Author: David Christopher Lane and Doug Publisher: The NEURAL SURFER Publication date: June 1997
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DOUG WRITES: David, I took up your suggestion, and have been reading further. I picked up a copy of "Radhasoami Reality" by your friend, Mark Juergensmeyer. However, I ran across a curious statement on page 70, where Mark writes: "Beas even accepts that Rai Saligram was an authentic gurmukh (successor), though it does not believe that his lineage has continued." DAVID LANE REPLIES: Thanks for following up my lead, Doug. I don't even think Beas believes that Salig Ram was authentic. Read what Jaimal Singh says about Salig Ram and Brahm Shankar Misra in SPIRITUAL LETTERS. DOUG WRITES: This seemed rather surprising. Fortunately he gave a reference for this statement: A book called "Radha Swami Teachings" by L. R. Puri. As chance would have it, an old ECK friend recently passed away and left me some of her books in her last will and testament, of which an early edition of this very book happened to one. On page 126-127 of that book it says: "Similarly, after Swami Ji (Shiv Dayal Singh) himself, there were four men who worked as Gurus. They were: "(1) Seth Partap Singh...of Agra... "(2) Rai Salig Ram...of Agra... "(3) Baba Gharib Das...of Delhi... "(4) Baba Jaimal Singh...of Beas... "We should further remember that out of these four Gurus (Masters), the first three passed away without appointing any successor. Therefore their lines of Gurus ended with them. Only Baba Jaimal Singh, who was a 'Param Sant' (Supreme Saint), appointed during his lifetime, a right and proper successor, viz., Maharaj Sawan Singh Ji..." When I read this, I was somewhat shocked. As I am sure you would agree, this is not true at all, and it strikes me as a bald-faced lie. As your own chart of Radhasoami lineage, in the back of Juergensmeyer's book shows, all of the above four gurus had successors, especially Rai Salig Ram, whose lineage is the most extensive of all the Radhasoami Masters (not counting Shiv Dayal Singh the founder, of course.) Now, it looks like Mr. Puri is playing a little word game here, by saying that Jaimal Singh was the only one of the four gurus to appoint "during his lifetime" a successor, and somehow therefore feels he can conclude that the other successors do not count. He does not tell anyone here that he is drawing this subtle distinction, however, but leaves the unwary reader to think that the lineage of Shiv Dayal Singh only continued through Jaimal Singh. Wouldn't you agree? DAVID LANE REPLIES: Each lineage has a tendency to be myopic about its religious history. Salig Ram did not leave a successor during this lifetime. This is very clear and is, ironically, discussed at length in a series of letters by his eventual majority successor, Brahm Shankar Misra (see "Solace to Satsangis). Puri's book, RADHA SWAMI TEACHINGS, was actually written in response to the numerous books by S.D. Maheshwari. Thus, there is a political impulse that contextualizes the entire book. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, S.D. Maheshwari's books were calling into question both the Dayal Bagh and Beas Satsang versions of Radhasoami history. They caused quite a stir among certain satsangis in both camps. Puri's book and R.K. Khanna's book were, in large part, responses and critiques to Maheshwari's charges. Maheshwari, for instance, argued that ONLY the Soami Bagh gurus were legitimate (his term, "Parent" group) and all others were splinters or offshoots. What we tend to see in R.S. history books written by various lineages is more or less a biased version favoring their particular parampara or guru lineage. But this is not to say that such books, because of those slants, are not without merit. I clearly think that Maheshwari's books (regardless of his worldview) are extremely valuable sources of information. Puri's book is simply a polemic which attempts to buttress the BEAS lineage in contradistinction with the Agra lineages. DOUG WRITES: Doesn't this strike you as a distortion of the truth, in fact as an outright lie? Has this been changed in later editions of the book, or does it still read this way? I know that this book has been, in the past, one of the prominent books distributed by Beas, is this still true, or has it been removed from distribution? DAVID LANE REPLIES: Salig Ram did not leave a successor during his lifetime. There was, as Brahm Shankar Misra, reports much confusion. On this point, Puri is correct, since Jaimal Singh did indeed appoint Sawan Singh during his lifetime (see SPIRITUAL LETTERS and SPIRITUAL GEMS). I think what you are objecting to you is that Puri is writing a polemic in favor of Beas's lineage. That's a religious view and one which I happen to disagree with. See, for instance, my whole series on lineage in my shabd yoga section of the Neural Surfer. Also, please read my take of early R.S. history in my book, THE RADHASOAMI TRADITION (Garland, 1992; and currently online as well). Faqir Chand has a really telling story