It is often recounted that the first meeting of the two famous Sufi saints, Malauna Rum and Shams-i Tabriz, was anything but ordinary. The most popular version of this story recounts that the former, an intense devotee of the Lord, had earnestly prayed: "Please give me some dear friend of Thine to be my companion, with whom I may share the agonies of diving separation and the joys of meeting." God then sent him off to Kuniya where he soon came upon a renowned scholar and philosopher, sitting beside a pool of water. Seeing that this gentlemen was perusing some lengthy manuscripts, Tabriz enquired: "You appear to be busy. May I ask what is so seriously engaging your attention?" Malauna responded: "These are priceless works and in them are some deep and divine mysteries, insoluble to many of the best scholars. I am now in the process of solving them....of course, these works are far beyond your comprehension, for only a highly trained intellect could ever hope to understand them." A smile lit upon Shams- i Tabr z's face, and he immediately jumped forward, grabbed the books and threw them in the water. True knowledge, he told Malauna, "does not reside in books." The shocked scholar, not believing what had just occurred, sadly replied: "Oh dervish, you don't know what you have just done. You do not understand what a loss the world has suffered from your actions. There were rare treasures in these works, and now they are lost forever." Shams-i smiled again, and then, putting his hand in the water, retrieved the manuscripts and returned them to Malauna in their original condition. He then remarked: "Don't break your heart over such children's toys." Not surprisingly, this was a tremendously cathartic experience for Malauna, and he soon discarded all his books and went on to become both a most devoted disciple and celebrated sufi mystic. This story, obviously, is of questionable credibility (as are many of the putatively miraculous events with hagiographical literature tries to associate with the object of their idolatry). This need not overly concern us, however, for whether or not this narration accurately portrays the initial meeting of these two saints, it does nevertheless correctly communicate a very important message about the difficulty encountered when one attempts to study or describe a mystical religion. That is, the study of such is always, by way of very definition, explicitly reductionistic. Stated simply, such a dimunition is endemic to each and every methodology--whether it be primitivization (Freudian, for e.g.) theory, functionalism, hermeneutical enquiry, structuralism, or developmental appraisal--which the investigator currently has at his or her disposal (with the exception of actually adopting a meditative discipline and experiencing the mystic state for one's self). Any attempt at analysis of the sacred through the mundane is simply bound to fail in some respect. And while the possibility of a sociology of empathetic-participation (or internal gnosis) is a provocative suggestion, it cannot satisfy my stated purpose, namely: to complete a thesis which pretends to illuminate one or more aspects of the explicitly mystical religion of the Radhasoami satsang. First, such a methodology, which I would argue is actually the only proper avenue for understanding those movements which continually remind us of the meaninglessness of conceptual knowledge, is clearly quite beyond the capabilities of this author (who is currently so far away from the attainment of internal gnosis that it seems all but impossible). And even if one more disciplined and qualified than myself were to succeed in such an endeavor and gain true knowledge for himself, we can confidently presume that he would, as all those before him, remind us that this enlightenment was beyond all expression. Finally, in a worse case scenario--one in which this radical methodology was combined with the more conventional approaches those findings which might have been articulated prior to internal gnosis would probably be irretrievably lost (unless, of course, the scholar under whose tutelage one initiated the investigation had, as Shams-i, the ability to re-create destroyed manuscripts!). This would, of course, be immensely satisfying at a personal level, but even the more liberal academics at this institution tend to desire something a little more palpable prior to the awarding of degrees. All students (in this world of "publish or perish") of mystic religion, then, have constructed for themselves a pathological paradox: they have chosen to investigate that which, when fully understood, precludes all recapitulation. We can, obviously, escape the dilemma by studying the secular side of these movements exclusively; analyzing, if you will, only the dimension of "religion, " and arbitrarily excluding the "mystic" aspect. But while this may be enlightening in its own ways, it fails in a fundamental regard, since both sides of the expression must clearly be posited simultaneously if we are to correctly understand the tradition as an organic whole. Moreover, when we choose to investigate truly