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Sant Mat: a Comparative Analysis of the Path of the Masters

by Peter Holleran

   "Not only does loving devotion raise the soul to God, but God, too, is drawn down from the transcendental regions and reaches for the devotee and takes His abode in his heart. " -   Sant Kirpal Singh, Sat Sandesh, July 1983

   “Believe nothing you have read or anything you have heard, even if I have said it, unless it agrees with common sense and reason.” - Buddha

   Dedication: For the Hungry

   It is because of the freedom given me by my initiating Master, Sant Kirpal Singh, that I write this article, asking and searching for open dialogue on what remains for some a glorious yet mysterious path. I would not for the world take it upon myself, nor is it my intention, to cause one soul to lose faith or entertain unnecessary doubts, but I figure that if you, dear reader, have gotten this far, you have your share of inquiries and may find some benefit in what is discussed herein, and that the day and age has arived to speak more plainly on such matters. What follows is largely not for the beginner but rather for the seasoned questor who still has real questions regardless of his efforts, devotion, and experiences on this path. As there are now hundreds of thousands of followers in the many branches of Sant Mat, or Radhasoami tradition, with different gurus within each, offering similar but not always identical teachings [perhaps the two most predominant branches today descending from Sawan Singh (Beas) to either Maharaj Charan Singh (Beas) and Sant Kirpal Singh (Delhi), but also major branches in Peepalmandi (Dadaji), Soamibagh, and Dayalbagh)], there are undoubtedly many seekers who harbor unasked and unanswered heartfelt questions. This is not due only to internal discrepencies and controversies among or between the various lineages of Sant Mat, but also because of the challenge of a more radical, direct approach disseminated by a host of emerging Buddhist as well as non-dual teachers, the latter largely descending from Sri Ramana Maharshi and Sri Nisargadatta. Hopefully this article will bring the two schools of thought a little closer together. This is an exploratory essay and not in any respect an attempt to "prove" or "disprove" Sant Mat or any other path. In fact, its underlying assumption is that Sant Mat is true and authentic, with yet numerous questions arising for the discriminative seeker. It is also recognized that mystical experience enters a realm where the discursive intellect does not go, yet, it is still subject to some extent to Reason or buddhi, the highest faculty of the mind, next to Atman itself. Therefore, If you are content where you are, wonderful, you may read no further. Otherwise, read on, with full attention and an open mind intent on truth. This article is at times dense, as well as somewhat exhaustive; the reader, however, can determine if it is of value.

   I am well-aware of critical articles and websites by various authors and researchers regarding succession issues, purported scandals, and the like in the multiple branches of the Sant Mat or Radhasoami tradition. I have purposely omitted reference to those, except for one link at the end of this article, in order to keep this discussion on the relative merits of the philosophies alone. Each seeker is free to explore the other material, come to his own conclusions, and decide what he or she needs for their journey home. These sources are not unimportant, but simply tangential and at a lower level than that which I want to discuss here.

   For those with limited time or interest, or who have read this article before, sections # 13,14,15 are perhaps the most important ones in this essay and represent new material.

   On the positive side it is lauditory that by and large many of the masters of Sant Mat, at least, the ones I have known and loved, are examples of clean living, selfless service, loving others, personal discipline, profound depths of inner meditation and illumination, not accepting money for their spiritual work, and, compared to many paths, relatively free of gross scandals, i.e., drugs, money, and sex. On these points most unbiased observers would agree. The goal proposed and promised is lofty and celestial. The loved poured out by the greatest of these masters is real. The questions I have relate to the philosophy itself and how it relates to ultimate realization as described in other traditions and schools.


