Radhasoami Satsang
An Indian spiritual movement, also known as Sat May (the
way of the Saints), that emerged in the nineteenth century in
northern India. It is one of the most important but least known
of Indian religious movements, its teachers often being cited as
either Hindus or Sikhs. The movement was founded in 1861
by Shiv Dayal Singh (1818–1878) of Agra, but had its base in
the earlier teachings of Tulsi Singh who taught through the
first four decades of the century. Known as ‘‘Soamiji Maharaj’’
by his disciples, he taught three basic principles of religious
life 1) Satguru, a term embracing the Absolute Lord and living
human Master; 2) Shabd or sound current (spoken or written
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expression, and also inner spiritual sound); and 3) Satsang, association
of devotees seeking spiritual truth.
Although drawing on Sikhism, Radhasoami had discarded
the Sikh bible, the Adi Granth, in favor of a living Master Teacher
(the Satguru). It has also elevated the yoga of the sound current
to a preeminent position. The Satguru (or his appointed
representative) initiates people into the practice. Members also
gather in community, satsang, much as do Christians.
After Soamiji Maharaj passed away, he was succeeded by Rai
Salig Ram, and in turn by Pandit Brahma Shankar Misra in
1907. After the passing of Brahma Shankar Misra, questions
over the succession led to a division of the movement under two
competing gurus Sri Kamta Prasad Sinha (known as ‘‘Param
Guru Sarkar Sahib’’) and Buaji Maharaj, sister of Brahma
Shankar Misra. Further divisions occurred throughout the
twentieth century as different rival leaders emerged claiming
a succession. Among the different Stagurus who have appeared
in America seeking followers are Kirpal Singh, Guru Maharaj
Ji, and Ajaib Singh. ECKANKAR and the several groups that
have developed from it are Westernized groups based on Radhasommi
teachings but without the Punjabi appearance of its
leaders.
The two groups within the larger movement became known
as the Radhasoami Satsang, Beas, and the Ruhani Satsang,
both descended from the founder Shiv Dayal Singh through
Baba Jaimal Singh, whose satsang was based at Beas, Punjab.
Baba Jaimal Singh passed away in 1903 and was succeeded
by his disciple Sawan Singh (1858–1948). Sawan Singh had a
profound influence in the spread of teachings relating to
Shabd-Yoga, the pathway of sacred sound current. On the passing
of Sawan Singh, he was succeeded by his grandson Charan
Singh (b. 1916). Some disciples challenged Charan Singh’s
leadership and began alternative movements. Amongst these
was Kirpal Singh, who established the Ruhani Satsang in Delhi.
Charan Singh initiated many thousands of people and the Beas
groups expanded remarkably under his leadership. Kirpal
Singh began the Ruhani Stasang in 1951 and in 1955 made the
first of several trips to the west. An energetic leader, his movement
spread around India, and because of his periodic present,
his movement grew in North America. Paul Twitchell (founder
of ECKANKAR) was disciple of Kirpal Singh and left to found
a movement which kept all of the substance of the tradition but
had a new terminology and a Western facade. From ECKANKAR
came the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness (MSIA)
founded by John-Roger Hinkins; MasterPath founded by Gary
Olsen; and the Ancient Teachings of the masters founded by
Darwin Gross. The Divine Light Mission (now known as Elan
Vital), brought to the West by Guru Maharaj Ji in the early
1970s, represents a new infusion of an Indian-based Radhasoami
lineage.
The teaching that a mystical sound current heard in meditation
may bring about higher consciousness is central to Radhasoami
beliefs and also had been an important part of the meditation
techniques of traditional yoga practice, though it was a
rare practice by the time of the career of Tulsi Singh. It was
cited in such yoga manuals as the Hatha-Yoga-Pradipika of Svatmarama
Svamin and the Siva Samhita. It is also loosely related
to the special significance attached to the sacred trisyllable
AUM in the Hindu Vedanta.
The main address of Radhasoami Satsang is P.O. Dera
Baba Jaimal Singh, Via Beas, Dist. Amritsar, India.
Sources
Cameron, David. Who Is Guru Maharaj Ji New York Ballantine
Books, 1973.
Fripp, Peter. The Mystic Philosophy of Sant Mat. London Neville
Spearman, 1964.
Lane, David Christopher. The Making of a Spiritual Movement.
Del Mar, Calif. Del Mar Press, 1983.
———. The Radhasoami Tradition A Critical History of Guru
Successorship. New York Garland Publishing, 1992.
Radhasoami Satsang Beas and its Teachings. Beas, India
Radha Soami Satsang, n.d.
Singh, Charan. Light on San Mat. Beas, India Radha Soami
Satsang, Beas, 1958.