other- worldly individuals, the sants become prime instances, such an approach is of negligible utility, for we quickly discover that they generally disregard the secular in favor of an exclusive emphasis upon the sacred. We must begin our study, then, cautiously, noting that we can never hope to successfully enunciate that which for us remains wholly other. Ironically, however, those mystics whom we will analyze are confronted by precisely the same dilemma. It is here we find the opening through which we can try to peek into these spiritual communities, for though we may never be able to adequately describe the sacred, neither can even the "greatest" among our vast heritage of religious prophets. Indeed, we might even go so far as to postulate that the degree to which a saint is able to express his experience is inversely proportional to the ultimacy of his enlightenment. The fact remains, however, that most mystics do try to convey in various ways their intuitions or apprehensions. We may not fully comprehend the ground of this communication but we can successfully investigate and appraise the description itself, as long as we keep this caveat--that what we are studying is at best an imperfect and limited view of the ineff ble--constantly at the fore of our minds. The question which arises in this atmosphere is How to best examine this communication? Van Baaren reminds us that the systematic science of religion, is distinguished from other systematic disciplines...by its lack of normative character. It only studies religions as they are empirically and disclaims any statements concerning the value and truth of the phenomena studied...[the inevitable convictions of the scholar] are irrelevant for scientific work and [he] must rule them out as much as possible in his research...As the truth of religion cannot be scientifically demonstrated, science of religion refrains from any judgement. Our self-appointed task will be, then, pseudo-phenomenological; we will try to simply reproduce the teachings enunciated within the Radhasoami movement as precisely as possible, all the while excluding, to the extent that we are able, our own socio-cultural prejudices. To facilitate this, we shall attempt to comprehend religion and religious activities as meaningful to the individuals involved int eh spiritual community. Furthermore, in order to prevent what would be an incorrectly exclusive correlation of the term "individuals" with the disciples within this movement, we shall also engage in a hermeneutical analysis (as far as is cognizable) of the mystics' attempted communication of trans-mundane "truth." We concern ourselves, then, primarily with the interpretation of subjective meaning, or in the parlance of the phenomenologists among us, the "intentionality" of religion. As a corollary, we will strenuously attempt to avoid compromising our ability to reveal this meaning by rejecting at the outset the always- seductive tendency to evaluate the group according to any of the critical dimensions which we no doubt possess a priori: thus, our methodology admittedly has very few "teeth," indeed we will actually endeavor to remove most of them. We will, in other words, engage a Weberian or verstehen approach to the scientific study of religion. Like Weber, however, we will combat the potential radicalization and subjectivism of our methodology by supplementing this with yet another distinct approach, namely: causal inquiry or explanation. Among those influences which we can identify, probably the most important and yet misinterpreted is the history of the Radhasoami movement. My goal in this essay, then, first and foremost, is to produce a comprehensive though concise description of the formative (i.e., early) history of this group. Above all else, I am concerned with the synthesis and introduction of the facts pertaining to these significant years, particularly those which pertain to the various succession crises, for only if we begin to understand this aspect can we ever hope that Radhasoami studies will evolve from its present stage of stagnant infancy and claim its rightful position as an immensely productive field of scholarly research into the sociology, psychology, philosophy, etc. of religion. I begin my work, therefore with a short articulation of the sant tradition, clearly the major anterior influence upon the Radhasoami movement. Here we find the earliest manifestation of the three distinguishing characteristics of the Radhasoami faith, the exclusive emphases upon shabd, satguru and bhakti. Moreover, it is in this section that we first encounter what will become a recurring dualism, namely: the internal and external aspects of each of these foci. We trace our examination from the formative stages of this movement through to the times of Tulsi Sahib, according to all current evidence the last sant prior to the real object of our study, Shiv Dayal, the founder of the Radhasoami satsang. We then provide what little information is available about the life of the latter, emphasizing what we know of his direct and indirect relations with the sants. After this, I