Charan Singh Interview

Editor: David Christopher Lane
Publisher: UPDATE
Publication date: 1981

E-mail David Christopher Lane directly at

I want to go back to the home base now.


Editor's Introduction

The following interview, excerpted from the Denmark journal UPDATE , is unique in many ways. The late Maharaj Charan Singh of Radhasoami Satsang Beas was a highly revered saint in India, who felt that the essential teachings of Jesus Christ were misinterpreted by the present-day orthodoxy. Instead of looking for God within, he argued, they looked for God without. Instead of seeing the human body as the temple of the Living God, they built great edifices with elaborate altars. Instead of viewing Jesus as one of a number of great God-men, they

made him and his teachings historically exclusive, ostracizing in the process all other great spiritual figures and their respective paths. On the other hand, the UPDATE group of Christians, who had gathered for a fact finding mission on religion in India, were Biblical Fundamentalists, more or less, who felt that Eastern mysticism and the like had diseased much of Western culture with pseudo-gurus and regressive meditation techniques.

What we have here, then, are two views of spirituality; or, more precisely, two views of the teachings of Jesus Christ. One which is gnostic, radical, and essentially mystical; the other which is literal, orthodox, and essentially biblical. The basis for this dialogue is a bit skewed, though, since the Christians are using their text--a text which, as history has demonstrated, went through a number of political contests and revisions before achieving its present day status. Nevertheless, Charan Singh feels that the New Testament still contains key elements of Christ's teachings; teachings which he asserts dovetail with the findings of other great spiritual leaders, like Rumi, Kabir, and Nanak. The UPDATE Christian group, in contrast, does not see Jesus' teachings as part of the perennial wisdom of mankind, but rather as a singularly unique revelation in the universe about man's relationship with God. As such, Jesus is not simply a mystic among other mystics; he is, to them, the only Son of God.

The reader may at first think that this is a relatively new debate, belonging to the 20th century where the dividing lines between science and religion have now been clearly drawn. But that would be an inaccurate inference, for this debate between inner and outer authority, between mysticism and orthodoxy, between living masters and dead prophets has been with us since the beginnings of language. And it was certainly in full bloom during and after the time of Christ. In terms of political history, of course, the literalists won in championing their view that Jesus Christ was the messiah for all of mankind and that he, as the Son of God, conquered death by bodily resurrecting on the third day. The gnostic view, which included the concept that Jesus spiritually (but not bodily) rose from the dead, was suppressed in the early Christian Church for its mystical "heresy," despite the fact that the Gospel accounts themselves present contradictory evidence on the question of Jesus' resurrection.

So some twenty centuries later, in the midst of the greatest technological revolution known to humankind, we are still having the same debate over a figure who is, arguably, the most influential person in history. Will we solve the riddle? No, not to anyone's universal satisfaction, but at least the following dialogue clarifies the key issues distinguishing the two major views of Jesus Christ. The Teachings Jesus Two Views Christ The Teachings of Jesus

Haack: What is this teaching that all the mystics of the world teach?

Charan Singh: I will tell you the gist of it. There is one God, and there is a necessity to go back to him. Without going back to our Father, we cannot escape from births and deaths. The Lord is nowhere outside, he is in every one of us. And the Path leading back to the Father is also the same. In our body the seat of the soul and mind is here at the eye center (third eye). Our whole consciousness operates from here out through the senses, the nine apertures. Through these we are attached to this whole creation. And this is bringing us back to the creation each time after death.

Albrecht: You mean reincarnation.

Charan Singh: Yes. Christ said, "If you build your treasure in the world you will come back to the world; if you build it in heaven, you go back to heaven." If you are attached to this creation, you come back to this creation. If you are attached to the Father, you go back to the Father. So, unless you withdraw this consciousness back to the eye center, we don't come to the door of our house. Our spiritual journey starts from the eye center, upward. So we have to withdraw our consciousness back to the eye center. And after that you have to travel with that light and sound within. That is why Christ said, "If your eye is single, your whole body is full of light." We have to open this eye and see that light. With the help of that light, we have to find our way back to God. Christ said that spiritual worship pleases the Father. And that Spirit, that Holy Ghost, that Word, that Logos that is in every one of us is here at the eye center. Indian mystics have given Indian names, Christ has given his own name, Persian mystics have given their own name, but those who have travelled within on that path, they have the same message to give. They are not bound by any ritual, by any ceremonies; they don't have anything to worship outside of themselves, they only worship Him within.

