The Living Master Controversy: A discussion between Joseph Polanik and David Lane

Author: David Christopher Lane & Joseph Polanik
Publisher: The NEURAL SURFER
Publication date: May 1997

E-mail David Christopher Lane directly at

I want to go back to the home base now.


David Lane wrote:
> There is a very interesting dialogue/debate brewing about
> Sathya Sai Baba. I have included the first few installments
> of it on the Neural Surfer.
> Look under the Guru Depository section which is near the end of
> point4.html.


FYI, Dave, you could give the exact URL that would allow the visitor to
land right in the document. Is your way of doing things a way of making
everyone wander thru your anti-Eckankar section just to get to the
anti-Sai Baba section? This limp style of citing an URL promotes a guilt
by association impression. 


No, Joseph, I just refer to point4.html in general since the whole
section deals with various cults and gurus. Nope, I didn't have any
ulterior motive in mind. But I am open to new suggestions so I will
try my best to give you exact coordinates in the future. 

> It raises all sorts of intriguing questions about guru/disciple
> relationships.


All you've done is expose a certain guru as a degenerate. Although that
is certainly a valuable piece of work, you've not raised any questions
about the Guru/Chela relationship itself.


I do think it raises issues on the guru/chela relationship since
none of us really do know the "full" story of our gurus (including
me), and thus it is interesting to view how various sides "see" and
"argue" about Sai Baba's interactions.

This is not fundamentally different (in terms of structural replies)
from how we may see Joseph Smith and his numerous wives, or Shiv
Dayal Singh's huqqa smoking (especially among those who think it
didn't happen), or Twitchell's plagiarism, or Darwin Gross'
womanizing (ask Harji about that, for example), or Da Free John's
partying on Fiji, etc.

What the Sai Baba debate reveals (explicitly, I believe) is how
disciples--in general--tend to react to "bad" news.

Clearly, there are exceptions, but I do think the ongoing debate
(there are a number of new replies--back and forth--on this subject
about Sai) is pregnant and full of suggestive leads for would-be
devotees of any guru.

I know it has been for me personally.


So, Dave, you found and exposed a guru who conducted himself badly. How
does that raise questions about the Guru/Chela relationship itself? And
what are those questions?


Very simply:

Do we REALLY know our gurus (good or bad)?

If not, then Sai's secret side could--potentially--be illustrative
of the secret side of any one guru (and I am not suggesting the
same sort of sexual funkiness, but anything which is not publicly
displayed or acknowledged and would rankle the disciple's peace of

I find the Sai debate indicative of a much larger problem in the
guru/chela relationship and that centers on:

How much we DON'T really know about our gurus.

And I would say this about ALL gurus, with no exceptions whatsoever.

I find this "limited knowledge" and our reactions to various
revelations from this closet very interesting and very instructive.

For that reason, I think much can be learned from this Sai debate,
regardless of whether or not we think our gurus are squeaky clean.

Hey, I used to think Frank Gifford was squeaky clean too.......


So there is bound to be a certain amount of cognitive dissonance here
which gets resolved by an application of the 'Last Man Standing' 
principle: Tear down all other gurus and you won't have to abandon your
fixation on the memory of a dead one.


First of all, Joseph, go back and read the Beas-related books
(including Kirpal Singh's) about the idea of "One" guru. You seem to
have either misread or misunderstood a very basic point about how to
view the successor of one's guru. He or she is not a "new" guru to
the disciple, but rather strengthens the relationship one already
has with his/her initiating guru. No need for a second initiation;
no need for a new guru. The successor helps the disciple in his
already established relationship; he does not replace it. Read
Charan Singh on this subject or Sawan Singh or Kirpal Singh.

This "last man standing" idea is silly.

Hey, I miss my brother Michael (he's dead), but that doesn't mean
that I have to tear down all other brothers so I don't have to
abandon my fixation on the memory of a dead one.

Given your line of reasoning, Rumi was an idiot (geez, Rumi, get
over that fixation on Shams of Tabriz... move on, dude..... Get a
new guru, bro.... And hey, Rumi, cool it with that longing stuff).

