Author: Tony Mohorovic Publisher: The NEURAL SURFER Publication date: August 1997
E-mail David Christopher Lane directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
I want to go back to the home base now.
Science, the Seeker, and Spirituality. By Tony Mohorovic This piece focuses on my observations of Shabda Yoga as a `seeker', as well as why I feel we need to be thoroughly scientific in these matters. The first part involves my reasoning for the use of scientific structure in order to discover `truth', so bare with me if it sounds lifeless for a while as it is the basis of my comments about Shabda Yoga. Although this might seem like a formal essay, it isn't, and you'll notice much of it is from my perspective (certain frustrations with Shabda Yoga will be evident, I'm sure). However, the thinking that has lead to the conclusions is, to the best of my ability, logical, and the conclusions should be judged on that. I'm also going to refer to the Master figure as `he' mainly because the vast majority of the current professed Masters are `he's' and because after a while it just becomes too grammatically cumbersome to write the he/she bit (if anyone out there's got a good genderless pronoun from another language please tell me, it's the sort of thing I'd like to start using). My background? Well, I was initiated by Suma Ching Hai (when she was still Supreme Master Ching Hai). It was very sudden; she was lecturing in Melbourne, I was already vegetarian, yadda, yadda, yadda. I came across Johnson's `With A Great Master in India' at the meditation centre, brought in by an initiate who found it in some book store. I was told it was Ching Hai's Masters Master, and so I came across Radhasoami. I mainly studied the Beas lineage, but also minute portions of Kirpal Singh and Twitchell. And here is my main concern. Shabd Yoga professes to be scientific, yet there are many instances in which it is clearly not so. I was attracted to Shabda Yoga out of curiosity, which turned into a desire for `truth' (reality, or whatever else you want to call it). What was it that kept my interest in this particular spiritual path and not another? Simply, the apparent scientific nature of the theory. The necessity of scientific thinking Why is it necessary for it to be scientific?. Because, for me, it is the most reliable tool we have in the search for `truth', in whatever form. Why? Procedure, procedure, procedure. Why is it that so much weight is given to the findings of `scientists'? It is not for their conclusions or theories or findings. It is because we trust the procedure; how they get to these conclusions. The method is what we use to judge the validity of the conclusions. That is why scientific reports are so important, they outline the exact method. If the method is suspect, then the conclusions can't be trusted. Okay, but who cares about the procedure? What is it about it that we trust so much? Proof. Evidence. We believe kangaroos have pouches because we can see them. We experience the existence of the phenomena. How do we know electricity exists? Well, we experience the effect of electricity in our daily lives. We might not see it directly, but we can be sure there's something running around our houses doing the same things we are told electricity does. Again, we experience it. This is not to say that the scientists can't lie, but scientific procedure, and the fact that the experiments will probably be run again by others, makes lying very difficult to get away with. Scientists who purposefully fabricate evidence are discredited. Where deception does occur, such as in the cigarette industry `we won't tell them it can cause cancer' coverup, it is as a result of the powers that be; the science discovered truth, the company covered it up. So, we don't need to ask for direct proof from scientific results: `show me personally or I can't trust your findings'. Sure, unless I can see it, I can't fully, truly, without a doubt, believe in its existence. However, it is our trust in the procedure of evidence/proof that allows us to believe in the findings. This procedure must be consistent. It only takes one unproven assumption to turn the results around drastically. If it is not consistent, then we're not going to trust this particular scientist's results. Trust in science also stems from the consistency of science, as a whole, to be true to the procedure of evidence/proof. If every second scientific finding was found to be a complete fabrication, then I can't say we'd accept findings as blindly as we do today. Blindly, yes. We can trust the findings but that's no reason not to be open to the possibility that they're incorrect. To some of us, the procedure of evidence/proof seems like another ideology, just another belief system as valid as any other. But how are we to establish the validity of the claims if not by the tested experience of the claimed phenomena? Okay, certain paranormal events might well have occurred, but until they are tested they are claims, or stories, no matter how believable they are, no matter how sincere the witness seems. Yes, it may be true, but it may not be. If they are telling the truth, can we be sure the experience is real? Ok, it was real enough for them, but a real what? An illusion is a real illusion. One can also be conned, and you don't have to be gullible to have that happen. The experience may also not be what they think it is; we're prone to make our own invalidated assumptions in such situations. The world is not round, I see it to be flat. Even direct experience