Haack: In the Bible there is a special ritual given by Christ. It's the Lord's Supper, which is practiced by the followers of Jesus Christ.

Charan Singh: These rituals have come later on. These rituals have never been performed by Christ himself. They have come later on. That was the blessed food that he distributed to his disciples. It was no ritual at all.

Aagaard: The last night before he was betrayed?

Charan Singh: Yes. He blessed the loaf of bread.

Aagaard: He did say, "Take, eat, this is my body..."

Charan Singh: "This is my body," this is you see, what he said. "Unless you taste my blood and my flesh, you cannot be part of me." This is not the blood and flesh of the physical body, it is the spiritual body. You do not taste the blood and flesh of the spiritual body . They are spirit, the Holy Ghost. He said to his disciples, "You have come into me and I have come into you." No physical body can come into anybody else's physical body.

Aagaard: We speak about a spiritual body in Christian theology, that's correct. In the Christian tradition, the spiritual body, as far as I have understood it, is the body of believers in which the Holy Spirit lives, as in a temple. A community of believers is the temple of the Holy Spirit.

Charan Singh: That Holy Spirit is within every one of us, here at the eye center.

Aagaard: Why exactly at the eye center?

Charan Singh: Because the seat of the soul and mind is here at the eye center. "If the eye be single, the whole body is full of light."

Aagaard: Yes, I know that verse, but I have not understood it like that.

Charan Singh: And that light is the body of Christ. That light comes from the radiance of his spiritual body.

Alexander: Jesus seems to teach, and his followers definitely believe, that the basis of returning to the Father was forgiveness of sin, and that Jesus' death somehow was critical to establishing this forgiveness.

Charan Singh: You see, what is forgiveness? Forgiveness of what?

Alexander: Speaking in biblical terms, it was forgiveness of sin.

Charan Singh: Sin of individuals. You see, there is something standing between me and the Father. Unless that is forgiven, the soul cannot go back to the Father. That block is our sins, our karmas, our actions of past lives. Unless all that is forgiven, the soul cannot go back to the Father. It cannot shine, it cannot become whole. So we have to meditate, to seek that forgiveness.

Alexander: My question was, that in Christianity, or the biblical view of things, that forgiveness was based upon Jesus' death.

Charan Singh: You have to work yourself, to seek the forgiveness of the Father. Jesus has told you of a path. He has given you a teaching. He has shown you the way. You have to find that path, the way, and seek the forgiveness of your sins before you can go back to the Father. He said, "Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand." Repent from what? You don't know what you have done (in past lives). How can you repent if your don't know what you've done?

Williams: Why don't we know?

Charan Singh: No question of why, but we don't know how we have offended. A child has not hurt any one; he is all love. Why doesn't he see God? We have gone through many years, so we can see what we have done. But what about the child? This is because of his past karmas, past sins. Those sins have become our master, and we have become their slave. Our soul has become the slave of those sins.

Williams: Following through on what you've just said, you realize the sins are in your past lives. So how do you achieve forgiveness for them?

Charan Singh: You see, all these sins have relationship to the mind. The soul is dominated by the mind. Mind is a slave of the senses. Being a slave of the senses, mind commits sins. And soul is dominated by the mind. So soul has to pay for all those sins. Unless the soul gets a release from the mind, soul can never become whole, soul can never shine. So we are to withdraw the consciousness to the eye center and attach ourselves to the divine light within. When mind is attached to that, it doesn't come through the senses at all. So when mind comes back to its own source, soul gets release from the mind. All the burden is lifted from the soul, the soul shines.

Williams: So then, after you've meditated and got forgiveness, then the reincarnation stops. So then what happens after you die?

Charan Singh: You go back to the Father. It is only our karma and sins that are pulling us back to this creation. When they are all finished, nothing can pull us back to this creation. If you are able to burn off your karmas by meditation during this lifetime, then you don't have to come back.

Albrecht: Regarding this question of karma, where did the first wave or impulse of karma come from? Did it begin within the Godhead itself?

Charan Singh: It begins the moment we have become part of this creation. Then the Lord has projected himself into this creation. As you read St. John, he said there was the Word before the creation, and the Word has made the creation. There is no difference between the Word and God. So before that, it was the creative power only, which you can call God. And that creative power has created the creation. So he has projected himself into the creation.