I will always miss my brother. I will always miss my father.

I will always miss Charan Singh.

That's the nature of being in love.

Charan Singh missed Sawan Singh very much and said so to me (even
getting quite emotionally touched in the telling) just six months
before his death in 1990.

Gurinder Singh, Charan's successor, didn't write to me:

"Hey, bro, I am the new guru. Now adopt me."

Instead he wrote, "the death of Huzur Maharaj is the greatest
tragedy of our lives." (personal letter; note he said "our").

It is for me.

Yet, that is also a source of great love and great longing.

I wouldn't replace it for a second.

Ask Rumi to give up his longing for Shams.

Ask Mary Magdala to give up her longing for Jesus.

Ask me to give up my "missing" my brother Michael and your words
will fall on deaf ears.

The same with my love and longing for my deceased guru.

I could care less about the theology (though it too supports my view
on this) of Sant Mat, since I care about the humanness.


As for "tearing" down all "other" gurus, I think you fundamentally
misunderstand me.

Faqir Chand point blank contradicts Charan Singh, yet I published
Faqir's writings in the West (and continue to do so).

One can love one's guru while still being critical.

I think there are many mothers, I don't think my mother is the only

The same with gurus.

I just argue for a critical posture--of whatever guru.


Joseph P. Writes:

You are evading my point by changing the subject.

A few years ago, the voters of the District of Columbia elected a
convicted coke user (Marion Berry) to the position of Mayor of the City
Council. However much this may reveal about the reaction of disciples to
"bad" news about their chosen candidate, it says nothing about the
relationship between the citizen and the city. In particular, there is
no suggestion that we can dispense with city governments because each
person is his/her own governor.

David Lane Replies:

Your analogy does not fit. How do you "know" that we cannot dispense
with gurus? What may be viewed as necessary by one party, may be
viewed as unnecessary by another. One may wish to take a wife or
a husband, but it does not mean that everyone must. To be sure, one
may adopt a guru and be proud of it, but it does not follow that
it is an ontological pre-requisite (except, of course, in the
books of guru movements). 


Well, then, if we uncover any of these suggestive leads in the
relationship between Lane and Lane's Guru, would that be an instance of
Socratic style spiritual midwifery? Let's see if our efforts result in a
healthy insight, a stillborn speculation or a partial birth abortive

In "Numinous Neurology" [ ---
see how easy that was!] you wrote:

    "I was never really attracted to "Shabd Yoga" theology, as such. As
    I have often stated to myself and others, I love Charan Singh,
    DESPITE (not because of) Radhasoami. What this means, of course, is
    that I was attracted to the person first and all the rest was filler
    for me. For others in religion, it may be the opposite: he or she
    loves their guru or leader BECAUSE of the teachings or the path or
    the way....."
You have on several occasions stated that you miss Charan Singh very
much and never made the transition to accepting someone else as your
guru. Now, the various strands of Sant Mat say that a guru is necessary.
For example, Kirpal Singh: "The need of a Guru or Master is absolute,
and there can be no exception to the rule." [_The Spiritual Path_ p 117]


First of all, Joseph, I think you misunderstand a basic point in the
Beas related literature (including that of Kirpal Singh).

In these Sant Mat related movements, the argument is for ONE guru,
not many.

Once a disciple is initiated by a genuine guru (given the respective
lineage's criteria) there is no need whatsoever to adopt a new guru.
Indeed, it is argued that it is wrong.

So in Beas related movements, the disciple follows only ONE guru
(namely the one who initiated him), even after the guru dies.

For instance, in the Beas literature, it is stressed that a disciple
should only do dhyan (contemplation) of his initiating guru (if he
has seen him) and NOT of his predecessor or his successor.

So your point that I didn't adopt the new guru is wrong from the
theological perspective of the Beas group. Yes, the successor is a
help, but he is NOT a new guru to the disciple. That relationship,
according to the books, is singular (not plural).

The successor, it is argued, helps the disciple focus his love and
devotion to the guru who initiated him (not to switch it).

