by Peter Holleran
"Not only does loving devotion raise the soul to God, but God, too, is drawn down from the transcendental regions and reaches for the devotee and takes His abode in his heart. " - Sant Kirpal Singh, Sat Sandesh, July 1983
“Believe nothing you have read or anything you have heard, even if I have said it, unless it agrees with common sense and reason.” - Buddha
Dedication: For the Hungry
Note: this is a very long four-part article written over a number of years, and there are sections that need re-writing to more clearly articulate the ideas discussed herein. However most of it basically stands as it is, so long as the reader keeps this in mind.
It is because of the freedom given me by my initiating Master, Sant Kirpal Singh, that I write this article, asking and searching for open dialogue on what remains for some a glorious yet mysterious path. I would not for the world take it upon myself, nor is it my intention, to cause one soul to entertain unnecessary doubts, but I figure that if you, dear reader, have gotten this far, you have your share of inquiries and may find some benefit in what is discussed herein, and that the day and age has arived to speak more plainly on such matters. What follows is largely not for the beginner but rather for the seasoned questor who still has real questions regardless of his efforts, devotion, and experiences on this path. As there are now hundreds of thousands of followers in the many branches of Sant Mat, or Radhasoami tradition, with different gurus within each, offering similar but not always identical teachings [perhaps the two most predominant branches today descending from Sawan Singh (Beas) to either Maharaj Charan Singh (Beas) or Sant Kirpal Singh (Delhi), but also major branches in Peepalmandi (Dadaji), Soamibagh, and Dayalbagh)], there are undoubtedly many seekers who harbor unasked and unanswered heartfelt questions. This is not due only to internal discrepencies and controversies among or between the various lineages of Sant Mat, but also because of the challenge of a more radical, direct approach disseminated by a host of emerging Buddhist as well as non-dual teachers, the latter largely descending from Sri Ramana Maharshi and Sri Nisargadatta.
Hopefully this article will bring the different schools of thought a little closer together, and thus, in some small way, justify the ecumenical efforts of my Master in founding The World Fellowship of Religions and Unity of Man Conferences several decades ago. This is an exploratory essay and not in any respect an attempt to "prove" or "disprove" Sant Mat or any other path. In fact, its underlying assumption is that Sant Mat is on essence true and authentic, with yet numerous questions arising for the discriminative seeker, which are in need of improved articulation. We take a diplomatic approach, well-aware that there are those who feel Sant Mat is, aside from its claims of being all about love, still a cult, especially with its 'perfect master' ideology and exclusivity as regards other paths, and is therefore failing to keep up with the times and an ongoing transmission of intelligence and grace that is said by many to be infusing our planet at this time without prejudice for any person or dharma. Some accuse it of being divisive, negative, and a few, even 'hateful' and close-minded in this respect. For instance, they argue, why don't the respective masters of the different lineages within Sant Mat get together in a forum and debate and discuss their differences, and, equally importantly, why do they not do the same with leaders of other paths, rather than merely congregate on the stage with those leaders and individually 'sell' their particular brand of spirituality without cross-pollination and sharing of input as done in the time of the ancient rishis and as sponsored throughout Indian history by its great and noble maharajas, and universities such as Nalanda? Since Sant Mat is one of the largest spiritual movements in the world today, it is necessary to enter into a comparative dialogue and analysis of its claims to bring all aspects into the light of awareness. We hope that this discussion will help move it forward so as to remain a viable way in its own right, where possible, and to change as required by the evolving needs and understanding of the human race.
It is also recognized that mystical experience enters a realm where the discursive intellect does not go, yet, it is still subject to some extent to reason or buddhi, the highest faculty of the mind, the closest to Atman itself. Therefore, If you are content where you are, wonderful, you may read no further. Otherwise, read on, with full attention and an open mind intent on truth. This article is at times dense, as well as somewhat exhaustive; the reader, however, can determine if it is of value.
We are well-aware of critical articles and websites by various authors and researchers regarding succession issues, purported scandals, and the like in the multiple branches of the Sant Mat or Radhasoami tradition. We have purposely omitted reference to those, except, with some hesitation, for two links at the end of this article, in order to keep this discussion on the relative merits of the philosophies alone. Each seeker is free to explore the other material, come to his own conclusions, and decide for him or her self what is useful or not. These sources are not altogether unimportant, but simply tangential and at a lower level than that which we want to discuss here.
For those who have read this article before, Parts Two and Three represents entirely new material. All four parts, however, are one fairly consistent whole, and have been re-written since this article was first released, and continue to be in the process of re-writing. Those who have read it years ago will also note that the autobiographical material was removed, expanded, and transferred to the Biography section of this website, where it is now called "The Death of a Dream and a Gift of Truth".
On the positive side it is lauditory that by and large many of the masters of Sant Mat, at least, the ones I have known and loved, are examples of clean living, selfless service, loving others, personal discipline, profound depths of inner meditation and illumination, not accepting money for their spiritual work, and, compared to many paths, relatively free of gross scandals, i.e., drugs, money, and sex. On these points most unbiased observers would agree. The goal proposed and promised is lofty and celestial. The loved poured out by the greatest of these masters is real. The questions I have relate to the philosophy itself and how it relates to ultimate realization as described in other traditions and schools.
Sant Mat teaches an emanationist philosophy/theology of creation that believes the fallen soul must retrace its journey back from realms of varying densities of matter to those of pure spirit. As we shall see clearly in Part Two, this is only one way of interpreting the truths of Sant Mat. There is a more inclusive, nondual way of looking at it, although that is not the way it is generally disseminated to the millions of its followers, many of whom are simple villagers not so inclined to question at that level. This is a burden, in our opinion, some of the the Masters aware of these truths lovingly carry until such time as they can speak more plainly.
The technique, believed superior to other paths and unique to itself alone, is to concentrate at the ajna chakra (third eye) and withdraw the attention from the body, catch the inner light and sound current, and ride that upwards to the fifth and, by their system, first divine and indestructible, spiritual plane, Sach Khand. Some Sants, such as Darshan Singh and Rajinder Singh, have actually described the supercausal realm, Bhanwar Gupta, as a true spiritual realm (beyond mind and matter), where the soul first experienced its individuality on the downward path, and on the upward path (with but a thin veil of anandamaya kosha remaining, almost an integral part of the soul itself, said Kirpal Singh) first cries out "aham brahm asmi", i.e., "oh Lord, I am of the same essence as thou, or "Thou Art That", etc.), with Sach Khand being refered to as the True Region, or the realm of Truth or Spirit, the first primal expression in full effulgence of the nameless One. This plane also sometimes referred to as the region of oneness or kaivalya. Param Sants are said to go further, being progressively 'absorbed by the Sat Purush' into three more planes, Alakh, Agam, and Anami, where there is less and less light and sound until merger in Anami, the nameless and formless. This is sometimes called mahakaivalya.
[Some schools of Sant Mat teach that Radhasoami is a stage beyond Anami. The suggestion, through use of the terms "wonder region," or that it is not a region, but the "source and reality of All", etc., is that this may refer to a non-dual Atmic realization, but it is not made clear, and is difficult in any case to compare to the teachings of other paths. To thicken the plot, Agam Prasad Mathur (aka Dadaji, a direct spiritual descendant of Rai Salig Ram, himself a disciple of Soamiji (according to most sources the modern day originator of the path of Sant Mat or Radhasoami Mat), has stated that beyond Anami is Radhasoami Dham and Dayal Desh, and that these teachings were edited out of the Sar Bachan of Soamiji in the translation of that book by the Beas group under Sawan Singh. Agam Prasad Mathur therefore was saying that the Beas lineage descending from Jaimal Singh - another disciple of Soamiji - through Sawan Singh did not have the full truth. This rather significant alleged difference is little known among radhasoami satsang circles].
Sant Mat is adamant and unique among the traditions in maintaining that the Vedantins are wrong in their assertion of Brahman as the ultimate reality. This is a major point whose truth or not is at the heart of this entire article:
"In the Radhasoami faith, the ultimate reality is Radhasoami. In Hinduism and its branches the ultimate reality is Brahman and Isvara. Brahman is considered to be the highest reality in Vedanta. The founders of Radhasoami faith, however, came forward with a new concept. According to them, The Brahman of Vedanta is limited to the second grand division of the creation whom they call "spiritual-material region". They hold that the Brahman is not the true Supreme Being or the highest reality because he is not perfectly free from mind and matter. They assert that though spiritual components predominate in Brahman, there is Maya latent in the seed form and a Supreme Reality having the least admixture of Maya cannot be styled as the highest truth. They envisaged the highest and the first grand division of creation as the region of the true Supreme Being who is absolutely spiritual and totally free from mind and matter. Such a Supreme Being they have named as Radhasoami." (website of Dadaji Maharaj)
In Sant Mat the “soul” is said to “die” or be absorbed at each succeeding inner region. There is no talk of insight, prajna, or satori such as discussed in Buddhism and other schools. The goal is merger of the soul in the Oversoul, which absorption they say begins in Sach Khand and ends by stages in Anami. On this path, the Godman is all in all. The Sants speak endlessly of the need to first achieve fana-fil-sheikh (annihilation in the Master) as a prelude to fana-fil-Allah (annihilation in God). Ths consists in developing rapt concentration through loving remembrance of the human master and the Master-Power within, to the point of reaching the Master's inner Radiant Form. That, once attained, will, by magnetic attraction, escort the emanated soul to the Sat Purush, which in turn further absorbs the soul into the Absolute. On this path of love and devotion, at each stage there is allegedly both deeper penetration into the Essence within as well as greater interpenetration between the inner and the outer, to the ultimate point of no-difference... In The Crown of Life (1970), Sant Kirpal Singh speaks movingly of this process:
"This relationship of love between the Satguru and his shishya, the Godman and his disciple, covers many phases and developments...With his greater effort and the greater grace from the Master, the disciple makes increased headway in his inner sadhanas, leading finally to complete transcendence of bodily consciousness. When this transcendence has been achieved, he beholds his Guru waiting in his Radiant Form to receive and guide his spirit on the inner planes. Now, for the first time, he beholds him in his true glory, and realizes the unfathomable dimensions of his greatness. Henceforth he knows him to be more than human and his heart overflows with songs of praise and humble devotion. The higher he ascends in his spiritual journey, the more insistent is he in his praise, for the more intensely does he realize that he whom he once took to be a friend, is not merely a friend but God Himself come down to raise him up to Himself. This bond of love, with its development by degrees, becomes the mirror of his inward progress, moving as it does, from the finite to the infinite.....once it has reached the point where the disciple discovers is teacher in his luminous glory within himself, all analogies are shattered and all comparisons forever left behind; all that remains is a gesture, and then silence...." (p. 185-186)
The following few paragraphs were part of an earlier article; they may be difficult to understand for those without a philosophic background or familiarity with the thought of Plotinus and Paul Brunton (PB). Nevertheless, they are retained here for those who may find it clarifying. Others may simply skip directly to the "Points for Discussion".
Paul Brunton and Plotinus teach that an emanent of the individual or unit Soul has penetrated or assumed a body, and it may be traced back to the Individual Soul from which it emanated and evolved through a long process of evolution. The Absolute Soul, which continually births Individual Souls, is inherent in the Intellectual Principle, the Nous, which is forever looking towards its prior, the One. The Absolute Soul is then the first of three degrees of penetration of the silent Void-Mind (Absolute Soul, Intellectual Principle, and the One) for one who has already realized his Soul. In PB’s terms that would be Overself, World-Mind (God), and Mind (Godhead). All of these higher principles are in the silent Void beyond perception, name and form, light and sound. Thus, “Anami” of Sant Mat would as it is described as "without attributes" appear to represent the first degree of merger of the Soul into the Absolute Soul, but not the One per se, in Plotinus' classification. For the One of Plotinus, Brahman of Vedanta, and the Absolute in other schools, is not subject to spatial or temporal concepts, and is not a plane, per se. It is already the case no matter what state appears. It is not found exclusively, except in its essence, by inversion. This need not lessen the greatness of such a state as Anami, only to outline its potential difference as described, and the ultimate goal as stated, in other schools. I will be the first to admit this may be entirely wrong.
Similarly, Meister Eckhart said:
“God is infinite in his simplicity and simple in his infinity. Therefore he is everywhere and is everywhere complete. He is everywhere on account of his infinity, and is everywhere complete on account of his simplicity. Only God flows into all things, their very essences. Nothing else flows into something else. God is in the innermost part of each and every thing, only in its innermost part."
"When the soul enters the light that is pure, she falls so far from her own created somethingness into her nothingness that in this nothingness she can no longer return to that created somethingness by her own power."
"Blessedness consists primarily in the fact that the soul sees God in herself . Only in God’s knowledge does she become wholly still. There she knows nothing but essence and God. Between that person and God there is no distinction, and they are one. . . Their knowing is one with God’s knowing, their activity with God’s activity and their understanding with God’s understanding."
"I have occasionally spoken of a light in the soul which is uncreated and uncreatable... This light is not satisfied with the simple, still and divine being which neither gives nor takes, but rather it desires to know from where this being comes. It wants to penetrate to the simple ground, to the still desert, into which distinction never peeped, neither Father, Son nor Holy Spirit. There, in that most inward place, where everyone is a stranger, the light is satisfied, and there it is more inward than it is in itself, for this ground is a simple stillness which is immovable in itself. But all things are moved by this immovability and all the forms of life are conceived by it which, possessing the light of reason, live of themselves.”
This seems to be speaking of the Soul’s merger into or glimpse of Intellectual Principle, its prior, where the Soul is no longer herself. Could this be Anami of the saints, or is there a further realization that most of them have missed? Be it noted that Dadaji (Agam Prasad Mathur) claimed that Sant Kirpal Singh visited him several times to ask him about this very matter. This is for most of us a rather abstruse point and I promise that the bulk of this article will not be so technically demanding.
If there is a further stage beyond Anami, called “Radhasoami”, "Dayal Desh" or whatever name be given to the non-dual Reality, then there may be some line of communication between these teachings, but, as mentioned, it is left a mystery in the teaching of Sant Mat where, like in other mystical schools, reasoning on such things is also unfortunately many times discouraged, simply because during the practice of concentration/meditation/dhyana the mental process is temporarily set aside. But that does not justify the denigration of the intellect and reasoning about these matters altogether, especially when so many sages appear to disagree with the interpretation of their inner experiences. Francis Wickes issues a warning:
” ‘Thinking hard’ hurts. It turns the sharp point of truth back upon the thinker. It pricks the bubble of ego complacency blown up by thinking easy. Its sharp wound forbids the forgetfulness which is the goal of evasive thinking. If one can forget the inner experience and its challenge can be evaded, the ego can remain comfortably unborn in the womb of the already known.” (1)
The most difficult and basic question must be asked at the outset, “where is the proof the path of inversion leads to the non-dual Brahman?” Vedanta says that, being non-dual, the One, no effort can lead there, that something more than mere yogic concentration must take place to realize it. V.S. Iyer states:
“When I am told to go and practice Yoga and then only I shall know its truth, I reply, “How do you know that Yoga leads to truth? This at once involves epistemology of which every yogi is ignorant and which he has never taken into consideration. Yet it is the very foundation of knowledge; without knowing epistemology a man who mentions truth or knowledge simply does not know what he is talking about...Vedanta’s atitude to mystics is, “granting that, if we place ourselves in your position, if we follow up the yoga-practices you prescribe we shall have the same mystic experiences you have had, how are we to know even then that those experiences are the truth? We shall still be faced with that question even after the experience. Hence the need for inquiry, whether before or after into “What is truth?”
What he is saying is that how do we know that duplicating the death process, in and of itself, through shabd yoga, for instance, leads to the truth, and not just higher states? This is not a call for every seeker to become a great scholar, or even be literate, but if even great sages have disagreed on the nature of their enlightenment, however, where would ordinary souls like us be without The Courage to Question? In the Secret Sayings of Jesus it is said:
"Let him who seeks not cease in his seeking until he finds;
and when he finds he will be troubled,
and if he is troubled, he will marvel,
and will be a king over the All."
Paul Brunton (PB) gives his definition of the term shraddha, traditionally meant as faith in the revealed truth of the scriptures:
"that faith in the existence of truth, that determination to get at truth, come what may, which would make one a hero even in the face of God's wrath."
And finally, we have these words from scientist Carl Sagan:
"Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence."
Points for Discussion
1. It is quite a challenge to compare or reconcile the teaching of Sant Mat with any other system than gnostic or mystical schools; their doctrine says that Buddhism, Advaita, and all other yogas are on a lower level, either: (1) because, as they claim, their inner experience progressively reveals this, or (2) because the modern founder of the school, Swami Shiv Dayal Singh (Soamiji), once said so, perhaps in reference to the quality of so-called jnanis and vedantists he came in contact with who were available for comparison at the time - which he mentioned to be largely pundits and not practitioners - but not necessarily, it is humbly suggested, from an actual in-depth study of high Buddhist, Hindu, and other writings or association with sages of the caliber of Ramana Maharshi. Descriptions of the meanings of "Brahman", and "Gyana", are also different than those given in other schools. Soamiji wrote, in Sar Bachan (Prose) (1978 edition):
“There will be no salvation for Vachak Gyanis (those who only talk Gyan), for they only talk. In the case of true Gyanis, the Sthool Karmas (gross karmas) only are destroyed, but not the Sukshm Karmas (subtle karmas), as they can be destroyed only after reaching the region of the Saints. It must be born in mind that only Saints can lead to salvation in this age, because there can be no salvation unless all Karmas, both gross and subtle, are destroyed, and the Gyanis do not know the technique of destroying karmas.” (p. 138)
This may be so. One famous zen master said, “first enlightenment, then the bad karma is dealt with.” There may be few who achieve this. Yet many will argue that a gyani or sage like Ramana Maharshi or Shree Atmananda were examples of those who both taught and achieved the transcendance or eradication of not only gross and subtle, but causal or root karmas as well. Kirpal Singh, in his book, The Crown of Life: A Study in Yoga mentioned that Jnana Yoga was a true path, but a steep one and not suited for the average person, but he did not deny its efficacy and even said it was a short-cut for those who had the qualifications for it (In fairness, he also pointed out the pitfalls for those who did not).
We must state at this outset that, many traditional gurus - including those of Sant Mat - who are not always the 'teaching gurus', often have given out only such a message they feel their audience will be able to understand, either by radically simplifying or re-interpreting the teaching, or holding back its more advanced portions dealing directly with truth. If this is understood up front, then the purposes of this essay will be more easily grasped. But then, if so, ultimately as he progresses the student will have to admit to himself that almost every basic tenet of the hagiographical and theological portions of Sant Mat dogma are false, or, not so much false, but as in many religious teachings, a convenient 'story', a provisional teaching for beginners to be naturally dropped at a certain stage of their growth. But why not, at this stage of human development and rapid cross-cultural spiritual dissemination, even at the beginning? Are the following claims not obsolete ways of portraying the spiritual path, even now? These include, "this path is the only way to God"; "there is only one true Master in the world at any one time - and he is the ‘successor’ or ‘inheritor of the mantle’ of a living Sant Mat master only”; "the Master is perfect, omniscient, and omnipotent"; "the world is a snare of Satan or Kal"; "liberation lies exclusively in leaving the body and ascending to higher realms"; and even, "the Shabd or Naam is the Creator-God." For many traditions and teachers would in fact argue contrary to all of these propositions, and without giving up his innate reasoning faculty the mature student cannot afford to accept the limiting and provincial viewpoint of these tenets without deep inspection. And, in fact, it is our assertion that none of these points need to retained for Sant Mat to remain a legitimate spiritual path. It is certainly fine and good to hold deep in one's heart a faith in one's Master as being a conduit or vessel for the perfection that the divine love and wisdom represents; this is more than enough, but preaching to others that he is a perfect man, or even perfect vessel, is another matter. Perhaps it is better to remain silent in this regard, rather than repeat what one has been told to believe. These things being said - stating what is obvous for more than a few, and heresy for others - let us procede.
“Whoever seeks the Sat Guru will surely find Him, for the Sat Guru is an incarnation eternally present on this earth.” (p. 139)
However, he then seems to contradicts himself by claiming:
“Saints are the Incarnations of Sat Purush, and to serve Them is to serve Sat Purush. They did not manifest themselves in the first three Yugas - but They have now incarnated themselves in this Kali Yuga for the redemption of the Jivas.”
It then gets more complicated when claims are made by other gurus in these lineages that Kabir, a key figure in Sant Mat history, “incarnated in all four ages.”
Example is often given that Jesus Christ was a perfect master and taught Surat Shabd Yoga, as well as Buddha (as suggested in the Surangama Sutra where it mentions attaining the “diamond samadhi” through the faculty of “intrinsic hearing”), but at other times these past masters are spoken of as incomplete and only reaching to the third plane in realization. Specifically, Charan Singh and Kirpal Singh differed on this. In addition, the path of Sant Mat is sometimes held to have originated with the medievil saints, not with Jesus or more ancient masters. Moreover, Sant Mat teaches that all masters must have a master, but whether Shiv Dayal Singh, the modern founder of the line, for instance, had a master in Tulsi Das is yet a matter of controversy. Agam Prasad Mathur claimed that Soamiji had no guru, whereas the Beas lineage claims that he did. Nanak did not have a master, as far as we know.
Shiv Dayal Singh didn’t give proof for his claim of the inherent superiority of Sant Mat, he merely stated it was so. Of course, one could say, what proof could he give? - one must realize it for oneself. Yet for the beginner at least, in deciding if one will take up this path, it comes down to whether you believe Soamiji’s cosmology and ontology.. I am not saying whether it is absolute true or not, only that it is an article of faith on this path. Sant Mat would say there are inherent and inevitable paradoxes and mysteries on the path that make description of the inner truths ineffable. True enough, but then that makes comparison with paths of jnana, for instance, impossible, and, in fact, comparative references are mostly only given to that of various saints and mystics within the Sant or Sikh tradition itself.
Some of the differences in the traditional uses of various terms, i.e., brahm, purusha, prakriti, gunas, etc, can be gleaned by the perceptive student from the following description of the four grand divisions of the cosmos according to The Path of the Masters, by Julian Johnson:
“Sat Desh, the Highest Region
Beginning now from Above, and going downwards, we come first to Sat Desh (Sat, True, and Desh, country: True Country or Far Country). Many other names have been applied to it, such as Nij-Dham, Sat Lok, Mukam-e Haq and Sach Khand. These names are usually applied to the lowest section of Sat Desh, but occasionally to the entire grand division. This is the region or plane of pure spirit. All enjoying the greatest conceivable happiness, its inhabitants are pure spirits in such countless numbers as no man can estimate. It is the supreme heaven of all heavens... It is known to Saints only, who alone can enter it. It cannot be described. In substance and arrangement it is wholly unlike anything known in this world. Neither can the human mind imagine it. This section is so vast in extent that no sort of understanding of it can be conveyed to human intelligence. No mind can grasp it. All that the Saints can say of it is that it is limitless. It is the only region which the great Saints insist is practically limitless. We may say, although no mind can grasp the thought, that it embraces all else, and is both the beginning and the end of all else. It is the great center about which all other worlds revolve. Anything which we might say about it would be incomplete and only partially true, so declare the Saints. If the entire physical universe with its countless millions of suns and their planets were all gathered together in a single cluster, each sun being a million light-years distant from any other sun, yet this entire ensemble would appear no more than a few dark specks floating in the clear and luminous sky of Sat Desh. In that happy country, a sun such as ours, but a thousand times larger, would appear as a tiny dark spot, so very great is the light of that world. This region is the grand capital of all creation, the center of all universes, and the residence of the Supreme Creator-Lord of all. From this center of all light, life and power, the Great Creative Current flows outwards and downwards to create, govern and sustain all regions. It passes out from this region somewhat like the radio emanations going forth from a great broadcasting station. It is the Audible Life Stream, the most important factor in the system of the Masters. This Stream permeates the entire system of universes. A thing of great importance to us is that the music of this ever- flowing current, the stream of life, can be heard by a real Master and also by his students who have advanced even a little on the Path. And let us reiterate that unless a Master teaches his students how this current is to be heard, he is not a Master of the highest order.
This grand headquarters of all creation is the region of immortality. It is unchangeable, perfect, deathless. It is for ever untouched by dissolution or grand dissolution. So are its inhabitants. This region will be referred to many times in this book. It is subdivided into four distinct planes, each having its own characteristics and its own Lord or Governor. But the difference between these subdivisions is very slight. From above downward they are named: Radha Swami Dham (meaning home of the Spiritual Lord). It is also called Anami Lok (meaning nameless region). The next plane below the highest is Agam Lok (Agam, inaccessible, and Lok, place). The third plane is Alakh Lok. (Alakh, invisible and Lok, place). The last of these higher planes is Sach Khand (Sach, truth and Khand home). The last one is also called Sat Lok, the true place. By the Mohammedan Saints it has been called Mukam-e-Haq, meaning of the same as above, the Home of Truth.
The light of all four of these regions is so very intense that it is impossible for any mortal to get an understanding of it. It cannot be described. The great Swami Ji sums up his statements regarding is region by saying simply that "It is all Love.
BRAHMANDA, THE SECOND GRAND DIVISION
The second grand division from above downward is Brahmanda, (meaning, the egg of Brahm, as said before). This refers to its shape and also to the Governor or Lord who is its ruler. This Brahm is supposed by most of the old rishis to be the supreme being of all creation, because they knew of no one higher. But the Saints know that there is not only one Brahm, but countless numbers of Brahms, who are governors over so many Brahmandas. For it must be understood that there are countless Andas and Brahmandas, each circling about the supreme region in its own orbit. And each of them has its own governor or ruler. Brahm was the highest God known to the ancient rishi or yogi, and so the name of Brahm is retained by the Saints to designate the ruler of the "Three Worlds," including the physical universe, the Anda and lower portion of Brahmanda, named Trikuti. The upper portion of Brahmanda is called Par Brahm.