will provide a summary of the major tenets of the Radhasoami faith as articulated by Shiv Dayal, and though this section is severely limit d due to necessary brevity, I will again briefly allude to the soteriological dualism so characteristic of the sants. I commence chapter three by introducing a heuristic concept of paradox and demonstrating that much of Shiv Dayal's teachings can only be appreciated through a proper understanding of this notion. >From here we will delineate some theoretical hypothesis about the structure and content of religious paradox, asserting that it is not only necessary but also immensely beneficial in various respects. In many ways, Radhasoami paradox is best understood as an expression of the sant dualism remarked upon earlier. Appreciation of the assets of paradox, however, should not prevent one from remarking about the tensions associated with it. Let's be frank: no one likes to accept that he is being given apparently contradictory instructions, even if he does understand why this is necessary. Moreover, we will even briefly suggest that paradox is successful to the extent that it does exert constant pressure upon the disciple by pulling him or her in opposing directions. This is probably very hard to live with, and thus there is a constant tendency to try to solve the inherent contradictions of the teachings. We will argue that during the times of Shiv Dayal, though, these tensions were both rooted in and alleviated by the central and most fundamental paradox within Radhasoami: the guru. After the death of this remarkable mystic-prophet, however, there manifested simultaneously a need to eliminate the tensions of paradox and an understandable desire to routinize succession to the guruship. We will describe two fundamental approaches to the latter question, and associate each with one of the two major sub-lineages which developed after Shiv Dayal. Both of these factions, we will argue, attempted to resolve the paradoxes we will posit, and it is when we examine this that we come upon the primary thesis I am trying to advance. We can and, I believe will demonstrate that each group resolved the tensions of doctrinal contradiction in a manner which they explicitly (though not necessarily intentionally) derived from the way they resolved the problem of succession. We indicate this by examining first the history of each sub-lineage, then enunciating (both concretely and abstractly) the method which they used to identify and legitimize successorship, and finally by noting the effects of such upon t e evolution of doctrine. Finally, in an effort to standardize this work by giving my introduction, as is so popular these days, the tone of an apologia, I conclude by telling the reader that my opinions and interpretations, like my errors, are my own, and though I have tried throughout to provide an empathetic articulation these need not and should not be taken as necessarily accurate expositions of the teachings I am trying to reveal. authority of Puranic lore is denied and their strict monotheism The "path of the saints," commonly referred to as sant mat or nirguna bhakti, represents perhaps both the most important and least understood religious development within india during the last Christian millennium. Though Ramanand and Jnanesvar are often considered the founders of this school of thought, its original articulation, systematization and widespread expansion are properly traced to the influence of Kabir in the north and Namdev in the south. Their fertile legacy, the sant tradition which was to inspire an unprecedented emergence of sublime mystic-poets (among them: Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism; Raidas; Paltu; and Dadu), represents from a diachronic perspective, a spiritual lineage without being parampara in the conventional sense of the term. From a synchronical point of view, they form kinds of loose confraternities made of intensely pious and other-worldly laymen and women, belonging mostly though not exclusively, to the lower strata of Indian society. It can thus be stated that sant mat does not constitute a religion in the traditional sense of the word, indeed it cannot even be properly described as a distinct, precise or homogenous philosophical school; rather, the term accurately denotes a diverse spiritual "movement" of sorts, one which manifested a common religious "attitude" by adhering to generally similar metaphysical and soteriological notions. As the tradition evolved, this spiritual milieu became more structured and elaborate, conveying a cultural identity upon its adherents by communicating a latent disciplinary matrix, representing a broad constellation of beliefs, values, techniques, and moral injunctions. By virtue of these similar religious, theological, soteriological and social orientations, however, this tradition also manifested a quasi- communal identity which was maintained by, some principles of cohesion fundamental to many aspects of Indian cultural reality. Underlying their perception was the common South Asian world view which sees the varied orders of the created