is not always a reliable indicator of truth. Test conditions create an environment in which we can distance ourselves from our own assumptions. They are supposed to make sure there are no other possible explanations, and even then be open to new ones. How do scientific reports, then, differ from the reports of people who have witnessed paranormal events? Well, the events are not experiments, they are events. Events such as these can lead to experiments that test the reality of the situation, but they are not proof in themselves. The events occur outside of test conditions and procedure which, when they are at their best, provide an environment in which there can be no reasonable doubt of the reality of those events. No, I'm not a scientist, not a professional one. I do adhere to scientific thinking, though. The only professional training I've had is in journalism, so if I'm skewed towards `proof' it might as a result of my training (although I've never worked as a professional journo). Whatever my biases, the necessity of `proof' can only be discredited as a conclusion by finding fault in the argument, not in the one who preaches it. I'm not saying that all scientific findings are true. We all know how certain, apparently evident, results have found to be false. But the fact is that science, by the very nature of it's procedure of evidence/proof, opens itself to criticism and further testing. There are no definite results. No absolutes. This procedure opens the practitioner to new ideas, new possibilities, and takes them closer to `truth' each time. The scientist is open. Their results are open . If the results are not changed in the face of new evidence, then it is not science. A scientific theory is said to be as much -, a theory. It is as yet unproven or not completely proven. Of-course, you'll come across people who, despite their apparent scientific background, will believe in these theories religiously (funny how we use `religiously' these days). This is not true science. Okay, let's get back to basics. What is it then that I mean when I talk of `science'? It is the thinking process more than anything; OPENNESS. There is no sure ground to stand on. I hate it, but I'm not in this to be pleased. What is marvellous about this sort of thinking is that it can destroy itself if necessary. I can be open to thinking that openness is useless, and should be discarded. It destroys itself with its own hand. It has a sort of safety net. `Faith', by itself, can be based on false assumptions, and closed to even assessing the validity of those assumptions. This includes a total faith in science. I'm one of those people that believes there is no such thing as `spirituality' as distinct from `science'. It's the same thing. Both try to discover `what is'. Sure, how does one, through physical means, determine the validity of experiences that are supposed to be transcendent? Well, if it is true that the experiences are transcendent, it's difficult in the traditional `let's do an experiment' sense. Perhaps if you could verify the experiences in the physical world somehow. For example, if in the 2nd level you're told you can manifest Godzilla, and you do so, it might be a good indicator that the level exists, and then you can at least put some trust in the other visions there. Even if this isn't possible it is no reason to discard scientific thinking (openness). If indeed there is no way of testing the experiences, it is even more reason for critical thinking because the practitioner is the only scientist there! This is why I consider scientific thinking as a necessity for the discovery of `truth', and what led me to Shabda Yoga. In any case, it doesn't really matter what I think. The problem is that Shabda Yoga groups (and I'm generalising now) profess to be scientific on one hand, and on the other hand display a lack of `openness' (the hall mark of science). Spirituality and `openness' If spiritual groups are supposed to be `scientific', then they will display this openness - consistently. Let me give you some examples of the inconsistencies. Shabda Yoga gurus, generally, will not come out and say that they have reached the `ultimate' and that they are one with it, and in effect, conscious of their `Godhood'. If one asks a guru a direct question about this, they will answer that they are merely following the wishes of their Satguru and they are the servant of the Sangat. There's nothing wrong with this statement per se, but they are basically saying `yes', consciously or not. Why? Disciples assume the guru is being humble. Humility is the mark of a true guru (this is in print). Result? Disciple: `He must be a true guru if he says he isn't'. Fine. Firstly, by saying he's just serving his master and the sangat, he doesn't answer the question either way. If the path is indeed scientific, then the guru won't mind admitting his `status' no more than a professor minds admitting he's got a Phd., especially when this very example is used to explain why one needs a guru in the first place (ie. `if we need a teacher in ordinary sciences, then we'll need one for spiritual sciences'). Often the new guru, on receiving his successorship, openly says he does not deserve the post. On top of that he commits a number of acts that would suggest he's more human than God. If you've read Beas' `Treasure Beyond Measure' you'll know what I mean. Charan Singh literally runs from his position, and is quoted as describing his reluctance, as well as his surprise. If one is already in touch the `ultimate', wouldn't