about this whole type of thinking in the UNKNOWING SAGE where he personally experienced the "politics" of guru succession. DOUG WRITES: If you agree with me, that with what we know today these statements by Mr. Puri are not true, then, since this book is distributed by the very branch that you have followed, I am curious what you have done to correct and remove this falsehood. Did you talk to Charan Singh about this? If it has not been corrected, and is still in its original form, have you tried to share these errors to other followers of Beas? DAVID LANE REPLIES: Each R.S. satsang has a tendency to believe that its lineage (and sometimes ONLY its lineage) is the True and Correct one. Each of the satsangs tend to write histories in FAVOR of their peculiar and particular slant. It is rarely objective, but almost always underlines their theological views on the past. That is why I originally called my PH.D. dissertation: "The POLITICS of Guru Successorship." It can be quite ugly (see my series on THE GURU HAS NO TURBAN). Much of my own work has been on R.S. history.... much more than on Eckankar, for example. My M.A. thesis back in 1981 was an attempt to provide a WIDER history on R.S. than had ever been provided, even by the likes of Agam Prasad Mathur; whereas, my Ph.D. dissertation was designed to show the utter humanness in guru succession and all its strange twists and turns. As for me informing Beas about such, why do you think I worked for so long with Juergensmeyer on his book? I gave him copies of Maheshwari's books; I told him about the other satsangs that he had never heard of, like Faqir Chand. I even went and visited some of the major centers in India on his behalf. Juergensmeyer's book, as you can tell, attempts to give a WIDER reading than any in-house history, and it was for that very reason that I worked so hard on his text. I tried to do the same with THE RADHASOAMI TRADITION which if you read closely comes up with some very startling conclusions (in light of my own personal involvement). THE UNKNOWING SAGE is perhaps the single most radical text in R.S. Not because of me, but because of Faqir's universal rip of gurus and their "lineages." I have repeatedly written to the Dera about a wide range of historical matters, including the misleading information about Kehr Singh Sasmus in Dawn of LIGHT. DOUG WRITES: There were a few other concerns I had about this same chapter in the book, by Mr. Puri. I'm curious how you feel about these as well. First, Mr. Puri discusses two theories held by other branches of Radhasoami: The Dhar (Current) Theory, and the Interregnum Theory. In both cases, it appears that Mr. Puri has presented these theories in such a distorted manner as to make them appear as the utmost in stupidity. It is possible, of course, that Mr. Puri was simply ignorant about the true meaning of these theories, but from what we know today wouldn't you say that his explanations of these theories was completely inaccurate? Wouldn't you say that someone reading his descriptions would completely write off those theories as being ridiculous, if they had not already learned about them before? Doesn't this strike you as blatant propaganda, and misinformation? DAVID LANE REPLIES: What you must realize is that Puri's book is itself a political and polemical RESPONSE to S.D. Maheshwari's books on R.S. history. As such, it is more or less an argument on behalf of BEAS, and not at all about R.S. in general. Thus it contains all the weird doctrines that have arisen in R.S. over the years, including the Interrgenum Theory, which, by the way, is NOT held by Puri but BY SOAMI BAGH and S.D. Maheshwari. Do I think Puri's book is a a good historical tome on Radhasoami? NOPE. Quite frankly, I think it sucks in that regard. But he was not trying to write a history, but a defense of Beas' version of their take on R.S. history/theology/lineage. In that regard, it is a political tract and must be seen (for better or worse) as such. DOUG WRITES: If you do agree with me, which I suspect you do, then what have you done to see that this is corrected? How many disciples of Charan Singh have you written to, to let them know of these distortions? DAVID LANE REPLIES: I don't think you know my history with Beas very well, Doug. Let me put this to you bluntly: The Beas Publications Department DOES NOT LIKE what I write. They don't like my work on Faqir Chand (point blank told me I would be doing NO service to Sant Mat) They didn't like my M.A. thesis (again, told me that I would be doing NO service to Sant Mat) They didn't want me to publish THE RADHASOAMI TRADITION (Dr. Narang, now deceased, was particularly troubled by my refusal to cave in). They don't like me writing on the Internet about Radhasoami Beas (I have received tens of letters worldwide asking to me "delete" what I have written on R.S.). I am absolutely certain that they wouldn't like my series on THE GURU HAS NO TURBAN or the series on THE MAGIC OF AN ELEVATED PODIUM. Are you getting my drift, Doug? I am writing on all this stuff precisely because