Frequently Asked Questions
Following a spiritual path means a life-long commitment if we want our efforts to bear fruit. Individuals should never take the leap until all their questions are resolved and the desire for spiritual realization can no longer be ignored. The following FAQs are intended to give the spiritual seeker food for thought and to clearly outline the scope of commitment required in following the path of Sant Mat.
Who is the present head of the Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB) organization?
Gurinder Singh Dhillon is the present spiritual head of the RS organization and is affectionately called Baba Ji.
Are the Radha Soami teachings (Sant Mat) the only way to God-realization?
There are many paths leading to God-realization, and the common belief is that our spiritual search starts from within each one of us through the medium of meditation.
Is Sant Mat a religion, sect or cult?
It is none of these. Sant Mat is a way of life. It does not solicit members, charge fees, exploit, infringe on anyone's private life, or compel seekers and disciples to give up their religion. Sant Mat does not advocate rites and rituals nor does it expect the disciples to conform to a special dress code. It offers a way of life based on high moral principles and individual meditation. The teachings help in understanding the purpose of life and give greater insight into right living under the guidance of the living Master.
Does the Radha Soami organization charge fees for any services?
No, there are no fees charged for any services.
How are donations given to the organization used?
Donations are used for the welfare and growth of the sangat. Several charitable hospitals are also funded through donations; shelter homes and schools have been constructed in areas devastated by earthquakes and floods. Approximately five million annual visitors to the Beas colony (the headquarters of the organization) are provided with free food and accommodation.
Does the global development of RSSB undermine the basic spiritual values of the teachings?
The global development of Sant Mat is a sign of the changing times. With the tremendous growth of Sant Mat in India and around the world, it is important to respond to the needs of disciples adopting the Sant Mat philosophy and way of life. The increasing number of centres creates a sense of togetherness, opportunities for seva, and a collective consciousness among the disciples, thus strengthening the values and principles embodied in this path of service and meditation.
Which books would you recommend to introduce Sant Mat?
The commonly recommended books are – The Path, Honest Living, Spiritual Primer, and Spiritual Perspectives. The Secretary of your local satsang centre may be contacted for further information.
Is it all right for me to listen to discourses by other teachers, like Mr. Ishwar Puri?
We always encourage people to attend satsangs so that we are able to keep our minds open and have a better perspective of the spiritual teachings. However, it may be added that RSSB has no link with Mr. Ishwar Puri nor any other person or organization.
Which is the most reliable website for information on the organization?
For authentic and accurate information, the official RSSB website is www.rssb.org
Why doesn't the Master encourage participation in social networking and group chat sites about the Sant Mat teachings?
Although social media has become part of the contemporary social fabric, the Master does not think these online discussions serve the needs of the disciples. The Masters have provided a structure and means for this to happen within the framework of the Sant Mat organization. Satsangs have been established in over 90 countries. More than 100 books published by RSSB are available in English and in translation. Many audio recordings of satsangs are available on the RSSB website. These are the means by which the Master has authorized and actively oversees the dissemination of the Sant Mat teachings.
What is the role of the Master?
The Master's primary role is to "initiate" the disciple into a practice of meditation through which he connects the disciple to the Shabd or Sound Current, thus guiding the soul back to its origin – the eternal home in the divine realm. In every aspect of life we need assistance and guidance to keep us on the right track. The same is essential on the spiritual journey, where only a living Master can awaken divine truth within us.
Is it true that after initiation the Master takes over our karmas?
The Master takes the responsibility to help us return to our eternal home. He gives his love, support, and grace to go through our karmas with fortitude and equanimity. He guides us through the spiritual process which cleanses our karmas, but he does not erase our karmas. Each one of us has to pay for our own karmas – this is the law of the universe.
What is the significance of the Master-disciple relationship?
The Master's relationship with the disciple is to guide the disciple on the inner journey and help him reach the higher realms of consciousness that lead to liberation. By becoming receptive to the master's teachings, the disciple learns to live in the Lord's will. One can think of the master as a friend, elder brother, or teacher.
What does the term "perfect living Master" mean?
