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Prof. A.P. Mathur
M.A., PhD, F.I.H.S., F.R.A.S. (London)
Former Vice-Chancellor, Agra University, Agra, India


Dadaji Maharaj

"Religion is matter of experience, an insight into reality, a direct awareness of the world of values...There is the unknown, the reserve of truth, which the intellect cannot reach and yet feels to lie behind.....There is an element of mystery in all religions, an incomprehensible certainty which is not to be explained by grammar or logic." In the light of the above statement, the origin of the Radhasoami faith can be traced in the deep rooted mystic traditions of the country. Established in 1861, it is essentially an esoteric religion. The edifice of its teachings rest upon the thought and philosophy of the founder gurus Soamiji Maharaj and Hazur Maharaj. According to Hazur Maharaj, the second guru, "Radhasoami faith is not built on the basis of scriptures appertaining to Hindu or any other religion." Nevertheless it cannot be denied that it inherited much from the hoary past of Hindu thought and philosophy.

The faith, in fact, came as a bold reaction against prevalent traditionalism and ritualism of the eighteenth century religion. Its object was the propagation of a simple religion to assure the spiritual uplift of the people without any distinction of cast, colour or nationality. Emphasizing upon the Spirit and the Spiritual life, the Radhasoami faith emerged as the champion of spiritual awakening in the country that actually preceded socio-political consciousness. The teachings of the faith are based upon the inherent call of the spirit, that is, love. The presentation of the cult of love, with a rational approach to spiritual problems in an age of science, is a unique achievement of its founders. It can, therefore, rightly be styled as the first current to revive devotionalism in modern India.

The Three Paths

Since time immemorial, Moksha (emancipation of the soul ) has been declared to be the ultimate goal of human life and for its attainment the sages and seers laid down three paths of karma,gyana and bhakti. These three ways just conformed to the three aspects of personality- action, cognition and affection- which are in fact complementary and supplementary to each other. During the earliest period of Indian history, karma- marg dominated religion and society. It was principally laid down in the Vedas, developed and systematized in Brahmanas, Kalpa-Sutra, Mimamsa and the Bhagwat Puran. When the theory of metempsychosis and the law of karma came into being, the logical Hindu mind could not but realize that karma alone could not lead to salvation. The Upanishads, then, came forth as the first embodiment of the bold speculations of the recluses and propounded the path of knowledge. Profound thinking on cosmic origin and human destiny, the nature reality and its relation to the individual, deliverance of the soul, lead to the establishment of various schools of thought and philosophy such as Jainism, Buddhism, Sankhya-yoga and other systems culminating in Vedanta. The religion based upon the cult of knowledge remained confined to the intelligentsia or to those who renounced the family and became monks. It could not satisfy the spiritual thirst of the common people. Their craving for the higher values resulted in the establishment of the cult of the Bhakti by such religious leaders as believed that the true path leading to salvation is neither karma, nor gyana but bhakti or the true love and devotion for the Lord.

Indigenous Bhakti Traditions

The origin the Bhakti cult is shrouded in mystery. Some find in it the influence of Islam. Others trace it to Christianity. But modern research disproves the theory of indebtedness of Indian Bhakti movement to Christianity and Islam. Bhakti, in fact, can be traced to the Vedic hymns, the Upanishads, the Sutras and the Bhagwad Gita. The Vedic hymns to Varuna, Savitr and Usas are replete with sentiments of piety and devotion. The doctrine of bhakti or single-minded devotion to God is clearly evident in the later Upanishads. In the Svetasvatara Upanishad the doctrine Grace is emphasized and the doctrine of Prapatti or self-surrender is also suggested in it. The Tattriya Upanishad and Brahadaranyaka Upanishad described Brahman as the embodiment of bliss and source of all human joys. Thus the cult of Bhakti is adumbrated in the Vedic hymns and partly developed in the Upanishads. It blossoms forth in the epics and later devotional literature; it is not satisfied with the impersonal Brahman of the Upanishads but converts Him into the personal God or Isvara as acclaimed by Ramanuja in his theistic Vedanta or Visistadvaita.

Medieval Bhakti Traditions in Northern India

The medieval Bhakti movement came as a reaction to Shankaracharya's philosophical theory of Vedanta and Mayavad. Besides being questioned by scholar - saints on spiritual grounds, the theory was too philosophical for the common man to comprehend. Hence the devout Hindus turned to Bhakti. Nevertheless, the impact of Islam on Indian culture gave a new impetus to the popularity of the Bhakti cult. The virtual challenge presented by Islam, lead religious men to earnestly seek the truth of their own faith. Ramanand, fifth in the descend from Ramanuja, inaugurated in northern India a spirit of synthesis of all that was true and permanent in our spiritual heritage. He used the popular name of Rama but he meant by it the perfect God of love and mercy. Not the unconditioned Brahman of Vedanta but the beloved, the friend and the Lord of one's heart. When he perceived that God is only one and humanity is one large family, he started preaching the gospel of love and devotion. He gave up the use Sanskrit and adopted the language of the people and freely admitted many a follower of the lower castes to his fold. Kabir, Raidas, Sena, Dhanna, Pipa, Nabha, Nanak, Dharamdas, Tulsidas, Surdas and Meera- all followed the path of intense love and devotion.

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