universe as forming a continuous, substantial whole. Within this substantial universe were distinguished two basic principles of cohesion. The first depended on a concept of the organic relationship between guru and disciples, which generated self-perpetuating lineages; the second derived from a sense that "true" sants of any lineage formed a vaguely related spiritual clan.... The sant philosophy (for want of an appropriate neologism) which these mystics share appears, upon cursory glance, to be fundamentally syncretic, at its core apparently consisting in the nexus of a subtle wedding of virtually every dominant Indic religious tradition of the time. Among the components of this synthesis, movements of dissent-- particularly Sufism, Vaishnava bhakti, and (after Kabir) the yoga of the Nath cult--against the external and conventional religious sensibilities of the time seem to have had the most significant influence. In the works of virtually all of the sants, therefore, we find attacks (often fierce) and explicit denunciations of idolatry, caste-distinction, ritualism, etc. And yet their teachings, though at times they resemble on the surface any number of these more prominent traditions (they have been, for e.g., recurringly categorized as reformist vaishnavites), when viewed as an organic whole cannot be properly classified among any of them. These mystic-poets remain first and foremost neither social reformers nor even religious prophets, but rather true bhakts constantly absorbed in a relationship of love with the transcendent divine they apprehend as immanent to their very being. Admittedly, much of the confusion arises from their repeatedly endowing vaishnava names to the Supreme Being, but the fulcrum of their attention is neither worship of the lord Vishnu nor any of his avatars (incarnations; Krishna and Rama, for e.g.). Similarly, the explicitly repudiates the Hindu pantheon. Instead, sant bhakti is characteristically an individualized extension of saguna bhakti which is most often distinguished by the orientation towards the essentially nirguna (formless and impersonal) Supreme Being which they intuit within the interior recesses of their own hearts. Though this theological bent has seduced many to classify the sants as Vedantic advaitists (lit., "non-dualists"), with whom they at times do have much in common, they unanimously defy such compartmentalization. Their descriptions of the Supreme Being were neither limited to realms of saguna or the nirguna, nor to theism or monism, nor to any other aspects, which they consider simply arbitrary and man-made limitations given to the ultimate. The divine as apprehended by these mystics defies all logical or rational conceptionalization and accordingly, despite their very own articulations, remains for the unenlightened ganz andere and wholly ineffable. Generally members of the lower castes, these uneducated and other- wordly saints sought not only to communicate this experience of the sacred (inevitably in the vernacular) but also to make such an internal gnosis readily accessible to all those who truly yearned for true and ultimate moksa (salvation). It should not be inferred from this that sant bhakti, as is the case of more conventional bhakti movements, was portrayed by these mystics as an easy path or one which could be followed by the masses. Although bhakti was primarily conceived of as a path of bliss, it has been simultaneously described as an arduous and difficult journey, full of suffering from the pain of separation from the beloved. The bhakti of the sants is further characterized by the fact that it only finds proper expression in two forms: to the satguru (representing both the ultimate Reality apprehended in one's self and the human guru) and through meditation upon his name (lit., "name") or shabd (lit., "word"). Ram or Nam on the one hand and the Satguru on the other constitute for the human jiva the only two possible modes of apprehending the Divine--and ultimately of merging into It. Both have an exterior (voiced or visible) aspect as well as an interior (unvoiced or invisible) aspect; but the first is clearly subservient to the second and it is only the inner sadhana, the interior religion which leads the soul to the mystical experience known as paraca: through paraca, the jiva is reabsorbed into the oneness of Ram 'as water merges into water': suh is the mysterious state of 'Sahaja', which can only be accomplished within. Having noted such, we can now safely assert that sant mat, though it owed much to some of the more traditional religious movements which surrounded it during its infancy, is clearly distinguished precisely by virtue of the uniqueness of the emphasis given to these two exclusive foci for bhakti. There is no doubt that the sant tradition generally, particularly as manifested in the teachings of Nanak, was instrumental in the way Shiv Dayal Singh articulated what came to be known as the Radhasoami faith. Without diminishing the importance of these earlier mystics, however, we can clearly posit that the primary vehicle for conveying the sant heritage to the