I have been asked not to and I feel quite strongly that the more information we get (even if it is slanted via Puri or Maheshwari) the better. DOUG WRITES: I certainly have seen the value in what you have published about Paul Twitchell, surely ECKists aren't the only ones to benefit from your dogged dedication to printing the truth. The last problem I wanted to raise, concerns Mr. Puri's fancy footwork concerning guru succession. He writes on page 127: "However, a true successor to a Guru cannot be determined by election or by someone claiming to be Guru. He can be appointed only by the previous Guru, before his departure from the world." Then on page 131 he writes: "And lastly, any man can in course of time, claim to be successor. Who is there to judge whether he is the right and true successor? Only the previous Guru could do that; but he is not there now to help us out of this difficulty. If he had liked, if he had wanted to do it, he could have appointed a successor during his lifetime and before he left the world for good. If he has not done so, then his line of Gurus has certainly come to an end." The problem I have with these statements, is that my understanding is that Jaimal Singh did exactly what Mr. Puri says; in the course of time he claimed to be a successor. Please correct me if I am wrong here, David, but I believe it was many years after Shiv Dayal Singh died before Baba Jaimal in any way began acting as a guru, and that while Shiv Dayal did openly appoint and acknowledge Rai Salig Ram as a successor, he never said a word to anyone else about Baba Jaimal. I am right here? DAVID LANE REPLIES: I have written extensively on this very point. See my book THE RADHSOAMI TRADITION and my various articles on shabd yoga. If we accept the obvious hagiographical "last words" of Shiv Dayal Singh as authentic (I find them questionable, even if interesting), then there are two people Shiv Dayal Singh appoints: 1. His wife, Radhaji, for householders. and 2. Sanmukh Das, for sadhus. Seth Partap Singh, Shiv Dayal's brother, is allegedly encouraged to hold satang and make others do it as well. On this score, Jaimal Singh was extensively backed to do his work by Partap Singh, the eventual president of the CAC (see the historical letters on this score in SPIRITUAL LETTERS). My personal view is that there was more or less a free-for-all after Shiv Dayal Singh's death and that many were encouraged to work as representatives or gurus on BEHALF of Shiv Dayal's ministry. Jaimal Singh was supported in his ministry (rightly or wrongly) by both Sanmukh Das and Radhaji. Indeed, Jaimal Singh paid allegiance to Shiv Dayal Singh's family in this regard (Partap Singh and Radhaji). The history is much more human than the lineages wish to reveal. DOUG WRITES: Also, although Beas accepts the idea of there being more than one successor when it comes to Shiv Dayal Singh, they reject Kirpal Singh, even though he was recognized as one of the foremost disciples of Sawan Singh, and claims to have been appointed by Sawan Singh to carry forth with the spiritual teachings. Jaimal Singh was not even considered one of the foremost disciples of Shiv Dayal Singh, the two having only visited a few short times. Am I right here, David? DAVID LANE REPLIES: Yes, Beas does not accept Kirpal Singh's claim to be Sawan Singh's successor. Likewise, Kirpal Singh does not accept Jagat Singh's claim to be Sawan Singh's spiritual successor. [Weird sidebar: Darshan Singh, Kirpal's son and main successor, claims that there can only be ONE TRUE satguru at a time....] No, Jaimal Singh met with Shiv Dayal Singh a number of times; indeed, he stayed with him for a long period when his army was stationed in Agra. Kirpal Singh also spent a large amount of time with Sawan Singh. DOUG WRITES: Also, as Mark writes in his book, there have been claims made by the Agra branches, that certain key sections have been eliminated from the Beas edition of Sar Bachan, by Shiv Dayal, that strongly suggest that the original founder of Radhasoami said there would be one successor, and that the disciple should look to this successor as the same as his guru. Indeed, the Agra branch seems to have pretty strong evidence to show that these sections were removed, and that they were valid in their authenticity, including the original handwritten document written under Shiv Dayal's dictation, and witnessed by others. DAVID LANE REPLIES: Yes, you are talking about bachan 250 in Sar Bachan Prose. The Beas version does NOT include the longer section which was written by Rai Salig Ram in a letter to Shiv Dayal Singh's nephew, Sudarshan Singh. The Agra version states that the disciple should look to the successor for further guidance after the guru dies (even doing his "dhyan"), whereas the Beas version states that one's initiating guru is sufficient, even if no inner progress has been made. The Beas versions also have apparently deleted the references to "huqqa" smoking in Sar Bachan Poetry. [One warning: Sar Bachan is a compilation of notes and dictations, not an actual