   Sant Mat teaches an emanationist philosophy/theology of creation that believes the fallen soul must retrace its journey back from realms of varying densities of matter to those of pure spirit. The technique, believed superior to other paths and unique to itself alone, is to concentrate at the ajna chakra (third eye) and withdraw the attention from the body, catch the inner light and sound current, and ride that upwards to the fifth and, by their system, first divine and indestructible, plane, Sach Khand. Some Sants, such as Darshan Singh and Rajinder Singh, have actually described the supercausal realm, Bhanwar Gupta, as a true spiritual realm (beyond mind and matter), where the soul first experienced its individuality on the downward path, and on the upward path (with but a thin veil of anandamaya kosha remaining, almost an integral part of the soul itself, said Kirpal Singh) first cries out "aham brahm asmi", i.e., "oh Lord, I am of the same essence as thou, or "Thou Art That", etc.), with Sach Khand being refered to as the True Region, or the realm of Truth or Spirit, the first primal expression in full effulgence of the nameless One. This also sometimes referred to as the region of Oneness or Kaivalya. Param Sants go further, being progressively absorbed by the Sat Purush into three more planes, Alakh, Agam, and Anami, where there is less and less light and sound until merger in Anami, the nameless and formless. This is sometimes called mahakaivalya.

   [Some schools of Sant Mat teach that Radhasoami is a stage beyond Anami. The suggestion, through use of the terms "wonder region," or that it is not a region, but the "source and reality of All", etc., is that this may refer to a non-dual Atmic realization, but it is not made clear, and is difficult in any case to compare to the teachings of other paths. To thicken the plot, Agam Prasad Mathur (aka Dadaji, a direct spiritual descendant of Rai Salig Ram, himself a disciple of Soamiji (according to most sources the modern day originator of the path of Sant Mat or Radhasoami Mat), has stated that beyond Anami is Radhasoami Dham and Dayal Desh, and that these teachings were edited out of the Sar Bachan of Soamiji in the translation of that book by the Beas group under Sawan Singh. Agam Prasad Mathur therefore was saying that the Beas lineage descending from Jaimal Singh - another disciple of Soamiji - through Sawan Singh did not have the full truth. This rather significant alleged difference is little known among radhasoami satsang circles].

   Sant Mat is adamant and unique among the traditions in maintaining that the Vedantins are wrong in their assertion of Brahman as the ultimate reality. This is a major point whose truth or not is at the heart of this entire article:

   "In the Radhasoami faith, the ultimate reality is Radhasoami. In Hinduism and its branches the ultimate reality is Brahman and Isvara. Brahman is considered to be the highest reality in Vedanta. The founders of Radhasoami faith, however, came forward with a new concept. According to them, The Brahman of Vedanta is limited to the second grand division of the creation whom they call "spiritual-material region". They hold that the Brahman is not the true Supreme Being or the highest reality because he is not perfectly free from mind and matter. They assert that though spiritual components predominate in Brahman, there is Maya latent in the seed form and a Supreme Reality having the least admixture of Maya cannot be styled as the highest truth. They envisaged the highest and the first grand division of creation as the region of the true Supreme Being who is absolutely spiritual and totally free from mind and matter. Such a Supreme Being they have named as Radhasoami." (website of Dadaji Maharaj)

   In Sant Mat the “soul” is said to “die” or be absorbed at each succeeding inner region. There is no talk of insight, prajna, or satori such as discussed in Buddhism and other schools. The goal is merger of the soul in the Oversoul, which absorption they say begins in Sach Khand and ends by stages in Anami. On this path, the Godman is all in all. The Sants speak endlessly of the need to first achieve fana-fil-sheikh (annihilation in the Master) as a prelude to fana-fil-Allah (annihilation in God). Ths consists in developing rapt concentration through loving remembrance of the human master and the Master-Power within, to the point of reaching the Master's inner Radiant Form. That, once attained, will, by magnetic attraction, escort the emanated soul to the Sat Purush, which in turn further absorbs the soul into the Absolute. On this path of love and devotion, at each stage there is allegedly both deeper penetration into the Essence within as well as greater interpenetration between the inner and the outer, to the ultimate point of no-difference... In The Crown of Life (1970), Sant Kirpal Singh speaks movingly of this process:

   "This relationship of love between the Satguru and his shishya, the Godman and his disciple, covers many phases and developments...With his greater effort and the greater grace from the Master, the disciple makes increased headway in his inner sadhanas, leading finally to complete transcendence of bodily consciousness. When this transcendence has been achieved, he beholds his Guru waiting in his Radiant Form to receive and guide his spirit on the inner planes. Now, for the first time, he beholds him in his true glory, and realizes the unfathomable dimensions of his greatness. Henceforth he knows him to be more than human and his heart overflows with songs of praise and humble devotion. The higher he ascends in his spiritual journey, the more insistent is he in his praise, for the more intensely does he realize that he whom he once took to be a friend, is not merely a friend but God Himself come down to raise him up to Himself. This bond of love, with its development by degrees, becomes the mirror of his inward progress, moving as it does, from the finite to the infinite.....once it has reached the point where the disciple discovers is teacher in his luminous glory within himself, all analogies are shattered and all comparisons forever left behind; all that remains is a gesture, and then silence...." (p. 185-186)

   The following few paragraphs were part of an earlier article; they may be difficult to understand for those without a philosophic background or familiarity with the thought of Plotinus and Paul Brunton (PB). Nevertheless, they are retained here for those who may find it clarifying. Others may simply skip directly to the "Points for Discussion".

   Paul Brunton and Plotinus teach that an emanent of the individual or unit Soul has penetrated or assumed a body, and it may be traced back to the Individual Soul from which it emanated and evolved through a long process of evolution. The Absolute Soul, which continually births Individual Souls, is inherent in the Intellectual Principle, the Nous, which is forever looking towards its prior, the One. The Absolute Soul is then the first of three degrees of penetration of the silent Void-Mind (Absolute Soul, Intellectual Principle, and the One) for one who has already realized his Soul. In PB’s terms that would be Overself, World-Mind (God), and Mind (Godhead). All of these higher principles are in the silent Void beyond perception, name and form, light and sound. Thus, “Anami” of Sant Mat would as it is described as "without attributes" appear to represent the first degree of merger of the Soul into the Absolute Soul, but not the One per se, in Plotinus' classification. This need not lessen the greatness of such a state, only to outline its potential difference as described and the ultimate goal as stated in other schools. I will be the first to admit his may be entirely wrong.

   Meister Eckhart said:

   “God is infinite in his simplicity and simple in his infinity. Therefore he is everywhere and is everywhere complete. He is everywhere on account of his infinity, and is everywhere complete on account of his simplicity. Only God flows into all things, their very essences. Nothing else flows into something else. God is in the innermost part of each and every thing, only in its innermost part."

   "When the soul enters the light that is pure, she falls so far from her own created somethingness into her nothingness that in this nothingness she can no longer return to that created somethingness by her own power."

   "Blessedness consists primarily in the fact that the soul sees God in herself . Only in God’s knowledge does she become wholly still. There she knows nothing but essence and God. Between that person and God there is no distinction, and they are one. . . Their knowing is one with God’s knowing, their activity with God’s activity and their understanding with God’s understanding."

   "I have occasionally spoken of a light in the soul which is uncreated and uncreatable... This light is not satisfied with the simple, still and divine being which neither gives nor takes, but rather it desires to know from where this being comes. It wants to penetrate to the simple ground, to the still desert, into which distinction never peeped, neither Father, Son nor Holy Spirit. There, in that most inward place, where everyone is a stranger, the light is satisfied, and there it is more inward than it is in itself, for this ground is a simple stillness which is immovable in itself. But all things are moved by this immovability and all the forms of life are conceived by it which, possessing the light of reason, live of themselves.”

   This seems to be speaking of the Soul’s merger into or glimpse of Intellectual Principle, its prior, where the Soul is no longer herself. Could this be Anami of the saints, or is there a further realization that most of them have missed? Be it noted that Dadaji (Agam Prasad Mathur) claimed that Sant Kirpal Singh visited him several times to ask him about this very matter. This is for most of us a rather abstruse point and I promise that the bulk of this article will not be so technically demanding.