one already be aware of the coming successorship and be more than willing to accept the position? In fact, there is no question of acceptance here, it just is the fulfilling of destiny. Does no-one ever think the gurus are in fact telling them the truth when they say they are undeserving? One might argue that the gurus are, in their own way, telling the Sangat that they really aren't `true' Masters, but this is not enough. Disciples take these instances as signs of humility, and as signs of the gurus `trueness'. Why is it that we don't hear the Master say `Hang on a second! I really mean it! I'm not a conscious God - at least I don't know that I am, and you'd think a true Master would know he was one. What? No! I'm not just being humble! Hey? No, I'm not just being humble by saying that I'm not being humble! Hellooooo!' By allowing the disciples to think it is humility, they further the illusion. If this is what is indeed happening, it is deceptive, and not exactly what you'd expect from an organisation that is supposed to be searching for the truth. It may not be conscious decision on their part, but it is still deceptive. Whole lineages might be based on this. A master passes on the mastership to a totally unwitting disciple, who does the same because they cannot disobey the wishes of their own guru. I'd like to know, if in fact they don't believe they deserve the guruship, how they can allow themselves to be considered a Satguru (and asking your disciples not to address you as `Satguru' isn't going to make much difference. In fact, it just seems all the more humble). Sure, you want to obey the wishes of your master, but at the same time you are allowing your disciples to believe in something that isn't true. It doesn't take much for them to really understand you're serious. Faqir Chand (a Shabd Yoga guru who admitted he wasn't all-knowing) seemed to manage it, whatever his motives. Some argue that Faqir Chand's statements were incorrect because he himself admitted to not being able to pass a stage in his meditations (and therefore was not a true guru). This may be so, but it is the other Shabda yoga lineages who are making these criticisms without their own guru admitting his status. Again, the guru says that a Satguru is all-knowing, but won't tell us if he is all-knowing. At the same time, in criticising Chand's ideas, he is inferring that he is all knowing (since he is a guru of a particular lineage) without having to directly say it. Again, there is a tendency on the part of gurus to answer questions about Mastership by referring to `The Master/Satguru' or `A Master/Satguru'. They might say, `The Satguru [read: True Guru] is in a state of Oneness, He is beyond desires, He knows all'. May be he does. No problem. But the speaker is not directly talking about himself or his own attainments. However, the statement is understood by disciples to be a statement about the speaker because he is the guru of the particular lineage in question. On top of that, he's being humble again. What more can you ask for? Perhaps the speaker, knowing he's not a Satguru, can only talk about his master as he is obliged to carry out his masters wishes. Then again, it might be a conscious manipulation of the disciples. Whatever the case, disciples are making assumptions and these assumptions need to be addressed by the speaker. And anyway, if I'm in the audience, I don't want to know what he thinks a Satguru is, I want to know if he is a Satguru. Perhaps the speaker, being One with God, is just being truthful. That is, `I (as an individual) am not God, so I won't profess to be. When this `I' is One with God, there is no more I, so I cannot say that I (the individual) am all knowing, when it is not the individual that is all-knowing, but God. Okay, fine, but you are still saying you are in touch with that all-knowingness so how about a little proof? Lets say he admits to not being a `true' master. Well, it doesn't mean that we just completely discount him. He may be `truer' than the rest. And if he says he is in fact One? It becomes a claim, which opens itself to testing. And how do you test this sort of claim? I dunno, but this is not the point of the discussion. The point is that not only do they preach by allowing the disciples to infer, there is, more importantly, avoidance, a lack of openness. Alarm bells go off here. It doesn't mean that they aren't really true masters, they well might be. But surely this is not an example of consistent scientific thinking. Lack of openness = lack of scientific thinking = possible (probable?) untruth Trust is based on consistency. I can't know someone's always right, but I can trust them more if they are consistent in their thinking. If there is no consistency, even in a single argument, then what is to say that there aren't other inconsistencies? Consistency isn't the main problem, though. The main problem is, at best, the refusal to admit the inconsistent thinking. Then there's the refusal to even tackle it! What we get is a brush off answer, or even a joke to which many in the audience laugh a `master made a funny ' laugh, but no direct answer is given. This is not scientific. Again, it's not necessarily what is said, but the consistency of the openness of the speaker. `Oneness' of the Satguru In my `seeking' I've set a number of ideals that I would need a guru to have to be a true guru (this is assuming one needs a guru at all, but that's another topic). You could call them conditions. They are things like being vegetarian, and being completely honest and