As said before, this grand division is mostly spirit in substance, but is mixed with a certain amount of pure, spiritualized matter. It is the finest order of matter, and that includes mind. This is called the "spiritual-material region," because spirit dominates the region. The substance of that division gradually becomes less and less concentrated as we descend toward the negative pole of creation. The lower portions become coarser in particle, and more and more mixed with matter. In the lower end of Brahmanda mind is supreme. It is practically all mind, for mind itself is material of the finest order. Of course, even mind is mixed with spirit substance to some slight extent, otherwise it could not exist. All worlds become a shade darker as we descend, because there is less and less of spirit substance in the composition. Trikuti, the lowest section of Brahmanda, is the home of Universal Mind. It is from that region that all individual minds are derived, and to that region all minds must return when they are discarded during the upward flight of the spirit. Brahmanda is extremely vast in area when compared with the physical universe, but small when compared with the first grand division. It is itself subdivided into many distinct regions or planes. Some mention six subdivisions; but as a matter of fact, there are scores of subdivisions in that one grand division, almost numberless subdivisions, each constituting a separate and distinct world. Divisions and subdivisions shade into one another so imperceptibly that it is not easy to say just where one ends and another begins. This accounts in part for the many different descriptions of those regions, and the great variety of names assigned to them.
Anda, The Lowest of the Heavens
It lies nearest to the physical universe. Its capital is called Sahasra dal Kanwal, meaning a Thousand-petalled Lotus [right here Dr. Johnson substitutes the common yogic terminology of sahasrar for sahans (dal kanwal) to give justification for the far superior nature of the Path of the Masters; but as we shall see, Sahans Dal Kanwal, is described by Soamiji himself as being an eight-petalled lotus, not a thousand]. Its name is taken from the great cluster of lights which constitute the most attractive sight when one is approaching that world. This great group of lights is the actual "power house" of the physical universe. Out of that power house flows the power that has created and now sustains all worlds in our group. Each of those lights has a different shade of tint and they constitute the most gorgeous spectacle as one enters that magnificent city of light. In that city of splendors may be seen also many other interesting and beautiful things. Also, here may be seen millions of earth's most renowned people of all ages of our history. Many of them are today residents of this great city and country. Naturally they are quite happy. It is far superior to anything ever seen on this earth. Yet this is but the first station on the upward Path of the Masters.
This region constitutes the negative part of all the superphysical zones. That is, it lies most distant from the positive pole of creation. This region is sometimes classified as a part of Brahmanda, but the Saints prefer to consider it as a separate grand division of creation. It has many distinctive features of its own. Lying nearest to the physical universe, it forms the port of entry for all the higher regions. All souls who are passing to still higher regions must pass through it. The great majority of human souls at the time of death pass to some sub-plane of this region. But very few, comparatively, go direct to this central portion of the Sahans dal Kanwal region. It is through all of these regions that the Masters and their disciples must travel on their way to higher worlds. This section of creation is not immortal or imperishable. Neither are its inhabitants. Many of its inhabitants believe that they have attained immortality because their lives there go on for extremely long periods. All below that is subject to death and dissolution. There are two kinds of dissolutions. The one, simple dissolution" which reaches up to the lowest section in Brahmanda, the region called Trikuti; this occurs after many millions of years, and the other, the grand dissolution" which occurs after immeasurably long periods of time and extends up to the top of Brahmanda. Of course, both of these dissolutions include the entire physical universe, every sun, moon and planet in it. At that time every star and its satellites are wiped out, and then follows a period of darkness equal in duration to the life of the universe. When the period of darkness has expired, a new creation is projected, and the heavens are once more alive with sparkling stars. With each new creation begins a new "Golden Age" for each planet and its inhabitants. But between minor dissolutions there are also periods of renewal for the life of each planet when Golden Ages succeed dark ages. There is a general idea, finding its way into most religions, that this world is to come to an end. And so the Masters teach. But the end is a very different proposition to what it is generally supposed to be. It will come at a time when all worlds of the physical universe will be dissolved, and after periods of darkness and silence, new worlds will take their places. The inhabitants of all of those worlds to be dissolved are drawn up to higher regions in a sort of comatose state to be replaced upon these worlds when they are ready for human habitation. They will then begin a new life here under more favorable conditions. These periodic dissolutions come to the physical universe after many, many hundreds of millions of years. No man need worry now, lest that time is near at hand. It is many aeons away yet.
The Grand Division of Pinda -- The Physical Plane/Multiverse of Dark Matter and Light
The fourth grand division, beginning from above, is called Pinda. It is the gross material or physical universe. Here coarse matter predominates, there being but a small percentage of mind and a still smaller amount of spirit. Our earth is a small and insignificant member of Pinda. It embraces all the suns and their planets known or unknown, to astronomy. It extends out into space far beyond the reach of any telescope. Astronomers have never been able to count these worlds; although as their instruments become more perfect, the range of their observations is extended. Who shall set limits or indicate bound to those starry depths? Who can number the numberless? Who can circumscribe the boundless? To the farthest extent of space wherever there is a material sun or a speck of dust they are all included in this fourth grand division which the Masters call Pinda.
In this division, coarse material predominates. Permeating this coarse material are many finer substances, including mind, and last of all there is a modicum of spirit to give life to all the rest. In this lowest of all divisions of creation there is but little light and a very low grade of life when compared with Brahmanda. But if compared with Sat Desh, this world is pitch darkness and the life here, in comparison to that, is scarcely cognizable at all. Its substance is coarse, clumsy, inert, and full of all manner of imperfections. These imperfections, as said before, are due to the paucity of spirit at this pole. This condition of negativity is the soil out of which all evil grows. However real it may seem to us, negativity is the absence of reality, and the absence of reality is the absence of spirit. Food is a reality to us, but hunger is also a real condition to our consciousness. But hunger is due to the absence of food. In its last analysis, all pain, longing, all desire is only a cry of the mind and soul for more light, more spirit. In like manner, evil is due to, the absence of spirit. And the reason we have so small a percentage of spirit substance at this end of creation is because this is the negative pole of all creation. Pinda is the extreme negative pole. It is consequently so far depleted of spirit that it lies in a state of semi-death, a condition of heavy inertia over which broods deep shadow.
Out of this condition rise all the manifold difficulties experienced by mortals on this plane of life. As one leaves this lowest plane and begins to ascend toward the positive pole of creation, the light increases, and hence more life, more beauty and more happiness. This is all entirely due to the increase in the percentage of spirit on the several planes. Love, power, wisdom, rhythm, perfection of every sort take the place of negative conditions which prevail in the lower sections of the universe.
It should be said here, with all possible emphasis, that just in proportion to the degree of spirit substance prevailing in any region, world, person or thing, will its perfections be manifest. And vice versa, in proportion to the lack of spirit, imperfections will show themselves. In proportion as matter predominates, those states which we call evil will manifest. A depletion of spirit, is therefore, the one fatal disease of the physical universe. Out of that state all other diseases spring up. In the last analysis, we believe there is but one disease in the world -- spiritual anemia.”
[Notice that Julian Johnson uses the term "sahsra dal kanwal and "thousand-petalled lotus" to describe the first inner region. As will be shown, Soamiji used the term "Sahans dal Kanwal" and said this region had only an eight-petalled lotus. This has significance in comparing other schools of yoga with Sant Mat].
Continuing, we have a more lyrical description of creation by Huzur Maharaj:
“A current issued forth from the feet of SOAMI [Lord]. It is the Prime Current and the Creator of the entire creation.
The Name of that ADI DHARA. (Prime Current) is RADHA [Soul]. THAT alone is the doer and dispenser of every activity.
The Source or Origin or Fountain-head from whom the Prime Current emanated, is ADI SOAMl (Absolute Lord) of all.
Where that current halted in its descent, the creation of Agam Lok [Inaccessible Plane] was brought into being.
Agam Lok is a vast sphere. It encompasses all the creation.
The entire creation below is being cradled just in a small nook of Agam Lok.
On completion of the creation of Agam Lok, a current issued forth from there.
It descended and halted, and evolved the creation of Alakh Lok [Invisible Region or Plane].
When the sphere of Alakh Lok was formed in the above manner, the current descended, and created Sat Lok.
Sat Lok [Plane or Realm of Truth] is the Dham (Abode) of Sat Purush, and is inhabited by Hansas.
Each of the Hansas [souls] has a dweep (island) to himself. They are absorbed in the Darshan [Vision] of Sat Purush.
Up to here is the creation of Sat (Truth) or pure spirit. Neither Maya nor cruel Kal exists here.
There is neither any desire nor any work. All are absorbed in the Darshan of Sat Purush and feed on Amrit (ambrosia).
All live in perfect harmony and enjoy rapturous bliss. There is no trace of pain and anguish due to Kal [god of time-death- illusion] and there is no burden of Karma.
For a considerable period of time the creation remained like this - a region of Truth and pure bliss.
Time, The "Fall" of Kal, the Gnostic "Demiurge" or Universal Mind
Then, from the lower portion of Sat Pur (Sat Lok) emanated a Shyam (blue) current. It came down and underwent considerable expansion and ramification.
It remained constantly engaged in the Sewa (service) of Purush but, inwardly, it was cherishing some other desire.
It disclosed its mind thus, "0 Sat Purush [God]! 0 Merciful One and Giver of all things! Grant me the sovereignty of a separate region, and furnish me with the seed of Surat. Life here is not suited to me. Your region is not agreeable to me."
Hearing this, Purush replied, "Get out from this place. You are a nuisance here. Go and evolve a creation for yourself in the lower part of the pre-creational neutral zone. Take your seat there and rule over that dominion."
The name of that current is Niranjan. It has all the characteristics of Kal.
Purush evolved another current with a yellow hue. Its name is Adya.
By the order of Purush, this other current was sent down. It associated with Niranjan.
In Sunn, they came to be known as Purush and Prakriti, and in Trikuti, as Maya and Brahm.
They halted in Sahas-dal-kanwal, from where the three Gunas (qualities) came into being.
Here, Adya assumed the form of Jyoti, and Niranjan assumed a dark blue complexion.
They first brought into being Brahm-srishti.
Then, the creation of Triloki (three worlds) was evolved.
Niranjan then engaged himself in Dhyan (contemplation) of Purush (Sat Purush).
Jyoti took upon herself the burden of looking after the creation.
The three Gunas or gods became her assistants. They evolved the rest of the creation.”
-- Huzur Maharaj, from "Prem Bani Radhasoami", Volume Four, Agra, India
This appears to be a derivation from the Sar Bachan of Soamiji, and, in turn, possibly the Anurag Sagar of Kabir, of which we will hear more about later. In the first description of the inner regions given above, it is noteworthy that Julian Johnson uses the term "Sahasra dal Kanwal" and equates it with the Sahasrara or thousand-petalled lotus as traditionally mentioned in yoga, particularly kundalini yoga. Sar Bachan Poetry, Part II, p. 277, by Soamiji, however, clearly states that Sahans dal Kanwal is a region of an eight-petalled lotus - followed by a lotus of twelve petals in Trikuti, thirteen in Sunn, and ten at Maha-Sunn. It is also of interest that further on in Sar Bachan, on page 394-395, it is stated that there are twelve "kanwals" or ganglia or lotuses in the human microcosm. Six are the traditional chakras in the spine from the coccyx or muladara up to the eyes or ajna chakra. The next three would be unique although not unheard of in the literature outside of Sant Mat, and appear to be centers deeper within the brain, although the impression given is that one is to believe that they are out of the body altogether. But is this so?
Soamiji says that the seventh Kanwal is Sahans dal Kanwal, the eighth is in Trikuti, and the ninth is at Daswan Dwar (considered the tenth door or tenth orifice, the other nine being the lower, external bodily orifices). This will suggest to some that the tenth orifice is at the brahmarendra or top of the head, and that the other preceding kanwals are experienced as the attention moves through the structures of the brain (including the "sky of mind" in the braincore) before passing out or beyond through the corona radiata into what may be the true sahasrara. Are kanwals or chakras seven through nine actually between the midbrain to the top of the brain, and experienced as attention curves through the ventricles and corpus collosum before passing out through the corona - or not? This begs for elucidation. Sant Rajinder Singh has said that one will have proof that there is life after death when one reaches the third inner plane. This seems like it would only would make sense if the first two inner regions are really experienced before death in the domain of the braincore itself, otherwise why wouldn’t one have proof that there is life after death when he reaches the first inner plane? I have an answer, but will give it shortly. Radhasoami gurus Huzur Maharaj and Maharaj Saheb in their writings both added the interesting but confusing comment that the doorway to the lower subtle regions was in the gray matter while the doorway to the "purely spiritual" regions was in the white matter. Rumi, too, said, "in the folds of thy brain lie wonderous regions."
Soamiji stated: "I give out details of the ganglia, I have seen within my body. Twelve Kanwals (lotuses, ganglia) are found in the human microcosm." What are we to make of this, then, in light of the statement of the sage Ramana Maharshi, that "the light in the brain is but the reflected light of the Heart" ?
Yogis like Swami Sivananda taught that spiritual illumination comes when the kundalini or shakti passes through the lower chakras, purifying one of gross attachment, and then finally rising into the sahasrara. The Kriya yoga of Paramhansa Yogananda held to a similar idea of purification and also considered the sahasrar not as an actual chakra per se but the doorway to the infinite. Some argue that Nirvikalpa Samadhi is the end result of this process, while there have been traditional tantric gurus who have argued that through the union of Shiva and Shakti a non-dual awakening may even ensue from such an experience. I ask a question, therefore, at the outset of this article: Is the sahasrara or thousand-petalled lotus the same as the eight-petalled lotus of Sahans Dal Kanwal in Sant Mat, or does it really represent something more comprehensive than that? Soamiji goes on to list the tenth kanwal as in Maha-sunn, the eleventh at Bhanwargupha, and the twelfth at Sat Lok. These are all still considered in the "human microcosm". Is it possible, then, that the highest reach or depth of the true Sahasrara is really Sat Lok, with further absorption into the wordless and formless state of Anami actually traditional ascended Nirvikalpa Samadhi? If it isn't, why isn't it? Personally I don’t think it is, but the explanation is complicated. This is not to diminish the realization of Anami, but rather to suggest categorizing Nirvikalpa in its traditional yogic profundity. While it does not represent final enlightenment, it is still said to be no small thing. Can it be that there are semantic differences between the traditions that cloud our understanding? The answer to this appears to be, "yes," and will be addressed later. We have a difficult time assuming that the Nirvikalpa samadhi spoken of by Ramarkrishna was merely the equivalent of the Sant Mat experience of Sahans dal Kanwal. Nirvikalpa samadhi is a concept that has several different connotations in the spiritual literature. In short, its 'depth' may vary considerably. Sages differ on whether it is even necessary.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves. There is much ground to cover before returning to this important topic.
2. Despite the promises of Soamiji, "Unless I see with my own eyes, I will not believe the sayings of the Master,” and “Know yourself by yourself, and do not rely on the sayings of anyone else,” therefore, much still seems to be expected to be believed without argument from the beginning. It is common in Sant Mat to say that “all Masters speak of the same path” and that its teaching is the same as many teachings throughout the ages. This makes the path sound like the highest and also helps legitimize it. It is said that Jesus, Buddha, and other classic figures all taught the same thing. But one can easily reach the conclusion they did NOT teach the same thing, at least not as historically recorded. In none of the schools of high Buddhism is shabd yoga taught, nor is there undisputed evidence that Jesus did so, other than a few oblique references in the gospels that are interpreted to suggest that he did. I am not saying they did one way or the other. There is obviously subtle light and sound experiencible within. That is not at issue. The point, however, is that one must assume that Jesus and Buddha taught this specific method of yoga in private only to a select few in order to justify such a claim.There is actually some evidence of this, in the apochryphal gospels of Judas and Mary. There is also the problem that any number of mystical schools, such as Kriya Yoga, also attempt to gain legitimacy by claiming Jesus as one of their own.
If someone adheres to a particular ideology, he tends to defend it in the terms of that ideology itself instead of from a position of intellectually neutral comparative analysis. If one is a follower of another path, or if an initiate is decided to be seen as not a ‘good’ satsangi, for instance, it it sometimes argued that their practice or thoughts the work of Kal or the negative power instead of tackling the criticisms themselves. This is no longer a justifiable position as mankind gets less and less provincial in its communication with each other. The teachings must be able to withstand debate from without and not just within. Otherwise, I ask, what is the purpose of having conferences like the World Fellowship of Religions and Unity of Man, such as were held by my guru, Sant Kirpal Singh? I say this with all due respect; it is time for the light of truth to be shed on the Path of the Masters - as well as all other paths (and “non-paths”). It is now time for philosophy (the “love of truth”), and no longer the time for religion and theology. In order to proceed further on the path, one must get to square one, or what the Buddha called “Right View”, or otherwise no matter how far one appears to advance he may not reach the highest truth.
Shabd gurus do make a point of encouraging people to examine the path critically, but then once that is done and the seeker has "made up his mind", he or she is advised he should follow the master's instructions, etc., and not worry about thinking anymore. But for many this is not enough. How many initiates, moreover, truly make an in-depth investigation of the path as it compares with others before making their decision? Even if one has, a true path must be able to withstand any new arguments that arise, for how can one be certain that he has examined all the issues in his initial study? Must one ignore new questions or criticisms that arise just because he has committed himself to a path? If, on the other hand, one relies only on his immediate feelings in making such a decision, such feelings are unfortunately subject to error as well as change when later held up against the light of reason and experience. So understanding, even just intellectual understanding, can not be bypassed.
Seeking is supposedly about discovering truth. Therefore, it appears someone must ask the questions raised below, and I risk the wrath of the faithful and even God if need be to do so. It was never my intention to be in such a position. I would rather just revel in inner bliss and a simple guru-devotee relationship. Yet my master confounded my assumptions, called me his friend, and in the end said I was a new man and that I should tell everyone so. Therefore, as Ramanuja once shouted from the rooftop while saying what he was told not to say, “I don’t care if I go to hell if it will help one soul find the truth.” I do hope that more than a few as well as my heart-friend will find me unworthy of damnation for this investigation.
There has, before we finish with this section, also been an ongoing controversy among Sant Mat teachers (beginning with Faqir Chand) whether it is actually the Master who "gives" anyone a contact with the inner light and sound, or whether he merely points out the technique for the disciple to find out what is already there. I believe both of these may be the case, depending on the lineage one is a part of and the guru’s competency therein. In the line of Kirpal Singh, it is claimed that it is the Master Power, directly or indirectly, which can and will (at initiation) actually drag the attention of the initiate within to grant him experiences, and many can attest to that first hand. Personally, I believe they can and do. In other lineages within Sant Mat, this is not promised, and there are apparently some masters who are only competent to give meditation instructions, but no “transmission”. This will all be discussed further below.
3. This promise of an experience at initiation (as a boost on the way, and as proof of the guru’s competency) was started by Kirpal Singh, and most initiates of that lineage (Darshan Singh, Rajinder Singh) do experience something, even before their official initiation (which is said to be the moment of thought-transference from the Master, not necessarily the actual time of the official initiation), sometimes shortly after, which promise is not the case with initiates in the Beas or Agra line. I believe there is a divine siddhi involved, at least in the Kirpal lineage, whereby the Masters, whether consciously, or unconsciously through their own inner attunement, can temporarily invert the attention of their disciples, but does that guarantee the ability to grant or produce eventual enlightenment, or that the guru himself is completely is enlightened? It would certainly elevate him beyond the ordinary teacher, that is not in question. And this is not meant to disparage or criticize this path, only to seek understanding. Many teachers on other paths, like Ramakrishna and Yogananda, have been able to give temporary experiences of the preliminary inner stages of mystic light and sound; Sant Mat claims that they will only be able to take their disciples so far, and not to the highest, which requires a Divine commission. This may be true, but, again, it is a matter of faith on this path.
4. There is a controversy within Sant Mat that begs for a more adequate explanation. This pertains to the role and nature of the Master’s subtle radiant form. There may certainly be paradox and divine mystery involved, but there is no reason for obscurity. For example, Sawan Singh said since the physical master could not possibly be in contact with thousands of disciples at one time, therefore he creates an "astral duplicate" that resides in the third eye of the initiate and which looks over him and only “reports”, as it were, to the master when something really important needs personal attention. The Master Power, not the physical master, is otherwise constantly looking after the disciple once he is initiated.
One is sometimes advised to seek the company of one’s guru’s successor, but continue contemplating only on one’s own guru’s form, when it appears. Sant Mat in general claims that the form is “real”, and that all true masters are one and may appear. There have been some spiritual schools which denigrate or lessen the value of such a form by arguing that it is only a mental projection from the disciple's own mind or soul, saying that Christians see Jesus, Hindus see Krishna, etc. That, however, doesn’t mean such an “ishta” as mentioned on the Path of the Masters is not real, or is a product of the gross imagination of a disciple, but the question does arise whether it is a product of the deeper mind and ultimately the soul or Overself of the disciple, and not necessarily “God” or the guru directly. It would certainly have to be a lofty definition of Soul to account for the radiant form of a living who appears of Himself. Yet PB describes the philosophic view:
"It is the mystic's ego which constructs the image of his teacher or saviour, and his Overself [divine Soul] which animates that image with divine power. This explains why earnest pupils of false teachers have made good progress and why saviors dead for thousands of years still seem to help their followers."
"Only when well-advanced does he learn that the help he thinks he got from a guru came often from the Universal Being. It was his own personal thoughts which supplied the guru image, but the power which worked was from that Being." (Notebooks. Vol. 16, Part 1, 5.183,189)
The key words here are, “only when well-advanced.” Of course, this is a paradox. Supposedly at the highest level Mind, God, Soul, and Master are all One. There can certainly, moreover, also be telepathic and transcendental help from the master even without the presence of the form, and even whether or not one is receptive or aware of it. Even the master may not necessarily be aware of it, and yet still be a conduit for such help. Again, PB explains:
"The conscious personal mind of the teacher may know nothing of the help that is radiating from him to one who silently calls on him from a long distance, yet the reality of that help remains." (Ibid, Vol. 2, 6.744).
This was precisely Baba Faqir Chand's position. Furthermore, PB affirms that the blessing of the attention of a sage, given even once, is so profound that its effects may manifest over the course of some years:
"The guide may send his blessing telepathically only once but if it is powerful enough it may work itself out through a hundred different experiences extending over several years. Because he identifies himself with the timeless spaceless soul, his blessing may express itself anywhere in space and anywhere in time. Moreover he may formulate it in a general way but it may take precise shapes unconsciously fashioned by and suited to a recipient's own mentality and degree of development....Just as the sun does not need to be aware of every individual plant upon which it sheds its beneficent life-giving growth-stimulating rays, so the master does not need to be aware of every individual disciple who uses him as a focus for his meditations or as a symbol for his worship. Yet each disciple will soon realize that he is receiving from such activities a vital inward stimulus, a real guidance and definite assistance. This result will develop the power unconsciously drawn from the disciple's own higher self, which in turn will utilize the mental image of the master as a channel through which to shed its grace." (Notebooks, Vol. 2, 6.752, 784)
Not only Faqir Chand, but Sant Rajinder Singh has in so many words affirmed that this is more or less how it works. Only in rare instances does the incarnate master personally involve himself in the disciple's personal inner life, but his own higher self is like a grand switchboard into which the many, many disciples are plugged into. The help or grace goes "over the head" of the adept as it were, but it is no less real. It flows largely through the Master's and disciple's subconscious mind, and only occasionally consciously. The maturing disciple will notice this flow, but more often the transmitted grace manifests over time as it percolates up to his consciousness. It is important to note that the Master need not even be aware that this has happened, for the Divine uses him as an instrument to send its grace. How could he be personally, consciously aware of five hundred thousand disciples at once and have any resemblance of an ordinary life? No, it doesn't really happen that way. PB writes:
"With a teacher, it is the inward relationship that matters. What, then, is going to happen when there is only one Teacher and many thousands of students? How can all the wishes, dreams, and thoughts reach him, yet leave him time for his work? Obviously, it cannot be done. So Nature steps in and helps out. She has arranged a system very much like a telephone swithboard. The incoming "calls" are plugged into the subconscious mind of the Teacher. The "line" itself is composed out of the student's own faith and devotion; he alone can make this connection. Then, his wishes, dreams, and thoughts travel along it to the subconscious of the teacher, where they are registered and dealt with accordingly to their needs. In this way, they do reach the Teacher, who can, at the same time, attend to his work. Sometimes Nature deems it advisable to transfer a particular message to the conscious level. In such a case, it may be answered on either the conscious or subconscious level. Occasionally, too, the teacher deliberately sends one out when he is guided to do so." (Notebooks, Vol. 16, , Part 1, 5.273)
The latter could account for visions of a Master's form that appear to people who have never even heard of the Master before, but were destined to meet. In this case the Master could be said to consciously be seeking his own. However this could also happen by virtue of the Universal Mind working with the imaginative faculty of the seeker's ego to provide a particular Master's picture, his karmas to provide the sense of affinity, and his own divine soul to provide the feeling of aspiration, reverence, and power. This happens most frequently, and is not a criticism of Sant Mat, for in the end who is the Master? Your own divine Being. This does not detract from the value of the experience, but only explains it more broadly. As for the astral duplicate theory, in which the astral duplicate 'reports' back to the Master from each disciple, well, that, too, we feel, needs to be understood in a similar way.
To be sure, once again, there does seem to be a difference between a form which comes of itself in meditation, and stands before the Master's charged words, than simply a subconscious manifestation of a disciple's (culturally or religiously) conditioned mind (again, such as when Christians tend to see visions of Christ, and Hindus of Krishna, etc.). The Kirpal lineage of Sant Mat Masters' forms have appeared to many who had never even heard of them before. This would contradict the theory that it is just a manifestation of one's subconscious mind in every instance. If a true Master is indeed a mouthpiece of the Absolute or Universal Soul, Sat Purush, 'God', however one chooses to articulate it, due to the purity and depth of his realization then his Gurudev or radiant subtle form is certainly a glorious thing which could be imprinted or arise within and attract the soul and mind of his chela or disciple, and which thus is inherently divine and even non-dual. This could be considered a true vision.