   If there is a further stage beyond Anami, called “Radhasoami”, "Dayal Desh" or whatever name be given to the non-dual Reality, then there may be some line of communication between these teachings, but, as mentioned, it is left a mystery in the teaching of Sant Mat where, like in other mystical schools, reasoning on such things is also unfortunately many times discouraged, simply because during the practice of concentration/meditation/dhyana the mental process is temporarily set aside. But that does not justify the denigration of the intellect and reasoning about these matters altogether, especially when so many sages appear to disagree with the interpretation of their inner experiences. Francis Wickes issues a warning:

   ” ‘Thinking hard’ hurts. It turns the sharp point of truth back upon the thinker. It pricks the bubble of ego complacency blown up by thinking easy. Its sharp wound forbids the forgetfulness which is the goal of evasive thinking. If one can forget the inner experience and its challenge can be evaded, the ego can remain comfortably unborn in the womb of the already known.” (1)

   The most difficult and basic question must be asked at the outset, “where is the proof the path of inversion leads to the non-dual Brahman?” Vedanta says that, being non-dual, the One, no effort can lead there, that something more than mere yogic concentration must take place to realize it. V.S. Iyer states:

   “When I am told to go and practice Yoga and then only I shall know its truth, I reply, “How do you know that Yoga leads to truth? This at once involves epistemology of which every yogi is ignorant and which he has never taken into consideration. Yet it is the very foundation of knowledge; without knowing epistemology a man who mentions truth or knowledge simply does not know what he is talking about...Vedanta’s atitude to mystics is, “granting that, if we place ourselves in your position, if we follow up the yoga-practices you prescribe we shall have the same mystic experiences you have had, how are we to know even then that those experiences are the truth? We shall still be faced with that question even after the experience. Hence the need for inquiry, whether before or after into “What is truth?”

   What he is saying is that how do we know that duplicating the death process, in and of itself, through shabd yoga, for instance, leads to the truth, and not just higher states? This is not a call for every seeker to become a great scholar, or even be literate, but if even great sages have disagreed on the nature of their enlightenment, however, where would ordinary souls like us be without The Courage to Question? In the Secret Sayings of Jesus it is said:

   "Let him who seeks not cease in his seeking until he finds;
   and when he finds he will be troubled,
   and if he is troubled, he will marvel,
   and will be a king over the All."

   Paul Brunton (PB) gives his definition of the term shraddha, traditionally meant as faith in the revealed truth of the scriptures:

   "that faith in the existence of truth, that determination to get at truth, come what may, which would make one a hero even in the face of God's wrath."

   And finally, we have these words from scientist Carl Sagan:

   "Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence."

Points for Discussion

1. It is quite a challenge to compare or reconcile the teaching of Sant Mat with any other system than gnostic or mystical schools; their doctrine says that Buddhism, Advaita, and all other yogas are on a lower level, either: (1) because, as they claim, their inner experience progressively reveals this, or (2) because the modern founder of the school, Swami Shiv Dayal Singh (Soamiji), once said so, perhaps in reference to the quality of so-called jnanis and vedantists he came in contact with who were available for comparison at the time - which he mentioned to be largely pundits and not practitioners - but not necessarily, I humbly suggest, from an in-depth study of high Buddhist, Hindu, and other writings or association with sages of the caliber of Ramana Maharshi. Descriptions of the meanings of "Brahman", and "Gyana", are also different than those given in other schools. Soamiji wrote, in Sar Bachan (Prose) (1978 edition):

   “There will be no salvation for Vachak Gyanis (those who only talk Gyan), for they only talk. In the case of true Gyanis, the Sthool Karmas (gross karmas) only are destroyed, but not the Sukshm Karmas (subtle karmas), as they can be destroyed only after reaching the region of the Saints. It must be born in mind that only Saints can lead to salvation in this age, because there can be no salvation unless all Karmas, both gross and subtle, are destroyed, and the Gyanis do not know the technique of destroying karmas.” (p. 138)