The term "perfect living Master" is used for spiritual teachers who have attained higher consciousness through the practice of meditation and stay connected to the Shabd within, making them 'whole' or 'complete,' which in Hindu scriptures is referred to as "puran" – complete or perfect.
What is a real Master?
The real Master is the Shabd, not the body. The real disciple is the consciousness, the surat, not the body. When we awaken our consciousness or surat through the practice of meditation, then the consciousness with the help of the divine Melody, is able to experience and realize the true Master, which is the Shabd.
Can there be more than one perfect Master in the world at the same time?
At any given time there will be one or more perfect Masters living in the world.
What happens when the Master dies?
The Masters are born in the realm of the spirit; therefore the spiritual form of a Master cannot die. If the line of saints is to continue, the present Master will appoint a successor before he dies.
Have there been any female Saints?
Yes. These include Teresa of Avila from Spain, Rabia Basri from Iraq, and Sahjo Bai, Bahinabai and Mirabai from India.
Does the Master personally benefit from the donations received for the organization?
The Masters strongly advocate "hak halaal ki kamayi" (to live by one's own honest earnings), which means: through their personal or family income. The Masters live the teachings by example.
Why do Masters wear white clothes?
Just as we choose to dress for an occasion, e.g. wear track suits to the gym, casual wear to a movie, business suits to work, and formals to a wedding, the Master chooses to wear what is appropriate, comfortable and simple for him. He may choose to travel in jeans or take a walk in tracks, relax in shorts, or wear white on a daily basis if he feels it is the most convenient and least cumbersome attire.
What does it mean to be "initiated"?
To be initiated means that the Master has instructed the disciple in a technique of meditation through which the soul is connected to the Shabd or Sound Current so as to finally merge with the Creator. It is also a time of making a lifetime commitment to following the four vows of the path.
What are the vows taken during initiation?
At the time of initiation, the seeker makes a commitment to abide by four vows to enhance spiritual growth.
- To live on a vegetarian diet – no meat, fish, eggs or any substance containing their essence.
- To abstain from tobacco products, alcohol, and mind-altering drugs.
- To live a moral and ethical life based on strict principles, including no sexual relations outside legal marriage.
- To meditate daily for 2 ½ hours.
What is the significance of the five names given at the time of initiation?
The names, when given by the living Master, have the Master's power to connect the soul to the Shabd during meditation. The repetition of these names helps us to remember the Lord, still the mind during meditation, and focus our mind at the eye centre where our spiritual journey begins.
How should we prepare for initiation?
This is the time to read Sant Mat literature, attend spiritual discourses, resolve any doubts, and create an atmosphere of harmonious living among family and friends. It the time to see for ourselves whether we can live within the first three vows. It is also recommended that a seeker conduct research into other spiritual philosophies to be sure that the Sant Mat way of life is what he or she truly desires.
Should we meditate before initiation?
We should avoid meditating before initiation. The method or technique of meditation has to be taught by a true living Master or his appointed Representative at the time of initiation. Using other words for repetition such as "Radha Soami" could lead to difficulties, as this may create a groove or habit in our mind that may be difficult to break when we start our real meditation.
Why is it important to follow the vows for one year before initiation?
It is important to test our resolve to see if we are ready to make the commitment to follow the vows.
What is the minimum age requirement for initiation and why is there such a restriction?
Generally, the minimum age for initiation is 22 years; however, in India there are slightly different age requirements for married and unmarried women. The age restriction is to ensure that one makes the decision with maturity and level-headedness.
What advice would you give to under-age seekers?
They should be committed to their studies, obey their parents, be compassionate and loving, and practise the way of life required by the first three vows – the vegetarian diet, abstinence from tobacco, alcohol and mind-altering drugs, and a clean moral life.
What should we do if we want to get initiated but our family objects?
We should express to our family our desire for initiation and discuss their point of view before making a decision.
Should we get initiated because the family is initiated?
This is a relationship between each individual soul and the Lord. Family and friends should not influence our decision whether to take initiation or not.
Should a husband and wife get initiated together?
The path of meditation is an individual's journey and experience; therefore it is not necessary to be initiated along with one's spouse.