open, and a host of other qualities that wouldn't be unfamiliar to any seeker. Firstly, these conditions are restrictive, and based on what I consider admirable from the level I am at, but generally speaking, all `seekers' search for a guru who is an exemplary individual, completely `good' - no prizes for guessing that, you say. My question is, why is it that we assume if a guru is `One', he will be good? Why can't he be a serial killer? If he is `One' with everything, then he, theoretically, already is a serial killer; all of them actually. At the same time he is the most devoted disciple, or rather, all his disciples. Why is it that the individual who has just become `One' must stick to those particular qualities we consider `good'? PART TWO From email@example.com Sun Aug 17 23:50:44 1997 Subject: Re: "openness" essay And while I'm here, why does one need a vegetarian lifestyle, etc. in order to `progress'? I mean, EVERYTHING is apparently the manifestation of the `ultimate', everything is equal. Perhaps because certain actions scatter the thoughts? Well, what if the person is a focused individual? I hear psychotic killers are quite calm. Okay, I might be willing to accept that `lower' acts keep you `down' and hinder your journey `upward'. Yes, may be if you are working your way toward the `Oneness', but if you are there already, who cares? Perhaps to provide a good example for disciples? What for? Every action is equal. This would also mean that he might well have desires too. Why can't a perfect master be rotting away on Death Row right this minute? He doesn't have to be `evil', he could be anywhere in between. Of course, this flies right into the face of my precious ideals, but hey! I mean how would you be able to trust a guru if this was the case? He wouldn't have to be consistently open. He could lie his butt off! Although, if he had desires and acted upon them then it would suggest that he was under the control of other forces, and if he is supposed to be One with god, there are not supposed to be any forces controlling him, as he's supposed to be all the forces. Still, a master could be just working off someone's karma by punching them in the face. Not that I really adhere to this thinking, it's just an idea and I'm opening it up for discussion. Some would say I am confusing the guru's `Oneness' and the guru as an individual. Well, what is the guru's state then if he is not constantly in touch with the `Source'? Are you all knowing or not? OK, the guru is all knowing but misheard the question just asked by an audience member. So is he not a true guru then? What effect does this `Oneness' have then? Or what effect does any progression here have on the practitioner? Inconsistencies. Ask these questions and you probably won't get any direct answers. There will be a bit of beating around the bush though. Ok, let's assume this is wrong thinking, and I'm confusing the guru as an individual with the guru as a `God', and the guru is only fully `One' when he choses to lift up his consciousness. Take a look at the first section of `Sar Bachan', a record of the words of the first Radhasoami guru, Soami Ji. One of the first sections deals with the events that led to Soami Ji's death. I'm actually going to use a quote here (from the Beas version) because I feel this is an important point. 2. At 8'oclock in the morning Soami Ji Maharaj said: "Now I am preparing to leave." After that Maharaj took his surat up and drew up all the consciousness; only the whites of the eyes were visible, and the body began to tremble. After fifteen minutes he brought his surat down and then said: "The Mauj is now changed. There is yet some time." Then Lala Seth Partap Singh (Chacha Ji) asked: "When is the Mauj?" On which he replied: "Sometime this afternoon." (Sar Bachan, Beas Satsang, xxv) `Mauj' apparently does not have a direct counterpart in the English language but roughly translates as `will'. Now, according to Shabda Yoga, the `ultimate' is formless, nameless, and, among other things, unchangeable. If Soami Ji was indeed in touch with this `ultimate', how is it that any sort of change has occurred? One would think that he would know. After all, it is written that everything is already planned. There are a number of possible explanations. Firstly, seeing as the record was written after the event, the author might have made a mistake? So Soami Ji might well have been a perfect master. Well, if this is the case, Shabda Yoga gurus haven't made an effort to change the mistake, and you'd think someone who is supposed to be in contact with the `truth' would notice this. In the case that this is true, I can't say for sure if Soami Ji displayed `all knowingness' but it seems to me his successors haven't. At the same time, I don't believe it could be a mistake on the author's part. I mean, his guru didn't die when he expected to. That's a fairly major event. At the very least the author would remember his relief at seeing his Satguru come back again, alive. Perhaps it is a translation error. `Mauj' can't be directly translated into English, and Soami Ji said he was preparing to leave, not leave completely. It doesn't matter, something changed, and it changed in the supposed unchangeable region. Whatever that something was, it meant that Soami Ji was not going to die at the time he thought he was. This is not even a question of `all-knowingness', we're just looking at whether he had `knowingness' about himself! So if Soami Ji wasn't in touch with the `ultimate', and you can't go any further than your guru (as Shabda Yoga groups claim) then can the current gurus be `perfect' masters? This is only going by their own writings. Nitpickers guide to the galaxy You might argue that I'm nitpicking here. Exactly. Reality is consistent, otherwise it's a form of illusion. Sure, I'm putting the guru through a lot more inspection than I would a local doctor. If I'm so obsessed with the idea that we should treat gurus like scientists, then why all this fuss? Simply, the local doctor, or scientist has already been tested and is qualified. At the same time, they're under constant scrutiny. Experiments are examined and criticised, and misconduct is punishable (in some cases the licence to practice is revoked and they are booted out of the relevant professional organisation). In other cases they are just discredited. Scientists also don't profess ultimate truth (indirectly or otherwise). We can't help but be more critical. We have no such organised tool of assessment for that particular strand of science we call `spirituality'. At very least I would've thought there'd be some form of assessment for psychics, seeing as they actually run businesses! But somehow the science of `spirituality' doesn't have to obey the laws of inspection that other sciences do. Science and Spirituality We can see that, consciously or not, Shabda Yoga groups are aware of the value the society places in scientific thinking. Perhaps it is also an example of the value they assign to it to? Is it a tool used to convince themselves? I know I've done it. If it's scientific, then it's legitimate. Okay, may be some things are best left as they are, without scientific examination. Granted, if that's how it is then by all means be that way - but why claim to scientific if you are not consistently scientific? Why take the label but not produce the goods? Simply, it is advantageous to claim `scientific' status. It is, for better or worse, the accepted tool of finding truth. I've given you my own reasons for my trust (faith?) in scientific procedure. However, most people, generally, just accept it. They might not outwardly admit it, but they will eat less animal fat because they're told it is bad for their health. This is not just a facet of spiritual groups, but of society in general. Whenever you want to claim legitimacy, you call it `logical' or `rational ' or `scientific'. Economists do it, Social scientists do it, politicians; anyone who's got a theory to prove does it.. I'm not suggesting gurus are necessarily saying `Let's say we're scientific so we can attract more disciples'. The idea that science delivers truth is something which has been ingrained into the modern mind. Much of this might well be subconscious. When you need to prove a point, you move towards scientific thinking. Simple. A lot of apparent lies might well be the result of the gurus being unaware of the inconsistency in their thinking. But if you are confronted with this inconsistency, and you don't tackle it, then I believe it's more than just an honest mistake. It's quite hip for any spiritual group these days to say their method is `scientific'. It validates them. Of-course, once it doesn't suit them anymore (ie. when they're being confronted with new evidence that challenges) , scientific thinking goes out the window, ie. there is avoidance of the question, or an unsubstantiated rationalisation. Jumping to `faith' is another common one. Then there's the old `but once we meet the Master at the third eye, all will be revealed and there will be no more questioning' bit. Well, firstly, how can one assume one gains `true knowledge' there? Secondly, assuming you do gain `true knowledge' there, then there shouldn't be any problems with the teaching on this physical level. If there are problems here, how can we trust the `truth' in the experiences there? It seems to be the involvement of `science' in Radhasoami (and spiritual groups in general) has increased over the years. Just have a little read of Soami Ji's `Sar Bachan' and you'll know what I mean. It's full of sweeping statements, and it certainly is more `religious' and preachy than some of Shabda Yoga's later works, such as `The Science of the Soul' by Jagat Singh, who was a chemistry teacher (??????? correct???) It is my belief that this is the result of the general increase in the trust of scientific method over the same period of time. Does this mean that the reasoning used in Shabda Yoga would be different if the dominating method for the discovery of truth was not `science'? In Julian Johnson's `With a Great Master in India' Sawan Singh explains why he reads the texts of other religions. He replies that sometimes we need to use a seekers own thinking and background beliefs in order to convince (???? this is what he says doesn't he???????) them. Why is it necessary to convince anyone? If a path is supposed to be one of reality, then why change the method of explanation? The truth is the truth is the truth. Perhaps it was necessary in the past when outspoken people with differing opinions were persecuted, but we're living in a different world now. Perhaps it is because people today still get offended if their religion is criticised, especially in areas such as northern India. Well, there's no need to criticise anyone. All that needs to be done is to spell out the `truth' you profess to (and if it's completely scientific, religions tend to just ignore you anyway. There's no problem if you don't step on their turf). Ok, so we all tend to take into account other people's backgrounds when arguing, it helps