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FORMATIVE INFLUENCES AND THE EVOLUTION OF RADHASOAMI FAITH

Research Article published in Journal of Indian History Society, Calcutta, India in March 1970

I  II 


Dadaji Maharaj

The Bhakti cult blossomed like a spring-flower in the nineteenth century India in the form of Radhasoami Faith. The traditions of Bhakti are very old and deep-rooted in the Indian thought and religion. In fact, the ultimate aim of human life as viewed by Hindu religion is emancipation (Moksha), for the attainment of which they recognize three paths -

The path of action (karma),
The path of knowledge (gyana), and,
The path of devotion (bhakti).

The path of action: It is the one principally laid down in Vedas, developed and systemized in the Brahmanas, Kalpa Sutras and Mimansas and was popularized by Dharma Shastras, Mahabharat and the Bhagwat Puranas. But when the theory of metem-psychosis and the law of Karma arose, it became apparent to the logical mind of Hindu thinkers that action alone could not lead to deliverance and freedom. It was necessary to discover some other means to break the rigid chain of cause and effect and to make a searching question as to the very nature of action and to find out the law of its fulfillment and exhaustion. The Upanishads came forth as the first embodiment of the bold speculation by the forest recluses and then it spread far and wide.

The path of knowledge: Profound thinking, on cosmic origin and human destiny, the nature of the ultimate reality and its relation to individual, good and evil and means of deliverance, led to the foundation of a number of religio-philosophic systems such as Lokayata Buddha, Jain, Sankhya, Yoga, Vedanta, Shaiva, Vaishnava and Tantra. Among these, the Vedanta takes for granted the cosmogony of ‘Sankhya’ and the eight-fold discipline of Yoga, but advance a step further to inquire into the nature of Soul, matter and God. According to Vedanta, Soul is not only consciousness but also one and the same in all experiencing beings and that the Soul (Atma) is identical with God (Brahman). The soul enters the world overlaid with ignorance and then undergoes suffering. Its release is possible only by removal of ignorance and realization of its true nature. The Vaishnavites went a step further to include worship and devotion (Aradhana and Bhakti) as one of the methods of the attainment of knowledge. The path of knowledge was confined to the learned, the philosophically minded and the monks.

The path of devotion: Another path for the attainment of liberation that might suit one and all was that of devotion and faith (i.e., Bhakti Marg). Lord Krishna in Bhagavad-Gita proclaimed that it is by unswerving devotion to Him alone that He is reached.1 Devotion in Bhagavad-Gita implied "the dedication of all actions to Him2, for the devotees live and have their being in god"3. God, Gita says, may be beheld, known and entered through devotion which is the means of mystic vision and the unitive state.4 and that God is the father, the Husband, the Mother and the Friend.5

The Narayana section of Shantiparvam of Mahabharata also advocated the vision of the adorable through faith and devotion.6 The Panchtantra Samhita also recognized devotion (Nyasa or Bhakti) as means of emancipation, besides knowledge.7 Bhakti had a parallel development in other systems such as Mahayana school of Buddhism and the Shaktas. But this fact is beyond doubt that all these systems mentioned above had only the emotional tinge and lacked the fierce glow of passion, fervour and ecstasy. Their sparks of Bhakti were lying dormant when Shankaracharya came forward with the sharp-edged sword of reason to proclaim his Advaita philosophy. Yet the sparks remained and could not be extinguished. The petals of the flower of Bhakti could not just wither away by the dry winds of Shankar’s Advait.

The impact of Islam: The impact of Islam on Indian culture and life gave a new impetus in the popularity of the path of devotion in comparison with the path of action and of knowledge. The stream of Bhakti that began as a little trickle in the Vedic times later became a mighty flood sweeping over the whole land. The rites and ceremonies remained static for all time; the philosophies and system of thought could no more provide new channels; but devotion found multitudinous expression in exuberant form in the medieval India. The Vishista Advaita of Ramanuja caught hold of the Bhakti traditions to become the spring-source of later developments in Bhakti-Marga.