Who finally decides whether we are ready for initiation?
The living Master is the final authority on who can receive initiation.
Is initiation given by a Representative the same as getting initiated by the Master?
The effectiveness of the initiation is not compromised in any way when one is initiated by a Representative under the authority of the Master.
Is it necessary to attend an initiation with the Master if we have been initiated by his Representative?
It is not necessary to attend an initiation by the Master (often referred to as a re-sitting), as the initiation has already been done by him even if conducted through the Representative.
Can we continue with our religious customs after initiation?
There are no restrictions in following religious customs while practising the Sant Mat teachings.
How many weeks, months or years does it take to get enlightened after initiation?
There is no set time for enlightenment after initiation. The length of time is not relevant, because we can hasten our progress or delay it depending on the effort we make. Our experience along the journey will keep us motivated, along with how perseveringly we work towards our goal.
Does initiation guarantee enlightenment?
Eventually everyone will go back to the Father. There is no set time, as our progress depends on our effort. Spiritual progress cannot be calculated by the human mind. Our goal should be to surrender unconditionally to the desire for the Ultimate.
Is it true that we live only four human lives after initiation before attaining liberation?
For those who have been initiated by the living Master into the meditation practice, they will cross the ocean of boundless and unfathomable suffering and achieve eternal liberation. Being born in the human garb is powerful and extremely purposeful if we utilize and exercise its benefits through meditation. Only human birth offers the possibility of living a conscious, awakened, and controlled life, because only humans possess intelligence and discrimination. The number of lives required for liberation eventually depends on our perseverance at being focused in the centre of consciousness through meditation, which acts as a cleansing process on the inner journey.
Can we go back to the animal world despite being initiated?
Our existence is ruled by our karmic load or destiny. We cannot alter the fact that our actions or karmas will determine whether we return in the human form or are thrown back to the animal kingdom. "If we make our consciousness like that of an animal, we will be born at that level." Our rebirth is conditioned by the nature of our actions and the state of consciousness resulting from those actions. "As the seed, so the fruit."
What do we hope to achieve with meditation?
The purpose of meditation is to achieve God-realization. By connect- ing to the Shabd within, we are able to rise above mind and matter and merge with the Lord, thus reuniting with our Source.
What is the Shabd or Sound Current?
The Shabd, Sound Current or Word is the power that brought the universe into being and sustains it; it is the creative power of God. Without the Shabd or Word there would be no existence. The Bible says, "In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God and the Word was God."
Do other spiritual paths or religions refer to the Shabd?
Yes, most paths and religions refer to the Shabd. They may use different terms, such as the Word or Name of God, Logos, Holy Spirit, Tao, Divine Power, Command, Kalma, and many others.
Is the Shabd in every being or only in the followers of this path?
The Shabd is the life force that permeates every living being and the entire material creation. Without it the creation could not continue.
Will we lose our identity when we merge with the Lord?
We do not lose our true identity when we merge in the Lord. It is through losing our ego and sense of individuality that we gain our true identity and merge with the Source.
Is it necessary to complete 2½ hours daily meditation?
The foundation to anything we choose to do in life is to practice it diligently. Likewise, our commitment during initiation to complete the daily 2½ hours meditation needs to be fulfilled.
Does meditation have to be done in the early morning hours or is any time appropriate?
Any time is good for meditation, although the early morning hours are recommended as the mind is then fresh and alert, and there are fewer disturbances and distractions.
What can we do to stop ourselves from falling asleep in meditation?
Our endeavour is to stay awake and concentrated; however, falling asleep is a common problem. With perseverance and determination, we can overcome this obstacle.
There are many references to stillness in connection with meditation. What does this mean?
Total stillness is the result of concentrated meditation. Maintaining a still body is the first step in bringing the mind to a state of stillness. Meditation becomes a force that moves us from stillness of the body and mind to finally connect the soul with the Shabd.
Can we change our destiny through the practice of meditation?
Our lives are predestined due to our karmas, so our destiny does not change. However, the transformation is the inner strength and equanimity through the practice of meditation to deal positively with adversities that may come in our life.
What is karma?