latter was the 19th century guru, Tulsi Sahib of Hathras. Being both the latest saint (prior to Shiv Dayal), a contemporary for roughly twenty years and a close associate, there can be no doubt that if we are to look for direct influences exclusive of mystic revelation, then it is to him that we must turn. Despite his diachronic proximity to us, though, it is also in Tulsi, ironically, that we encounter a recurring dilemma in the study of the sant tradition. Though he was, no doubt, and remains an important-- albeit controversial--personage in the annals of Indian spiritual history the biographical information which is available to the interested scholar is extremely vague, most of it coming from the putatively autobiographical portions of his writings; these are at best contradictory and certainly of questionable credibility. Proceeding with this obstacle in mind, we can cautiously recount that Tulsi is reputed to have come from the royal lineage of Peshwas in Poona. He was born sometime in the latter half of the 1700s, but early in life decided to renounce the world and fled from the Peshwa's court in approximately 1804. After travelling extensively, particularly in the south, he settled in Hathras and came to be known as Dakhani Baba ("sage from the south"). Though he never acknowledged the identity of his guru (if he indeed adopted one) in his writings, two distinct possibilities have been enunciated. Kirpal Singh, relying upon a volatile contention that the last of the Sikh Gurus, Gobind Singh, did not die in 1708 (as conventional wisdom would have us believe), argues that Tulsi's ministry was simply an extension of the true Sikh parampara: During his extensive travels, he [Guru Gobind Singh's] met and lived with the ruling family of the Peshwas and initiated some of its members into the inner science. It is said that one Ratnagar Rao of the Peshwa family was initiated and authorized to carry on the work by Guru Gobind Singh. Sham Rao Peshwa, the elder brother of Baji Rao, the then ruling chief who must have contact Ratnagar Rao, showed a remarkable aptitude for the spiritual path and made rapid headway. In course of time, this young scion of the royal family settled in Hathras, and came to be known as Tulsi Sahib. Again Prasad Mathur responds, with some justification perhaps, that the presupposition underlying this assertion is both unsubstantiated and of dubious veracity: ...this statement is not historically true. Guru Gobind Singh died in 1708. The same year Sahu, son of Shivaji, became king of Maharashtra and appointed Valaji Vishwanath as the first Peshwa in 1713. Baji Rao became Peshwa in 1720 and he was the eldest son of his father (Balaji Vishwanath). Pandit Pandurang Sharma, a Marathi scholar, contended in the June 31 issue of Vividh Gyan Vistar that Tulsi "was initiated by a guru in the town of Hathras, and under the instructions of his guru he did intense meditation." No evidence in support of this supposition is currently available, however, nor has this reputed guru ever been identified. Indeed, the members of the Tulsi panth (also known as the Sahib panth) which continue to oversee Tulsi's samadh and relics deny that he even recognized anyone as his spiritual master. Finally, one should not overlook a distinctly possible scenario in which Tulsi, if he was indeed initiated, receives updesh (initiation instructions) from an as of yet unidentified guru in the south of India. Tulsi's ministry, narrated in his Ghat Ramayan, Ratan Sagar, Shabdavali and the uncompleted Padma Sagar, represented a broad and highly developed systematization of the philosophy of the earlier sants. He is said to have been the first mystic to employ the term sant mat as a description for the teachings of the movement. In his writings (many of which recount lively encounters with scholars and priests) we can delineate an extremely comprehensive and developed cosmology, the standard rejection of ritual observances, etc. Of particular importance for our purposes, however, is his precise identification of the shabd as a melodious current or manifestation of the divine, and his continuing emphasis on the interiority of both religious devotion and experience. He reminds us, for instance, in the Shabdavali: Who have seen within, the splendor of the celestial region with their inner eye, they alone can show the beginning of the beginning. Who have found the secrets of the supreme state, only they give us hints of that state. Who have merged their souls in Shabd have realized the truth of what Master hath said. Who have permitted the current of spiritual regions above, they know the state of the Inaccessible. Varied aspects of the mystery and the secret of the Unspoken Word are unravelled by them. Who have brought faith and have learned this truth, they alone can look for the Lord. Tulsi attracted a significant following, among whom Surswami, Girdhara Das, Gharib Das and (according to some) Shiv Dayal were the most prominent. The association between Tulsi and the latter shall be dealt with in more detail later in this work, but as we shall repeatedly see the perspectives of this relationship enunciated are often quite contradictory, primarily as a result of the differing doctrinal presuppositions underlying each. By way of conclusion to this section, then as introduction to the next, I will reproduce the little (though enlightening) credible information which is available to us regarding the relationship of these two sants. 