For promoting the spiritual uplift of satsangis, Hazur Maharaj
also introduced some devotional practices to be practised
not as rituals but as aids to help inner contemplation - gestures
significant from the spiritual point of view. These are described
as follows :
It is a common practice in Hinduism and was conducted in same
way during Soamiji's time. Hazur Maharaj, however suggested
an improvement. By arti, he meant inner concentration of the
vision of spiritual light, with no external significance.
Arti in Radhasoami faith, therefore, has the higher object
of identifying one's own self with the Supreme Being. It consists
in a devotee listening to the scriptures while seated in front
of Satguru with his gaze fixed on guru's eyes and with his
mind and spirit drawn inwards and upwards. This way, the devotee
enjoys the inner bliss and attains the grace and mercy of
the Supreme Being.
This is normally held on the day of departure of the
past santsatgurus. This day is held in great esteem as it is believed that
the departing Santsatguru showers abundant grace, mercy and bliss upon
the jivas. Such a day reminds devotees of the everlasting glory of the
spirit and are beneficial for the general well-being of the jivas.
On the bhandara days, followers attend the holy service
(satsang) specially conducted in the reverential memory of the past Santsatguru,
offer their homage and take prasad distributed after the recitation
of banis and discourses given by them in their life-time. Great
significance is attached to this prasad as it is supposed to be sanctified
by their grace.
In the afternoon all devotees take their meals together.
The tradition of joint feasting removes distinction of caste, colour and
creed. Mass-dinners like this, indeed, present a pleasant site. The practice
of bhandara inculcates in the followers a common bond of love and brotherhood,
and brings together people residing in different provinces and speaking
Touching the feet of Satguru, Offering of Garlands, Receiving
of Prasad :
Touching the guru's feet indicates love and reverence a devotee
has for Satguru from whom divine currents constantly emanate.
If observed only as formality, the practice would be fruitless.
While touching satguru's feet a devotee should draw his spirit
inwards and concentrate on the teesra til and the holy
form of the guru.
Likewise, offering garlands to Satguru is an expression of
love and reverence. Flowers are offered to deities in every
religion as they signify the softest feelings of the heart.
Presenting flowers to the respected or beloved is an age-old
practice which is in vogue even now. Hazur says that flowers
and garlands offered to Santsatguru are sure to imbibe the
piety and divine grace of his body; hence when they are returned
to devotees as prasad, they would carry the same spiritual
impact to them. The devotee would then derive spiritual sanctity
Prasad and Charnamrit :
Prasad and Charnamrit have the same significance and serve
the same purpose as flowers and garlands. Prasad may be food
left over by the guru, his clothes, or the water after washing
his feet or any used article of the guru. Prasad carries the
sanctifying currents of the Santsatguru's divine love.
Reverence for the Holy Samadhis :
Hazur enjoins upon his followers to pay visits to holy samadhis
and offer tributes there. He says that the place of the residence
of the guru, the things used by him in his life-time - palang,
chowki, dresses, utensils, wooden sandals and the photographs
- all represent the sacred memory and the splendid glory which
has become the precious possessions of the devotees. Such
a practice signifies reverence and devotion and it can not
be equated with idol-worship or the worship of dead and inert
objects. The expression of pious love and reverence to hallowed
memory is neither external ritualism nor idol-worship. Rather,
devotees after paying a visit to the samadhi are sure to experience
inner ecstasy and eternal bliss during their internal concentration
or the practice of surat-shabd-yog.
Hazur can be definitely and correctly styled as Messiah of
Love. The emphasis upon love in his teachings signifies the realism underlying
his basic thought and philosophy. In the nineteenth century, Christianity
was trying to uproot indigenous religious faiths. Both educated and uneducated
Indians were attracted towards it. The people of lower castes could get
in its teaching a panacea for all evils and embraced it indiscriminately.
It was at this critical period that Hazur Maharaj came forward with a positive
assertion that the cult of love was not new to India. He revived it in
the form of his simple teachings and struck hard not only at the Christian
proselytizers but also such exponents of Hinduism as had forgotten the
basic philosophy of spiritual love inherent in the cultural traditions
of the country.
Hazur preached the universality of the cult of devotion.