Albrecht: But that presents a moral and ethical problem. This creation is imperfect and fallen; there is evil in society and suffering in the world. Now, if this karma came from God, or was projected or emanated from his essence, then that implies that God is imperfect.

Charan Singh: No, God is not imperfect. But God has created this world imperfect. Unless the world is imperfect, it cannot exist. The moment anyone becomes perfect in the world, he goes back to the perfect one. We are only here as far as we are imperfect. And the point of our meditation is to become perfect. Christ said, "Go and sin no more, lest something worse befall you." Once you are on the path, you are in the process of becoming whole, perfect. Otherwise you will have to come back to this life again. But you have to become a shining example to others, then they also will follow you.

Pandit: What is the object of this human life?

Charan Singh: The object is to make ourselves perfect and go back to the Father. If you want to help society, that's a very different problem. So many reformers have come, so many mystics and saints have come, and has the society been reformed? You cannot remove the thorns from the world, but you can wear shoes so they will not affect you. The society will always remain the same. This world will always be imperfect; it will remain imperfect. But we can become perfect in this creation. We can wear shoes. You cannot solve the problems of the world, but you can rise above the problem; it doesn't affect you at all.

Pandit: So you come to the position of the Gita, where he who is a great yogi is above attachment.

Charan Singh: Yes. He is not affected by what is happening around him. He must be a spectator.

Haack: So God is playing his own play in us?

Charan Singh: Yes, we are all puppets. We have no freedom--absolutely not.

Williams: Well then, why does one meditate?

Charan Singh: Because He wants us to meditate. We are not needed. If we had a free will, we would not have a part in his creation. Who would like to be away from the Creator and a part of this miserable creation? Did we have free will to come to this creation?

Haack: What does this mean? Can't we do anything?

Charan Singh: Absolutely not. Christ said, "Even the hairs on the body are numbered." How would you explain that? Would a few hairs less or more make any difference to you? He says even they are all numbered--even that little insignificant thing. We have limited free will, conditional free will, but not absolute free will.

Haack: Not absolute free will--only God has that.

Charan Singh: That's what I'm saying. There is no absolute free will. We have conditioned free will.

Aagaard: Does it mean that if we get rid of these conditions by means of meditation, then we will have gained our free will?

Charan Singh: No. Then you'll go back to the Father and you'll be living in his will. The question is: What is "you?" What you yourself call you is an ego, a mind. And when we limit the ego, the mind [that is, transcend them], then it is soul, which is a drop of the divine ocean. The purpose is to become one with the Creator, not to stay separate from the Creator.

Pandit: Is this unity in terms of identity or in terms of union?

Charan Singh: Call it anything. It's just a way of explaining it. You lose your identity and yet you are separate from him. You lose your identity, you just become one with him.

Pandit: As my arm is my body, yet it is an arm...

Charan Singh: Yes, that's right. You see the waves in the ocean. They are part of the ocean, and yet you can say that they are different; but they are also the same thing.

Haack: Am I no longer aware of my own existence if I am one with him?

Charan Singh: Who wants to be aware of his own existence? It is only the ego who wants it. Lover always wants to become one with the beloved. Who wants to be a drop and not the ocean?

Haack: I take my human existence and identity, as a wonderful gift from the Creator himself, not to withdraw into extinction.

Charan Singh: You see, I will tell you. Lord worships himself through us. We are just puppets. He pulls us from within. Unless He shows us that path, that way, we can never go back to him at all. We are blind. A blind man can never get out of the darkness unless someone with eyes leads him out ot the darkness. So Christ said, "My sheep recognize my whistle."

Alexander: One more question concerning Christ's death. You have said that forgiveness is necessary before one can return to the Father, but that this forgiveness is not based on the death of Christ, but upon our meditation and becoming perfect.

Charan Singh: No, no. His grace is there, his help is there, he has shown us the teaching, the way.

Alexander: Right. But I'm speaking of his death, as an atonement for sin. If the forgiveness of God is not based upon Christ's death, then what meaning does Christ's death have? What meaning does Christ's crucifixion have...?

Charan Singh: I personally think that if Christ had not been crucified, his teaching would have gone unheard of. He would have gone unknown in this world. Many saints have come and gone, nobody knows anything about them. For them, whether on the cross or in the body, is nothing. They are one with the Father.

Aagaard: Then how is the resurrection understood?

Charan Singh: What is your concept of resurrection?