others to understand the ideas better. But doing this convince someone is a little different in this case. Shabda Yoga repeatedly states that it is not out to propagate and increase the number of disciples, and emphasises the `When you are ready, you will come' bit. There's no need to convince anyone. The educated are among us This is an observation commonly used by disciples and gurus to make a point without directly stating it: `We have doctors and lawyers and University professors in our midst...' and Beas will point out that one of their gurus, Jagat Singh, was a chemistry professor (or just teacher??????) Just because there's a doctor in the house doesn't mean the path is completely, consistently, scientific (that's the inference). A highly educated person (even one who happens to hold a lot of status in society) is a specialist. Being able to number crunch or remember facts doesn't necessarily mean you can do no wrong with regards to choosing a correct `spiritual' path. Sure, it helps. Scientific thinking is ingrained into the student in the modern education system to some degree, but it doesn't make you infallible. There are a lot of professionals following the spiritual groups we've left behind. Hell, being a specialist in a particular field doesn't really prepare you for anything other than your specialisation, spiritual or otherwise. And even though scientific thinking is involved in the education system, much so called `learning' is really just about regurgitating already proven facts (or just familiarising yourself with the ins and outs of a particular system, eg. law, economics). Considering our Universities are becoming more and more `qualification' orientated, the argument that a well educated person will be a critical thinker becomes less convincing. What matters is your thinking, not your occupation. In this regard, a Northern Indian mountain `peasant' with no formal education is in the same boat as an educated specialist. Sure, the educated one is more likely to be scientific, but if he or she isn't, then an Armani suite isn't going to help. `All Masters speak of the same path' It's all the rage nowadays to explain that your teaching, whatever it is, is the same as teachings throughout the ages. This has the effect of making your path sound humble and it helps to legitimise the teachings. It is said that Jesus, Buddha, and whoever else said the same thing (emphasis is placed on whichever teacher is known best to the particular audience). `Shabd' is `the word' in the bible. Kundalini Yoga will tell you `the word' means something else. A UFO spiritualist group will show you the passages in which there are references to alien visitors and the like. This is a great method to satisfy that little bit in us that feels shame for leaving a religion, and that little bit that wonders what truth there is in other religious paths. `It's verified! This is what he meant! Jesus, I never really left you!' If Jesus (and any other teachers) meant what we're told he meant, he probably would've said it. I mean, what did he have to lose? His life?! Jesus apparently knew about his death anyway. If I were him I would've quickly gone over the Shabda Yoga bit after the last supper (time is on your side when you can't afford dessert). Okay, now I'm belittling with sarcasm. Sorry, but I like to keep things light sometimes. The speaker uses the audience's background to convince them. Scientologists, for example, explain that their method of getting to what they call `clear' is what buddhist monks meditated 20 years in order to achieve, and you'll find numerous other examples from all sorts of groups. Modern psychology is no exception either. It will explain ancient myths from a psychological perspective (have a read of Joseph Campell's work), and will have a number of explanations for the existence of `religion' and seeking `truth' (something to do with your parents, I think). In fact, all forms of ideologies tend to see things (past, present, future) in their terms, with their own form of tunnel vision (and it is from this perspective that they describe other schools of thought). Sure, even `openness' is a form ideology, but I say if you're going to have tunnel vision (it seems we like to think with some sort of ideology behind us) it might as well be one of `openness'. By its very nature it does not adhere to any particular mode of thought. The teaching should be able to prove itself, on its own terms. We love to hear all-encompassing interpretations of history, it feels as if there's some great line of truth existing throughout the ages. Again, my problem is not with the ideologies, but with the lack of openness within the ideologies, especially when they are challenged. And if someone adheres to a particular ideology, they tend to defend in the terms of that ideology instead of one of openness. For example, if I am not an `open' satsangi, I might argue that my criticisms are the work of Kal instead of tackling the criticisms themselves. So I would prove the validity of the path by using the path to prove it! That is, I'd argue from `within' the ideology instead of from a distance. Shabda gurus do encourage people to examine the path critically, but then once that is done and the seeker has decided, he or she is advised should follow the master's instructions, etc. and not worry about arguing anymore. This is not enough. A true path will be able to withstand any new arguments that arise, and how can one be certain that one has examined all the avenues in the initial study? Do we just