Baba Faqir Chand, a Sant Mat guru who was a disciple of Shiv Brat Lal, and who was recognized by Sawan Singh, discovered that many miracles and appearances of his form to his disciples occurred without any awareness on his part. He concluded that the form was a product of the disciple's imagination or faith, and not the Master, and he taught likewise, changing the teachings of Sant Mat at the behest of his guru and with the blessing of Sawan Singh. Perhaps Faqir's most radical departure from the teaching of Sant Mat was in his claim that all visions were "phantasmagoria", akin to the after-death appearances that the Tibetan Book of the Dead warns are products of one's own mind. Faqir went from considering the things he saw inside as objectively real to seeing them as subjective mental creations, and he increasingly asked the question, "who" sees the visions, and "who" hears the sounds?" He apparently never got the full fruit of the enquiry in the form of firm knowledge of the Self, but what he wrote, however, is interesting:
“On the basis of my experiences I say that solution to all our worldly afflictions is beyond the mental realms. Go even beyond the state of thoughtlessness. Spirituality begins from thoughtlessness or the state of Mahasunna. I am indebted to those who consider me as Guru. They helped me to go beyond the mental realms. Now my Sadhana is of the Surat and not of the mind. But you cannot reach this stage so easily because you have the desires for name, fame, and wealth. Therefore, the teachings of the saints are not for the public in general. Do you think that the present method for initiation adopted by the Gurus is for the well-being of mankind? Decidedly not. These Gurus are doing this all for their own name, fame, and centers. This method of initiation would ruin those who get it because they are not aware of the thoughts of their subconscious mind. They do not know the power and the secret of their thoughts.”
“O man, your own mind is your Guru and the follower. Understand this secret from the Sat Sang of the realized man. Entertain noble and constructive thoughts and make your life. None can help you. Even a saint who dwells in light and sound cannot do anything for you. I dwell in light and sound, but I cannot do anything for you. After a long struggle, I have reached the stage of complete surrender to Him. It is all your faith.”
“This life is a bubble of consciousness. This bubble is the creation of His will and it will vanish at His will. I am nothing, but still, I am everything. I have been a son, brother, husband, and father, but I do not ensnare myself in this world of attachments. This is the essence of all the religions, but none tries to understand it. What is to happen must happen, so why make hue and cry? Saints live in the state of forgetfulness.”
“For me, the spontaneous form is that I am a bubble of consciousness. I do not claim that I am a God. He who claims himself as Brahma is not a practical man. He may be intelligent and well-read. If someone is really Brahma, let him do some good to the suffering humanity, or at least save himself from sorrows and pain. None can do it. All harvest the fruit of deeds.” (from Truth Always Wins by Baba Faqir Chand)
Many have argued, based Faqir's book, that the master's form is therefore a projection of the disciple's own mind, yet I feel this concluson is unwarranted in many cases. Many people who never heard of a certain master before have had their inner darshan, and this does not seem to be simply a projection of their inner desire or pre-conditioned mental tendency. The true guru's radiant subtle form can appear where and when he wishes, and, it is claimed, God or the Sat Purush can project it in the same manner. Sant Darshan Singh, without refuting Faqir Chand's principle critiques, felt that he was misguided about Sant Mat. But others no doubt feel the same way towards him, so what's a poor boy to do?
There is also the vast issue to explore of the teaching that there are reflections of higher regions in lower ones, which each have seven sub-levels, that can deceive those without the highest insight or help of one who has accessed such regions. Neither Faqir Chand nor the Kriya lineage speaks of the help of the inner guide to the extent that the teachers of Sant Mat do. It is, however, beyond the scope of this article to get into this fascinating issue in depth.
Dr. I.C. Sharma, successor to the radical and iconoclastic Faqir, didn’t follow the latter's thinking that the form is 'merely a subjective vision', i.e., a personal creation, but that it was important to visualize and concentrate on it in the lower planes as long as one realized it wasn’t the be all and end all. In other words, the stages are necessary. Sant Kirpal Singh said (in Godman, p. 108) of the gurudev or radiant form of the master, that "even the Saints adore this form and derive ecstatic delight from it." And it is part of the humility and divine physics of the lineage that all masters defer to their own master, even after their realization. This helps keep the transmission of the lineage pure. So even though a Master is merged in the light beyond any form of his master, and in the great Beyond beyond that, he still gets charm from his master's subtle form. And why not? He gets charm from all forms as well. While he is a Master now, in his own right, for conventions sake and an outward show of humility these masters usually defer to their own master as the doer and source of grace.
Still, PB wrote on the terminal stages of the path of devotion:
“This last stage, where the presence and picture of the Master are displaced by the pictureless presence of the disciple's own spirit, is accurately described in the words of Jesus to his disciples: "It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you ... when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth." Any other interpretation of them leaves them without reasonable meaning...When a man has at last found himself, when he has no longer any need for an outside human Symbol but passes directly to his own inner reality, he may stand shoulder to shoulder with the teacher in the oldest, the longest, and the greatest of struggles.”
"The teacher is a support needed by the disciple to help him progress through successive stages of the quest, as they are stages of thinning illusion. When he stands on the threshold of reality, then the last and thinnest illusion of all must be left behind, the support of any being outside himself, apart from himself, for within him is the infinite life-power." (Notebooks, Vol. 2, 6.590; Vol. 16, Part 1, 5.285-286; Vol. 2, 6.859))
Therefore at some point the disciple must stand on his own two feet. As PB wrote:
"In the end he must inwardly walk alone - as must everyone else however beloved - since God allows no one to escape this price." (Notebooks, Vol. 2, 3.325)
However, for one so graced to be taken under the wings of a saint, that is a long way off, although in some sense a form of self-reliance is a necessity even from the beginning.
Sant Mat holds that in Sach Khand you are not strictly speaking seeing a mere vision but "God as a Person" as the Sat Purush. We suggest here that this must be understood in a metaphorical way. Or, perhaps better stated, in an intuitive and spiritual way. Sat Lok is a formless region, so any 'meeting' between the Soul and its Beloved will be felt as most personal (as Ramana said, "the 'I' is the 'first person' in the heart"), but it will not be of the nature of an ordinary human vision, or any form of vision. The soul, while somewhat impersonal from the point of view of the ego, is nevertheless the most intimate identity of the individual, and its being touched or known or seen by the Divine is most personal to it. This will make no sense to the Vedantist or Buddhist for whom any individuality is considered to be only contraction of ego or separate self. But they have no satisfactory answer to the question, who is it that experiences 'formless consciousness', 'emptiness', or a state of 'no-self' ? 'No-self'? 'Consciousness'? No, such philosophy is deficient as one is already conditioned to negate individuality and to believe the truth to be only an impersonal, witnessing awareness, and simply is not subtle enough to realize or awaken to the presence of the soul within it.
When one gets absorbed in the Sat Purush then henceforward all is formless. The advaitists, of course, disagree, but solely on philosophical grounds, as they have not had this experience, nor do they have a conception other than a unidimensional one of a 'no-mind' experience beyond the conceptual mind. They believe that the impersonal subject of experience is the absolute; they don’t recognise that there are more than one type of experience ‘beyond the mind’, and, according to some teachings, 'two' impersonal subjects: soul and the universal subjectivity, God, the 'universaI AM'. Their merger or union or meeting lies beyond the tacit intuition of presence or consciousness, which might be seen as more or less as the base for the soul's awakening. Moreover, the bare essence of the mind, consciousness, and the active center of intuitive intelligence that works in manifestation, are one unified whole. Therefore, any view that sees one or the other as the exclusive truth is incomplete. And this is the nature of many traditional teachings that envision enlightenment to be dissociation or abstraction from the plane of action or manifestation - including traditional Sant Mat.
This may still not fully answer the question of whether one can see a form in Sach Khand. Sri Nisargadatta said, “ As long as you think yourself to be a person, He too is a person. When you are all, you see Him as all.” (I AM THAT, p. 88). The discerning reader will spot a flaw a problem with this more or less traditional statement. For 'who' is the one who 'sees Him as all?' It can't be the 'all that' does so. There is a resort to dualistic language here because Sri Nisargadatta only recognized the impersonal absolute, and not the personal (but subjective) soul principle. This was a common approach among the ancient scriptures. In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad it says:
"When to the knower of Brahman everything has become the Self, then what should one see and through what?" (II.iv.14)
There are numerous problems with this type of languaging. First, everything cannot become the Self, and even if it did, then 'who' knows that? This is a relative world of polarities, of which absolute/relative is the first and fundamental one. By siding only with the absolute, or the impersonal, as many teachings do, a true non-dual picture of reality is not found, in which nothing is to be negated but rather all is included in a greater understanding or perspective. Rather than finding truth, a traditionally expected conclusion is reached. Many mysteries, however, cannot be explained under this type of view. Are we just the consciousness, 'no-self', or the state of Presence; are we the impersonal 'I Am' (advaita); are we the 'Unborn' or Absolute state beyond consciousness (Nisargadatta); ? Or might we be the Soul, which experiences and knows herself through all of these, and also knows herself most truly in oneness with her Divine Source? If the latter is true - although universally denied by traditional philosophies which negate all but an impersonal absolute as being real, including the soul as an eternal verity - then there may in fact be some truth in those who speak of a union of the soul with a personal God. For the realization of the (atemporal) oneness of the Soul and her Beloved is a most personal one, although of course, being beyond ego, it also has impersonal characteristics. For instance, it is beyond time and place.
Vedantist V.S. Iyer, a well-respected pundit, teacher of Paul Brunton, and Ramakrishna Order monks Nikhilinanda and Siddeswarananda, wrote that "even if you see Sat Purush, it is just a thought" and "He who says he sees the Sat Purush inside in meditation is no sage." Iyer's view, however, also seems to be a rather limited way of viewing the entirety of relative reality, which is more multi-dimensional than he may have realized. He was a philosopher presuming to speak for sages. But who says a sage can't see or experience or be absorbed into the Sat Purush? The promise of seeing the Master in Sach Khand is an interesting conception, however, as in Sant Mat the mind in the sense as manas is supposedly left off at the level of the mental or causal plane, two realms below Sach Khand, and all kosas left behind upon entry into Sach Khand, the 'full effulgence' of the Nameless One, with both the freed soul and and Sat Purush supposedly inherent eternal realities. Yet there is really no problem here, as the Sant Mat teachings only say that man has no 'bodies' after the causal plane'; the absence of manas does not imply there can be no visible forms. If this were the case, the Buddhist notion of the Sambhogakaya as a spontaneous manifestation of the ultimate reality of the Dharmakaya would not be possible. Sach Khand or Sat Lok is an eternal, non-dual realm, where even the vision of a 'million suns' is transcended. Just prior to Sach Khand there is a dualism of this 'light of a million suns' and the seer, but after rebirth in Sach Khand the game is changed radically. Non-separation of the souls is directly known. It is described no doubt metaphorically, as it is really indescribable in earthly language. The soul is then said to progressively merge into the nameless, Wordless state or Reality. So what must be understood is that any advaitin who thinks that this supreme vision of infinite effulgence, or the Word itself, is somehow a last veil of maya or illusion, is mistaken. It is a highly beatific state that transforms ones earthly experience as well. This was a main point of Sri Aurobindo.
Perhaps it is possible, that just as it is said that there are reflections of higher regions in the lower, that there may also be reflections of the lower in the higher? This may be another way of accounting for some people claiming to see a vision of their master sitting upon a throne in Sach Khand - in what is supposedly a formless region.
Sant Mat differs with advaita in that it assigns the designation of maya to only the first three planes, or physical, astral, and causal, and their respective bodies. Sri Aurobindo basically said the samne thing, arguing that Shankara was forced to make maya the divine creative but illusion-making force, whereas if anything it was a lower power and not the Para-Shakti or Divine Mother, source of both purushas and prakriti and one with Puroshottama or the Supreme Divine. Above the three lower worlds is ParBrahmand or the supercausal region/realm/realization, which, while not yet nondual, is still free of birth and death. Entry into Sach Khand implies freedom from, not only the three bodies/worlds, but also mind/matter/and illusion. Sometimes they speak of a supercausal body that is also transcended, but this is a body unlike what we usually imagine a body to be. What kind of 'body' is vijnanamaya or anandamaya koshas? At any rate, Sach Khand is a nondual realization, the first of what Sant Mat calls the 'God-Realizing stages.
Sant Mat and similar schools also have a different way of conceiving the ultimate state. They speak of the drop merging into the ocean, whereas advaita sees this as the ocean 'recognizing' there is no drop. And they carry this into the immediate sadhana of daily life, and therefore see no need for progressive merger of an illusion. But this is hair-splitting, the husk without the kernel, and confusing the ego with the soul. Further, when the soul merges with the ocean, it is said to know itself in a new, transcendental way, via its own 'absence' in the 'presence' of the Supreme. Some traditions say that one may better say that the ocean merges into the drop. Neither is perfect language, which doesn't exist. The great vedantin Sankara put it this way in one of his devotional hymns, in language most often preferred by the Saints:
"O God, I know there is no difference between You and me, but I am Thine, Thou art not mine, because a wave can be of the ocean, but the ocean cannot be of the wave."
Sant Mat appears to view the advaitic three states (waking, dream, and sleep) as only the experiences of a soul bound to Pinda, or the physical realm. Thus it does not hold to the standard yogic/vedantic explanation of realizing the waking state as one with turiya, the 'fourth state', as being ultimate realization. Rather, one must ascend above this lower world into superconsciousness, which is a greater reality and not just an imaginary state, albeit greater than our normal imagination or dream. It does not see sleep as the equivalent of the causal or prajnic state, but rather as a subconscious state when attention, the expression of the soul, sinks down into the throat and navel centers of the gross body. It would prefer to have the sleeping hours remain conscious by ascending to higher planes. Thus it has an entirely different view of avastatreya, or the vedantic analysis of the three states, as well as the nature of mind and the ultimate creative power.
While advaita admits of no creation or causation (ajata), it does allow, says even Swami Nikhilinanda, for the Effulgent Nature of Reality to appear as if there were creation, and from the position of Reality there is no separation between the Real and its manifestation. Kirpal said that Sach Khand and Sat Purush was the fullest expression of the Absolute God. A further quote from him will come later, as well as a non-dual portrayal of the Sant Mat path and cosmology in Part Two.
Ramana, as mentioned, spoke of God as a person, the "first person" or "I" in the Heart, but nevertheless beyond the vision of light. Rather, it is the 'uncreated light' that makes a vision of light possible (which would include the light visualized in the lower planes). Iyer continues his line of thinking:
"Ideas never reach Atman. The mind never knows it. He who says he has a vision of the highest or describes it as supra-mental, etc., does not understand Atman, because it is free from imaginations." (Commentaries, Vol. 1; see note 29).
According to Iyer, it may not be a personal vision at the level of a dream or a product of one’s personal mind, but it is still in the realm of the imagination, albeit at the highest level. Even if it is the great vision of light, there is still a perceiver; when the perceiver is gone, then who sees what, and who has merged with what? This is an important question. And it is where, however, it is necessary to bow to the fact that there is Atman and there is Paramatma. The universal projection is not a product of the soul, but of Paramatma. So it is not just imagination. Epistemological considerations just do not apply so rigidly here. The Sants would say that beyond the three-bodied ego the soul sees and cognizes by virtue of her own light. This means the Uncreated light that makes visions of inner light possible. In this vein the light seen in the three lower planes is considered to be the light of the human nature by the mystics of the Orthodox Church, but which is still beautiful inasmuch as 'man is made in the image of God'. One may view it all as a continuum of Naam, but it needs to be recognized that the essence of Sach Khand or Sat Lok is pure Subjectivity and nondual realization, beyond human experience and conception.
The Sat Purush, chief principality of Sach Khand, absorbs the soul (not the ego, but the soul, freed from all coverings or koshas) further on into the Nameless One. And despite Soamiji's lyrical descriptions of Sach Khand, any sense of separation or bifurcation of the mind into percever and perceived, as in the lower orders of creation, is supposedly non-existent here. Thus much of the descriptions of Sat Lok are likely metaphorical ones for what are essentially intuited, formless essences, or energy 'signatures' or vibrations at best, and not humanly conceivable visionary sights.The Sants insist this is a purely spiritual realm, with mind and matter left far behind.
Sawan Singh describes how the saint progressively sees the material creation differently as he ascends. He says:
"All the Saints, when they look from the top, describe the creation as His manifestation. They see Him working everywhere. Now, looking at the thing from below, or the individual viewpoint, we come across variety as opposed to oneness."
"Everybody appears working with a will, and is influenced by and is influencing others with whom he comes in contact. The individual is the doer, and is therefore responsible for his actions and their consequences. All the actions are recorded in his mind and memory, and cause likes and dislikes which keep him pinned down to the material, astral or mental spheres, according to his actions in an earlier move in the cycle of transmigration."
"The individual in these regions cannot help doing actions and having done them cannot escape their influences. Individual is the doer, and therefore bears the consequences of his actions."
"As stated above, the observations differ on account of the difference in the angle of vision. Both are right. The individual clothed in coarse material form sees only the external material forms. His sight does not go deeper than that. If he were to rise up, the same individual from Sahansdal Kanwal will see the mind actuating all forms. The form will be secondary only; mind will be the mover in all. The same individual from Daswan Dwar will see the Spirit Current working everywhere and will see how the mind gets power from the spirit."
"From Sach Khand the whole creation looks like bubbles forming and disappearing in a spiritual ocean." (Sat Sandesh, ref. misplaced)
We would have to add one more perspective to this, that of the Param Sant who has merged with the indescribale and unimaginbable attributeless Nirguna state or Anami. One might feel him as 'seeing' everything from a different, 'pointless' point of view. This would correspond to the transcendentally 'ordinary state' spoken of in many traditions. He may be able to see at any of the other levels, such as viewing all as 'bubbles' appearing in an ocean', but he also sees the reality of each thing, as it is, and from within its own point of view. From this perspective he no longer need be seen as viewing everything, including himself, as a manifestation of or immanently filled with the same omnipresent light, for while a lofty, penultimate realization, a universal, harmonic perspective of oneness - it is yet a oneness known from one particular point of view! The Param Sant or fully liberated being would be radically transformed and see, not only the one Infinite Absolute manifesting as all things, but also the Infinite Potentiality of each individual being trying to realize or express its own Absolute nature. Thus the Absolute is, if we may speak of it at all, of a dynamic and not static nature. Hence the natural humility of the Param Sants, who meet everyone at their own level.
Sant Darshan has written that after traversing the physical, astral, and causal planes," the soul no longer has mind, but perceives and understands with its own light." Yet, one might ask, can the soul by its own light perceive and understand anything other than Itself, without a vehicle (i.e., kosha) to do so? Apparently so, yes. Anthony Damiani, however, student of Paul Brunton, gives the traditional philosophical argument:
“Any mystical state, any dream state, any wakeful state is a content and an object of consciousness. Different ones are going to demonstrate different characteristics, and there’s going to be an infinite array of possibilities, but the point to be grasped is that every one of them is an idea to consciousness and that the mind puts forth its own ideas and then experiences them....If you go to a higher level than this one, it will still be a content of consciousness; and if you go to an even higher level, or even to the level of being itself, there will always be a content of consciousness....That’s why it is so important to grasp this principle firmly. Hold on to it, because with it you will be able to analyze all experience and tear apart any misconceptions you have....This is true of all the seven levels of existence, even if you live in the angelic world. So if someone came from another level of existence and said, “Yes, but your analysis doesn’t hold for my plane of existence,” I would say, “Is it a content? Is it an experience for you? Is it a world that you are perceiving? Is there a perception taking place? You know it? Yes? Then it’s subject to the same analysis.” That’s how it cuts through everything and that’s why this teaching is direct and the most comprehensive one you will find. This teaching has been around for thousands of years and it won’t disappear.”(1)
“Mystical experiences are still on a penultimate stage of the imagination. You become aware of that. And no amount of superlatives will take you away from that stage....it’s still not [ultimate] reality." (2)
“PB wrote The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga prior to reaching the jivanmukta [liberation in life] stage. And the statement he makes there is that through personal feeling and intuition he had already grasped the fact that the mystical level is not dominated by reality, and is not that reality. But it would only be a person who has disciplined and developed an extreme rational consciousness who would be able to see through the superlative effulgence of the mystic state, and see its shortcomings.”(3)
Sankara said in his commentary to the Brahma Sutras:
"The highest beatitude is not to be attained through Yoga." [although yoga is a useful preliminary to concentrate the mind and prepare it for inquiry into Truth]
The argument goes, why do some high paths, such as the Tibetan school of Dzogchen, teach that the goal of meditation is not to go inside? Surely they know of the existence of the tenth door and the inner realms. Why did a venerated master such as HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche say not to strive for advanced states and inner bliss?
"We should realise that the purpose of meditation is not to go "deeply into ourselves" or withdraw from the world. Practice should be free and non-conceptual, unconstrained by introspection and concentration...The everyday practice of dzogchen is just everyday life itself. Since the undeveloped state does not exist, there is no need to behave in any special way or attempt to attain anything above and beyond what you actually are. There should be no feeling of striving to reach some "amazing goal" or "advanced state."
There is a reason for this, too, which we shall reveal shortly when we attempt to tie all of this together.
On the positive side, even Ramana Maharshi said that "visions are better than no visions," in so far as they indicate an increasing depth of concentration, but that they must be gone beyond before true Self-Realization. All school say that. In Sant Mat the only "visions" or perceptible phenomena to be paid attention to in meditation are the Light, the Sound, and the Master's Form, which itself must stand before repetition of the five charged words given at initiation. These five charged words are an ancient tradition or dispensation in many traditions that are said to be the 'open-sesame' to the succeeding inner regions. Except that in the last two regions up to Sach Khand the mental vehicle which would repeat these names is left behind, thus only the Naam itself and the Master's Light would assist the soul, with which it is ultimately realized to be one.Thus, the Form is an extremely important aid at deepening concentrative absorption towards the final goal. This, too, extends only through the lower three planes, after which the realms are, first, archtypal, or formless-form, and then formless. Thus, once again the Master's grace itself is the saving element. The allegory given by Soamiji in the beginning of this paper is just that, some say, an allegory, for upon reaching Sach Khand, or the station of Atman, there can, according to philosophy, be no form, and no one to answer a Sat Purush who asks one how he has gotten there, saying," by the grace of a saint." Any other explanation makes no sense according to standard yoga psychology. But such psychology - and philosophy - can be wrong. Kirpal Singh states:
"In the lower planes [the Form] continues, but absorption comes at every plane. When you devote your whole attention into the Form of the master, you sometimes become absorbed; but that continues in further stages. Absorption is better. It does become that Light. You are Light; you become one; you forget; but you are conscious all the same. It does come at every step. Ultimately, it becomes One, and there is no form when you are absorbed into Sat Naam. Then, Sat Naam takes you to the stages where there is final absorption. Otherwise, the Form continues to work in the radiant Form on the different planes." (Sat Sandesh, Feb. 1975, "A Thief in the Form of a Friend")
Somewhere I read that the form of the Master changes from plane to plane but resumes human form upon reaching Sach Khand, where one meets the so-called "God as a Person", but in the above quote, when examined closely, he does say that there is no form when you are absorbed into Sat Naam, leaving the possibility open that until you are actually absorbed into Sat Naam, or the Sat Purush, one still might see the Master's Form in Sach Khand, but the philosophical criticism still asks for an answer. Can there be form when all the kohsas are shed and one is supposedly beyond mind and maya? That question has already been answered. So to say, as Damiani did, that the penultimate mystical stage has 'shortcoming', gives the unwarranted impression that it is faulty, or a veil of maya - rather than a living, vivifying presence made of consciousness, the divine intermediary or Son that absorbs the soul in the ultimate from which they are both an emanation. Kirpal often told the story of Kabir's disciple Indra Mati seeing him on the throne in Sach Khand, and then asking the saint why he didn't tell her before that this would be, and Kabir said, "because you wouldn't have believed me." Yet Baba Faqir Chand said that Sach Khand has no form, only the Light of awareness, and that any form seen there would only be the case for someone who has had a prior suggestion that he should see such a form. We have already answered this objection when speaking of the Buddhist concept of Sambhogakaya manifestations; we think Faqir Chand was a bit one-sided in thinking that mental creation was the only way it could happen, in much the same way as he may have been mistaken if claiming that one's having a personal vision of a master was always either his own mental fabrication, or that of the universal self providing that form for him, without relationship to a specific master. We do not know, but it seems reasonable that both views could be true. Kirpal, like Faqir, once described Sach Khand as nothing but "light - scintillating light." So the issue of a form is complex.
One might also ask the question, in such a case, was this the real Sach Khand, or one of its reflections in a lower plane? For that is said to be a possible experience (although it is hard to see how 'infinite light' can be duplicated). If the higher planes dohave their reflections in the lower, then visions of them can be seen from there. But we will have to side with those who answer, "yes, visions may be possible in Sach Khand" ,as the 'throne of God', 'Guru Rinpoche', or 'the Master', etc., is spoken of in many traditions, from Christianity to Tibetan Buddhism to Sant Mat (but which still may be allegorical when speaking of anything higher than the subtle realms - and which is to be the subject of a future article on this website). Apparently it is an archtypal reality and as such to be respected. Advaita, in our opinion, while holding to speak from sheer intellectual truth, wants to 'level the playing field', making of reality something rather flat, and with no room for acceptance of a divine controlling power. The higher planes are realms of more and more beauty, truth, direct experience of consciousness and love - and not mere mystic illusion. That might be so of mystic vision confined to the sky of mind in the brain core,but not conscious realization of these as higher dimensions. Kirpal writes:
"Saint Tulsidas says that when he rose above body consciousness and reached the causal plane and had an experience of bliss and joy, he thought, "That is the most and highest of all." But after that he had transcended the causal plane into the supercausal and beyond, he said, "The causal plane is perhaps only a washroom compared to this." (Sat Sandesh, March 1975, p. 10)
Ishwar Puri, a disciple of Sawan Singh, speaks of this, among other illuminating topics, such as Chakras/Sleep/Marked Souls/Perfect Masters/Faith.