For example, Charan Singh didn't adopt Jagat Singh as his "new

Sawan Singh was his guru and until the very last year of his life,
Charan Singh deeply missed Sawan Singh. I know because he told me
so in a public form. I asked him in 1989 (December, some six months
before his death): "What do you miss most about the old Dera?"

Charan Singh replied: "I only miss the Great Master [Sawan Singh]."

He didn't say, "Yea, and I miss his successor too.


As for me, let's forget this Sant Mat rhetoric for a second.

My brother Michael died in 1991 unexpectedly. I loved him deeply.

I am not looking for a "new" brother, nor do I have any desire to
go searching for one.

I miss Michael. That was unique.

Okay, the same (for me) with Charan Singh.

I am not looking for a new guru, nor do I desire one.

I miss him. That was unique for me.

When you read Rumi, he longs for his beloved. When you read
Mirabai, you find the same.

Read Mary of Magdala (or at least the "story" related about her).

She misses Jesus.

It is really quite simple and is not that complex.

I miss my brother, I miss my father, and I miss my guru.

I am not asking for replacemnts, nor do I desire them.

They were unique to my life experience.

I don't mind the pain associated with their lost; it is part and
parcel of who I am.


So this question of adopting a new guru is moot for me personally.

It is also moot, by the way, according to the Beas books.

The successor offers guidance, he does not offer himself as the New
Guru to the old disciple. That relationship is unique.



I was quoting Kirpal Singh, but I don't think you addressed this issue.
Here's the quote again:

    "The need of a Guru or Master is absolute, and there can be no
    exception to the rule." [_The Spiritual Path_ p 117]

Nowhere (so far as I can tell) does Kirpal Singh give any indication
that an exception to this rule protects the chelas of a departed Master
from needing a living guru. In fact, he stresses the need for a Living

  "In like manner, the aspirant who seeks inner spiritual mastery must
  seek the aid of one who has already mastered the way. All his readings
  of scriptures, all his thinking, can at best lead to a single
  conclusion, provided he is sensitive to the point involved: the need
  for a living Master. Without such a Master he cannot even understand
  the true import of the revelatory scriptures." [_The Spiritual Path_
  p. 34]

However, it is possible that I don't have a representative sample of the
writings of Kirpal Singh. So, if you are claiming that Kirpal Singh
supports your claim that a departed Master remains the guru of his
chelas, would you kindly quote the passages to which you are referring


Yes, Joseph, Kirpal Singh supports my claim. Or should I say the
reverse: I read Kirpal Singh first and therefore understood what
he claimed?

Here's just one quote among many on the subject:

"No, it is NOT AT ALL necessary to have Re-Initiation after the
passing of the Master who originally initiated an individual. IT IS
HIS SOLE RESPONSIBILITY to lead the soul once initiated by him back
to the Home of his Father." (Spiritual Elixir, Volume One, page



Perhaps you should simply quote the passages wherein each of them states
that there is an exception to the requirement of a Living Master in the
case of the chelas of a departed Master. You should already be familiar
with the writings of Charan Singh and it would save the rest of the
newsgroup a possible wild goose chase.


First of all, you were the guy making the claim about what Kirpal
Singh taught and you got it wrong (see above quote, for instance).
Second, if you read the Beas-related books it is quite obvious how
the disciple is to view the successor. Indeed, this very point is
one of the demarcating lines between the Agra groups and the Beas

But to satisfy your request. Here's a quote from Charan Singh:

"79. The Master or the Sat Guru who initiates a disciple, FROM THE
MOMENT OF INITIATION, does ALWAYS take charge of him and keeps on
watching...." (Light on Sant Mat)"

"251.... But the Master who initiated the disciple CONTINUES to be
THE MASTER for THAT disciple and will guide the soul on the Inner
Jagat Singh, who initiated you, IS STILL YOUR MASTER>"


There are tens of quotes like the above from Sawan, Kirpal, and

The idea of a living Master is to get initiated by one, but once
initiated that Master remains "living" to the disciple, even after
death (that's the Sant Mat theology via the Beas line).

This has been very clearly stated in the literature.


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I want to go back to the home base now.