1. The manuscript accounts of Baba Surain Singh, the Jeevan Charitra Soamiji Maharaj by Seth Partap Singh, and other accounts mention that Shiv Dayal's parents were devotees of Tulsi Sahib. 2. Tulsi Sahib named the sons of Dilwali Singh; respectively, Shiv Dayal, Bindraban, and Partap. 3. Shiv Dayal held great respect for Tulsi Sahib, often recounting stories connected with his life and work. Also, he had a close association with many of Tulsi Sahib's devotees, including Girdhari Lal, whom he supported during his last years. 4. Shiv Dayal Singh, after the passing of Tulsi Sahib, would visit Hathras to honor the memory of the saint. 5. Gharib Das, one of the earliest disciples of Tuylsi Sahib, stated that Tulsi Sahib passed on his spiritual mantleship to Shiv Dayal Singh (then known as Munshi Ji) before his death in 1843. 6. The writings of Tulsi Sahib were held with great veneration. Shiv Dayal also referred to him as "Sat Sahib" ('True Lord'), as did Dayal's disciples. THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SHIV DAYAL SINGH Prior to any examination for the life of the progenitor of the Radhasoami satsang, Shiv Dayal Singh, known to his followers as Radhasoamiji or simply Soamiji Maharaj, we must issue a caveat which the reader should keep in mind throughout this entire essay: despite his influential position, given the subsequent growth and expansion of his sampradaya throughout both India and a number of foreign countries, Soamiji's biography and the nature of his teachings to this day remain shrouded in the cloak of historical controversy and mystery. Western scholarly attention did not focus upon him or the Radhasoami faith until decades after his death and the initial schisms which ensued, and those early reports which were eventually produced were so strongly influenced by the Christian missionary zeal of their authors that they are of very limited utility to the modern researcher. In addition to this, Soamiji provided no written narrative of his life, and thus academics studying this tradition are compelled to rely upon he brief biographical accounts published in sectarian literature, as well as the larger Jeevan Charitra Soami Maharaj, authored by his younger brother and devoted disciple, Seth Pratap Singh. This absence of reliable third-party accounts is certainly an obstacle, but nevertheless, it should not be overemphasized, for despite the rather limited scope of the available sources general unaninimity regarding the major dates and many of the events of his life does exist, a rare and fortunate occurrence within the Indian sant tradition. Soamiji was born on August 25, 1818 at Panni Gali, three miles from the heart of Agra. Little information regarding his family lineage is available, abut it is known that both of his parents, Seth Diwali Singh and Maha Maya, as well as most of his extended family were well- versed in the sant mat tradition. His father, and perhaps certain other relations, were originally members of the Nanak panth; and as a result, Nanak's writings (the Jap Ji, for e.g.) were recited by the family on a regular basis and clearly played a significant formative role in his early spiritual development. The other major mystical influence within his family was the aforementioned Tulsi Sahib of Hathras, the primary satguru in the shabd yoga tradition of the time. Both Diwali Singh and Maha Maya were initiates of this sant, as were numerous other members of the family. This association remained very close throughout Tulsi Sahib's life, as it is recorded that Soamiji's family often visited Hathras, and likewise would be visited in Ag a by their satguru. Indeed, it is suggested by some that being particularly pleased with the devotion of the family during one of these latter occasions he foretold the coming of Shiv Dayal, as well as his divine status, as Puri narrates: Seth Dilwali Singh's mother [Soamiji's grandmother] replied, "I have everything through your grace and need nothing. But," pointing to her daughter-in-law, she submitted, "Mahamaya wants something." Mahamaya, the wife of Seth Dilwali Singh, had no son. Tulsi Sahib, in the same vein of compassion and kindness said, "Yes, she will have a son. But do not look upon the child as a mere human being." [i.e. he will be a perfect Saint]. At the age of five Shiv Dayal began his formal education, and attained the proficiency in Hindi, Urdu, Gurmukhi, Persian, Arabic and Sanskrit. His apparently remarkable scholastic success notwithstanding, his religious tendencies, coupled perhaps with the mystical atmosphere which had permeated his infancy asserted themselves when he was only six years old; at this young age he began to perform daily meditation (abhyas) while continuing with his studies. Evidently, the