One can certainly say that in a truly non-dual universe, beyond the polarities of form and formless, a vision in Sach Khand can be possible; why not? This is an unfathomable, trancendental region.
Further, what is a master? He is not just a man or an inner form one sees, but, in truth, the center of one's being, and the center the universe, a vast unfathomable presence. As the opening quote says, his residence is in the heart of the disciple, and ultimately is not separate from the disciple's own higher or deepest self. This is why Ramana said that God, Guru, and Self are one. The master of this path is also an embodiment (to whatever degree of perfection he has realized) of the Shabd-Brahman, and in a sense simultaneously in Sach Khand and on earth at the same time. Once faith in him is firm, there is said to be little else to be done to secure salvation/liberation. The question of further lifetimes becomes a mute point. We, too, are in Sach Khand, a non-dual 'realm'/state of consciousness, although we may not know it. As all of the planes are interpenetrating and concurrent, spiritual progress cannot be easily guaged according to the inner experience alone. There was a series of exchanges by letter between Baba Jaimal Singh and his master Soamiji. Jaimal Singh was a high saint, but after initiation did not have any visions or ascended experiences in his meditation. He wrote Soamiji explaining his situation. Soamiji sent a reply saying, "I am happy your soul is soaring in the higher planes." Jaimal was perplexed, and wrote back, saying, "You must have sent that letter to the wrong person, I have had no inner experiences at all!" Again, Soamiji sent a reply, "I am happy to hear your soul is roaming the higher regions." Finally, Jaimal went to see Soamiji, who lived three hundred miles away. Jaimal was a solider at the time and had to get leave. When he saw Soamiji the saint revealed what he had meant in his letters. "At the time of my writing the letters you were in a state of intense longing to see me, were you not?" "Yes," said Jaimal. "Well then, that is the same as if your soul went to the highest regions." The moral of the story is that, for karmic reasons, sometimes the saints shut down the door to inner access so certain things can be paid off in this life, and that the master is always with us, 'closer than the vein in our neck', as an old Persian saying goes. Spiritual progress (which is a kind of illusion) goes along on 'parallel tracks' at the same time, and we are no judge of how it is working out. The old saying of the Sants that after the time of initiation the soul will take a maximum of four lives to reach Sach Khand is only for those who are backsliders or leave the path, otherwise the rule is one life, not four! You go where you are attached, and if you love the master you will go where he is. Since he is everywhere transcendentally present, that is your destiny also.
5. According to Arran Stephens, author of the book Journey to the Luminous, Darshan Singh, Kirpal’s successor, claimed that when Faqir Chand was asked to describe the various inner planes he did not name their proper order and specifically could not or did not give the proper answer to the question of how many steps led to the pool of sanskaric purification named Manasarovar in the third plane. Of course, Faqir claimed this very thing, that there was no fixed ordering to all of the planes. This may be wrong, but it is also a complex issue. Darshan also said Faqir Chand was in error when implying that the luminous form of the Master was not 'real' in the sense of its being a direct manifestation of Reality.
The subtle Gurudev is said to lead directly to the Satguru or Satpurush, the true or divine form in Sach Khand. In Buddhism similarly there are the Sambhogakaya and Dharmakaya forms of the Buddha, active in the realms of form and the formless. Yet in general, Buddhism and Advaita argue that anything visible is not the reality, so, for instance, Sach Khand would not be considered “spiritual” in their sense of the term, as there must be a perceiver to see the sights and sounds there. Again, the Sants are adamant that the light and sound there is spiritual, beyond the mind or manas, and the soul paradoxically and transcendentally sees by her own light; there is no duality there, but an enigmatic comingling unity. These type of words are poison to the ears of the advaitist. Some other yoga schools, however, use this terminology of ‘spiritual’, as well as spirituo-material, materio-spiritual, and material planes reflecting various density of vibration. And what is vibration? - the direct expression of the Godhead. One should understand that in such yoga schools the word spiritual is sometimes used to mean realms of the higher mind or vignanamaya kosha (the supracausal) in contrast to realms of the lower mind or manas where there still must be some means of dualistic perception. Yet in the higher traditions there is always mention of the logos; even Buddhism speaks of the heavenly Avalokitesvara whose sweet sounds will take one back to the soul’s true home. Sach Khand to the advaitist most likely sounds like a high celestial subtle plane, due to the language used to describe it. The Sants counter that they are hindered in their description by the limits of words, and must picture these realms in the language of metaphor. For the sages the word spiritual implies both a formless, subjective realization, and the non-dual nature of reality within and without.
Brunton, however, writes:
"Those who find that beyond the Light they must pass through the Void, the unbounded emptiness, often draw back affrighted and refuse to venture further. For here they have naught to gain or get, no glorious spiritual rapture to add to their memories, no great power to increase their sense of being a co-worker with God. Here their very life blood is to be squeezed out as the price of entry, here they must become the feeblest of creatures." (4)
Ramana enigmatically referred to scripture that said that the gyani is "invisible even to the Gods," and "trackless like a fish swimming through water." This appears in contrast to the saint or sant satguru, whose luminous radiant form is described as "blazing a path of light for miles and miles through the subtle realms," although it need not be so, if we understand the non-dual nature of the reality such a Sant has realized. Ramana poked gentle fun at the teaching of the yogis who speak of 'nectar' or 'amrit' trickling down from the crown center - the very thing the saints sing praises of - maintaining that the sahasrar or centers above the crown are but the reflected light of the true Heart (not to be confused with the heart chakra). He tended to minimize the reality of soul in deference to the advaitic realization of the one Self. This is also reflected in those who consider themselves his followers or lineage descendants. More on this important issue later.
Ramana, upon dying, famously said: “where can I go; I am here?” leading some to dismiss notions of higher realities and the soul. But that is short-sighted, in our opinion. Interestingly, nearing the end Kirpal Singh said he would soon be going, and one disciple asked, "where are you going?", to which he replied, "Oh, where we all go." Paramhansa Yogananda likewise remarked, "All paths are paths to God, because, ultimately, there is no other place for the soul to go." (Journey to Self-Realization, p. 51)
6. Radical talk from Faqir Chand on the nature of Realization and the hierarchical planes: a 'jnanic' interpretation of Sant Mat
We have already spoken of Faqir Chand's radical perspective on the nature of the production Master's inner form and have given our opinion; we will not repeat that here. What we have now before us is a very refreshing and provocative - and possibly interfaith-uniting - explanation of the inner planes as experientially described earlier. The following information is from the book, Surat Shabd Yoga: The Yoga of Light and Sound by Faqir Chand, translated by Dr. Ishwar C. Sharma, and being largely a commentary on the equally hard to find Hidayatnama of Soamiji Maharaj. This book is currently out-of-print, but is an eye-opening exposition of the planes from a purely yogic and not mystical way of perceiving them. Our initial impression is that this book deserves wide exposure, as it appears to hold a piece of the puzzle to reconciling many teaching that are currently at odds with one another. And that would surely be a good thing and is, in fact, a pressing need of the times. However, it is surely very controversial, and not without its weak points.
By way of introduction, in Buddhism there are said to be the 'four noble states', or 'formless absorptions: 'infinite space', 'boundless consciousness', 'nothingness', 'beyond perception or non-perception.' These are intermediate samadhis, realms, or states between lower gross and subtle states, and the truth or Sat. One may well ask, how many people can distinguish 'infinite space', 'boundless consciousness' or 'nothingness' - from the Absolute, the Tao , or whatever term one refers to Reality by? How many 'realizers' today who think they have realized such an absolute are really accessing some kind of impersonal 'buddhi', an intuitive not-ordinary-self kind of realization that feels like the ultimate? Probably few. But Buddha clearly states that even these rarified states are not the truth. And while possibly considered evolutionary advances, it has been said that one can sort of get stuck in them for a while, even a kalpa or two! It has been sometimes said that if a monk dies while in one of these formless absorptions, he might not be better off than a virtuous person who goes to a ‘Pure Land’, whether considered in the Tibetan tradition as a special region 'created' by a Buddha (such as Padmasambhava's Copper Mountain"), or simply as one of the higher mental realms or heavens, where he can progress after death with help from his adept or master. Of course this may be a controversial point, with infinite variations depending on the individual.
Keeping this in mind, we will now examine Faqir's book. Characteristically, because of his background (the reader will recall that Faqir broke down into tears when Sawan Singh said that Sant Mat was higher than vedanta; Faqir later felt that the discourses of the great saint were “not sufficient to satisfy the curiosity of one such as himself”, and he spent his lifetime chiefly in the association of Maharaj Shivbrat Lal), he seems to give a vedantic-yogic interpretation to the more mystical/theological and lyrical descriptions of the inner states by Soamiji. Faqir argues that Soamiji had to say some things in a literal way because the people of his time could not understand the truth told straight out. So, while he agrees with the other Sants on the importance and need for a Master, and also for the meditation on the Sound Current, he has what some feel is a radical way of explaining how it all works. For instance, regarding Trikuti, he says that there is no visible ‘triangle’, but that it refers to a state of mind-concentration where one realizes the unity of the perceiver, perceiving, and perception, or the 'triple function of knowing. That the inner states are functions of the concentration of the mind is a central point in Faqir’s teachings. So he does not mention the triple mountain (Mt. Meru, etc.) the other sants do as a characteristic vista in Trikuti, although it is clear that many practitioners have reported that phenomena. For Faqir, ‘all is phantasmagoria up to Bhanwar Gupta', and as the subtle elemental construction of each aspirant is different, he will also experience different scenes there. For him even the form of the Master is a result of the integration of the subtle elements of one's own mind, i.e., a creation of one’s own mind. No talk of reaching the real astral form of the Master and one's self-effort being over, with the Master henceforth guiding the soul with his own power. Further, Faqir boldly states that it is the motion of the subtle elements of one's mind that produces the Sounds as well (although later he talks of the way as merging into ‘Ultimate Sound’). But no talk of the Word or Logos here. Not even a host of Archangels producing Sound or music as it is sometimes stated in esoteric Chritian mysticism. Faqir is being more of a Buddhist/Vedantist than a gnostic or mystic. There is no talk of a macrocosmic or universal mind and its image upon which the individual mind and its perceptions are overlayed, as spoken of by some other sages. Moreover, even if one does not accept Isvara, there are no ‘Sambhogakaya emanations’, realms, or Pure Lands of a Buddha or host of saints or liberated cosmic beings that serve as an actual locus or realm for the ascending soul. Also, for Faqir, it is not necessary to explore completely all the planes before Sach Khand, but just to get the gist of their meaning. This is not really totally contradictory to what the other Sants say, but is potentially, in our view, a rather reductionistic interpretation of the realms of creations, but typical of a vedantist.
After mentioning Sahansdal Kanwal and Trikuti, Faqir labels Daswan Dwar the ‘vacuity, or Sunn. Supposedly it is ‘Sunn’ or empty compared with the form realms fo the physical, astral, and mental/causal planes, but he says it is marked by bliss, ecstasy and self-forgetfulness. Sunn is then followed by Maha Sunn, or the greater vacuity, then Bhanwar Ghupta, and the planes of Sat Lok.
Interestingly, he refers to 'Maha Sunn', or the experiential void between Daswan Dwar and Bhanwar Gupta, as 'endless space', and also 'nirvikalpa samadhi'. The latter is unique as we have never seen a Sant Mat guru or yogi refer to nirvikalpa samadhi in this way. For Faqir, the reason for the appellation of 'darkness' is because at this stage the mind has ceased to waver and is still. Soamiji writes that the soul about to enter this void of Maha Sunn, he is informed that there are ‘four secret regons within it’. How one will see those regions is unclear as Maha Sunn is said to be so ‘dark’ that even the soul now shining with its own light as great as eight suns cannot penetrate the darkness, and needs the superior light of the Master to ferry it across. For Faqir, however, this is not really what is going on at all. For him, the ‘four secret regions’ only refer to the four functions of mind, intellect, chit, and ego, all of which are quiescent in Maha Sunn‘, hence nirvikalpa ensues, but, being impermanent, one cannot stay there. [Andrew Vidich, in Love Is a Secret), equates Maha Sunn with the Buddhist nirodha, which may or may not be correct and is certainly arguable].
Endless space' seems very similar to Buddha's jhana of 'infinite space', doesn't it? As such it seems like it corresponds to one of the formless absorptions, and as such is not liberation, which is just what Sant Mat says. For Faqir, all up to Maha Sunn is in the realm of duality. This makes some sense, as, in our tentative view, Maha Sunn is a point of tension where the subtle ego dies its final death (at least on the 'inner' plane. But duality might be said to be 'seriously nicked' once the soul transcends the three lower worlds and reaches Daswan Dwar and above). For Faqir, after passing through or transcending Maha Sunn, Bhanwar Gupta is as the rest of the Sants say, a stage of relative freedom but with a fine trace of 'matter' mixed in - but nevertheless part of the 'upper hemisphere', and a realm of intuitive knowledge and ananda - perhaps equivalent to the Buddhist 'Arhat' stage (beyond even the ‘nonreturner’, beyond karma and reincarnation, but not not yet nondually liberated; however, Faqir says that one can, and many yogis have, fallen from even Bhanwar Gupta, and that it is not a stable or dependable state as it relies on direct perception and mental effort to comprehend it. This is hard to understand, as it is often, in many yogic systems under different names, spoken of as the first of the ‘spiritual planes’, with only anadamayakosha remaining covering the soul, and where the soul knows it is of the same essence as the Spirit, and proclaims, “I Am That”, or “O Lord, I am of the same essence as Thou art,” but is not one with it yet. That is reserved for Sach Khand, which might be called the first 'non-dual' plane, on this path of inversion. There, from what one is led to surmise, all terms such as finite/infinite, spirit/matter, Master-disciple, etc., begin to lose their relative value. And then we see the outer in a different light as well, with a vast progression of unification taking place on all levels.
Another point at which Faqir is at variance with some fo the sants is that there is no possibility of any scenes in Sach Khand (such as one’s Master seated on a throne); for him there is nothing but formless Light and Sound. Even meeting the Satpurusha as “God as a person” is a mental suggestion they expect and hence experience asmaterializing out of the light of Sat Lok. Any other vision such as a throne, etc., is also due to a prior projection of expectation of such. Inasmuch as in Sant Mat it is taught that there are reflections of all higher planes in the lower, this frequently reported vision may be actually at a lesser stage than Sach Khand. We don’t know because we haven’t gone there! But we feel that this may be the experience of some, yet not all. The Buddha spoke of liberated realms beyond the formless states, and spontaneous Sambhogaya manifestations/realms which may be equivalent to some type of transcendantal form in Sach Khand. But, no doubt, it is somewhat paradoxical at this level.
Another difference, between Faqir Chand and the gnostic interpretation of Sant Mat such as portrayed in Kabir’s Anurag Sagar, is that for Faqir, the ‘sixteen sons (or ‘aeons) of the Sat Purush - of which ‘Kal’ or the personification of time or illusion and the negative power is one - are not beings, but the functions of the individual. Thus he doesn’t appear to give an inch with his more or less psycholgical/yogic interpretation of the inner dimensions:
“The “sixteen sons” are sixteen elements, comprised of five sense organs,five organs of action, plus body, mind, intellect, wisdom, ego, and soul, which are present in the Surat, or spirit, as causal body [this is similar to the theosophical view wherein soul is defined as the greater causal body, part of an ‘upper triad’ of atma-buddhi-manas, and, moreover, only a portion or emanation of which incarnates in any one lifetime, becoming enriched from ife to life until it can unite with Spirit]. Surat is the aggregate of all those feelings and sensations that are created by these “sixteen sons”, or powers, of an individual. Though Surat gives birth to all these sixteen sons, yet it also falls victim to them. It wants to be free from the prison of these powers. This it does by uniting itself and merging into the soul. It also arrives at fixity or one-pointedness. This is the state of Satloka, the state of desirelessness or detachment.”
Whether the last two sentences are characteristic of Satloka, needless to say [discussed more on Part Four] this rendering is at odds with the gnostic cosmology and creationism of most traditional and ancient Sant Mat teachings. There may be truth in it, but there also may be much more to it all.
In addition, Faqir has a unique, gyan-like way of interpeting the scriptural references to the 'wheel of eighty-four', or the Hindu belief in eight million, four hundred thousand species through which the soul may transmigrate:
“I do not wish to comment on the prevailing theory of reincarnation. However, my own view, based on my personal experience, is that the cycle of births and deaths means the physical and mental experiences of an individual, which are based on six Chakras or centers, or levels, of the body, and the six Chakras of mind. There are seven kinds of activities at each center. These are lust, anger, greed, ego, attachment, mind and intellect. Thus, six centers of body and six centers of mind, when multiplied by seven types of activites, or feelings, total eighty-four. The Surat moves in these eighty-four universes, constituted by pleasure, pain, sorrow, worry, fear and vicissitudes of life. The word “Laksh” is a Sanskrit word which means direction. But usually people interpret it to be “Lakh”,or one hundred thousand. So when Surat moves around eighty-four directions, in its ignorance, it is called eight million, forty thousand [note: actually eight million, four hundred thousand] births and deaths.There is no doubt that I was initiated by the perfect Master of our times and given my Mantra on which to meditate, but it did not prove very useful until I understood the true meaning of the eight million and forty thousand births and deaths.”
The reasoning behind this is not at all clear: what does understanding this have to do with the efficacy of the mantra? And surely this appears to be a rather idiosyncratic interpretation of the concept of the 'wheel of eighty-four'. But not unlike some Buddhist type of explanations, which, as mentioned, are more psychological in nature. In this respect one also finds it also curious that Sant Darshan Singh maintained that there were 'eighty-four' steps to the pool of Amritsar in Daswan Dwar. Is that also an allegorical interpretation? Dakshinamurti's '24 gurus' were in reality the '24 elements' of Samkhaya philosophy, but at least that corresponded with recognizable metaphysical/ontological aspects or functions. Kirpal also once wrote in code of '52' features on the way to Sach Khand. Was he, too, being too literal? We have no doubt of his competency, but also can't help wondering in the light of other things that he said whether or not he revealed the absolute truth with such remarks. To me, for instance, he once said, "God is nothing!" One can not help asking why only in Sant Mat do they speak of specific 'objective' subtle structures ( triple mountain, crooked tunnel (banknaal), pool of nectar, hansi tunnel, fountains, throne, etc.), that all must pass through, whereas the other schools that teach light and sound do not. Faqir's answer is that Soamiji had to do so because of the level of understanding of the common folk of his time. [We will conclude this section in a moment with our take on Faqir's insistence that all such visual structures are only projections of the mind].
As long as we are discussing sacred numbers, an especially interesting feature ubiquitous in spiritual teachings worldwide is the number 'seven', of which more will be said in the section # 7. For instance, there are said to be basically seven planes (with seven subplanes within each), seven chakras (or seven 'candles' in the Bible), seven rays, seven colors, seven elements (earth, water, air, fire, ether, akasha or space, chit or consciousness - similar to the Buddhist seven paramattha dharmas or essential realities that all samsara is made up of, consisting of four form elements and three formless or 'mind' elements - with Nirvana (Radhaswami?) as an eighth 'unconditioned' element), seven spirits before the Throne, seven rivers, seven sisters, seven delights, seven thoughts, seven flames, seven tongues, seven mothers, seven creative Words (sapta vanih); we are told in scripture that the 'sins of the fathers will be visited on the sons to the seventh generation', and, in Sant Mat, there is an explicit pledge that the Master will provide protection to ones descendants for seven generations backwards and forwards. As for the latter, one might ask, why 'seven'? There is no doubt protection to near and dear ones, with many, many reports verifying such, but how connected are 'seven' generations to one's particular destiny, and what does protection really mean? That they are all going to get initiated in the next lifetime? What? Finally, there does seems to be definite esoteric significance to the number seven, but what if the number seven is of significance only in our universe? For one can't help considering that possibility within the totality of infinity.
Faqir would no doubt agree with the Sant Mat teaching that there are reflections of the higher planes in the lower planes. Even Sri Aurobindo wrote about that. This can be interpreted in at least two ways. One, there are multiple correspondences between the chakras and lower regions and the higher regions - and this is Sri Aurobindo's view. It also seems to be that of schools of Puranic Hinduism (explained in the next section, # 7), which correlate the seven planes or worlds with the seven chakras, and also as taught by older sages and modern yogis such as Sivananda, who said that Sat Lok was Nirvikalpa Samadhi in the crown above or at the top of the head. This is obviously different from Sant Mat wherein all the six planes beyond the gross physical begin at the seventh chakra, but it may make sense from a more integral understanding than one where the goal is conceived as exclusively going 'up and out'. The chakras are themselves a mystery, said to contain many depths, both 'inner or horizontal' as well as 'vertical'.
Aurobindo said that while there was an aspect of Sat Lok in the crown, one needed to ascend in consciousness to the higher, universal dimension of Sat Lok above. For him this was the highest region within 'our manifested universe', but the absolute, SatChitAnanda, was beyond that, and not a plane per se at all:
"You must remember that there are reflections of the Higher worlds in the lower planes which can easily be experienced as supreme for that stage of the evolution. But the supreme Sachidananda is not a world, it is supracosmic. The Sat (Satyaloka) world is the highest of the scale connected with this universe." (Letters on Yoga, Vol. 1, p. 252)
The later seems to have been Faqir's basic view, as we shall see below.
The second way of looking at reflections of higher planes in the lower is found in Sant Mat teachings, such as L. Puri's book, Mysticism: The Spiritual Path, Part II, where he claimed that there are many "copies" of the "real" Spiritual Regions in Sant Mat, and in certain cases the actual names were not even changed. Hence, there are many Sach Khands, or Bhanwar Guphas in the planes connected with Kal, the negative power. The aim of such "replicas", or indeed,"near-replicas" of these Regions were meant to deceive the disciples of a "Perfect" Living Master during the inner journey to the "Highest" Region. This may be true, but it is almost enough to make a grown man cry. Is Truth really this complicated? In addition, one may ask, how could a counterfeit Sach Khand even be recognized? All these inner regions are said to be progressively and near infinitely larger than the physical world, so how could one 'see a region' in order to be fooled - especially such a lofty realm as Sat Lok? The light of millions of suns with the direct feeling of pure love seems pretty hard to replicate or be misled by. It is said to be the penultimate mystical experience. And further, one is understood to have increased in both consciousness and intuitive wisdom as he ascends; that is, he is not just visiting such a 'place' as his usual self, so as to be fooled, but he has changed in the gradual process also. He should, one would think, and if the hierarchy of planes mean anything, increasingly know what is what at these higher levels by the increasing immediacy of his sense of presence and self-knowledge.
To re-emphasize, it seems Faqir does not account for the Master's form appearing to a disciple, whether on the inner or outer planes, when the latter is not concentrating on - or even thinking of -his Master. Our impression is that Faqir's explanations have a paucity of explanatory power in them, despite being reflective of certain aspects of vedantic truth. As for the greatness of the Master, which Faqir applauds as necessary for guidance of the disciple, but seems to have a reductionist view about in general, the reader is directed to the book, Ocean of Divine Grace, a collection of stories about Sant Kirpal Singh, for comparison.
Faqir was in line with standard Sant Mat in maintained that it was necessary to have a perfect, liberated Master, but for him the importance was more for one to meet one who could give the tailored instruction and guidance suited for your particular personality, and not for him being the embodiment of the 'Greater Attention' which is God, with the Power to connect one's surat or attention to it. One gets the impression that Faqir leaves one much more on one's own in this area.
So far, then, Faqir teaches that to restore the soul’s native freedom requires a radical detachment from the plane of manifest life, through progressive levels of samadhi. This in itself is not different from standard Sant Mat doctrine. But he seems to possibly go one step further.
He held that Sat Lok or Sach Khand is the ‘self-awarerness of the Spirit’ in which the soul or Surat is absorbed. Further in the Anami stage, that of the transcendental, nameless being, there is not even that self-Awareness. Still, no one can stay there while he yet has a body, and so he tells us that the final goal is to be united with one’s manifestation while alive, which suggests a non-dual state of realization, and which Faqir calls Radhiswamidham stage:
“The self-awareness of the Surat is called Satloka and the loss of this self-awareness is the state of nameless ness, or Anami Dham. Since Saligram Ji Maharaj had risen to this level while living in the physical body, and , since no human being can stay in any state permanently, he did not designate the final designation even as nameless state.”
“Then, after all, where can we find peace?” “In the final Radhiswami Abode, which is in your Surat, your Pure Self. Always remain united with your own manifestation. In other words, let your Surat be united with the Pure Self Radhaswami...The answer lies in unification, the spontaneous inclination in the union of the Light with Sound - Radha with Swami. Peace lies in merging into one’s own Self. This spontneous state is spontaneous meditation. This alone is the Radhaswami Abode. It is clear that this state is always present within each individual, but most people do not go deep into their depths to discover it...I have seen the radhaswami present in every atom. I have seen Radaswami clearly in everything manifested. The entire cosmos is manifesting the Pure being and the qualified Being. I have seen Radhaswami as the moving spirit of the whole world.”