Bhakti has been defined as "the worship of a personal deity in a spirit of love."8 It has also been adjudged as "the personal faith in a personal God, love for him as for a human being, the dedication of everything to his service and the attainment of the Moksha by this means, rather than by knowledge, of sacrifices or works."9 In other words, Bhakti is nothing but an adoration and devotion fixed upon the Lord after acquiring a knowledge of attributes of the adorable one.10 Thus, Bhakti is the emotional aspect of religion, its root lies in the feeling or affective side of human consciousness.

Sant-Mat: Those who followed the path of Bhakti and reached Ultimate reality through faith and devotion may be called Sants (Saints). In fact this word signifies certain qualities of head and heart such as benevolence, intelligence, humility and humanity. According to the original interpretation of Sanskrit word, Sant stands for Pure existence that is eternal, identical and self-consistent and synonymous with the Highest Reality11. In Sanskrit and Pali literature, it has been so often used to mean a calm and cool-headed person who devotes his life to the service of the world at large12. Therefore, a real saint can only be visualized as a person who has attained the highest Truth and achieved the permanent values to become identified with the one and indivisible Truth through simple faith and devotion.

The ‘Sant’, according to Radhasoami Faith, is one who has realized the Highest Reality through love and devotion and has reached the region of eternal Truth, Bliss and Light i.e. Satloka.13 Such Sants as were Kabir, Nanak, Dadu, Paltu and Tulsi Saheb inspired the humanity and led it from darkness to light through their mystic revelations and easy teachings. The gospel of love was taught and preached by them to people in people’s language. The sublime thought was put in the garb of emotional poetry and thus gushing rhythm opened the flood gates of a self–evolved thought which can easily be styled as Sant-Mat. Sant-Mat thus signifies the Bhakti side of Vedanta adorned by the layer of love more emphatically put by these Sants to provide solace to suffering humanity.

The Sant-Mat expounded a clear conception of the Ultimate Reality and presented a clear cut way for realizing it. Such a realization is known ‘Sat’ or all Truth. The Ultimate Reality, therefore, has been styled as Sat. Many have called the same as ‘Sat-Purush’. The generation of love towards the Sat-Purush is the devotion or Bhakti from the viewpoint of a Sant. This love for the Sat can be cultivated in man’s (or woman’s) heart through his contact with one who has already generated this love and has become, identical with it. He is the Satguru.14 The need of such a Satguru for the total redemption of the Jiva has been greatly emphasized by the leaders of Sant sects. With the appearance of such leaders on the religious screen of medieval India, the stagnant and prosaic Gyan (knowledge) was surcharged with the poetic dynamism of Bhakti. It was a renaissance of its own type dawning on the Indian horizon of the middle ages which exhorted the Indians to rise from deep slumber, rethink the old values and devote the life in pursuit of Supreme Being by shunning away the narrow difference of caste, colour or creed.

Kabir Panth: The leader of such a Sant tradition was Kabir. The message that Kabir delivered to the suffering humanity forms the backbone of Sant-Mat and it provides a firm foundation to other Sant-sects such as Radhasoami Faith in the nineteenth century. As Nabhaji says, "Kabir refused to acknowledge the caste distinctions or to recognize the authority of the six schools of Hindu philosophy, nor did he set any store by the four divisions of life prescribed by Brahmins. He held that religion without Bhakti was no religion at all and that asceticism, fasting and alms giving had no value if unaccompanied by Bhajan i.e., devotional practice.15 The mission of Kabir was to preach a religion of love which would unite all castes and creeds.16 Laying greatest emphasis upon the intuitive aspect of religion, he impartially condemned the external forms of Hinduism and Islam both. The Muslim Sufis shaped to some extent the teachings of Kabir. Like the Sufis, Kabir often compares the relation of individual with God as that of wave and Sea.17 Kabir speaks of the wine and cup of love,18 of the lover (ashiq, habib) and the beloved (mashuq, mahabub).19 Kabir was a mystic saint and a poet-saint too who directly hit at the social evils.