observation of his predisposition toward spiritual activity (parmarth), coupled with Tulsi's augury, impacted the family's perception and treatment of the youth: even this early in life he seems to have been accorded the reverence and "prestige" usually reserved for one's satguru alone. Not only did he receive respectful treatment, but Pratap Singhji recollects that, Even during his school days, Soamiji Maharaj used to impart religious instructions of the highest order to His parents and the members of His family, acquaintances and ascetics who came to Him. Though this inclination towards spiritual practices continued to assert itself, Soamiji's early life followed, for the most part, the traditional grihashtri (householder) pattern, though it seems that his worldly actions were often performed only in deference to his parents' wishes. He was, for instance, married at an early age to Narayan Dei of Fairdabad--later known as Radhaji Maharaj when she began to play a role in his public satsang--at the request of his father. The emphasis on dutiful performance of swarth (wordly work) and parmarth, which came to figure prominently in his later discourses and teachings, can thus clearly find precedent and perhaps a degree of inspiration in his own early childhood experiences. Upon the completion of his formal education, Soamiji began to work for a governmental officer in Banda as a Persian translator. Feeling, however, that the duties of this position were too onerous to permit sufficient devotional exercises (sadhana) he left the post and began to serve as a Persian tutor with the raja of Ballabhgarh for a few hours daily. He served in this capacity for a time, but upon his father's illness and eventual death Soamiji returned to Panni Gali where he was to spend the rest of his life. Very little is known about the next phase of his life, except that he disapproved of the family's money-lending business and put an end to it. Having done so, it seems that Soamiji began to devote himself fully to intense spiritual activity, sitting in continual meditation for lengthy periods, as well as giving private discourses and initiations to a small group of disciples. This persisted for approximately fifteen years until 1861, when the foundations for what came to be known as the Radhasoami Satsang were established, as described by Pratap Singh: For more than a year, some satsangis and satsangins had been praying to His august graciousness for the establishment of general satsang. Soamiji Maharaj accepted their prayer. He was pleased to start discourses on Sant Mat to Parmathis at his own residence on Basant Panchmi day, Friday, the 15th of February, 1861 A.D. As a result of the regular public discourses and initiations which ensued, his following expanded rapidly: prior to his death on June 15, 1878 he is said to have initiated between eight and ten thousand individuals. In addition to this, he authored a number of devotional hymns in Urdu which were compiled after his death in Sar Bachan Radhasoami Chand-Band, and notes from his discourses were later arranged in Sar Bachan Radhasoami Bartik. Both of these works, covering all the essentials of the faith, served continue to function as elementary texts for virtually every subsequent disciple in the Radhasoami tradition. THE TEACHINGS OF SHIV DAYAL SINGH As all the other mystics who preceded him in the sant tradition, Soamiji Maharaj's spiritual ministry and teachings were premised upon a precise and developed notion of cosmogeny, as well as the theological and soteriological concepts which were abstracted from it. The foundation for all his doctrinal elaborations was, of course, his perception of Supreme Reality in its ultimate state. This formless Lord, totally beyond comprehension or description, is said to exist absorbed within itself (unmun) in a state of sunn samadhi (intense rapture or bliss). Unfathomable, infinite, eternal, and nameless (anami), this radically prior consciousness is described by Shiv Dayal as simply "a wonder, a wonder, a wonder." At some point in his ministry, Soamiji adopted the appellation "Radhasoami" (radhasvami) for this Supreme Being. Wonder, writes Soamiji, "then took on a form," whereupon he outlines an elaborate and comprehensive cosmology. The divine Being initially manifest as a creative urge, a form which he calls mauj. From this, a current descended and created a hierarchy of spiritual levels, corresponding to various planes of consciousness. The cosmological/ontological schema he then outlines is first subdivided into a number of realms or deshes: sat desh, brahmand, and, and pind. These deshes--with the notable exception of pind--are then further subdivided into eight smaller regions, called pads or loks. Beginning from the top, they are: Radhasoami dham (corresponding to the absolute, formless and ultimate state of sunn samadhi outlined above); alakh lok; agam lok; sat lok; bhanwar gupha; daswan dwar (sometimes further departmentalized into sun and maha sunn); trikuti; and, sahans-dal-kanwal. The other desh, pind, corresponds to both the cosmological and physiological; it