“In reality, you are neither body, nor mind, nor soul, but a pure being. You are invisible, unfsthomable, nameless and formless...When I say our real nature is Pure Being, what does it mean? It means that It is invisible, unfathomable, unnamed and beyond all qualities. God, and Supreme God, are the names of the concentration of gross matter. Similarly, the concentration of subtle matter in a particular form is designated Brahman [certainly an unusual definition of Brahman], the Absolute, and Parabrahman, the Supremely Absolute. The concentration of the most subtle form of matter is called the Satloka, the region of Truth. All these are emanations from our Pure Being and remain under its control. They come into existence from It, but It is Itself above all these existent entities or qualitative states.” (p. 59-97)
So one can see Faqir’s uncompromising semi-vedantic point of view. All is in the Self seems to be what he is saying. The reader may keep all of this in mind as we go one with this discussion. However, at this point the final goal as he portrays it does not seem radically different from what many sages say about sahaj samadhi. “It is beyond Sunn and trance,” in fact said the great Kabir. Yet also, in some teachings sahaj samadhi is not the end either. There are said to be infinite depths to the awakening and evolution within the Mystery. Yes, there's that word again: 'Mystery' - the obvious, crystal clear, always new, never-ending Mystery!
For Aurobindo Sat Lok is the dimension of 'sat' (being), and the Unmanifest (probably Anami of the Sants) was 'asat' (non-being, the Transcendant Void), while the 'Puroshottama' of the Gita (Radhaswamidham of Faqir?) was the Absolute Truth or Divine Person that includes all aspects within it, including 'Para Prakriti' or the Divine Mother, inseparable from Puroshottama and itself source of all purusha and prakriti ('consciousness' and 'matter') and manifested dualities 'below'. This seems to agree with Faqir's explanation that all dimensions are condensed forms of matter, even the 'spiritual' regions (generally considered 'pure consciousness' in Sant Mat) are actually the most subtle form of 'matter', and all of these dimensions are products of the Pure Being, Mind, or Atman. This conception loosely correlates with a number of ancient teachings where even 'pure consciousness' as such is not ultimate reality, as in the schools that use less dualistic language showing a continuity or connection by using phrases for even the nondual levels of awareness like 'Original Mind' or 'Essence of Mind' and so on. This would tend to exclude most versions of Advaita Vedanta for whom consciousness is all. But the reader may note that in all ancient systems of Hinduism both Sam'khya and Vedanta were always presented together. The Vedanta coming in later times from Shankara was a rather novel teaching in which the introduction of the concept of maya not only made the Divine Mother a creator only of illusion (instead of upper divine realms of reality with ignorance or illusion pertaining only to created realms lower down), but also allowed consciousness to be divorced from matter and then by itself represent ultimate reality. So it would follow from this that the Sant Mat conception of the soul as a drop of pure consciousness merging into the ocean of 'greater' consciousness may be an experientially valid but provisional teaching to be supplanted by a wordless mystery at a higher stage.
It is expected that there may be some individual variation in the inner experience, but the commonality of various inner visionary phenomena almost begs for a more complete explanation than given by Faqir. We can not get fully into what that explanation might be here; it is too complicated. However, it may simply be suggested that neither subjective nor objective conceptions do full justice to the nondual mystery. While there is some necessary contribution to each individual's experience, both inner and outer, due to cultural, religious, and intellectual background, and the realms themselves are indissoluably linked with the very structures of human consciousness, Faqir's insistence that they are solely 'projections of the mind' appears too reductionistic. It also begs the question, "what mind?" The individual mind (manas) ? Or Isvara, a universal mind that gives to each of us the shared experience of a relative world in common? That is to say, then, there does seem to be a kind of 'objectivity', not only to the outer world, but also to the inner planes, with some degree of individual variation. And the clearer the instrument of the mind becomes, the clearer the perception of the relative objectivity of the inner realms, including the manifestations of enlightened beings there, will become also. Even Faqir argues that above Bhanwar Gupta one is free of all 'phantasmagoria', being direct manifestations of consciousness. We only ask, is the earth plane entirely 'phantasmagoria' also? If not, his view needs some adjustment.
Contemporary teacher Anadi makes some good points that both support and, in our view, surpass Faqir's understanding. He states:
"The traditional teachings do not acknowledge the correlation between the experience of the inner and that which is recognizing it. It is not only that our intelligence recognizes the inner states, but that this very intelligence is an inseparable part of those states...It is not enough to be awakened to the inner. One must also be awakened to the fact of being awakened to the inner...How the presence of the inner state is understood and appreciated depends exclusively on the level of evolution of the recognizing intelligence...It is not the inner state alone that creates our perception of reality. The inner state adds to the psyche the background of silence and stillness, but the perception itself is formed within the mind and channeled through our sensitivity...There can never be a universal language of Enlightenment, only a unique individual expression of the Universal Truth...The ultimate perception is born when the complete realization of the Inner reality, that is, Enlightenment, meets fully the unique sensitivity of an individual Soul. This is called maturity." (Aziz Kristof (anadi) and Houman Emani, Enlightenment Beyond Traditions (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1999), p. 159-160, 41, 43)
"Firstly, there is the experience itself and secondly, there is how you interpret it...It is always a combination of the state itself, how deep the state is, and the intelligence plus the sensitivity of the Soul...So it is not only how deep the Inner State is, but also how deep and mature the intelligence is of the one who is in that state. For example, how you translate the fact of sitting in this room depends on how deeply you see reality. You can, for example, think that you are simply sitting on the floor and there is nothing special about it; or you are able to truly see that where you are sitting upon is the Universal I AM, God...The Soul is forced to evolve by the suffering she experiences. Through this suffering the intelligence of the Soul grows, and gradually she is able to formulate the right questions...It is your Soul which appreciates all states using her intuitive intelligence...Through this intuitive and sensitive understanding, you are able to recognise what it is that you experience, for the experience is extraordinarily subtle...When there is not enough intelligence and sensitivity, one is unable to give real appreciation to the inner experience. One knows neither who is sitting nor in what one is sitting...Now you can understand how important the model of awakening one uses is. The model reflects reality of the spiritual evolution and on some level creates this reality. Most seekers prefer to follow traditional models, for it gives them security and sense of authority behind their search. Unquestionably, they try to fit themselves into the traditional models, not being able to think critically." (Aziz Kristof (anadi), Transmission of Awakening (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1999), p. 292-295)
The gist here is that it is not enough to have experiences, but one must understand them also. And that certain levels of realization and all forms of enlightenment are both an experience and an understanding.
One conclusion implied, then, is similar to that which the jnanis such as Ramana, Atmananda, as well as Sri Yukteswar, Yogananda, the Buddha, and others affirm, that realization is here and now as well as transcendental, but not exclusively elsewhere, nor dependent upon experience, no matter how rarified. The True You is not in the body, the world, or in time. The Soul (or in some traditions, an emanant of the Soul) incarnates, but it is not born; the body and mind are born. Finally, an expanded inclusion of the multi-dimensions of experience will to varying degrees be integrated and lived, all being part of a wholistic Totality. The above considerations of Faqir's are in part perhaps one of the most important issues to consider Sant Mat and its place in world spirituality today. We will return to these topics of Sant Mat and non-duality, the planes and bodies, the nature of realization, and so on, in Part Two of this series.
7. Sant Mat and Kriya Yoga compared
Sant Rajinder Singh, as mentioned, has said that one will be assured that there is life after death when one reaches the third plane. This is interesting, but does that in itself imply that the first two inner planes are then not after-death planes but reside in the brain and are thus still within the body? We don’t think so, only that as they interpenetrate the same 'space' they may be contacted while in the body, but interestingly, the Sar Bachan Radhasoami (Poetry) : Part Two appears to say so. After Sahans Dal Kanwal and Trikuti, one enters the Banknal and then goes through Daswan Dwar (the “tenth door”) to reach the third inner region of Sunn:
“Surat moves onward and opens the door. It enters Banknal (crooked tunnel) and gets across. It passes through high and low valleys. It turns up the pupil of the eye.” (p. 118).
“Turning up the pupil of the eye” and entering the “tenth door” or aperture (the other nine being the bodily openings: eyes, ears, nostrils, mouth, and two below) implies attention finally leaving the body. Babuji Maharaj of the Agra branch said that “within the folds of thy brain there are many beautiful regions,” etc. He may have been quoting Maulana Rumi, who likewise said, “Within the folds of thy brain there are wonderful gardens and beauty spots. Should you like to enjoy them, hie to a Murshid (Master) for instruction.” (5)
Maharaj Saheb, a Sant Mat guru after Rai Salig Ram, even more explicitly said,
”In the fissure between the two lobes of the brain there are twelve apertures, which provide the means for communion with the six subdivisions of Brahmand and with the six subdivisions of the purely spiritual region. The apertures appertaining to Brahmand are to be found in the gray matter, and those appertaining to the purely spiritual region, in the white matter.” (6)
First off, this passage is somewhat confusing, as it suggests that someone who has an accidental death would have no access to the spiritual regions because he had no chance to pass through the apertures in the white matter of the brain. Some Buddhist schools teach this also and advocate phowa initiations to make sure the consciousness exits the body through the top of the skull. But is it really the truth that this is necessary? In general, Sant Mat teaches (as did Sri Aurobindo, but not the Tibetans!) that everyone eventually leaves the body via the crown of the head. Other Sant Mat masters have said that a true disciple in such a case is immediately with the Master within, so not leaving via the crown cannot truly be an impediment for an initiate]. The suggestion definitely, however, is, from these quotes, that the path of Sant Mat initially takes place in a passage through the brain, the most direct route being via the central channels in the white matter (i.e., via the corona radiata), culminating in the “God-light” or “purely spiritual region(s)” that manifest when one truly pierces the crown center in ascended samadhi. This implication or interpretation is somewhat uncommon in the Sant Mat or Radhasoami literature, which generally assumes a gnostic position considering all of the subtle realms to be outside, or above and beyond, the body, while Saheb seemed to be suggesting that, as experienced in meditation, they are actually in the braincore, with only the alleged truly spiritual realms beyond the limits of the body. Sometimes Sant Mat writers claim that the third eye is between and behind the eyebrows (i.e, near the pineal gland, with the pituitary more towards the center of the head), while the so-called "tenth door" leading to Daswan Dwar, the third region, is at the crown of the head - where the fontanelle is in an infant. So, this would suggest that only the highest inner planes, such as Bhanwar Gupta and Sach Khand are truly out of the body, as the spatial descriptions of a lower region where the ”crooked tunnel” (Banknal) is found seems to suggest the passageway in the braincore itself. This would also mean that Sahansdal Kanwal, the first inner station in Sant Mat, may not be the exact equivalent of the thousand-petalled lotus of the true Sahasrar as described in traditional yoga sutras, but yet a region in the sky of mind in the braincore, which would, however, truly be felt to be outside of or interior to the body for the normally extroverted individual. This is certainly highly enjoyable; as Sawan Singh once said, "if you go in an inch, it is better than a trip around the world," but its actual nature should be clarified, so adequate comparisons can be made with other schools.
For instance, in the Kriya Yoga as taught by Paramhansa Yogananda, the "spiritual eye" is visualized at the ajna or agya chakra, but passage between the agya chakra and the sahasrara at the top of the head is said to culminate in nirvikalpa samadhi and “transcendance of the astral and causal bodies”. The actual passageway is said to be a subtler form of the sushumna called, in their school, firstly the vajra and chitra nadis (luminous astral nadis, the "spine of the astral body"), and then the "brahmanadi" (or the "spine of the causal body"). Thus, in the kriya school, the implication is also that the astral and causal worlds, at least before death, are somehow within or cotermionous with the physical body or brain itself. Rajinder Singh and general esotericism tentatively solves this dilemma for us by asserting that the planes do interpenetrate one another, but certainly exist on their own after the severance of consciousness from the physical body.
Soamiji also interestingly but confusingly describes Trikuti as being within the sushumna, the central yogic channel that culminates in the sahasrar, an additional implication that this region may not be outside of the body. That is, however, contradicted even by many, many near-death experiences (NDE’s). Sant Kirpal Singh, in his book Godman, similarly quotes Guru Nanak as saying:
"The Master exhorts the jivas to listen to this music in the Sukhman, the artery between the two eyebrows; Then be established in Sunnya (the Region of Silence - here he seems to be agreeing with the yogis, as well as Yukteswar who called this region of the head, Sunnya, the void or 'vacuity', not to be confused with Maha Sunn, or the 'Greater Vacuity"), with the result that all oscillations of the mind would cease. When the chalice of the mind thus turns into the correct position, it will get filled with the Elixer of Life, making the mind steady and self-poised. The ceaseless music of eternity becomes a constant companion." (7)
The upturning of the chalice of the heart is standard mystic terminology, but the standard reference to the region of Sunn is to the third inner plane, while here it is experienced in the brain, prior to ascension to the crown via the upturned chalice or inverted well. The importance of these questions lies in establishing the true uniqueness of shabd yoga as contrasted with other traditional yogic explanations.
The exposition of this in the Kriya Yoga in the lineage of Paramhansa Yogananda is even more confusing. [for more on this, see Paramhansa Yogananda and Kriya Yoga: A Comparative Analysis ]. In that path, as in Sant Mat, the aspirant is to focus at the spiritual eye, located between and behind the eyebrows, which is said to actually extend from that subtle center backwards to the medulla. However, they do not start their sadhana at that center, but do kriyas and concentrations at the lower centers of the sushumna - in which there are said to be contained three spines (physical, astral, and causal). They also concentrate at sounds heard at these lower centres. Some yogic traditions speak of the bell at the solar plexus, then the flute at the heart, and increasingly more subtle sounds ultimately fading out as you approach the sahasrara and Nirvikalpa. This is quite different and may reflect even a difference in the way realization is conceived than in Sant Mat, where the loud pealing of the big bell begins at this topmost chakra - with sounds below considered mere reflections or at best faint echoes of the higher ones. However, it could also possibly be argued that the Kriya system, with the acknowledgement of three overlapping spinal nadis (the vajra, the chitra, and the brahmanadi), corresponding to the three interpenetrating created bodies, and given an intimate multidimensional relationship between the seven chakras and the seven planes, may be a more 'integrative' path than Sant Mat. Of course, this is refuted by Sant Mat which argues that it is in reality a lower system of practice. According to Yogananda,
"The spiritual eye is perceived as a golden aura surrounding a sphere of blue, in the middle of which is a five-pointed start of white light...The point of origin of the single eye is in a subtle spiritual center in the medulla oblongata (at the base of the brain where it joins the spine). The energy from this single eye divides at the medulla and pours through the brain into the two physical eyes, through which the world of duality is perceived. The spiritual eye with its three lights, or three different rays - one within the other like an extending telescopic lens - has all-seeing spherical vision. Through the gold ray, the deeply meditating yogi beholds all matter and the mass of radiation (the vibratory cosmic energy) permeating the universe. Penetrating the blue light [the reader may recall references to the "blue pearl" by Swami Muktananda], the yogi will realize the Christ or Krishna Consciousness - the Kutastha or infinite intelligence of God - which is present in all creation. Piercing the tiny five-pointed white star, the yogi experiences Cosmic Consciousness - the transcendant consciousness of God that underlies all creation and that is also beyond the realms of manifestation in Infinitude. The yogi in Cosmic Consciousness perceives that all creation, including the microcosm of his body, is a projection of the fivefold rays of God's Cosmic Consciousness."
Here one sees that for Yogananda piercing the white star is not just a threshold to the astral plane, but to beyond the three planes and into what is considered the spiritual dimensions on these paths.
"The tricolored rays of the spiritual eye, through a complex transformation known to yogis, form the physical body of man the microcosm. The golden rays of cosmic energy, for example, are strongly inherent in the vital red blood, and are manifested in the electric current that flows through the nerves. The blue rays are a predominant factor in the gray matter of the brain, which provides a medium for the expression of thoughts through sensory-motor activity - just as on the universal scale Christ Consciousness provides the medium that upholds all of nature's activities. And the white rays are the predominant factor in the white matter of the brain, in which God's transcendant Cosmic Consciousness is insulated." (Journey to Self-Realization, p. 92-94)
The last sentence in this quotation is most interesting, and similar to the comments above of Maharaj Saheb that relate the "spiritual Regions" to the white matter of the brain. In his first book, A Search in Secret India, Paul Brunton wrote of similar comments given him by Radhasoami guru Sahabji Maharaj of Dayalbagh:
"The innermost parts of our brain centres are associated with subtle worlds of being; that, after proper training, these centres can be energized until we become aware of these subtler worlds; and that the most important centre of all enables us to obtain divine consciousness of the highest order...The most important of these centres is the pineal gland, which, as you know, is situated in the region between the eyebrows. It is the seat of the spirit-entity in man...It is the focus of the individual spirit-entity which gives life and vitality to man's mind and body...Since the human body is an epitome of the entire universe, inasmuch as all the elements employed in the evolution of creation are represented in it on a miniature scale, and since it contains links with all the subtler spheres, it is quite possible for the spirit-entity in us to reach the highest spiritual world. When it leaves the pineal gland and passes upwards, its passage through the grey matter of the brain brings it into contact with the region of universal mind, and its passage through the white matter exalts its consciousness to lofty spiritual realities." (p. 244-245)
Now this talk of a tri-colored spiritual eye is interesting and may resonate with an obscure passage from Sawan Singh where he speaks of differences between the 'Brahmand Avatars' and the Saints:
"The teachers from Brahmand (the causal region), the Avataras, ascend along the three light currents (three gunas) which starting from behind the eyes, and passing through Sahansdal Kanwal (thousand-petalled-lotus [here he agrees with Dr. Johnson]) reach the top of the Sumer mountain [part of the three mountains of Trikuti], and they cannot go higher. On the other hand, the surat practitioners, viz., the Saints, go up by means of the Sound Current to the first stage, thence go down through a sort of tunnel to the second stage, thence proceeding to the third and from there respectively to the eighth stage or the Radhasoami region...The Saints go by Sound; while the Avataras travel by light or with Sound of the second degree. As the second degree lies within the scope of Kal or Maya, and the coverings of all the three bodies (physical, astral, or mental) cannot be removed until the third stage is reached, therefore, the souls of the Avataras are not so pure and powerful against imperfections and hence they come into the world again and again at intervals." (from an early letter to Dr. and Mrs. Brock, his first initiates in America)
Now one can see several things here that are not commonly taught in this school and are no doubt confusing. One, the talk of three light currents between the eye-chakra and Sahansdal Kanwal, and the 'second degree sound', upon which Avataras travel, while Saints travel on the pure shabd or Sound current. Also, the concept that the 'three gunas' only start in Sahansdal Kanwal, and not from the level of Isvara as is assumed in traditional Hinduism/yoga/vedanta. [A hint at this apparently idiosyncratic use of terminology may lie in the Sants calling the 'matter' of the astral plane 'prakriti', and the 'matter' of the causal plane 'pradhan'. What term they might use for the more rarified form of matter in the super-caual planes and beyond is not known]. Third, it is assumed that Avataras (that is, 'Brahmand Avataras' - this seems to imply that there could be other kinds) find themselves at the top of Brahmand or the causal region via light and Sound, but somehow cannot go further. Now, one may ask, why can't they go further if they had followed the light and sound current thus far? Is it because, once arrived at Trikuti, they can no longer locate or contact the sound current? Good question, and the answer might be given that, in such cases (which, however, might not cover all Avataras), 'they have not gotten all five of the Names, and the mark of the Master - and thus lack the 'passport' to the higher realms'. However, later in Part Four we will see quotes that show that in some cases a Saint has also been an Avatara, and of course both come from the same God-Source, and in fact are sometimes spoken of as both being realized beings, only playing different roles. This appears to be the most logical answer. [A sort of linguistic flip-flop is unfortunately found from time to time in these teachings; for instance, the Saints love to refer to Ramakrishna where he said, "jump in, it is an ocean of immortality!" (and then proceed to describe it in such complex terms), while also relegating him to the lower status of a Yogeshwar (causal plane adept) solely on the basis of his early life sadhana of worshipping the goddess Kali - even though he far surpassed that in later years].
I must confess that hearing teaching statements like the above about three currents of light, second degree sound, etc., makes me want to cry, for they seem not only overly technical and obscure, but, in this day and age, divisive and cultic: it is hard enough to contact the sound current, but now one must be concerned about finding the 'right form of the current', in order to follow a convoluted pathway through the subtle realms, with inverted tunnels and whirling caves, etc.,? The Tibetan Buddhists are not at all concerned with this level of detail. Is it really necessary, therefore, or only possible? How to explain this abstruse doctrine? The difficulty is compounded when one considers that after the super-causal level one is supposedly dealing with the 'essence' of sound and no longer its sensibly audible form. This needs to be explained satisfactorily for an emerging world spirituality.
Paramahansa Yogananda's guru, Sri Yukteswar, in The Holy Science, uses much the same terminology of the Sants, even speaking of practicing shabd yoga once the preliminary kriyas in the lower chakras are successful, but also seems to alter the order of the inner planes. He has Mahasunn coming before Daswan Dwar, whereas the Sants have it afterwards. This may or may not give possible credence to Faqir's radical claim that the planes are not necessarily experienced in a fixed order. We think that Yukteswar may be found to be consistent with Sant Mat if some explanation is added. He then lists the regions of Sat Lok: Alak, Agam, and Anami, much like the Sants. But he also speaks of a more integral realization beyond this, where non-duality (the Father) is established all of the time. This is not explicitly described in the Sant Mat literature, other than the aforementioned reference from Baba Faqir Chand. He is a chart we formed comparing Yukteswar's scheme of planes with Sant Mat. This and the following discussion is rather technical, and, as far as we know, not been done so far:
Yukteswar goes from Bhu, Bhuvar, Swar (which he calls Maha Sunn), to Mahaloka (Daswan Dwar, the atom, the magnet, beginning of maya, the idea of separate self), then 'jumps' to janaloka (which he calls alakh or 'incomprehensible to anyone in the darkness below; he also says this is where the idea of separate self 'starts'; then tapaloka, or 'the region of the Holy Spirit', which he calls agam, or 'inaccessible to even one of the Sons of God (Purushas)'; and finally Satloka which he calls Anami. So Sant Mat and he are in synch up to Swar (except that he calls it Maha Sunn or the greater vacuity, then they both have Daswan Dwar or the door, but from here Sant Mat goes Maha Sunn, Bhanwar Gupta, and Sach Khand - whereas Yukteswar jumps right to alakh:
Yukteswar (~Aurobindo) Sant Mat
Bhu Bhu (Pind)
[Trikuti (sensorium; Sushumnadwara or door [Brahmarendra/crown as 'Daswan Dwar]
to interior word where he sees "Radha" or the
God-sent luminous body]
Bhuvar (electric) Bhuvar (astral; Anda)
Swar (magnetic - Maha Sunn) Swar (mental/causal/Trikuti/Brahmand)
Maharloka (atom; Daswan Dwar; the 'beginning Daswan Dwar (super-causal, Par Brahmand)
of maya', or where the Spirit is reflected) Maha Sunn (super-causal)
Bhanwar Gupta (supercausal)
(apparent gap in schemas) Sach Khand (spiritual, Sat Lok)
Janaloka (alakh) Alakh (incomprehensible)
Tapaloka (agam) Agam (inaccessible)
Satloka (anami) Anami (nameless)
One sees the apparent ommission of Sach Khand in Yukteswar's schema. Is this really a gap indicating a flaw if the system? We suspect it can be correctly correlated like this: Yukteswar's planes are, more or less, the same as the Hindu Lokas, which are the same as the seven planes of Neo-Theosophy as discussed by Leadbeater and Bailey, which is also the same system Daskalos adopted, ignoring some of the confusing terminology. Then there is Sant Mat. They basically have a ten level system going from physical to Anami if you include Mahasunn as a plane. Here is how Yukteswar's system may integrate with the traditional seven plane system - first, we drop Anami, as that is Nirguna, 'beyond' the seven. That is another issue! The first three lower planes are the same - with the mental - higher and lower together - being same as causal in Sant Mat. Then Sach Khand and Atman or the fifth plane are the same. So that leaves two above, Alakh and Agam, which are the same. So then the three other planes in Sant Mat that get lumped into the category of the super-causal dimension, or Par Brahmand - between the causal and Sach Khand - (Daswan Dwar, Maha Sun, Bhanwar Gupta) would all be aspects of the 4th plane, the buddhic, in theosophy, or Maharloka in Yukteswar. Daswan Dwar is lower Buddhic, Bhanwar Gupta is higher Buddhic, and the Mahasunn is the 'soul knot' in the center of the Buddhic or Intuitive body.
Each body has a lower and higher aspect. In the physical it is the dense (made up of the four form elements - earth, water, fire and air), and the etheric or pranic, made up of the three energy elements. This pattern is repeated on each plane, and parallels the idea that the lower four planes as a whole - physical, astral, mental, intuitive are all 'bodies', whereas, starting with Atman/Sach Khand, we are in realms of 'pure spirit', which means deeply formless, universal levels beyond time and space and form and karma.
Looking at in terms of 'initiations' on an integral yogic path, as our consciousness grows, this reflects on the level of our identification with each body as a gradual 'piercing' of the relationship of the 'soul' with that body, so that a knot or granthi is pierced, which from the angle of the chakras, is the kundalini piercing one of the granthis along the spine - first the one at the base for the 1st initiation, then the one between the solar plexus and heart for the second, then the one between the throat and ajna for the third. These are the four more material of the bodies, and so the kundalini reaching the crown means we are liberated from form and now identified with our permanent personality or 'intuitive soul body'. Each of these levels can also be seen spread out over the bodies as a shift of focus in each body from lower to higher aspect of that body at the corresponding initiation or stage of enlightenment. So at the fourth initiation, we are no longer breaking identification with the form bodies and separate ego/personality, as in the first three stages. It is piercing the formless, soul body, the buddhic or anandamayakosha. This is the heart of our 'witness', our transpersonal self that is not yet the nondual atman, but close. And as a center of soul identity throughout all our lives as a human, it is a level of deep identification and continuity between all our lives. So breaking through this 'formless granthi' (hence its lack of focus in the chakra level along the spine), is a great 'dark night', and it would be between the higher and lower buddhic, which is, if this is correct, just where Sant Mat has it, between Daswan and Bhanwar Gupta. So the reason it is called 'the Great Void' is that it is the same as 'the Great Death' in Zen and Dzogchen, and why folks like Bailey and Leadbeater relate it symbolically to the Crucifixion, not of the personality but of the higher self. By coming to the higher buddhic, the individual is now bathed in the light of the higher realization of nondualism, though not yet fully 'absorbed' into it until the fifth stage. But it is so close, one is now a Sadh, or for the Sufis has attained 'nearness to Allah', or for Yukteswar is a 'pure heart' and reflects the Light of the Purely Spiritual Realms. This is 'close enough' to be an jivanmukti as the Vedantic model has it. Then one more step (whether in pure direct realization, or by journey through planes) and one has 'union with Allah', which is the fifth stage for the Sufis, or Mastery for the Theosophists (rather than the Buddhist Arhat, which is the fourth), or a Sant for Sant Mat, which is the first stage of God-Realization.