The God of the Kabir is both transcendent and immanent, impersonal and personal, infinite and finite, without qualities and qualified, the non-being and the being, neither manifest nor hidden, neither one nor two, both within and without and yet above and beyond all pairs of opposites. The individual soul, according to Kabir, was in the Supreme Being before creation, and it came into existence when this light illuminated this. The first creation was ‘Shabd’ whose offsprings were distinct spirit entities. Kabir recognized individuality and yet did not forget the unity that lay behind to avoid an atomic view of personality.20 Kabir proclaimed boldly that the destiny of the individual is the ultimate realization of union with God and nothing short of it, not even paradise, would satisfy him.21 For the attainment of the goal it is of the utmost importance to select a Guru and he announced to the people to consider the Guru as Govinda (God).22 Taking inspiration from the Sufi orders, Kabir advocated that the real meditation (Dhyana) is of the Guru’s form and the real worship is of the Guru’s feet. The Guru as Kabir revealed, directs the devotee upon the path which is the discipline of the soul and in the three worlds and nine regions none is greater than the Guru.23 In fact, Guru is the manifested form of the merciful (Dayavan) and gracious lord (Meherban) and a devotee who seeks his protection (Saran) is never disappointed. By constant repetition of his name, by indifference to pain and pleasure, by suppressing the five evil tendencies of the mind, by abandoning anger and the pride, by the acquisition of humility, poverty, patience and discrimination, the self is efface and the devotee dies while living.24

The dying of self does not mean to Kabir complete retirement from the world and living in forests. He professed that both asceticism (yoga) and enjoyment (bhoga) are in the house-holder’s life.25 Kabir’s personal life was an example of his teachings. Kabir also preached that love through which the mystic union can be attained, but the path is not easy. There are many disappointments and obstacles and it is like walking on the keen edge of a sword.26 But when the devotee performs the ‘Sahaj Yoga’ with love and adoration, the Lord stands self-revealed. Kabir condemned the Hindu worship of idols, gods and goddesses, Brahmin supremacy, caste difference, prejudices concerning touchability and food. He asked the Musalmans to give their exclusiveness, their blind trust in one prophet and His Book, their externalism in the performance of rites, pilgrimage to Mecca, fast and regulated prayers, Auliya, Pir and Paigambar. The religion of Kabir, was a conscious attempt to reconcile Hinduism and Islam. He fulfilled the divine mission and made attempt to lay an universal path by first proclaiming a religion of the center – a middle path – and his cry was taken up all over India and was re-echoed from almost every corner.

The Radhasoami Faith has its genesis in the teachings of Kabir. The Shabd is the first emanation in the creation is the view taken by the exponents of Radhasoami Faith from Kabir. The idea of an impersonal and personal God; Guru as the manifestation of the Lord; the emphasis on Guru Bhakti; the importance of the Guru much more than Govinda for the devotee; the rejection of the existing social evils, are some of the concepts that might be traced in Radhasoami faith, which originated and developed on the Kabirian traditions. The lamp of love that was lit up by Kabir flickered through ages but was destined to become a magnificent and luxuriant glow in the hands of the founders of Radhasoami Faith, who not only vitalized the original teachings of the saints but introduced the nineteenth century rationalism and reorientation to create a renaissance in the so-called Sant-sects of India. The founders of Radhasoami Faith followed Ramanuja – the leader of Bhakti school in medieval ages, and rationalized the Sant tradition adhering to Kabir’s gospel of love and truth, to suit the needs of nineteenth century.

Dadaji Maharaj


Dadaji Maharaj - His life and works

Article by ABI


An article written on Dadaji Maharaj by ABI, USA

Felicitations

Dadaji: The Path Finder
From the editorial board of Felicitation Volume

Ethical Norms

Ethical Norms For Moral Conduct
On the basis of discourses of PPPD Hazur Maharaj dictated in Prem Patra

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