signifies the entire cosmos in which we currently exist, as well as our physical body, the associated cakras (or ganglia) and the levels of consciousness we experience when our attention operates from each of these centers (waking or dreaming consciousness, for e.g. ). The process of creation itself can be separated into two distinct phases. The first consisted in the Lord directly manifesting himself, in varying degrees of intensity, to effect the divisions of agam, alakh, and sat lok. At this point, however, he projected himself into two forms: the shabd and the surats. The latter, loosely translated as either individuated consciousness or souls, are thus considered to be a part (ansh) of the Supreme Being. This is the fundamental foal of Soamiji's mat, to reveal to the surat that, in its actual and true nature, it is undifferentiated from the Lord. The basic problematic for Radhasoami, then, is identity. Soamiji reminds us of this on numerous occasions: [the malady] is ignorance, for the individual does not know who he is, whose essence he is and where is that Source...The disease of ignorance cannot be got rid of by dogmatic belief...but it will be cured by taking shelter of Sat Guru of the time. He will give the necessary vision; then the Jiva will know itself and its master. Listen thou, from me, O soul, to the secret of thine own being. Thou wert ever one with me. The surat, then, having descended to the bottom of the spiritual hierarchy, is not aware of itself. This unenlightened surat, called the jiva when in this world, is enclosed by mental, astral, and physical sheaths or bodies, must undergo death and rebirth in chaurasi (lit. "the wheel of eighty-four," or transmigration) and experiences the transitory pain and pleasure as a result of the karma it accumulates. Salvation (moksa), for Soamiji, represents a reversal of the process of creation which was responsible for this loss of identity and the concomitant suffering of the surat. Described as the dispelling of maya (or delusion), it consists in the extrication of the jiva from the lower creation, culminating eventually in the recognition of its true identity; this illuminative and unitive revelation is described as a return or a merger with the Lord. The liberation of the soul (jivan mukti) by ascent to its "true and original home" is, then, the ultimate (if not the only objective of Soamiji's teachings, representing as it does the only possible avenue for the attainment of real and permanent bliss. The only method for this God-realization (i.e., self-realization), in Shiv Dayal Singh's view, is the path of devotion or bhakti. In this world, the soul acts as though it is a separate and discreet entity. This "egocentric" view, though incorrect, cannot be dispelled by merely asserting one's consciousness as undifferentiated. Rather, one's entire method of cognition must be altered such that one begins to actually experience and apprehend himself in this manner. And it is only through total surrender to and love for the divine Being that this can be achieved. Consistent with the sant tradition, within the Radhasoami teachings there are two essential foci for the practice of this bhakti--shabd and the satguru--each of which represents a manner in which the formless Lord is said to manifest and mediate himself. THE SHABD As briefly described earlier, the Supreme Being projected himself at sat lok into two forms: the shabd and the surat. The latter represents the individual souls which populate the various levels of lower consciousness. The former, on the other hand, is an audible (and visible) current or sound which is responsible for the creation of these lower planes. It literally permeates and sustains the cosmos, and in a more important sense, it is considered to be identical to the divine; it is a wholly sacred manifestation of the formless ultimate. This shabd has a dual function, however, both creative and attractive. In this purview, the path of illumination, as alluded to earlier, is considered simply a reversal of the process of creation: just as the shabd descended to create the cosmos, so the jiva must ascend through (and eventually transcend) the lower levels of consciousness. This surat, by focusing its attention upon the shabd, is attracted by it and pulled upwards in such a way that consciousness is gradually withdrawn from the lower regions until it eventually comes to recognize itself as a projection of this very shabd. The practice of this shabd-bhakti, called surat-shabd-yoga (lit. union of the surat with the shabd), is the core of the devotional techniques (sadhana) Soamiji taught. To understand it, we must first note the two aspects of shabd (also called nam) which Shiv Dayal Singh describes: My brother! I am going to define nam. It is of two kinds. They are dhunatmak nam and the varna form of the dhunatmak nam. I give out details of both these kinds. What is uttered by tongue may be termed as varna or akshar. What is spoken and reduced to writing is termed varnatmak. The varnatmak is lakhayak [indicator] of dhun. But without perfect guru, nothing can be achieved.