So that is our 'guess' - the Mahasunn is the final Dark Night that corresponds to the final body before attaining the Atman. At the fourth initiation one breaks through the heart of the final body, penetrating the mid-point of all seven planes, now in the upper levels of the buddhic (Bhanwar Gupta), poised now for final 'assimilation' into Atman at the fifth. That is why we think Sant Mat distinguishes these three 'planes', as they map out (in a inversion path), three important stages of development beyond the lower three bodies. If what we have suggested here is true, then this is an important contribution that Sant Mat makes to clarifying all this, though it does benefit from translation into, and comparison with other models.
On an side note, Paul Brunton referred to the words of the evangelist John, "I baptise you with water, but he who comes after me will baptise you with the Holy Ghost and with fire," explaining that ihere the Holy Ghost referred to the kundalini, while 'fire' meant the higher illumination of the intelligence, or buddhi. This could mean the fourth initiation described above. Thus the kundalini would be limited to purification of the three bodies or vehicles and not satori or the revelation of consciousness.
Here is another tentative attempt at a comparative chart [Note: not finished or linked up yet] constructed by a friend with longtime experience delineating schemas of planes/realizations in Theosophy, Christian mysticism (Daskalos), Buddhism, Vedanta, and Sant Mat. Hold it lightly, and see if it helps foster intuition.
The basic ordering of the planes, traditionally, follows a seven-fold patterning. To complicate matters, as mentioned it is sometimes said that there also are seven sub-planes in each. Sometimes the are are said to be 49 cosmic planes beyond the microcosmic seven planes. As there are 'human' souls. so there are cosmic and galactic souls - beyond the human evolution. The word "seven" is a common theme in ancient Vedic theology: seven rivers, seven sisters, seven delights, seven thoughts, seven flames, seven rays, seven tongues, seven mothers, etc.. In the Puranas, from which the sage Ramanuja bases his cosmology, there are also listed seven netherworlds below the earth (atala, vitala, nitala, tatataya, mahatala, sutala and patala). Interestingly one of the seven holy Rishis, Narada, is said to have journeyed to these nether regions and returned very favorably impressed! Mystic Daskalos also felt that there was a hell somehow 'below' the physical plane, which is somewhat different from the Hindu idea that hell is a type of lower astral realm. "Stranger things in Heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy", said the great Bard. Following these seven nether worlds are listed seven higher worlds, beginning with our Earth-realm or Bhur, followed by Bhuvar-loka, Svarga-loka, Mahar-loka, Jana-loka, Tapo-loka, and finally Satya-loka. This seems, with slight variation, the schema used by all of these different paths. Sometimes in Hinduism, as mentioned earlier, these seven planes are correlated with the seven chakras, suggesting a greater inner dimension or significance to the chakras themselves than is given in Sant Mat, where the emphasis is on getting radically 'up and out' entirely. However, the Hindu explanation makes some sense from a more integral point of view. Thankfully, such exploration, as well as samadhi, is said to be not a requirement for the attainment of Nirvana or subjective freedom and peace in itself, but may be for a total transformation that includes the higher worlds and forces. That was Aurobindo's view, whose mystic researches as well as investigation of the Rig Veda also revealed a similar schema of planes, with three lower worlds (Earth, Antariksha or the middle region, and Heaven (Dyaus), corresponding to body, life, and mind, divided from the higher divinity by an intermediate region known variously as Truth Consciousness, Greater Heaven (Brihad Dyau), the "Wide World," the "Vast" (Brihat), or the "Great Water," or "Maho Arnas"; this is the fourth Vyahriti mentioned in the Upanishads as "Mahas", most likely corresponding to Vijnanamayakosa / Buddhi. This could with some certainty be considered to correspond with Daswan Dwar, where the "lake of mind" or manas-sarovar is located. This may possibly be the origin of the Biblical passage where the 'waters divide the firmament from the Earth'. Sri Yukteswar called this region "the Atom". The higher supreme worlds embodying Sat, Chit, Ananda are not as such named in the Vedas. Aurobindo says, however, that in the Puranic and Upanishadic systems the seven worlds correspond to seven psychological principles or forms of existence: Sat, Cit, Ananda, Vijnana, Manas, Prana and Anna (Being, Consciousness, Bliss, Intellect, Mind, Life, and Body). He says that "both systems depend on the same idea of seven principles of subjective consciousness formulating themselves in seven objective worlds." (The Secret of the Veda, p. 45)
As mentioned, Sri Yukteswar has a slightly different ordering of the planes. He lists them alternately as: (1) the Puranic schema already mentioned, or (2) Gross, Sunya (Ordinary Vacuum), Mahasunya (the Vacuum), Dasamadwara (the Door), Alakshya (Incomprehensible), Agama (Inaccessible), and Anama (Nameless). In yet (3), a third classification, he lists the various levels as Annamayakosa, Pranamayakosa, Manamayakosa, Jnanamayakosa, Heart/Citta/Buddhi, Anandamayakosa, Son of God/Atman, Chit-Ananda, and Sat.
In Sant Mat there are sometimes listed five planes [i.e., Guru Nanak in his Jap Ji lists Dharm Khand (Realm of Action), Gyan Khand (Realm of Knowledge), Sarm Khand (Realm of Ecstasy), Karm Khand (Realm of Grace), and Sach Khand (Realm of Truth)], and sometimes eight or nine: Physical, Astral, Causal, Mahasunn, Bhanwar Gupta (Supercausal), with Sat Lok divided into four planes, Sach Khand, Alakh, Agam, and Anami. The latter division is reflected in many systems, where the experience of the Great Void or Void-Mind [in this case, Sat Lok] encompasses three levels of deepening realization or penetration beyond Atman.
Theosophy generally uses a nine-fold schema: Physical, Etheric, Astral, Lower and Higher Mental, Buddhic, Atmic, Monadic, and Logoic.
Clearly, it is reasonable to suggest that these modern systems basically follow the seven-fold pattern, with an eighth true 'Nirguna' or 'Nirvanic' dimension added. What is of most interest, however, as pointed out by Sri Aurobindo, is that the planes all interpenetrate, occupying, as it were, the same space. That is why a non-dual realization is the final goal. In Sant Mat it is not mentioned publically so much, but Yukteswar and the Yogananda school frequently spoke of the realization of jnana along with the higher states. Yogananda, for instance, spoke of the Christ Consciousness being 'within' the Aum vibration. [This issue will be discussed in detail later in section #14 in Part Two of this series, where it will be suggested in what ways Sant Mat can be considered to be a jnana path; and also in the article on Yogananda in the biography section of this website].
Sri Aurobindo wrote:
"The triple principle was doubly recognised, first in the threefold divine principle answering to the later [post-Vedic, or Upanishadic era] Satchidananda, the divine existence, consciousness and bliss, and secondly in the threefold mundane principle, mind, life, and body, upon which is built the triple world of the Veda and Puranas. But the full number ordinarily recognised is seven. This figure was arrived at by adding the three divine principles to the three mundane and interpolating a seventh or link-principle which is precisely that of the truth-consciousness, Ritam Brihat, afterwards known as Vijnana or Mahas. The latter term means Large [this could mean Universal Mind in the Sant Mat classification] and is therefore an equivalent of Brihat. There are other classifications of five, eight, nine and ten and even, as it would seem, twelve; but these do not immediately concern us."
"All these principles, be it noted, are supposed to be really inseparable and omnipresent and therefore apply themselves to each separate formation of Nature. The seven Thoughts, for instance, are Mind applying itself to each of the seven planes as we would now call them and formulating matter-mind, if we may so call it, nervous mind, pure mind, truth-mind and so on to the highest summit, parama paravat...So also the seven rivers are conscious currents corresponding to the sevenfold substance of the ocean of being which appear to us formulated in the seven worlds enumerated by the Puranas. It is their full flow in the human consciousness which constitutes the entire activity of the being, his full treasure of substance, his full play of energy." (Ibid, p. 98)
"The sevenfold waters thus rise upward and become the pure mental activity, the Mighty Ones of Heaven. They there reveal themselves as the first eternal ever-young energies, separate streams but of one origin - for they have all flowed from the one womb of the super-conscient Truth - the seven Words of fundamental expressions of the divine Mind, sapta vanih...The Force rises into the womb or birthplace of this mental clarity (ghrtasya) where the waters flow as streams of the divine sweetness (sravathe madhunam); there the forms it assumes are universal forms, masses of the vast and infinite consciousness...This is also his own new and last birth. He who was born as the Son of Force from the growths of earth, he who was born as the child of the Waters, is now born in many forms to the goddess of bliss, she who has the entire felicity, that is to say to the divine conscious beatitude, in the shoreless infinite." (Ibid, p. 120-121)
These last two paragraphs are examples of the philosophical poetry of Sri Aurobindo; they use Vedic imagery and are not meant to stand alone in total clarity without further study of his work on the Veda. What they are meant to show is the ancient nature of the seven-fold schema of worlds, and also the big picture of a non-dual realization, uniting all of the planes in a conscious experience.
What remains clear is that a full understanding of the planes and chakras still eludes us; no tradition has done it completely as yet. Further, we have yet to fully understand this matter of "inside" and "outside". Advaita says a man who has realized turiya, and turiyatita ('beyond the fourth', or the fourth state while in the waking state) is outside of time and space and mind, with no up or down. Ramana Maharshi said:
"Leave out the body-consciousness (the idea that I am the body) and then where is 'in' and where is 'out'? All life-consciousness is One throughout." (Face to Face with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Laxmi Narain, ed, 2007, p. 276)
What, then, does it truly mean to be “outside the body?” If one takes the view of the jnanis or sages who state that it is closer to the ultimate truth to say that all bodies and worlds arise within the Soul or Mind, and it is a fact that while alive in the gross plane all bodies, sheaths, or koshas interpenetrate, then that would certainly not preclude one having experience of the subtle regions once the gross body disintegrates at physical death. Some sages maintain, that while that is true, that as the physical, subtle and causal bodies interpenetrate in consciousness while one is alive, one can do sufficient sadhana while in the gross body, bypassing the need for ascent. Sant Rajinder Singh, in fact, has started to speak in this manner about the various inner planes:
"Most religions believe that there are higher regions of existence to which the soul goes after it dies...The question is, where are these realms? They are not zones in outer space delineated by borders. All these realms exist concurrently with this one. The reason we are not aware of them is because they operate on a different frequency or vibration." (Sat Sandesh – April 2003).
The notion of 'up' and 'down is interesting. A necessary question to raise is how do we compare yogic paths such as Sant Mat with teachings such as the following which state:
"If in meditation he goes down sufficiently far through the levels of consciousness, he will come to a depth where the phenomenal world[s] disappear from consciousness, where time, thoughts, and place cease to exist, where the personal self dissolves and seems no more....But in the end Nature reclaims the meditator and brings him back to this world. It is only an experience, with the transiency of all experiences. But it will make its contribution to the final State, which is permanent establishment in the innermost being, whether in the depth of silent meditation or in the midst of worldly turmoil and activity." (Paul Brunton, Perspectives, p. 37).
"Down" through the levels of consciousness? Is this a reference to Ramana's "I-thought sinking from the head or sahasrar into the Heart" ? Perhaps, yet Brunton also spoke of the descent of divine grace from above.
So, while it may be plausible to assume that there can be a relative 'up' or 'down' in reference to the subtle bodies just as there is in relationship with the physical body, at some point one would think that the words become meaningless, certainly past the causal realms of the cosmic archtypes, 'between' the three lower worlds and 'higher' divine realms.
If all of this is truly so then some of the aforementioned contradictions and discrepencies are overcome. If all of the planes exist concurrently, they must all exist in consciousness, or the soul, and then the 'direct path' of the sages is somewhat exonerated.
At some point, one must confront the argument of the sages, who question, "what is the body?", "Is the soul in a body? How do you know?, and the general teaching that the Soul has no location, is omnipresent and infinite, but an that an emanant of the Soul is projected into manifestation, producing the apparent personality that evolves through time. The Soul, the higher part, never leaves its own plane, and is not a separate discrete drop that falls into a body without still being connected to its parent, but a part of it - for partability is a power of the soul - is projected into 'creation', for a divine purpose which is somewhat mysterious but generally spoken of as a journey through time and space in order to gather experience and know itself in a way that it has never known before. Thus, man's prodigality is not a true 'fall', but a process of evolution. Man is on the rise. But even this is metaphor.
In this vein, Sant Jagat SIngh, interrum guru between Sawan Singh and Charan Singh, said, "90% of spirituality is correct thinking." Sant Kirpal Singh, my guru, once asked me, "do you want anything, my friend? - do you want to leave the body?", to which I answered, "no, nothing." He became animated and exclaimed, "You're an emperor, I'll kiss your feet - "nothing" is God!" To another who asked him, "Master, what AM I?", he answered, "What you see is you." Further, when someone asked him, "Master, do you still meditate?", he replied, "If you get your PhD do you still have to learn the ABC's? You have the knowledge but don't need to use it all the time." Very mysterious language coming from these gurus (back in those days), and obviously something to be revealed to only a few to avoid confusion for the unripe mind. Other saints have acted likewise. Lord Krishna, after giving Arjuna the Cosmic Vision, as recounted in the Bhagavad-Gita, then said, "Now I will teach you." Ramakrishna gave visions and samadhis and devotional exercises to his devotees, but instructed or taught only one disciple, Vivekananda. This he did through the help of his copy of the non-dual Ashtavakra-Gita which he kept hidden from the others, including his chief biographer, "M", or Master Mahasaya.
More recently, when asked why he did not teach non-duality, Gurinder Dhillon, successor guru to Charan Singh, and another master in the Radhasoami lineage, answered, "because the disciples would not understand it."
Kirpal Singh and many others thought highly of Ramakrishna, often capitalizing on his oft-repeated phrase to Vivekanda, "Yes, I see God as clearly as I see you - even more so!" But the implication most often is that Ramakrishna had not transcended the causal plane, the uppermost limit of the lower three worlds. As previously mentioned, many in Sant Mat would argue, simply by virtue of his early worship of Kali, that he was but a 'Yogeshwar', or one whose realization was limited to the causal region of Brahm, but not to the higher regions above that. This is not warranted, in our opinion, however, and is pure speculation.
Swami Sivananda, whom Kirpal Singh respected, used the following language when writing about the kundalini. This is very interesting because speaking from a different yoga tradition he used several terms identical to some of those used in Sant Mat, with a different explanation. He, too, like Yogananda, and Ramakrishna [when he was talking to the yogis - but not Vivekananda] - argued that merger of the attention into the sahasrar produced liberation:
"Brahmarandhra” means the hole of Brahman. It is the dwelling house of the human soul. This is also known as “Dasamadvara,” the tenth opening or the tenth door. The hollow place in the crown of the head known as anterior fontanelle in the new-born child is the Brahmarandhra. This is between the two parietal and occipital bones. This portion is very soft in a babe. When the child grows, it gets obliterated by the growth of the bones of the head. Brahma created the physical body and entered (Pravishat) the body to give illumination inside through this Brahmarandhra. In some of the Upanishads, it is stated like that. This is the most important part. It is very suitable for Nirguna Dhyana (abstract meditation). When the Yogi separates himself from the physical body at the time of death, this Brahmarandhra bursts open and Prana comes out through this opening (Kapala Moksha). “A hundred and one are the nerves of the heart. Of them one (Sushumna) has gone out piercing the head; going up through it, one attains immortality” (Kathopanishad).
“Sahasrara Chakra is the abode of Lord Siva. This corresponds to Satya Loka. This is situated at the crown of the head. When Kundalini is united with Lord Siva at the Sahasrara Chakra, the Yogi enjoys the Supreme Bliss, Parama Ananda. When Kundalini is taken to this centre, the Yogi attains the superconscious state and the Highest Knowledge. He becomes a Brahmavidvarishtha or a full-blown Jnani." (Kundalini Yoga, p. 32-33)
This he considers Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Is this higher than the Sahans dal Kanwal realization of the shabd yogis? It is hard to say. The key seems to lie in there being different depths to the experience of the chakras and the realization attained thereof, and also a depth depending on the evolutionary maturity of the aspirant. For what it is worth, one close disciple of Swami Sivananda, after his death, was guided on the inner planes to take initiation from Kirpal Singh. Elsewhere Sivananda lets the cat out of the bag - as did Faqir, as well as Ramana Maharshi, and Ramakrishna near the end of his life - when he asserts that even this, in fact, is not a necessary experience:
"Yogic students feel that a Yogi can fly through the air or walk on water, and do other miracles. They think then only you know Yoga. To be peaceful, to be calm, to radiate joy, to have an intense aspiration and devotion, to have a spirit of service - this is Yoga. This is not so easy. Flying in the air is not Yoga. Why become bird after so many years of sadhana (spiritual practice) and pranayama (life-force, breath)? Even Nirvikalpa Samadhi is not necessary for us. You must have a willing heart to serve everybody, the spirit of service and a desire to possess all divine virtues. This is Yoga. To be good, to do good - this should be your ideal [similar to Kirpal's saying, "Be good, do good, be One]. Why do you want to get yourself merged in the Absolute? Possess Divine qualities and move as a Divine Being...Merging in the Absolute is not necessary. Let us have a small veil of individuality [[the same attitude of Swami 'Papa' Ramdas] and serve as Nityasiddhas (eternal perfect ones)." (Radha: Diary of a Woman's Search, p. 197)
In addition, we have to contend with Faqir Chand's novel delineation of the state of Maha Sunn as 'Nirvikalpa', where thought processes fade out. There are some who would make Anami into Nirvikalpa, however, inasmuch as it is formless, selfless consciousness. What to make of this quandry? Well, it is said that one can have Nirvikalpa samadhi from any plane. In which case its inner equivalent as Anami would, it appears, be a superior version of this, inasmuch as one also has traversed and assimilated the wisdom of all the planes of consciousness (in the microcosm at least; some say there are further 'macrocosmic' planes, a subject too advanced for this one's poor brain). Perhaps the following may help us. In the Katha Upanishad we read:
“Beyond the senses are the objects, beyond the objects is the mind, beyond the mind is the intellect, beyond the intellect is the great Atman...Beyond the great Atman is the Unmanifested; beyond the Unmanifested is the Purusha (the Cosmic Soul); beyond the Purusha there is nothing. That is the end, that is the final goal.”
One may read this quote as equating the Atman with Sach Khand, the 'Unmanifest' with Anami, and the 'Purusha' as the Radhisoamidham state spoken of by Faqir Chand and before him Soamiji. Maybe.
The entire concept of the chakras and the need to go to the crown of the head is nonsense to the Vedantists and Gyanis, such as Ramana Maharshi, who see all this as a mental creation only. Indeed, Ramana called the chakras 'imaginary mental pictures for beginners' [this is considered by some an extreme view, with the chakras not a product of the personal imagination alone but the universal, with significant energetic correlations to higher planes (as well as internal connections to the levels of the brain: neo-cortex, mid-brain, and brain stem corresponding to the head, heart, and navel or solar plexus centers), but in Ramana's system they could be bypassed by directly letting attention falling into the heart through direct inquiry or surrender]. Iyer says that the vedantin 'feels the same way about the Logos doctrine of the Theosophists as he does of the Shabda-Brahman of the Sants: that it is just a thought'. This will be gone into in more detail in Part Two, but suffice it to say that in sticking to such a strict position of non-causality (ajata) and absolutism is, in our opinion, a rather linear and short-sighted way of viewing the entire relative nature of reality, which itself is a mystery as inexplicable as the so-called 'absolute'. If I say 'a door is just a thought,' I will still walk around it. The Shabda-Brahman is a Universal Liberating Presence within relativity with immense capacity of grace, whether or not one conceives it to be the 'Creator'. It is in some fashion built into the universe, and is a bridge for unenlightened souls from the relative to the absolute. There may be different ways of approaching it, with more or less non-dual understanding, but to deny its power outright in order to fit into a tight-knit philosophy appears absurd.
The aforesaid yogic views, as stated, would also be highly refuted by the Sants; they generally use the term Daswan Dwar in a different meaning than the yogis, in that it is refered to as not only the crown doorway, but the third inner plane, which is not a brain structure. This is important to keep in mind. But as we have seen, Babuji Maharaj, Maharaj Saheb, and Sahabji Maharaj spoke differently about it.
Despite these discrepencies and apparent contradictions, it is suggest that the issue can be resolved if it is accepted that there are simply two uses of the word, 'Daswan Dwar', or the 'tenth door'. In the common yogic and (sometimes) Sant Mat usage, it at one time means the crown center, and at other times it refers to a passage on the third inner plane, essentially the 'gravitational' dividing line between the more material-mental and more mental-spiritual regions. Those teachers that don't recognize the higher meaning of the term would in most instances likely be of lesser realization, although, not necessarily.
Like Sivananda, Ramakrishna at times spoke in the traditional yogic manner of reaching the higher centers for liberation [when he was not teaching Vivekananda non-duality]. He said:
"The mind ordinarily moves in the three lower chakras. But if it rises above them and reaches the heart, one gets the vision of Light....Even though it has reached the throat, the Mind may come down again (from utterly unworldly consciousness - PB). One ought to be always alert. Only if his mind reaches the spot between the eyebrows need he have no more fear of a fall, the Supreme Self is so close."
He goes on to say that reaching the thousand-petalled lotus of the sahasrara at the crown of the head is liberation or God-consciousness. This is what Swami Sivananda said also. The great Tibetan adepts Marpa and Naropa also spoke of meditating to reach the thousand-petalled lotus, which in their tradition in tantric sadhana is visualized as a foot or so above the head. Now, to our way of thinking, the thousand-petalled lotus of the sahasrara (which is the definition of sahasrara), is hard to consider the same as the Sahans Dal Kanwal of the Sants, which only has eight petals. Just the way these great yogis or saints describe their attainment does not sound remotely like only the beginning stage of the inner journey as portrayed by the Sants, more or less attained by many, but something far more significant and integral. This is not to say that it is realization, sahaja samadhi, the natural condition, but a profound state nevertheless. So here we hold that much work needs to be done to reconcile all of the extant teachings in their profundity, and not childishly hold out one or the other interpretation ad the 'highest'. Interesting also how Ramakrishna talks of the 'mind' reaching the heart center and giving the vision of light, whereas in Shabd Yoga the 'attention' reaches the eye-center with the light sprouting forth from there. How is this to be explained? Ramakrishna saw the wrong kind of spiritual light? And how to explain the difference from the 'mind' reaching a center, as the phrase is used here, and the concentrated attention or 'surat' reaching a center? It feels like there must be a difference, but experientially exactly what that is is the question that has not been answered, as far as we know..
[To be further continued and discussed when time permits - the multidimensional nature of the chakras and planes is a vast topic for understanding] .
A further note on kriya yoga versus shabd yoga
Kirpal wrote the following in reference to what is called ghora anhad shabd :
"This (Ghora Anhand Shabd) is the intense vibratory sound that yogins hear by concentration in the navel center, which is one of the six reflex centers in Pind on the model of the higher centers in the astral region, and is accordingly not much consequence to those who are put on the spiritual path Godward." (from The Life and Teachings of Baba Jaimal Singh)
We have mentioned that in the kriya yoga as taught by Yogananda, Yukteswar, and Babaji, et al, they speak of deeper layers of the spine and chakras, and also of moving up and down the chakra system, attaining inner purification of the three bodies in that fashion, with the ultimate goal of sahaj samadhi apparently the same, or nearly the same, as in other paths. But how can we explain the wide disparity in the way the two paths are presented? Here is one possible way. Take it for what it is worth.
When one put out a simple path that requires less involvement (physical guidance, instruction, etc.) from the master, then you have to design a practice that goes to the essence, yet is somehow accessible from the beginning. Vipassana/zazen does that. Mantra yoga does that. In Sant Mat, if you can't hear the nada or shabd, then you gaze and say the mantra, which is very powerful and gradually purifies the bodies until you do hear the nada, and then you just listen at the ajna, and the energies (elementals/vasanas/karmas) are gradually purified in the lower chakras, until the sensory currents are freed up enough to withdraw to the ajna and then the shabd yogi 'exits' the body there and enters the subtler planes, and so on. It really is a very simple, elegant, profound path.
