


Sahib, Rai Munshi Ram. With the Three Masters. Beas: Radha Soami, 1974. Rumi. The Teachings of Rumi. Translated & Abridged by E.H. Whinfield. New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1975.


The Karma: Cause & Effect?

Question: It is written in the books that it is impossible for us to understand karma entirely until we reach the first region. Maharaj Charan Singh: Yes, it is not possible for you to know due to what karma you have to get this and due to what karma you got that. You cannot discriminate whether it is a new seed or whether you are reaping the fruit of the old seed. That is what I say, at this stage it is not possible for us to differentiate, so we should take an objective view, a practical view. We should try to do good and then leave the results to the Lord.

Karma is perhaps the least understood concept in Eastern mysticism. One often hears satsangis and seekers refer to a particular event (usually something tragic) as "that's his or her karma." On the surface of it, such statements look innocent enough, especially when saints and sages from India have spoken (since time imme- morial) of a person's fate in terms of the inexorable law of karma, the moral equiva- lent of Newton's law of cause and effect, action and reaction, etc. However, there is a very curious problem in the haphazard use of the word karma that is for the most part glossed over or neglected. Even if we accept the idea of karma and its apparent universal applicability, we can never truly discern any one thing as not karmic since the implication in Eastern philosophy and mysticism is that everything is karmically bound. Thus karma as a concept cannot in any singular case be utilized as an explanation of some event, some action, some retribution. Or, if we do dare to use it as such, we are more or less speaking gibberish. A crude example may illustrate this better for us:

let's say that a person breaks his or her leg. We learn about it later and with our new found vocabulary we immediately say something like "Well, that's karma." Yet, if we are to be consistent in our understanding we must also say that everything preceding

The Karma

the event of breaking one's leg is also karmic--even our statement to the effect that "that's karma" is itself karmic. What do we have here? It's really quite simple: we have an all or nothing proposition which has absolutely no discerning force in explaining anything that can occur. We might as well say that everything is caused by "I don't know." Because in a strange twist of phrase, if everything is karmic (for simplicity's sake, say everything is significant or has meaning), then nothing in particular is karmic (or is significant or has meaning), since all karma is interconnected. In other words, if everything is significant, then nothing individually is significant. That is, nothing stands apart from anything else; nothing has peculiar or distinctive meaning. We are caught in an intractable web and anytime we try to isolate one event from another and pontificate on its titular importance we lose a vital chain in its ultimate interdependence. Thus when we say something is karmic, we are (unconsciously, no doubt and not with any evil intention, of course) acting like we know something profound and we are saying something brilliant. We are doing neither. We are simply illustrating how genuinely confused we are over the immensity of the concept. Because to truly understand karma is to realize that we cannot at any stage distinguish one event from another and then extrapolate and pass judgment on that one ferreted out sequence. More simply, if karma is indeed karma, it is inextricably intertwined with an almost infinite matrix of other sequences--none of which can be divorced from each other. What is quite intriguing about all of this is that if we truly understand that everything has meaning (everything is distinguished, let's say again, in exchange) then we could just as easily say that nothing (read: no thing--with an emphasis on the no and emphasis on the space between no and thing) has meaning or nothing has significance. No-thing, in other words, is karmic. Which leads us to this: if no thing has meaning, then we could just as easily say that all events are the result of chance. And by chance, I mean that we cannot properly adjudicate any one event and give it


The Enchanted Land

a truly causal basis. Rather, we could only give it a probable explanation--not dissimi- lar to quantum mechanics and Heisenberg's principle of uncertainty (though I don't want to at this stage commit the fallacy that all things are collapsed to the same dimensional level of explanation). Let me punch line this: We are probably must more honest when we say to the person who wants a moral explanation to why he/she and not somebody else broke their leg that "we really don't know why such and such happened, ultimately." All we know in terms of moral ontology is that certain phenomenal events occur which lead us to such and such a conclusion. But instead of simply stating our ignorance or our limited point of view or our basic statistical correlations, we instead saying something completely inane. We say something like it's is "karma," as if we have just revealed our brilliance. We have, of course, revealed nothing of the sort. We have revealed our ignorance. As we should know by now, nobody knows what karma ultimately is. Why? Because it is an endless circle. All actions are interconnected which leads to the previous action which leads to its previous action which ultimately leads to the original initial action which leads to the causal basis of being or matter or "I really don't ultimately know what" which ends up where we started: not knowing. Thus it may be that materialists are being more polite and perhaps a bit more accurate and surely a lot less arrogant, when they say that randomness (even if that chaos has some ultimate predictable order) or chance is at the bottom or top of the universe. Randomness or chance at least has the linguistic advantage of conveying upon its listener the sense of unknowingness. All of this points to the fact that we use the concept of karma like a political weapon to justify what we don't understand, or, in some cases, to jockey for some perceived status of deep insight among a sea of naive humans. We act like we know something when we truly do not. Much better, I suspect, to say that we really don't know much. As Charan Singh stated to an Ameri-


The Karma

can audience in 1964 when asked about karma: "We cannot think from this point of view, that we should make a choice according to our karmic background. We cannot

know what is our karma or what is in store for us

our choice by saying it is in my karma to do this. It is difficult for us to know what is the right choice, according to our karmic background. Karma will take care of our choice automatically. We need not try to analyze what is our karma or what is not our karma, for that will take care of itself."

We should never try to justify


About the Author

David Christopher Lane is a Professor of Philosophy at Mount San Antonio College and a Lecturer in Religious Studies at California State University, Long Beach. Professor Lane received his Ph.D. and M.A. in Sociology from the University of California, San Diego, where he was a recipient of a Regents Fellowship. Addi- tionally, he earned an M.A. in the History and Phenomenology of Religion from the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley. Dr. Lane is the author of several books including The Radhasoami Tradition and Exposing Cults (New York: Garland Publishers, 1992 and 1994 respectively). He is the founder of the Neural Surfer website (http://www.neuralsurfer.com). Professor Lane won the World Bodysurf- ing Championships in 1999 and the International Bodysurfing Championships in 1997, 1998, 2000, and 2004. He is married to Dr. Andrea Diem with whom he has two boys, Shaun-Michael and Kelly-Joseph. Currently he is working on a feature length documentary film entitled In Search of the Perfect Coke.