   This may be so. One famous zen master said, “first enlightenment, then the bad karma is dealt with.” There may be few who achieve this. Yet many will argue that a gyani or sage like Ramana Maharshi or Shree Atmananda were examples of those who both taught and achieved the transcendance or eradication of not only gross and subtle, but causal or root karmas as well. Kirpal Singh, in his book, The Crown of Life: A Study in Yoga mentioned that Jnana Yoga was a true path, but a steep one and not suited for the average person, but he did not deny its efficacy and even said it was a short-cut for those who had the qualifications for it (In fairness, he also pointed out the pitfalls for those who did not).

   Soamiji wrote:

   “Whoever seeks the Sat Guru will surely find Him, for the Sat Guru is an incarnation eternally present on this earth.” (p. 139)

   However, he then seems to contradicts himself by claiming:

   “Saints are the Incarnations of Sat Purush, and to serve Them is to serve Sat Purush. They did not manifest themselves in the first three Yugas - but They have now incarnated themselves in this Kali Yuga for the redemption of the Jivas.”

   It then gets more complicated when claims are made by other gurus in these lineages that Kabir, a key figure in Sant Mat history, “incarnated in all four ages.”

   Example is often given that Jesus Christ was a perfect master and taught Surat Shabd Yoga, as well as Buddha (as suggested in the Surangama Sutra where it mentions attaining the “diamond samadhi” through the faculty of “intrinsic hearing”), but at other times these past masters are spoken of as incomplete and only reaching to the third plane in realization. Specifically, Charan Singh and Kirpal Singh differed on this. In addition, the path of Sant Mat is sometimes held to have originated with the medievil saints, not with Jesus or more ancient masters. Moreover, Sant Mat teaches that all masters must have a master, but whether Shiv Dayal Singh, the modern founder of the line, for instance, had a master in Tulsi Das is yet a matter of controversy. Agam Prasad Mathur claimed that Soamiji had no guru, whereas the Beas lineage claims that he did. Nanak did not have a master, as far as we know.

   Shiv Dayal Singh didn’t give proof for his claim of the inherent superiority of Sant Mat, he merely stated it was so. Of course, one could say, what proof could he give? - one must realize it for oneself. Yet for the beginner at least, in deciding if one will take up this path, it comes down to whether you believe Soamiji’s cosmology and ontology.. I am not saying whether it is absolute true or not, only that it is an article of faith on this path. Sant Mat would say there are inherent and inevitable paradoxes and mysteries on the path that make description of the inner truths ineffable. True enough, but then that makes comparison with paths of jnana, for instance, impossible, and, in fact, comparative references are mostly only given to that of various saints and mystics within the Sant or Sikh tradition itself.

Some of the differences in the traditional uses of various terms, i.e., brahm, purusha, prakriti, gunas, etc, can be gleaned by the perceptive student from the following description of the four grand divisions of the cosmos according to , by Julian Johnson:

“Sat Desh, the Highest Region

Beginning now from Above, and going downwards, we come first to Sat Desh (Sat, True, and Desh, country: True Country or Far Country). Many other names have been applied to it, such as Nij-Dham, Sat Lok, Mukam-e Haq and Sach Khand. These names are usually applied to the lowest section of Sat Desh, but occasionally to the entire grand division. This is the region or plane of pure spirit. All enjoying the greatest conceivable happiness, its inhabitants are pure spirits in such countless numbers as no man can estimate. It is the supreme heaven of all heavens... It is known to Saints only, who alone can enter it. It cannot be described. In substance and arrangement it is wholly unlike anything known in this world. Neither can the human mind imagine it. This section is so vast in extent that no sort of understanding of it can be conveyed to human intelligence. No mind can grasp it. All that the Saints can say of it is that it is limitless. It is the only region which the great Saints insist is practically limitless. We may say, although no mind can grasp the thought, that it embraces all else, and is both the beginning and the end of all else. It is the great center about which all other worlds revolve. Anything which we might say about it would be incomplete and only partially true, so declare the Saints. If the entire physical universe with its countless millions of suns and their planets were all gathered together in a single cluster, each sun being a million light-years distant from any other sun, yet this entire ensemble would appear no more than a few dark specks floating in the clear and luminous sky of Sat Desh. In that happy country, a sun such as ours, but a thousand times larger, would appear as a tiny dark spot, so very great is the light of that world. This region is the grand capital of all creation, the center of all universes, and the residence of the Supreme Creator-Lord of all. From this center of all light, life and power, the Great Creative Current flows outwards and downwards to create, govern and sustain all regions. It passes out from this region somewhat like the radio emanations going forth from a great broadcasting station. It is the Audible Life Stream, the most important factor in the system of the Masters. This Stream permeates the entire system of universes. A thing of great importance to us is that the music of this ever- flowing current, the stream of life, can be heard by a real Master and also by his students who have advanced even a little on the Path. And let us reiterate that unless a Master teaches his students how this current is to be heard, he is not a Master of the highest order.