ignore new criticisms just because we have committed ourselves to a path? This `seeking' is not about honour, or even keeping our word, it is about discovering a greater `truth' (if the damn thing is achievable). Scientists are seekers too, only that most (but not all) focus on studying the smaller pictures instead of the bigger one. Examination of ideas, especially ones we consider our `beliefs', should always be done from a distance in order to be `open'. Not a religion There is great stress on the idea that Shabda Yoga is not a religion. `Religion' has become a rather dirty word with the growing trust in scientific thinking. Specifically, it is pointed out that there are no rituals and no need for blind faith, it is all on a `see to believe' basis. It is supposed to be what religions started out as; purely spiritual paths where the Master taught the pupil how to seek the truth within himself. No need for any special rituals, no need for any special physical yogic positions. However, a religion is not just defined by it's physical manifestation, but by the source of the manifestation; the thinking. Simply, religious thinking is not scientific thinking. It has more to do with superstition and ungrounded belief (grounded only, perhaps, in emotions and gut instincts. The origin of these feelings are rationalised as `holy' or from the `higher self' in order to prove the existence of the belief). Part of it has to do with following the crowd, and tradition/ Okay, so since I'm so scientific, why don't I come out and tell you of my experiences? Well, I'm also open to the possibility that discussing these experiences can hinder progress in some way (as we're told they do). Even self-revelatory experiences not connected with Shabda Yoga can lose their `energy' when you talk about them. It's like you're telling a joke but it ends up being one of those `you had to be there' things. At the same time, I'm open to there not being any problem with speaking of your experiences. My critical faculties don't see anything wrong with sharing the experience of something that `exists'. If it is real then it will always be real. As you see, I'm still in two minds about this. However, I also don't drink alcohol and the like because I'm told this hinders you in meditation. I've got no ideological problem with drinking alcohol, but I err on the side of caution. The idea is that perhaps the people who have progressed know what they're talking about. Then why all this questioning? Well, the questioning concerns whether the masters are actually masters. There is agreement between most of the lineages that alcohol, for example, doesn't help your progress. I can't verify that here, but I can question the `all-knowingness' of masters and other such things because I'm assessing the consistency of their arguments. That is, examining whether they're being consistent is something I can do at this level. Assessing whether alcohol consumption hinders progress is something I am not able to do as I don't have the means to test this, or the inner experience to verify this. Giving up alcohol is not much of a sacrifice for the possibility of all this being true. Committing suicide to meet an alien spaceship, however, is more of a serious risk than a little sacrifice. At least if I'm wrong with Radhasoami precepts I can only end up healthier! Like I said, I'm still in two minds about this. Discussions on this topic are most welcome. Some might say `why argue? Just meditate!'. To this I reply `why did you just read this?'. We are constantly arguing with ourselves whether we like it or not. I'm just doing it in print. I'm not saying I know better than true masters, I'm just trying to assess whether they are masters. I cannot know better than someone who is one with God (assuming this is possible), but the question to ask is `are you one with god?', and if so there shouldn't be any problems with the teachings and your exposition on this level. And if all of this is completely wrong and the masters are right, I'll be all the more humbler. And as for punishment, well, if I don't see how someone could be punished for searching for truth. It's been somewhat depressing writing this. I much prefer the wonderful world of the eight realms, the Satguru, the path. I get to be Luke Skywalker on Dagobah with my own Yoda. But I'm looking for truth, so I can't help but be critical. Reality has nothing to hide. All criticisms are useless if something is real. We, as individuals and as a species, have only grown through `openness', not `acceptance'. At the same time, my initial conviction in this has been greatly strengthened through writing this piece. Sure, part of this thinking simply stems from my desire to protect myself. It seems the longer we live, the more we find out that people and ideas are not always what they seem. Now if all this mumbo jumbo doesn't mean anything to you, try this (it's what I really use): I've been wrong so many times, and each time I felt I was more right than the last, what's to say I'm not wrong again? Because this time I feel more right. Criticisms are more than welcome. Please write in. If not for my sake, then for the people being deceived by reading this. They're innocent I tell you! I hope to put up footnotes in areas in which inconsistent thinking is found. Love to hear from you. As the Sufis say, let's all hope we end up being `finders' instead of `seekers'. By: Tony Mohorovic
E-mail The Neural Surfer directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
I want to go back to the home base now.