Concepts & Illusions: A Perspective
By Sabina Oberoi
Publisher: Radha Soami Satsang Beas, 2016.
A Wake Up Call: Beyond Concepts & Illusions
By Sabina Oberoi & Beverly Chapman
Publisher: Radha Soami Satsang Beas, 2016.
Concepts & Illusions and A Wake Up Call are two groundbreaking books that vary in approach and presentation but offer a common message. Both books shine a light on common misconceptions and illusions that obscure the purity and clarity of the teachings of the Radha Soami mystic masters. Readers are invited to re-examine their own perspectives and re-orient themselves to a closer alignment with those teachings.
In Concepts & Illusions we are plunged into reality head on:
We have the remarkable ability to create convenient conceptions and twist them into innovative interpretations. We weave wonderful webs of fantasies and fallacies, romanticize the path, misunderstand the teachings, squeeze pointless meanings from the master’s words, find excuses to escape from our commitments, and play the blame-game with the karma theory. Thus we totally digress from the reality, and move further and further away from the master’s teachings.
The section on Blissful Delusions clarifies unclear thinking on initiation, the master, darshan, so-called VIPs, speakers as “special,” rites and rituals and other topics.
We often rely on outward devotion, but the path of the masters is an inner, mystical path, a science based on individual experience. Concepts & Illusions cites the testimony of many mystics and scriptures on this point, such as Guru Nanak’s emphatic statement, “Everything is within the home, nothing is outside. He who seeks outside is lost in illusion.” Saints urge us “to listen to the sound inside and see the light with our inner eyes,” but we find it “easier to take a shortcut and ring bells and light candles outside.” The book gives two examples from the history of the Dera for this propensity of ours: “The well opposite the Great Master’s kothi (house) was made inaccessible and we were jolted out of our stupor. The well was built with the sole aim of providing water, but we turned it into a well of ‘divine nectar,’ carrying bottles of ‘holy’ water home to heal people or transform them into our belief.” “Satsang ghar tours were discontinued because we were paying homage to the building. Baba Ji has cautioned that if we continue bowing to the satsang ghar, he would not hesitate to tear the building down.” The master does not allow us to dwell in these illusions. He comes “to tear us away from myths, rites, and rituals – to kill them completely, to demolish them and bring our focus back to the simplicity of the teachings.”
As to our perception of the master, we are told bluntly, “We envision the master from a narrow perspective thereby limiting his presence and purpose in our lives.” For example, we “attach miracles to the master if one of our loved ones is saved in an accident. What about the other who died?” A clear understanding of the teachings and the role of the master reveals that “the master does not guarantee that we will not face death, pain, and other human frailties. As a matter of fact, we are constantly being prepared for this very death we dread so much.”
In a section on Mind and Madness the potential to use the great power of the mind to either our benefit or our detriment is explored. “The mind is at the same time strong yet weak, sincere yet deceitful; it can take man to the heights of success and to the depths of destruction.” This shows the importance of taking the responsibility to use it rightly. “The way we use this instrument called mind is completely up to us.”
Throughout, readers are advised to take the responsibility to go beyond limiting beliefs, beyond the literal nature of words, even those of the master, to a deeper understanding of his teachings by using their own discrimination, discernment and good judgment founded on and sustained by the practice of meditation.
In the second book, A Wake Up Call, we are told, “Truth is simple. We are not.” The book shows how what seems up can be down, and what we take as true can be just long-held beliefs. Such beliefs can obstruct the disciple’s inner practice and the master’s living teachings. Illusions beset us across all areas of the path from initiation, to the sangat, satsang, seva, darshan, meditation, even to the understanding of the master. Maharaj Charan Singh explains that all mystics bring the same message, truth, and path, but “unfortunately … the teachings become perverted and overlaid with the conceptions of lesser minds, unable to grasp their ‘real essence.’”
The book is a clear call to “get real.” “Getting real” means to:
Stop kidding yourself. Get a grip on who you are and your situation … In spirituality, it … also means waking up to what actually is real at the deepest and ultimate level. It means doing what we need to do to experience that reality. It means living that reality, becoming that reality. It actually means God-realization.
So what is a concept and what isn’t? What is real and what is illusion? “Every single thing we think we know about the spiritual path that is beyond our own experience is just a concept.” And, “the only thing we can count on as bedrock reality is what we know through our own experience.” No doubt at our level, concepts are a necessary starting point for basic understanding. The masters therefore use “metaphors, analogies and images” to advance our understanding. The problem is that these may be interpreted too literally or from the partial light of a limited perspective. Or “we adjust the master’s teachings and add a few of our misconceptions, creating illusions that we then live in.”
For example, “In the writings of Sant Mat we find the statement that once initiated, it takes a maximum of four births to achieve permanent liberation.” We may interpret this as, “No need to put any great effort into meditation.” But the present master tells us emphatically that “so long as we are more interested in this world than in spiritual reality, we will not be liberated.”
How about incarnating as an animal or in an even lower life form?
Do we really think we’ve been certified with the “stamp” of initiation and now we are above the law? Do we think that the karmic law applies to everyone else, but not to us? When queried about this so-called guarantee that once initiated we can’t and won’t take a birth as an animal, the present master responded: “Why not?”
Here is one illusion that may be particularly hard to give up: “Satsangis are special…” The truth is, “A real satsangi is one who has merged in the shabd, merged in spiritual truth. The rest of us are seeking. We might call ourselves initiates. We might call ourselves seekers. If we’re honest and think clearly, we’d hesitate to call ourselves satsangis.”
The present master has been known to say, “Burn the books!” But a reading of these two provocative works will clear the way for a truer understanding of the teachings and an increased emphasis on our real work as disciples of these mystic masters, our meditation. We are urged to understand our objectives and to make choices based on those objectives. We can remain in the “comfort” of concepts and illusions or we can choose to experience the truth. The choice is ours.
Book reviews express the opinions of the reviewers and not of the publisher.