But it is not necessarily the fastest. The tantric idea is that you go into the focal point in your experience/body where the focus of the transformation/purification is taking place, and maximize feeding the transformation there, and in a way particularly suited to the stage of the process that you are at. This approach may seem more complicated, but it is actually more efficient, because doing a practice is like energizing a realization. And it is most efficient to teach people according to their stage. We are imbedded in many veils. The nada emanates from beyond all the veils below the atman. So it is like we are listening to one teaching to lead us through all the stages of learning, which will work, but not as efficiently if the insights/energies/qualities of our practice were better matched to our stage. The nada is pretty abstract. As a realization/presence/quality, most people will not feel the 'satchitananda' of it until a fairly advanced stage. So many part of the personality will find the practice uninspiring and 'irrelevant', can't get it teeth into it. So other paths, like various forms of tantra, give practices for various stages, various chakras, where one 'goes down' to the level of the focus of current stage, and works with it to 'bring it up'. Doesn't sound very 'nondual', but that is because we are working with the personality where it is at, rather than projecting philosophical ideas at our personalities which we think they ought to be able to understand, integrate, and be maximally liberated by. But advanced nondual teachings, or advanced bhakti paths like shabd yoga, do not offer the most accessible, relevant approach for all. Hence kriya yoga is offered as kind of a step of tantric/kundalini bridging practices to lead to full ripeness for samadhi. In fact, in Autobiography of a Yogi, an advanced yogi who had been doing an advanced practice was told by Lahiri Mahasay that he would benefit greatly by kriya, because, although he was advanced at using an 'essence' practice, he still had 'blocks' that were being worked through less efficiently that way, and that kriya would liberated him more quickly if combined with what he was doing. This is also why most Dzogchen teachings, for instance, are packaged with Ngondro and then eight previous stages of tantric practices - and then final Dzogchen. Some teachers are bypassing all that today, but that does not mean it is better. It is just easier to share it with a wider audience in that form, and also, inevitably, there are those who believe that, 'why not just go for the 'highest teachings'?' Namkhai Norbu, in fact, who was the first well-known Tibetan teacher to offer Dzogchen teaching to the public, was finally given the go-ahead by his peers on the reasoning that, "people will only want to come to hear you speak if you give them the ultimate Dzogchen practice"! Which doesn't mean it is the most efficient practice for them at their stage, but then, westerners are impatient.
Kriya yoga as Babaji taught it is kind of a middle path here, as it is a more complex teaching, but it is still packaged for wider use. Most tantric adepts would teach according to the individual, which is why it is harder to create a large movement or broad teaching work with a complex path that require individual participation of the master with each student. For this reason, for instance, Swami Rama only worked with several hundred personal students. He said that each day he would have them meditate at the same time and he would personally leave his body and go and check their individual meditations. Obviously, not all paths can be like that.
So when someone in Sant Mat dismisses a 'lower' manifestation of the nada it is simply for this reason. The nada is both one and many. It is one in essence, like a thread running through the heart of all subtle sounds, but they do take different forms according to which plane and chakra they are being reflected in, for instance. Lower nadas can have a more direct effect on lower chakras and less evolved aspects of our nature, which, as mentioned above, can be more efficient. But it is recommended not to do a practice like that without a teacher who understood that path. So any nada can be used to focus awareness and transform our energy/realization, but in Sant Mat, they direct one to the 'higher sounds' and the ajna chakra. It is simpler that way and often works just fine. Either way works and has it's strengths and limitations.
Words, moreover, are no doubt poor substitutes for reality. Ramana considered even this world to be nothing but spiritual. This, again, can only be true, however, if the concepts of matter as well as the ego-soul or ego-self is rejected in favor of the view and insight that "all is a perception or appearance to Mind". But why must it be one or the other, as the vedantins would have it? Isn’t reality more rich than that? In Sant Mat, as well as theosophy and certain yoga paths, the various planes are described as containing differing amounts of matter and spirit, from gross material, material-spiritual, spiritual-material, to purely spiritual. This is an experiential way of describing things. For Ramana, Buddhism and Zen, anything perceivable ("things") or conceivable ("thoughts") could be considered “mental”, all arising in and as Mind. To them, the concept of matter is really no more than a guess, with no proof. This doesn't mean one may not experience or feel a difference while passing through different planes, etc., but only that the same epistemological discipline must be applied when discussing each of them and their relationship to truth. Mystics in general have no interest in doing this, assuming what they see and feel is real. To sages and philosophers, however, such an endeavor is important if not crucial if one's interest is in truth, and not just bliss or peace. It is, they say, essential for a full understanding of concepts such as "soul," "spiritual", and "consciousness." To the more emanationist schools, like Sant Mat and Kriya Yoga, 'matter' is condensed 'astral matter', which in turn is condensed 'mental matter' or mind', which in turn is condensed 'spirit' or consciousness'. So there is a different way of looking at things. And it has a bearing on how one conceives of realization or liberation. No one school to date has combined all of these views into an integral view. Now that the world's teachings are openly available, with the explosion, first the printing press, then global travel, and now the internet, such a synthesis will eventually and inevitably come
8. Plotinus, Paul Brunton, Ramana Maharshi, and Buddhism teach that the Reality itself is neither within or without, that the highest inner trance state (ie., nirvikalpa) is still a subjective realization, a partial realization only, which must also be integrated or realized in the normal waking state as well as 'sahaj samadhi', if truth be ones goal. This, they say, grants non-duality. That is, the "drop appears to merge into the ocean" in nirvikalpa, but the "ocean merges into the drop" in sahaj. That would appear to make Radhasoami or Anami Lok of the Sant Mat tradition appear to be only a halfway house on the philosophic path (in as much as it is, as described, similar to nirvikalpa - nameless and formless, without attributes), whereas Sant Mat considers Sach Khand as the halfway house of Self-Realization, with Anami as God-Realization. I, for one, have difficulty reconciling the two positions. Sant Darshan Singh, a blessed soul, peace be upon him, answered a similar question regarding gyan or jnana by simply stating that gyan masters reach the highest human states of realization or samadhi, but that only Sant Mat takes one to the highest. Once again, this begs for more elucidation. Exactly how and why is this so? Hang in there, for a possible answer will be given in a little while. [Interestingly, on a side note, one of Sant Darshan's favorite books was Somerset Maughan's, The Razor's Edge, which is supposedly the story of a seeker's visit with the sage Ramana Maharshi].
9. Scriptures and teachers seem to be in agreement that the waking state or earth life is the most important gift for realization, that enlightenment must be achieved or realized here and now, not after death. Few outline exactly why that is so. For instance, Kirpal Singh said one can make more progress HERE than after death. He casually mentioned sometimes that that is the case because the inner planes are so deceiving, bewitching, and also consoling, that the spiritual progress that can be made here in a few months would take hundreds of years up there. Others have pointed out that here ones experiences are so vivid, etched in stone, as it were, while up there they are, without the anchor of the body, too vivid and subject to distraction. There is the quote from the Buddhist sutra, The Transmission of the Lamp, which says that one can be lost for many, many kalpas in the bliss, not just in the inner realms, but the inner void itself. This suggests there is something special about the waking state, and that it is not only to be dismissed as illusion, to be dualistically left behind in search of some permanent spiritual place. The "Radhasoami state" seems to imply a realization that would encompass this perspective. Brunton, a philosopher-sage, clearly states that all yoga is only preparatory for inquiry, and that realization is achieved in the full waking state. Brunton's teacher, V.S. Iyer, argued that the waking state is essential for Self-Realization because only here (not in nirvikalpa or sleep) is the faculty of Buddhi (Reason) active - which is not merely intellect as yogis frequently misinterpret it, but the highest faculty of the mind which distinguishes the real from the unreal. "Through Buddhi will you come to Me," said Krishna in the Gita. For the vedantist, realization requires, among other things, as stated, the faculty of buddhi in the waking state, not in trance. This is because, according to the vedantic argument, our beginningless ignorance began in the waking state and there it must end. This is definitely not the teachings of the sants, as reflected in Sar Bachan of Soamiji or Anurag Sagar of Kabir. For them our ignorance or fall began in the supracausal realm. This and the very concept of creation itself are major and important differences between the two schools. For more on this topic, the reader is directed to see The Enigmatic Kabir and come to his own conclusions.
10. Ramana said that ones samskaras or inherited egoic tendencies must be scorched one by one as they arise and traced to the Heart while alive. This is the vedantic position. It is much different from Sant Mat which teaches that the samskaras are only removed, one, by the master’s grace at the time of initiation, and, two, after the soul passes through an "inner" pool of Mansarovar or Amritsar on the supracausal plane [more on this later]. If the latter view is true then nothing besides Sant Mat makes sense. The suggestion of the sages on the importance of the waking state, however, is that realization consists in seeing truth without excluding the waking state. Nanak said, "Truth is above all but higher still is true living." If that is not just a metaphor, what is its true meaning? What Truth was he talking about - the truth of the inner reality found at the innermost level of trance - like Anami Lok or Nirvikalpa samadhi - or the Truth of sahaj? Certainly nothing can really be above Truth. So truth must in some sense include life. Which brings one back to the argument that realization must be had while alive - not in meditation alone.
This has not generally been discussed in so many words by Sant Mat masters, to my knowledge, although they do certainly mention this world as a place to pay off karmic debts. To their credit, however, it might be argued that the non-dualists who often criticize them lack a cosmogony, or theory of creation, in fact as they deny it, holding strictly to the ajata theory, and many of these teachers may only be privy to having had a glimpse of reality, however long it lasts, and not full realization. That is apparently clear among Papaji disciples, many of whom were declared enlightened by him, when it became clear that that was just not the case. A glimpse, even if it lasts five years, is not the same as fully grown union with ones Soul, which, according to Paul Brunton, may entail a number of successive lives of spiritual APPLICATION , even AFTER nirvikalpa has been attained, or re-attained, in any particular life. That would also suggest, on the other hand, and to be fair, that simply traveling to Sach Khand or even Anami once would not grant ultimate and permanent enlightenment by itself, although Sant Mat teachers, where they allude to it, which is infrequent, appear to differ on this point. Some sages say that the longer one dwells in the Void the deeper ones realization becomes and the more one understands it, especially if one has some metaphysical background to accompany the mystical fulfillment. So it would seem the same arguement for repeated immersion would apply to mystical merger in Anami Lok. Sant Darshan Singh, in his biography, mentioned that by a certain date he had been able to achieve the ability to go there at will, implying that before he had gone there, but not at will. Obviously, the former is a higher accomplishment than the latter. The idea of will is a tricky one, however, as there are sages like Ramana Maharshi who speak of losing the will or vikalpa to do anything, that the Self does all, which would include the inherent wisdom of knowing when retracting the emanant of the soul into itself was of use for its divine purpose. Kirpal Singh would say that he did not do anything, and that if his Master did not send his grace, he was nothing. Taking him at his word, one might assume that would apply to when he might be absorbed into Anami, hold initiation, or even going to the grocery store. When one loses the personal will, what does it mean to speak of having the ability to do something at will?
In Sant Mat it is also mentioned that there is a plane named Maha Sunn, between the created an uncreated realms, where the soul, divested of all the koshas except the anandamaya kosha or bliss sheath, which some yoga schools equate with undifferentiated maya, can go no further under her own power, and depends on the superior light and power of the Master of the Beyond to ferry one across to Sat Lok, the home of the soul and where she regains her primordial freedom. This is a unique feature exclusive to Sant Mat.
11. Here is an anecdote that brings questions to my mind. I am giving all of the questions first, after which there will be the resolution and explanation to help resolve some of the questions. I realize so far this may seem very pedantic to many; to others perhaps not so. Anyway, in Ramana's case there was a disciple, Palanaswami. When Palanaswami died, Ramana said that his eyes opened, which to him signified that his "I-thought", as he put it, or ego or soul, escaped into and was "reborn in the higher planes". To Ramana that signified that Palanaswami must take another birth before realizing the Heart (Self or Soul, source of the feeling of "I", not to be confused with the heart chakra), that if Ramana had been there he could have "pinned his ego down in the heart," thus scorching his sanskaras there, never to be reborn again. One other case in particular worth examining occurred to the famous disciple of Ramana, Ganapati Muni. It was Ganapati who gave the young Venkataram the name Ramana Maharshi. He was a teacher in his own right, and had spent twenty years in yogic sadhana. A few years after meeting Marharshi he experienced a spontaneous, forceful awakening of kundalini-shakti (which he confessed was not caused by any intention on his part, but was the “result of the grace of his Guru and God”), and which began a two-week ordeal in which he endured the yogic phenomenon known in the Taittirya Upanishad as vyapohya sirsha kapale, or the “breaking of the skull” [Click here for an explanation and warning about this type of event by a modern day teacher, Igor Kufayev; it is not necessary according to the teachings of Ramana Maharshi, nor is it the inevitable experience on the path of kundalini yoga, and certainly not required nor desirable on the path of the Sants. The only other account we have come across in the literature of anything like what happened to Ganapati Muni is the ordeal that U.G. Krishnamurti went through - and which also is not something to emulate - nor may it even be duplicatable. It certainly is not necessary for spiritual realization. But as it has happened we account for it here]. Ganapati began to feel a flood of energy through his body at all times, with a stream of bliss piercing his head making him completely intoxicated. He felt totally out of control of his body and went to Maharshi for guidance. The sage blessed him with a pat of the hand on his head and said not to worry.
”That night Ganapati suffered terribly. There was an unbearable burning sensation throughout his body...It looked as though his head would break into pieces any time. he suffered unbearable pain... Suddenly a sound was heard, something like smoke was seen. The Kundalini had caused an aperture at the top of his skull...After the experience for ten days something like smoke or vapor was found emanating from the orifice at the top of the skull. By that time the burning sensation subsided. The play of force became bearable. The long story of suffering, pain, and agony ended. The body was filled with the flow of cool nectar of bliss. The face of the Muni reflected an ethereal splendor. His eyes bore the effulgence of the supernatural. After this extraordinary experience of kapalabheda, the Muni lived for fourteen years...” (8)
In spite of the unusual nature of Ganapati’s transformation, Maharshi affirmed that he had not attained enlightenment. When asked after his death whether the Muni was realized, Ramana replied, “How could he? His ‘sankalpas’ (inherent tendencies) were too strong.” In other words, in Ganapati Muni’s case the overwhelming awakening of the kundalini was not sufficient to unlock the “knot of self” that was still alive at the heart. "Ganapati Muni used to say that he could even go to Indra loka and say what Indra was doing, but he could not go within and find the "I." Sri Bhagavan added that Ganapati Muni used to say that it was easy to move forward, but impossible to move backward. Then Sri Bhagavan remarked: “However far one goes, there he is. Where is moving backward?" (9)
Of course, this "escape into the higher planes" warned about by Ramana and Lakshmana Swamy is exactly what is considered advisable by Sant Mat. So there is a major difference here. My teacher in Ithaca, NY, Anthony Damiani, once told us that both he and his wife Ella May heard the big bell overhead in meditation, and he confirmed to us that we could go with it, because it would "take you up." The big bell is the prominent sound of the Naam one hears on the threshold of the astral world. He also said that experience of the subtle planes would completely devalue our experience here. However, he said he didn't pursue following the bell sound higher because "it wasn't where he wanted to go." I didn't understand at all what he meant at the time. He also said that he "didn't want holiness," which I didn't quite understand either. He held out for the completion of his inner concentration and mind's tracing itself to the Heart, which gave him stable realization of the witness self, (after a period of application), which he described as "peace, peace, peace." He acknowledged the possibility of spiritual ascent, and eventually different possibilities of spiritual evolution, but wanted to realize the heart-root first, which, he said off-handedly, would "take your head off." He said to those of us who were into shabd practise to "get this (the witness) first." The idea is that, without such prior realization of true consciousness, entering the inner realms would be deluding. In Sant Mat this possibility of delusion is also asserted, however the major point they emphasize is that what is required is the "sheet anchor" of the true Master's Radiant Form or Light to guide one without danger through the maze of possible inner experiences as quickly as possible to reach Sach Khand and the formless realms beyond. To achieve this, the agency and help of a qualified adept is necessary, and the soul, merged with the form of the master can go, undercover, as it were, directly to Sach Khand, the first plane of Sat Lok, without danger of gettiong lost on the way.
Here is what Ramana commented about sounds like the bell. It reflects his view that the soul is not exclusively within the body, but the body and mind are within the soul, or better, the Self, but it is unusual and does not stand, imo, as a refutation of the claims and path of Sant Mat:
A disciple Mastan wrote: "For some time I was meditating at night for about an hour, I used to hear the sound of a big bell ringing. Sometimes a limitless effulgence wold appear. In 1922 when I visited Bhagavan at his new ashram at the foot of the hill, I asked about this. He advised me, "There is no need to concern ourselves about sounds such as these. If you see from where it rises, it will be known that it arises on account of a desire (sankalpa) of the mind. Everything appears in oneself and subsides within oneself. The light, too, only appears from the same place. If you see to whom it appears, mind will subside at the source and only reality will remain." (The Power of the Presence, Part Three, David Godman, ed., 2002, p. 32)
The sound of the bell is a sankalpa within the mind? Ramana by this quote and others seemed to have had an uncompromising view of the nature of all visionary or auditory phenomena, including the big 'vision' that constitutes the world itself, namely, that they all arose in the Self or what the Buddhists would call Mind. That there was a great universal or absolute Mind that projected a relatively objective world-image, and an individual mind or soul that participated in and, within limits, co-created that image, was not in his world view. Ramana's teaching on the nature of visions is illustrated by the following excerpt from the rare and out-of-print book, Conscious Immortality: Conversations with Ramana Maharshi, by Paul Brunton:
"The sights and sounds which may appear during meditation should be regarded as distractions and temptations. None of them should be allowed to beguile the aspirant.
Q: Do the appearance of visions or the hearing of mystic sounds come after the concentrated mind is still and blank or before?
A: They can come both before and after. The thing is to ignore them and to still pay attention only to the Self. Forms which interfere with the main course or current of meditation should not be allowed to distract the mind. Bring yourself back into the Self, the Witness, unconcerned with such distractions. That is the only way to deal with such. interruptions. Never forget yourself. Intellect is the astral body. It is only an aggregate of certain factors. What else is the astral body? In fact, without intellect no Kosa is cognised. Who says that there are five Kosas? Is it not the intellect itself?
Q: There are beautiful colours in meditation. It is a pleasure to watch them. We can see God in them.
A: They are all mental conceptions. The objects or feelings or thoughts, i.e. all experiences, in meditation, are all only mental conceptions."
"When Sundaresa lyer, a local teacher, described yogic experiences, including visions of light, ringing of bells etc. which he was having, Maharshi replied, " they come, and they would pass away. Be only the witness. I myself had thousands of such experiences, but I had no one to go to and consult about them."
Q: Can we not see God in concrete visions?
A: Yes, God is seen in the mind. The concrete form may be seen. Still, it is in the devotee's own mind. The form and appearance of the God-manifestation are determined by the mentality of the devotee. But the finality is not that for it has the sense of duality. It is like a dream vision. After God is perceived, Vichara commences. That ends in the realisation of the Self. Vichara is the final method.
Q: Did not Paul Brunton see you in London? Was it only a dream?
A: Yes, he had the vision. Nevertheless he saw me in his own mind.
Q: But did he not see this concrete form?
A: Yes, but still it was in his mind. Keeping God in your mind as everything around you becomes Dhyana. This is the stage before realisation which is only in the Self. Dhyana must precede it. Whether you make Dhyana of God or Self, it is immaterial, the goal is the same.
Q: St. Theresa and others saw the image of Madonna animated. It was external. Others see the images of their devotion floating in their mental sight. This is internal. Is there any difference in degree in these two cases?
A: Both indicate that the person has strongly developed meditation. Both are good and progressive. There is not difference in degree. The one had conception of divinity and draws mental images and feels them. The other has the conception of divinity in the image and feels it in the image. The feeling is within, in both instances.
Q: In the spiritual experience of St. Theresa, she was devoted to a figure of Madonna which became animated to her sight, and she was in bliss.
A: The animated figure prepared the mind for introversion. There is a process of concentration of mind on one's own shadow which in due course becomes animated and answers questions put to it. That is due to Manobala (power of mind) or Dhyanabala (power of meditation). Whatever is external, is also transitory: Such phenomena may produce joy for the time being. But abiding peace, i.e. Shanti, does not result. This is gotten only by the removal of Avidya (ignorance)."
Ramana, however, also said that listening to the sound was good, but better if done in junction with vichara or self-enquiry. This would be like combining samadhi and vipassana or insight practices in Buddhism. But to call the sound of the bell a sankalpa or tendency in the mind seems an unwarranted conclusion and diminished view of the complexity of reality. Not only that, but as he did so many times, Ramana said contradictory things to different people, including regarding the nature of and meditation on the sound. In
"M. Meditation on nada is one of several approved methods. The adherents claim
a very special virtue for it. ..Just as a child is lulled to sleep by lullabies, so nada soothes
one to the state of samadhi. Similarly, just as a king sends his state musicians to welcome
his son on his return from a long journey, so also nada takes the devotee into the Lord’s
Abode in a pleasing manner. Nada helps concentration...Nadaupasana (meditation on
sound) is good, but even better if associated with investigation (vichara). In taht case, the
nada is made up of chinmaya and also tanmaya (Knowledge and Self).” (2001 edition, p. 102)
V.K. Iyer sought more light on nada (sound).
M.: He who meditates on it feels it. there are ten kinds of nadas. After the final thundering
nada the man gets laya. That is his natural and eternal state. Nada, jyoti (light), or enquiry
thus take one to the same point. (The former are indirect and the last is direct).
D.: The mind becomes peaceful for a short while and again emerges forth. What is to be done?
M.: The peace often gained must be remembered at other times. That peace is your
natural and permanent state. By continous practice it will become natural. That is called the
'current'. That is your true home.” (p. 218)
it must be remembered that Ramana rarely if ever told anyone what to do, in terms of practices. He permitted them all within his ashram, and said that you either inquire, or surrender to God. Shabd meditation would generally fall under the latter category.
Another unwarranted conclusion, in our view, is the following explanation from Dzogchen Buddhism, where uniting the inherent nature of one’s mind or "child luminosity" with the "Ground Luminosity" or "Clear Light" while alive, as well as when it dawns at the time of death, is considered the most important means for liberation, but that for those not so advanced it is advised to practice phowa transference, or directing consciousness so that the soul leaves the body through the crown of the head as the only means for passing directly to the pure buddha realms [see, The Tibetan Book on Living and Dying, by Sogypal Rinpoche]. This is different from the perspective of Sant Mat, where it is assumed that, not only does everybody pass out of the body through the crown of the head (barring traumatic accidents), even if you do pass out of the body via the crown, your direct access to the purely spiritual (or buddha) realms is not automatically assured, but depends on the grace of the spiritual master and/or one's prior progress on the path. However, one is assured that one's master will be there to guide one at the time of and after death itself. The stage by stage of dissolution during the death process, as well as recognition of and responsibility for it by a disciple on the Dzogchen path, is therefore, it seems, bypassed by initiates into Sant Mat, where the Master's radiant form comes for the disciple at the time of death, assuring a smooth passage, leaving the body behind like a fallen leaf. This would obviate a three-day or forty-nine day vigil or waiting period after physical death as advised in Tibetan Buddhism as well. Indeed, the promise given by the Sant Mat lineage at least since the time of Kirpal Singh has been that the Master takes complete charge of the sanchit or storehouse karmas of the disciple and at death takes him to a suitable inner plane to progress further, even escort him to Sach Khand and beyond, a glorious promise much like the one proclaimed in the New Testament:
"Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. For I have come down from heaven. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day." (John 6: 35, 38, 40)
And as Sant Darshan Singh affirmed:
"In spite of our blemishes, our shortcomings, our enslavement to the world and worldly desires, the Master has taken us to himself. The Master belongs to the realm of immortality, and in taking us to himself he takes us within the ambit of eternity." (Spiritual Awakening, Chapter 8)
12. Also somewhat curious was a comment by Ramana’s that when the soul or "I-thought" merged in the heart there was a sound like the tinkle of a bell that the jnani could hear that indicated liberation. He indicated that that was the case with his mother, whose soul he guided at death until it merged in the Heart, but that it was not the case with Palanaswami whose "eyes opened at death meaning his soul had escaped to be reborn in a higher plane" instead of merging once and for all in the Heart. So what for Sant Mat was an escape and a boon was for Ramana a failure to attain self-realization. I don’t know in what way if any the tinkle of a bell sound relates to the naam or shabd in Sant Mat or not. Many in Sant Mat hear the tinkling of bells all the time. The words of Ramana do not suggest it is the same, because Ramana did acknowledge the existence of inner sounds or nada as a concentration method favored by its adherents to lull the mind into samadhi. He didn’t speak of it as a way into higher planes, however, which he looked on as a kind of unnecessary detour - and devotees remarked that his eyes looked like two stars, and that he appeared to return from a far-off place when he came out of inner absorption. He, however, like Anandamayi Ma, seemed to go inside into full trance less and less as he got older. Shree Atmananda said that once you realize that your own nature is happiness, you will never again be attracted by the goal of happiness in samadhi. You might enjoy it for refreshment, but not for realization.
Now, returning again to what Sant Rajinder said, that one would have certainty of life after death once he reached the third plane, my question remains, why wouldn't one get assurance of life after death after reaching the FIRST inner plane? The suggestion was that the first two planes were not outside the body. In addition, it may also be asked, how can there truly be any "up" or "down" or spatial sense except in relationship to the body? V.S. Iyer said that inside and outside apply only to the body, and since the body is a perception in the Mind, such concepts become meaningless. So how can one truly go up AFTER leaving the chakra system by passing into and through the brain? Where is up once the body is dead and you are in a mental realm(s)? Sant Mat would argue that there is still a sense of up and down in relationship with the other bodies or coverings of the soul, such as the astral and causal, as they are in the realm of space and time or Kal, and this is entirely possible and a reasonable explanation within the domain of relativity.
Coming back to my question about how, and in exactly what way, is this life the most important for realization, and in precisely what way can one make more progress here, one asks, "Why is the waking state considered so important?" Kirpal quoted Jesus about how after death "no man can work", so one had better work now. PB said that this world is more valuable than after death states because only here are lessons etched so strongly on the ego, whereas after-death realms are more dream-like. Sant Rajinder Singh has said that souls are supposed to be literally 'lined up' waiting a chance at getting a human body, as there are currently not enough suitable bodies available in which to make appreciable spiritual progress.