Karma is the law of cause and effect. As Christ said, "As you sow, so shall you reap."
Why is there so much injustice in the world?
This entire world and everything that happens in it is part of a karmic chain of cause and effect. Although it may seem unjust, the law of karma is keeping this creation in balance.
What is reincarnation and do our karmas follow us from birth to birth?
Reincarnation is the cycle of birth and death caused by the debt of karmas that accumulate on our soul, and this in turn shapes our destiny. This process continues until the soul is cleansed through the practice of meditation and, once purified, finally merges back in its source.
How do we know if we are creating new karmas or working out old ones?
We cannot distinguish between old or new karmas, but are advised to be conscious and aware of our actions, thoughts, and words to avoid creating karmas.
Do we have free will?
There is limited free will in our attitude and approach to situations, although our lives are governed by the destiny we have created during the numerous cycles of birth and death, due to our load of karmas.
What is the reason for the creation and why were we sent here?
There is no simple explanation to truly comprehend the mystery of the creation. To understand the creation, we need to take our level of consciousness to the level of the Creator.
Why is vegetarianism a necessity, and why is it wrong to eat meat when we have not personally killed the animal?
The teachings explain that just as we do not have the power to give life, so we do not have the right to take life. We are advised not to kill or be the reason for killing, directly or indirectly, to avoid adding to our load of karmas. Sant Mat advises us to live on a lacto-vegetarian diet, as eating non-vegetarian foods involves us in the violence of killing and adds to our karmas. While following a vegetarian diet, we should avoid foods that contain ingredients derived from animal sources, such as gelatine, eggs and lard (animal shortening). There are various sources of information to find out if a particular ingredient is of animal origin. Recent medical studies indicate that a vegetarian diet is healthy and life-sustaining. It has the additional benefit of creating a reverence for all forms of life.
Can we eat products that are made in a factory where animal products and eggs are used?
If the animal products are not mixed in the vegetarian food, then yes. It is best to follow the rule, "When in doubt, avoid it."
What is the harm in eating eggs, whether fertile or infertile?
Whether fertile or infertile, the purpose of eggs is to perpetuate animal life, so they must be avoided.
What should we do if our spouse insists that we prepare non-vegetarian food?
We must endeavor to maintain harmony at home and not force our beliefs on our family. If we must prepare non-vegetarian food for family members we can do so, but we should ensure that we do not partake of it.
Do we incur karma if we pay for non-vegetarian food for other people or pets?
It is advised not to deal with animal products directly or indirectly. By serving these animal products to others, even to our pets, we are increasing demand for these products and taking karma on ourselves.
What should I do if my profession requires me to entertain clients who want to order meat and drink?
We can try to find vegetarian restaurants where we can entertain our clients. We are advised not to pay for non-vegetarian food; if we do, we become a link in the chain of supply and demand and we become the reason for an animal being killed. In that way we incur karma.
Is it against Sant Mat principles to own or work at establishments that deal in non-vegetarian food or products?
Owning an establishment that deals in animal products should be avoided at all costs. If one is employed to cook non-vegetarian food, alternate employment should be considered. As a server, you may do as your job requires as long as you do not eat any of the food.
What impact does it have on us if our children eat meat? Should we force them to be vegetarian?
As parents our duty is to be good examples, and we should try to raise our children on a vegetarian diet. As they get older, children will develop a negative approach if forced or coerced into our way of thinking or belief. As parents, we can at best be good examples and respect their decision.
What happens if we accidentally eat something with egg or meat in it?
Whether accidental or deliberate, it will add to our karmas. We are given the example of a person who consumes poison; the effects of the poison will take its toll on the body whether its consumption was accidental or deliberate.
Can we take medicines derived from animal sources, including those packaged in gelatin capsules?
One can try to find vegetarian alternatives, including vegetarian capsules. There is always karma in consuming animal products.
How important is it to avoid the use of leather products?
It is in our interest to avoid the karmic consequences of buying animal products. Since each of us has a sense of discrimination, we should exercise it and try to find alternatives.
Can pain-relief medicines including medical marijuana be taken if prescribed by a doctor?