Among the devotees of God, there is no distinction of birth, learning,
appearance, family, wealth and nationality, since they all belong to Him.
The cult of bhakti is meant for all. It is catholic and universal. Not
only brahmans and shudras could join the faith on equal level but Christians,
Muslims or persons belonging to any nationality could become its followers.
Hazur, thus challenged the rigidity of Hinduism, the orthodoxy of Islam,
and the so-called simplicity of Christianity. Though many religious leaders
emerged in the nineteenth century as stalwarts of reform, none could surpass
Hazur Maharaj in declaring so boldly that religion is above all labels
and specifications. A true seeker need not renounce his social customs
and practices or change his previous creed in order to join the fold of
his faith. J.N. Farquhar writes : "....the membership in the sect does
not involve any breach in one's own religion.....you may be a Radhasoami
and yet remain a Hindu, a Mohammedan or a Christian.....Radhasoami faith
is an extra fit, to be the compliment of any religion and supreme over
The spirit, later on developed into a fusion of international
culture when many Christians and Muslims from India and abroad joined the
faith without changing their creed and social customs. By founding such
a sublime and lively faith Hazur proved the truth of the statement that
India alone can lead the world from materialism to spiritualism; from darkness
to the eternal light of love.
As regards his teachings, it cannot be denied that Hazur
introduced a simple and scientific method to attain salvation. In an age
when science and technology were developing fast and people were drifting
away from religion, Hazur introduced the spiritual practice of surat-shabd-yog
in perfect conformity with the true spirit of a researcher who collects
data and works upon a project on given lines and then after deriving the
results tallies it with that of the supervisor.
Hazur Maharaj presented a new concept of the Supreme Being
and His eternal abode. His Supreme Being is free from any admixture of
mind and matter and his region is far beyond the reach of Brahman and maya.
Believing in the surat chaitanya shakti (pure spiritual power) of the spirit
entity, Hazur envisages a Supreme Being who is the ocean of all spirituality
and spirit of spirits. A follower of the faith who practices surat-shabd-yog
can realize the union of his spirit (drop of the ocean) with the ocean
(reservoir) by his contact with the tidal wave of the ocean known as Satguru.
To Hazur goes the credit of revealing the name Radhasoami.
A recitation of this true name, according to Hazur, would dissolve the
ego, generate love, facilitate yoga and purify the body, mind and soul
and would prove to be a true companion and a mighty weapon in the inward
journey of the spirit. It would also direct the surat chaitanya shakti
(spiritual energy) to be spent in the right direction, and would remove
the coverage of maya that lead this precious energy to wastage. Hazur,
thus, established the superiority of the name Radhasoami over five other
names given by earlier sants to purely spiritual Supreme Being. He also
asserted the enormous strength of the spirit entity to traverse in the
higher regions and attain salvation. The name Radhasoami finally gave a
unity to the sect.
Hazur's ideal of guru-bhakti, which he himself practiced
demonstrates the practicability of his theory. According to him, guru-bhakti
is highly beneficial for the jivas, provided they choose a correct guru.
To Hazur, a life of devotion did not mean a life of inaction, but an active
life to God. He also taught the doctrine of grace. He alone can realize
the Supreme Being to whom He becomes gracious.
In the light of his enormous contribution to the Radhasoami
faith, Hazur can rightly be called its true founder. It was he who not
only systematized the concepts and beliefs and formulated the essentials
of the faith but also enunciated the code of moral conduct and practices
for the followers. Hazur gave the faith its noteworthy name, its vast organization,
its large following and an incarnated Supreme Being - Soamiji Maharaj.
J.N. Farquhar rightly remarks : "the Sect owes a great
deal to this man's clear intellect and power of expression. The first guru
may have been the source of the leading ideas and the religious practice
of the Sect, but one can scarcely doubt that the order and precision which
now mark its teachings where the fruit of Saligram's vigorous and orderly
mind." The eminent modern historian Dr. A.L. Srivastava rightly observes
: "He was the first man to name the new Sect - Radhasoami - and give it
a positive philosophy. Were it not for him, the Radhasoami faith would
not have come into existence and the first guru would have remained content
with the status of a saint with a small number of personal followers."