book which was written during Shiv Dayal's lifetime; it also contains a large amount of poems that were apparently not written by Shiv Dayal, but by others.] DOUG WRITES: Is this what you meant about your disillusionment concerning the succession of gurus? You said that you thought these things were really very human in nature, not as divine as the followers would like to believe. Was this the result of your realization that what was written, and taught, about these matters were largely propaganda, with massive distortions of the truth? DAVID LANE REPLIES: Yep, and I had the great opportunity of actually visiting the various gurus and ashrams so I got a firsthand look. Much more human than we tend to believe. Read Faqir Chand on this; it is quite revealing. Also see my Conclusion to the R.S. TRADITION--THE ROOTS OF HAGIOGRAPHY. DOUG WRITES: I think now, perhaps, I can understand your sensitivity to Paul Twitchell's stories about his lineage of teachers. It was largely out of the distaste for the stories you had read from the Beas teachings, wasn't it? Once you saw it there, it seemed like you saw the same thing everywhere, isn't that true? I think I understand this a little better. DAVID LANE REPLIES: NOPE. You got it backwards here. I found that Twitchell had DENIED his guru connections, whereas in the R.S. lineages they were trying to INFLATE their guru connections in order to justify their respective lineages and claims. Twitchell lied about his past to conceal it; whereas some in R.S. exaggerated their past in order to REVEAL why they were to be considered a master, etc. Moreover, what I found Twitchell doing was quite intriguing. It was only much later that I used my Twitchellian discoveries on the origins of R.S. DOUG WRITES: But why is it that you are not as vocal, or clearly as accusatory toward kk the Beas distortions? It seems like you were far more patient, tolerant, and kindly to the Beas followers, but wasn't it there first that you saw these deceptions? Or did you turn up Paul Twitchell's copying first? DAVID LANE REPLIES: Vocal? Patient? Tolerant? Thanks for the compliments, but it is obvious that you don't have an inkling of what my history with the BEAS organization has been. You should talk to Aaron Talsky about what kind of heat I have taken for my writings. I am much more vocal on R.S. history than any other subject. Read what I say in the GURU has NO TURBAN and the UNKNOWING SAGE. Do you know that Faqir Chand's successor threatened to SUE me? Do you know that I had to contravene my own satsang when I published my writings on Faqir and R.S. history? No, Doug, go do an altavista search on Radhasoami. I have more critical stuff on R.S. than anybody on the Internet. DOUG WRITES: I have one more question. In Mark's book, on the same page 70, he says that "Beas claims that one section of the Agra version of Sar Bachan: Prose has been altered to exclude reference to previous sants." Unfortunately Mark did not give any reference to this claim. Can you tell me where this is from. Do you know which section this is? What the Agra version says, versus what the Beas group says it should say? DAVID LANE REPLIES: Tell me the page in R.S. REALITY and i will check up on it for you. As it stands, I am not sure in which context this refers. DOUG WRITES: I enjoy, like you, tracking some of these things down. Although you have lost your confidence on the validity of the spiritual teachings, perhaps due to some of these exaggerations of truth and misinformation that you have experienced first hand, it has not had that effect on me. I think that we both agree that it is best if the facts are addressed and dealt with honestly. Where we seem to disagree is that you seem to believe that all spiritual knowledge is inherently compromised by illusionary, mythical thinking, and only provable facts can be trusted. I, on the other hand, believe that direct spiritual experience can lead to a personal understanding that shows the meaning behind why we are here in this world, and offers a greater insight into the strange goings-on in religion, as well as mythology. DAVID LANE REPLIES: No, Doug, I am as mythic and emotional and naive as the next guy. I am still a strict vegetarian, I still don't drink alcohol or take drugs, I still meditate. Indeed, as I have stated many times before, I miss Charan Singh more now than before. The only thing that has happened is that I have become more skeptical. My guru used to say that critics are our best friends. I think he is right. One can still meditate and still love one's path or guru and be critically informed at the same time. The Tibetan Book of the Dead is a radically skeptical book, as is THE UNKNOWING SAGE, as is (in parts) TREASURE BEYOND MEASURE. It may well be that I think the old adage is right: little doubt, little faith. GREAT DOUBT, great faith.... Thanks so much for your fine questions.... This is my background so feel most free to shoot right from the hip. dave
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I want to go back to the home base now.