The Sant Mat masters do say that one can work from the subtle planes after death, but, again as mentioned, that it can take a much longer time than here. Buddhist scriptures generally say that the personality disintegrates back to the elements, after the death of the body, and that the ego-soul does not survive, certainly not after the so-called "second death", where the subtle elements disperse. Kirpal once joked said, "we have to make the most use of the man-body, and that is - to get out of it!" I think he was speaking somewhat tongue in cheek, because I saw more in Him than that would imply. But for the spiritual beginner that can make intuitive sense. Certainly advaita would disagree. And I think Kirpal would have disagreed also, at least in the sense that there was purificatory work to do here. A disciple, Rameshwar Dass, relates in Ocean of Divine Grace, p. 97-98:
I told Maharaj Ji, "My friend told me that You would give me a glimpse of my Divine Home. But that has not been my experience." "As for taking you up there," He said, "it could be done, but in your present condition you will not be able to stay there; nor when you come back would you be able to carry on with your normal life on earth."
I personally feel that there is more to it than that, which is that before ego-death or ego-transcendance such higher planes cannot be experienced totally without a sense of illusion. The master would not disagree with that. And, for some it is possible that only the final experiential stages may become known after a lifetime of striving in apparent darkness. This need not be cause for despair, if one practices with the right view.
The vedantic answer as to why the waking state is important is expressed by Iyer in the following quote:
"Gnan is to see that all things are the mind's own creations, that none are different from yourself, that none are other than the mind itself, and that therefore there is no second thing. But this you can get only by analyzing world during the waking state itself and finding it to be like a dream. This is why truth must be understood when awake, not in blank trance, when facing and seeing the world, not in negation of it." (Commentaries, Vol. 1 ; see note 29)
A quote of Soamiji that seems out of place within even Sant Mat teachings was made by him on the day of his death:
“Life-long Bhajan and Simran is only for this reason: That one should not forget at this time (at the time of death).” (Sar Bachan p. 21)
This also causes questions to arise. What was his true meaning here? Forget what? -Bhajan and Simran? -The image of his Master? It is said in many traditions that one’s last thought is very important, but surely “life-long bhajan and simran” , according to Sant Mat, is for the purpose of achieving liberation in life, isn’t it? And surely the general trend of ones mind over a lifetime is more important than any stray thought that crosses it at the time of death. What if, when one’s time comes, as has happened even to great sages, one lapses into a coma, or has an accidental death? Does then the inability to remember anything cancel out one's progress, relationship with his guru, or, most importantly, one's enlightenment? The answer is, “No.” And Kirpal has said as much. In addition, a dear friend of mine was killed instantly in a head-on collision with a truck on a snowy night, and later Sant Rajinder Singh in answer to a point-blank question by an intiate as to where our friend was today, replied, “in Sach Khand, because of his great attachment to Sant Kirpal.” This remark by Soamiji was likely directed to one person at a particular time for its impact value, but, nevertheless, when placed in a source text like Sar Bachan can create confusion. There is said to be an unbreakable grace-laden connection with one’s initiating Master in the path of Sant Mat.
Once more, the waking state is valued in most traditions because they say realization must take place while here to be true liberation. Why? Perhaps one answer is because it is very important both how we interpret or understand our experiences across all of the states, and also that we do not live here or go ‘within’, in ignorance. Also, the faculty of buddhi or higher reason is not active in sleep or trance, and in advaita it is said that it is, in fact, buddhi which gets enlightened. “The Self is always shining in the intellectual sheath,” Ramana Maharshi often quoted from scripture, as the intellectual sheath or buddhi is closest to Atman and reflects its light. When it gets enlightened it stands aside and Atman is realized. Technically, the bliss-sheath is closest, but as it is made of undifferentiated maya there is no knowing or enlightenment possible when it is active, such as in sleep. It is present when the soul is in Maha Sunn, as well, and as we have seen, the soul is helpless there. Brunton states:
"If the body does not become non-existent because, ultimately, it is a thought-form, neither does it become unimportant. For it is only in this body that we can attain and realize the ultimate consciousness...the physical wakeful state is the only one in which the task of true self-realization can be fully accomplished.." (The Notebooks, Vol. 7, Part I, 1.5)
As in Sant Mat, however, Brunton elsewhere admits that this may not need to be achieved on earth but could occur on "other spheres." There is also permitted this exception in the Buddhist tradition for certain advanced aspirants of a degree of sainthood who had purified a sufficient number of the "fetters" or "defilements". But the attainment would still not be achieved in a purely subjective state in their case, and the higher realms themselves, however blissful and however long one might stay there, which could be kalpas, may be considered "pure" but not necessarily eternal, as they are in Sant Mat. For example, one of the higher fetters in Buddhism is "attachment to the formless realms".
Tibetan Buddhism somewhat differently argues that only awakening to the "Ground Luminosity" of Mind while alive assures merger with the Clear Light when it initially dawns at the time of death. This is the great opportunity for liberation according to their teachings. If one cannot hold onto this realization at the time of death one then passes into the dawning of the "dharmata realm", which is the all-pervading creative radiance of Mind, similar to how the Sants describe Sach Khand. Failing to sustain awareness of that, one falls into identification with mind and ego once more and passes into the various intermediate realms of the bardos, and eventually rebirth. Only through experience in the waking state with its sharply defined limits can one be prepared, through spiritual practice, for the dawning of Mind or the Clear Light at death. In Sant Mat the waking state is also valued to prepare one to be aware while in the bardos or inner planes, as well as for the working off of karmas, but the defining difference after death is the boon of the Master coming for the soul, sparing him the bewildering and disintegrating experience of the withdrawel of the attention and pranas, a less than auspicious exit into an undesirable lower realm, and even further rebirths prior to liberation. There is no teaching about immediate recognition of the Dharmakaya prior to passage through all the inner planes to Sach Khand and beyond. Nevertheless, there are hints here and there in Sant Mat about the non-necessity of experiencing all of the planes in a linear fashion. Kirpal said some initiates may go directly to Sach Khand and not experience the other planes along the way, although, generally, they would, at least to some degree, as in a brief "meet and greet" of the various deities presiding therein. He also said, "you are already there, you just don't know it." But he was very clear that a disciple of some degree of attainment, and even those without much in the way of that but who nevertheless had full faith, may not have to be reborn but could continue their sadhana on inner planes, at the discretion of the Master:
"The initiates have a great concession: at the time of death, your Master will come to receive you, and not the angel of death. He usually appears several days or weeks before death to advise you of your coming departure from this world. I'm talking about those who keep the precepts! For those who do nothing with the gift of Naam, he may or may not appear before they leave the body...In your final moments, and much beforehand if you have gained proficiency in meditation, Master's radiant form will take you to a higher stage where you can make further progress. At the time of death the initiate will be as happy as a bride on her day of marriage! He may then place you in the first, second or third stage, or he may take you direct to Sach Khand. In some cases, where worldly desires and attachments are predominant, he will allow rebirth, but in circumstances more congenial for spiritual growth." (Arran Stephens, Journey to the Luminous (Seattle, Washington: Elton-Wolf Publications, 1999), p. 41)
One enigmatic incident relating to the "distance" or relationship of Sach Khand to the earth plane (Pinda) is illustrated by the following. Sawan Singh, when asked how long it took him to go to Sach Khand, closed his eyes for a second and then reopened them, saying that that was how long. In the yoga sutras, however, it is said that for concentration to mature into absorptive samadhi takes two a non-dual state, and Sawan was speaking from a higher, or perhaps, metaphorical, point of view. In the Gurbani, Sikh scriptures, Sach Khand is described as both an after death realm and a state of consciousness one can enjoy during earth life. Master Charan Singh clarified this point:
"Maharaj ji, do the saints have a short-cut inside?"
"They have a short cut in the sense that they have immediate access to the Father. After reaching sainthood, they do not have to pass through all those stages on their way to the Father. Christ also indicated that he could leave the body when he wanted to and he could take it up again when he wanted to, as he was always with the Father and he and the Father were one." (Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. 1 (Beas, India: Radha Soami Satsang Beas, 2010, p. 446-467)
This suggests that the Master is in a non-dual state, if the quote of Jesus applies; on the other hand, it can be interpreted to mean he can access the state of highest samadhi instantly, but he is not in a non-dual condition otherwise. Kirpal Singh remarked in another context that the Master can take some of the disciples directly to Sach Khand without passing through the preceeding planes, seeming to imply the same thing.
Sant Rajinder Singh said:
"People often focus on what they want to “do,” but a bigger question is what they want to “be.” The world is caught up in doing this activity or that activity, but when we look at spirituality, the goal is in “being.” Doing involves activities of the body and mind, but being involves connecting with our soul. Our soul is a part of God, a state of permanent love, bliss, and consciousness. It does not need to do anything. When we stop our physical and mental activity and sit in silent meditation, we become our true self, or soul. When we identify with the soul, we will merge back into God and enter a state of eternal love and bliss."
Again, this could imply non-duality or not. It could suggest the ancient concept of the Atman as a disinterested witness of all activity, or a greater vision. anadi also said that the true identity of the soul is one of eternal union with the Beloved or God; the question for Sant Mat is if one is in this state of eternal love and bliss on all the planes, or only in Sat Lok. Kirpal Singh suggested it is always, when he answered the question, "Master, do you meditate?" by replying, "Look here. If a man gets his PhD, does he have to go back and learn the ABC's?"
The Waking State: Its Importance
Buddha, Vedantists, the Ch’an masters and others agree on the importance of waking earth life. Damiani says, further, that without the knowledge the World or World-Idea can teach the soul, one would be utterly incapable of understanding what one was experencing in the mysterious Void (beyond all the manifest planes). One could come out of his trance and still be confused about the relationship between world, self, and God, ie., not enlightened. This is as close as I have found for a metaphysical reason for the importance of the waking state for realization, or, since it is not a ‘personal ‘ attainment, the Void-Mind awakening to itself or coming to self-cognition. The Lankavatara sutra said that one day all beings will get purifed and ascend the stages, but "if they only realized it, all things are in Nirvana from the beginning." How can one realize that "all things are in Nirvana" by leaving some things out (ie., like the world) and only going within? Obviously, one can't. This is the mistake of the yogis and ordinary mystics. The highest teachings always posit stages AFTER the mystical ones. The progression of stages in Buddhism, as stated, beyond those of the beginner, are from ecstasy to peace to insight to Nirvana. Does Sant Mat recognize a stage after going within as far as you can go (as profound as that is), as the sages do? Personally, I think they do. Kabir, for instance, spoke of a stage "beyond Sunn and trance." Brunton writes:
"After all, even the Void, grand and awesome as it is, is nothing but a temporary experience, a period of meditation. The realization of what is Real must be found not only in deep meditation, in its trance, but when fully awake." (Notebooks, Vol 15, Part 1, 8.187-188)
"The mystic may get his union with the higher self as the reward for his reverent devotion to it. But its light will shine down only into those parts of his being which were themselves active in the search for union. Although his union may be a permanent one, its consummation may still be only a partial one. If his intellect, for example, was inactive before the event, it will be unillumined after the event [this would say something about the idea of "perfect masters"]. This is why many mystics have attained their goal without a search for truth before it or a full knowledge of truth after it. The simple love for spiritual being brought them to it through their sheer intensity of ardour earning the divine grace. He only gets the complete light, however, who is completely fitted for it with the whole of his being. If he is only partially fit, because only a part of his psyche has worked for the goal, then the utmost result will be a partial but permanent union with the soul, or else it will be marred by the inability to keep the union for longer than temporary periods."
"The Mystic may be illiterate, uneducated, simple-minded, but yet may attain the Overself. Thus he finds his Inner Peace. It is easier for him because he is less intellectual, hence has fewer thoughts to give up and to still. But Nature does not absolve him from finishing his further development. He has still to complete his horizontal growth as well as balance it. He has obtained depth of illumination but not breadth of experience where the undeveloped state of faculties which prevents his light from being perfect may be fully developed. This can happen either by returning to earth again or continuing in other spheres of existence; he does this all inside his peace instead of, as with ordinary man, outside it. When his growth is complete, he becomes a philosopher."
"It is not that the mystic does not enter into contact with the Overself. He does. But his experience of the Overself is limited to glimpses which are partial, because he finds the Overself only within himself, not in the world outside. It is temporary because he has to take it when it comes at its own sweet will or when he can find it in meditation. It is a glimpse because it tells him about his own "I" but not about the "Not-I." On the other hand, the sage finds reality in the world without as his own self, at all times and not at special occasions, and wholly rather than in glimpses. The mystic's light comes in glimpses, but the sage's is perennial. Whereas the first is like a flickering unsteady and uneven flame, the second is like a lamp that never goes out. Whereas the mystic comes into awareness of the Overself through feeling alone, the sage comes into it through knowledge plus feeling. Hence, the superiority of his realization."
"The need of predetermining at the beginning of the path whether to be a philosopher or a mystic, arises only for the particular reincarnation where attainment is made. Thereafter, whether on this earth or another, the need of fulfilling the philosophic evolution will be impressed upon him by Nature." [The "philosophic discipline" is the development and balancing of the faculties of feeling, knowing, willing, and intuition, as well as the full inner mystical realization as well as metaphysical realization of non-dual Oneness]. (, Notebooks, Vol. 13, Part 2, 4.9,11-13)
“The understanding that everything is illusive is not the final one. It is an essential stage but only a stage. Ultimately you will understand that the form and separateness of a thing are illusory, but the thing-in-itself is not. That out of which these forms appear is not different from them, hence Reality is one and the same in all things. This is the paradox of life and a sharp mind is needed to perceive it. However, to bring beginners out of their earthly attachments, we have to teach first the illusoriness of the world, and then raise them to a higher level of understanding and show that the world is not apart from the Real. That Thou Art unifies everything in essence. But this final realization cannot be got by stilling the mind, only by awakening it into full vigour again after yogic peace has been attained and then letting its activity cease of its own accord when thought merges voluntarily into insight. When that is done, you know the limitations of both yoga and enquiry as successive stages. Whoever realizes this truth does not divorce from matter--as most yogis do--but realizes non-difference from it. Hence we call this highest path the "yoga of nonduality." But to reach it one has to pass through the "yoga of philosophical knowledge." (Notebooks, Vol. 16, Part 1, 2.116)
Maybe the jnanis and non-dualists are wrong, and the emanationists, such as the Sants and sages like Plotinus, are right, that down here we only see as in a glass dimly, a poor reflection of the real - but up there "face too face." Maybe any non-dual realization must be made abiding on all planes after passing through multiple "zero-points" or apparent "deaths". Even though the Real is not separated from nature, or the hierarchy of planes, perhaps it is true that only the purified soul has a chance at realizing God, and that such must be attained through passing through and understanding successive levels of the cosmos. If the Soul is a permanent emanation of the Divine or the Nous, as Plotinus says, perhaps then, having a satori or deep awakening while on the earth plane does not in itself simply dissolve all that lies between 'Nature and the Nous', as many non-dual teachers imply while casually and with self-assurance bordering on its own form of fundamentalism dismiss all discussion of cosmology and the Soul. In Sant Mat as well as some of the gnostic traditions such as that of Plato and Plotinus, the true form of the Soul is known only in its own domain, and what we see and know down here is but a glimmer of the reality, even though it is paradoxically a manifestation of the reality and can be realized as such. Perhaps it can be said then that even if one intuits the Nous in the waking state, i.e., has the non-dual realization, the soul still naturally desires to seek its origin.
Maharaj Saheb, in his discourse, "Ode to the Unknown God," said:
"Radhasoami Dayal [the Merciful Lord of the Soul] has graciously assumed human form to grant redemption to the entire humanity, nay, He has made the reflection of His Form available even at the lower chakras.
"Still lower down, He assumed the dark bluish form of Niranjan. Such is my beloved Radhasoami. Descending to the heart centre, He became subject to desires. Such is my beloved Radhasoami. He, however, reduces the evil tendencies of Indri-centres (lower centres pertaining to senses). Such is my beloved Radhasoami." (quoting Swami Ji Maharaj, Sar Bachan Poetry, Book One)"
In philosophical terms what he seems to be saying, in this instance, is that the Idea of Man, and the form of the Master-Soul, gets reflected from plane to plane from Sach Khand on down. The higher up, the more it approximates the eternal emanation from the Nous, even though the One is always existent and "there is nowhere that it is not."
In any case, in Sant Mat it is said that after the soul reaches the radiant form of the Master on the threshold of the astral plane, most of its personal toil is over and the rest is in the hands of the Master, who attracts the soul like iron filings towards a magnet. Likewise, upon reaching Sach Khand, the emanated soul is then in the hands of the Sat Purush, who absorbs the soul likewise by stages in to the Anami, the nameless and formless absolute realm. So what we are talking about is far beyond the aegis of the personal will. Timothy Smith similarly writes from the point of view of the Sam'khya tradition of this need for grace:
"Finally, when the cosmos itself reaches a moment of perfect self-knowing, Buddhi, through the Grace of Ishvara and with the support of Prakriti, stands aside, and a new Bodhisattva is born. With neither will nor ego-identity remaining, this is the moment of viveka turning upon itself – and being turned upon itself. This is the assimilation of mentalism and the fruition of epistemological discipline. The remaining ascent from Purusa to Âtman shall unfold in the mysterious remoteness of pure, empty Being.... The higher tattvas [Buddhi, Aham'kara, Tanmatra], starting with Aham’kâra, are not the product of the individual Purusa alone, but are the work of Îshvara, Shakti, and Shiva. As such they can not be truly dissolved by any individual act, including viveka."
In The Crown of Life: A Study in Yoga, it is implied that Surat Shabd Yoga fulfills if not transcends the goal as elaborated in the Sam'khya school. This makes a precise categorization of the terms Sat Purush and Anami even more compelling.
In Sant Mat it is said that even a state of oneness, in which the mind merges in ITS own source in the causal plane, is a stepped-down manifestation of higher spiritual realizations of oneness, with which it is often confused. Maharaj Charan Singh said:
"Unless the mind returns to and merges in its origin, the soul cannot be released from the negative power and cannot begin its real spiritual evolvement to God-Realization." (Katherine Wason, The Living Master (Radha Soami Satsang Beas, 1984) p. 136)
The reader will refer to the schema of planes given before for a visual example of this. The mind is said to merge with the universal mind at the second main stage of the inner journey with soul travelling beyond on its own. This is much different than advaita. Katherine Wason writes:
"The stage of Brahm is the apex of reality , the very height of spiritual attainment, to one who has not a perfect Master who has gone beyond the reach of Brahm. With the blending of self into Universal Mind and the expanded consciousness which embraces the furthest reach of the cosmos of the Universal Mind, it seems that no stage can be further attained. For how is it possible even to conceive of a stage above and beyond Universal Mind, often called Unity itself? To merge into that which interpenetrates the entire universe would seem to constitute the furthest limit of spiritual ascent.”
“Yet for one initiated by a perfect Master, the now purer and far more powerful force of the Shabd lifts the disciple out of this appearance of Unity and transports him to the stage of Parbrahm - "beyond" Brahm. And here a greater, more glorious dimension of consciousness is met. For each stage reflects the higher, and a reflection - no matter how real and pure and beautiful it may seem - cannot but distort and vaguely hint at that which it reflects. Thus the appearances vanish and the Oneness of Brahm is known to be but a part of the Whole. In fact, the sojourner directly comprehends that there is not only one Brahm, but others as well - that within each of these Brahmandi regions revolves the same vast, seemingly limitless cosmic scheme, each with its own cycle of birth and death and liberation, each with its own Universal Mind and astral and material creation.”
“At the third stage of the spiritual journey, the soul is pure, completely unfettered and free. The once slumbering spirit realises its true identity as a drop of the Supreme Ocean and for the first time wakens to the full wonder and glory of God...Now the soul is in the majestic realm of pure spirit-consciousness, and awe and joy and wonder become increased beyond imagination. At each threshold of the stages of consciousness..the soul is flooded with the awareness that glory of a greater dimension lies beyond...By the great Love and Light of the true Lord Himself, the soul, united with God-consciousness, expands and advances to the three remaining regions". (Ibid, p. 306-308)
12a. The concept of the void is necessary to mention here, because of the fact that in Sant Mat it is explained that there is a great void or region called Maha Sunn separating the materio-spritual regions from the purely spiritual ones, in which even great souls get suspended until the living master of the time brings his great Light through it to guide them out of it and "usher them into" the spiritual planes. This may be confused with the concept of the void(s) as given in Buddhism. For it is unlikely the two are the same. Maha Sunn is an experiential void that divides the supracausal region, crossing signifies final ego-death and freedom from births and deaths, but it is not yet the 'void' of Sat Lok, which is reality. It is even more confusing when it is recognized that in the consideration of the void or ‘emptiness’ in Mahayana Buddhism, ‘emptiness’ itself is also ‘empty’. It is not considered to be a state as such but more often as a dialectical methodology of understanding the non-entitification of things. For more on this please see ”Empyiness Is Empty” on this website.
Once again, in Sant Mat the plane of Maha-Sunn is referred to as a dark experiential void, like a form of dark space, that the soul passes through on the way to the 'void' of Sach Khand and the deeper Void of Anami Lok (Void of what in Sat Lok? - void of any duality). Once again, in Buddhism where reference is made to the void it is generally not to a phenomenal void but, rather, either a realm of the absence of ego or self-consciousness, or, alternatively, ‘suchness,’ the only reality there is. In Maha Sunn, however, there is the experience of darkness, but in the true void there is no darkness and no separate "I", so this void-nature, it appears reasonable, would have to be at least what is called Sach Khand or perhaps even Anami in Sant Mat. When I publically asked Sant Rajinder Singh to comment on Kirpal Singh's enigmatic comment to me, "God is nothing," he replied, "because there is a void in Maha Sunn the soul has to cross." In my question I had not intended to ask about an experiential void as such, but the void-nature of reality, of the soul and God. His answer was unsatisfactory to me, but that is most likely a reflection of my own short-coming. Crossing 'Maha Sunn' is, it seems, the inversion equivalent of the 'Great Death' in Zen,and a profound stage. All of these matters should be openly revealed and discussed in a straightforward and plain matter with no obfuscation or mystical vagueness.
The Void, therefore, or Sunyata, Suchness, whatever name one chooses to point to the non-conceptual truth, is not dark (another concept or experience), but the clear light of Reality, the goal-less goal of all the paths. How could Sant Kirpal Singh, for instance, in his time explain such a thing to his disciples other than on a one-to-one basis and not necessarily through words but through a potent spiritual silence? Looking back now, I see the reason for Kirpal's exclamation to me, "God is nothing!" In Buddhism, God IS nothing, or the Void-Mind, which is really not nothing but the fullness (purna) of reality, or as Nanak put it, the "Unmanifest-Manifest". The void, unfortunately, is probably the most misunderstood concept in Buddhism. It does not mean nothing as conceptually understood, but rather, non-conceptual reality. It is the REAL.
The Dalai Lama appears to take a middle ground, emphasizing the importance of both achievements, concentration and insight:
"This pattern of training in the path, training first in ethics then in meditative stabilization and then in wisdom is not just a pronouncement of the Buddha but accords with the actual fact of experience in training the mind. In order to generate the view realizing emptiness in any strong form, never mind that special level of mind called special insight realizing emptiness, it is necessary that the mind not be distracted, that it be channeled, that it be brought together and made powerful. Thus in order for the wisdom consciousness to be powerful and to be capable of acting as an antidote, it is necessary for the consciousness itself to be channeled. Thus meditative stabilization is needed for wisdom."
"In order to have meditative stabilization, in which there is a quieting of internal mental distractions, it is necessary prior to that to restrain coarser types of distraction of body and speech. Thus one engages in practices of ethics that involve restraint of these coarser activities of body and speech in order to lay the groundwork for meditative stabilization. Thus ethics is first, meditative stabilization second and wisdom is third in the order of the three trainings. This is certified by experience.” (The Thirty-seven Practices of Bodhisattvas, Preliminary Teachings to the Kalachakra Initiation, 1989).
“The Void must not be misunderstood. Although it is the deepest state of meditation and one where he is deprived of all possessions, including his own personal self, it has a parallel state in the ordinary active non-meditative condition, which can best be called detachment...After all, even the Void, grand and awesome as it is, is nothing but a temporary experience, a period of meditation...The awareness of what is Real must be found not only in deep meditation, in its trance, but when fully awake.” (Ibid, 8.186-188)
We prefer not to argue with these sages, but it seems necessary and inevitable. We no longer live in the Middle Ages or in a provincial setting. To call something a "Science" - whether the 'Science of the Soul', or 'The Science of Spirituality', as the two largest branches of Sant Mat call themselves, means to submit it to the test of peer-review and dialogue, at the highest level. Of course the truth is beyond our feeble intellects and presumptuous questions, and we must bow our heads in the dust at the feet of such sages when confronting the practical task of realization. That is well understood! We tremble at our own boldness.
The quantum nature and vision of science, and the democratic nature of social politics, in addition, must also be brought into the picture. A strictly 'top-down' approach may no longer be valid and sufficient. This may require major re-working of the dharmas as the years go by. In our humble, limited understanding what they say seems to make sense. Further, just as meditation may need a long time to be successfully cultivated, such insight apparently also may need an equal time to be understood, seen for what it is, and perhaps most importantly, believed, in order for reality to positively reveal itself through grace.
(1) Francis G. Wickes, The Inner World of Choice (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1986), p. 81
(1) Anthony Damiani, Looking Into Mind (Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 1990), p. 105
(2) Anthony Damiani, Living Wisdom (Burdett, New York:Larson Publications, 1996), p. 167
(3) Ibid, p. 168
(4) Paul Brunton, The Notebooks of Paul Brunton (Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 1988), Vol. 15, 8.59
(5) Kirpal Singh, Godman (Delhi, India: Ruhani Satsang, 1971), p. 128
(6) Maharaj Saheb, Discourses on Radhasoami Faith (Soamibag, Agra, India: Radhasoami Satsang, 1983), p. 52
(7) Kirpal Singh, Godman, p. 131
(8) “The Muni and the Maharshi,” Part III, The Mountain Path 14, No. 3 (July 1978), p. 147-148
(9) Talks with Ramana Maharshi (Carlsbad, California: Inner Directions Publishing, 2001), p. 272