Aagaard: It is that Jesus Christ was bodily killed, and rose again n the third day, in this world, as that Holy Spirit which brings forgiveness and new life to all mankind.

Charan Singh: Then where did he go after that?

Aagaard: He went and sat at the right hand of God the Father, as we confess in the creed. And from there he'll come again.

Charan Singh: My concept is: His disciples saw Christ within themselves, his radiant form.

Williams: For forty days after the resurrection, his body was seen on earth by many people.

Charan Singh: People saw his spiritual body. But that body is not made of this matter.

Williams: But he actually ate food on the beach.

Charan Singh: That is what it looked like. But if they tried to catch it (his body) they would not be able to.

Scott: You quoted two passages from the words of Jesus, and there are some other passages very close to those two passages. You talk about the inner light. Jesus said, "If the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness." You talked about Jesus as Shepard, and he talks about himself as being the only shepard. And he talks about other teachers being thiefs and robbers. Do you think Jesus was deliberately misleading people, or was mistaken? How do we put these things in context?

Charan Singh: People are twisting his teachings, I am sorry to say. He said there's a darkness within every one of us, and light comprehended it not. We cannot see that light because there's a darkness within, not anywhere outside. Everyone needs guidance. Christ got his guidance from John the Baptist. He said there is a man who has come from God whose name is John.

Scott: So John was Jesus' teacher?

Charan Singh: Yes.

Scott: I see.

Charan Singh: Absolutely. We may or may not accept it. You try to go a little deeper into the Bible.

Haack: I get the strange feeling that we will have to throw out all of St. Paul's letters which are in the New Testament. They say that there is only one light for the world, Jesus Christ...

Charan Singh: You don't have to go after St. Paul. Go after the teaching of St. John, St. Matthew, St. Luke. They are the ones who received direct teaching from Christ. Nobody took direct notes on what Christ said. Therefore we cannot take a verse like "the only son"--it might have meant "only the son"--that is, the way of all the mystics. I have written a commentary on Saint Matthew. I understand it, but I don't say I'm any authority on the Bible, because that's not my background, as you see.

Williams: . . . How can I control what I did in the years before when I didn't even know who or what I was?

Charan Singh: That's the purpose of the meditation. Christ said, "Repent, the Kingdom of God is at hand." We can't repent for what we don't know.

Williams: But can't I repent from this day, from this life, where I grew up from a child and know what I've done?

Charan Singh: You can only repent in the sense that you won't like to do anything that you think is bad, from this point on. But still, you don't know what you have done in the past.

Williams: The Christian attitude is that the moment we were born, we started off with a brand new soul and we were brand new creations from a loving Father.

Charan Singh: Christ said, "You take birth with you sins." In the Bible it says that you will have to come with your sins, along with your sins. Original sin. This is the concept of original sin--the sins you have committed in past lives. You have to come along with them. They have become your master. You have become their disciple.

Albrecht: I've done a lot of thinking about reincarnation, and the fundamental problem that I see is, let's say for example, that I was Billy the Kid, a notorious outlaw and murderer in the USA in the last century. Now, I have no recollection of that at all, but if I am his reincarnation, then I will be suffering for all the things that Billy the Kid did. Well, I have no connection with Billy the Kid, no recollection or recognizance of that life. Why should I pay for his sins? This seems to me to be both illogical and unjust.

Charan Singh: What is "you?" Is it the body, made up of elements, or is it the soul?

Albrecht: I believe that I am a combination of my body, mind and spirit, or soul.

Charan Singh: Who gives life to this body and soul?

Albrecht: God creates the soul.

Charan Singh: Yes, and all sins are concerned with the soul. And through the body you have to pay them. Now it is you in this body, then it was that person. The same soul. Soul never dies, and Christ said it is immortal.

Albrecht: To me, my soul is connected inextricably with my personality. Not with Billy the Kid's personality, or anyone else's.

Charan Singh: No, no. Billy the Kid, you see, is in that particular body. But soul can be the same. the same soul that was in that body, now it has come in this body along with all the original sins, those sins which were committed by him then.

Alexander: Are you saying that the soul does remember?

Charan Singh: No, no. It may not remember anything. But the same soul comes along with those sins in this body now, and is paying for those sins through this body. It is only a garment.

Albrecht: OK, but who determines which soul goes into what body? Is there a great computer in the heavens?

Charan Singh: The Lord.

E-mail The Neural Surfer directly at

I want to go back to the home base now.