Drugs for pain relief and for mental and emotional disorders, taken under the direction of a doctor, are permissible. The taking of medical marijuana is prohibited even with a doctor's prescription.
Why is smoking, drinking alcohol and taking mind-altering drugs prohibited when following this path?
Alcoholic drinks and mind-altering recreational drugs have a negative effect on our mind. They scatter the mind and make it restless and dependent. Addictions to alcohol, drugs, and tobacco are unhealthy and weaken our resolve, creating obstacles to the practice of meditation.
What is satsang and what is the importance of attending it?
Satsang is association with the truth; keeping the company of Saints and mystics to learn from their wisdom, experience and discourses. Regular attendance at satsang is a reminder of the teachings and gives us the opportunity to be in an atmosphere that inspires and motivates us to meditate.
What is the importance and relevance of doing seva?
Seva means to serve selflessly without expectation of any reward. The act of performing selfless seva creates awareness within us to live in humility and love.
Can we be ambitious and still remain spiritual?
Being on a spiritual path does not mean renouncing the world. To live the Sant Mat way of life is to enjoy every aspect of work, play, family and friends while staying within the parameters of the vows.
Are the moral values of Sant Mat still relevant in this modern world?
Yes, these values are important in any society. They are the foundation of a spiritual life. They enable us to avoid the creation of karma and support the meditation practice in every way.
Why is it required to be legally married as opposed to having a live-in relationship?
A legal marriage provides a deeper sense of commitment. As the proverb says, "If we want the shoe to stay on the foot, it is important to tie the shoelaces."
Is it OK for us to live on a spouse's income?
Yes, in a family environment, income and wealth are shared.
Should we try to convince others to become satsangis?
We should not proselytize or try to convert others to our way of thinking. Our approach should be to respect other's views as we would like them to respect ours.
Should we raise our children to follow the Sant Mat vows and attend satsang?
If we become an example of high moral qualities in the way we live, creating harmony and understanding at home, our children will naturally imbibe the same qualities. However, children should be allowed to make their own decisions in following a religion or path without any friction or opposition from the family.
How do we handle a situation if our child wishes to marry out of our caste or community, if this creates disharmony at home?
Caste, religion and social status have no bearing on Sant Mat, which teaches tolerance, patience and acceptance. From the Sant Mat perspective, caste and community are not relevant to the success of a marriage. What are more important are the qualities of the person and the couple's compatibility. Rather than provoking arguments, it is preferable if the subject can be discussed open-mindedly and with mutual respect and understanding.
What are your views on astrologers and palmists?
There are very few people who really understand astrology and palmistry in this modern world. Rather than becoming preoccupied with trying to predict the future, one should attend to meditation and gain the inner strength to meet any circumstance. Our destiny cannot be changed in any case.
Can black magic and curses affect us?
The practice of daily meditation and the consequence of regular simran give us the inner strength to be strong-willed with a clear sense of discrimination and a determined resolve not to fall prey to misguided beliefs and superstitions. Nothing can affect us if we remain strong within.
Are there really ghosts and spirits and can they affect us?
We should not give in to fears and superstitions but keep our mind strong through regular meditation. Nothing can affect us if we remain strong within.
What is the Master's policy on living wills and do-not-resuscitate orders?
Human life is an immense privilege and we should always choose life over death. Once we understand this general principle, the rest is up to us to decide since every case has its own circumstances. If we take the responsibility for others' end-of-life decisions we should make it clear that we will not take any action that conflicts with this principle
Should we resort to euthanasia (mercy-killing) for the terminally ill?
Life and death is governed by the individual's destiny – the natural outcome of the law of karma. The time of death is preordained. Resorting to euthanasia is interfering with the law of nature and therefore not advised.
Can we euthanize ("put down") our pets if they are very old and sick?
We do not have the right to take life – any life. Pets also have a karmic destiny that must be undergone. We cared so much for them when we needed them as companions, and we should make them as comfortable as possible and care for them until their natural end.
What happens if we stop following the vows after initiation?
We are bound by the choices we make and the cause and effect of them thereafter. Ignoring the vows we have made will prolong the spiritual journey to our eternal home.