This grand headquarters of all creation is the region of immortality. It is unchangeable, perfect, deathless. It is for ever untouched by dissolution or grand dissolution. So are its inhabitants. This region will be referred to many times in this book. It is subdivided into four distinct planes, each having its own characteristics and its own Lord or Governor. But the difference between these subdivisions is very slight. From above downward they are named: Radha Swami Dham (meaning home of the Spiritual Lord). It is also called Anami Lok (meaning nameless region). The next plane below the highest is Agam Lok (Agam, inaccessible, and Lok, place). The third plane is Alakh Lok. (Alakh, invisible and Lok, place). The last of these higher planes is Sach Khand (Sach, truth and Khand home). The last one is also called Sat Lok, the true place. By the Mohammedan Saints it has been called Mukam-e-Haq, meaning of the same as above, the Home of Truth.

The light of all four of these regions is so very intense that it is impossible for any mortal to get an understanding of it. It cannot be described. The great Swami Ji sums up his statements regarding is region by saying simply that "It is all Love.


The second grand division from above downward is Brahmanda, (meaning, the egg of Brahm, as said before). This refers to its shape and also to the Governor or Lord who is its ruler. This Brahm is supposed by most of the old rishis to be the supreme being of all creation, because they knew of no one higher. But the Saints know that there is not only one Brahm, but countless numbers of Brahms, who are governors over so many Brahmandas. For it must be understood that there are countless Andas and Brahmandas, each circling about the supreme region in its own orbit. And each of them has its own governor or ruler. Brahm was the highest God known to the ancient rishi or yogi, and so the name of Brahm is retained by the Saints to designate the ruler of the "Three Worlds," including the physical universe, the Anda and lower portion of Brahmanda, named Trikuti. The upper portion of Brahmanda is called Par Brahm.

As said before, this grand division is mostly spirit in substance, but is mixed with a certain amount of pure, spiritualized matter. It is the finest order of matter, and that includes mind. This is called the "spiritual-material region," because spirit dominates the region. The substance of that division gradually becomes less and less concentrated as we descend toward the negative pole of creation. The lower portions become coarser in particle, and more and more mixed with matter. In the lower end of Brahmanda mind is supreme. It is practically all mind, for mind itself is material of the finest order. Of course, even mind is mixed with spirit substance to some slight extent, otherwise it could not exist. All worlds become a shade darker as we descend, because there is less and less of spirit substance in the composition. Trikuti, the lowest section of Brahmanda, is the home of Universal Mind. It is from that region that all individual minds are derived, and to that region all minds must return when they are discarded during the upward flight of the spirit. Brahmanda is extremely vast in area when compared with the physical universe, but small when compared with the first grand division. It is itself subdivided into many distinct regions or planes. Some mention six subdivisions; but as a matter of fact, there are scores of subdivisions in that one grand division, almost numberless subdivisions, each constituting a separate and distinct world. Divisions and subdivisions shade into one another so imperceptibly that it is not easy to say just where one ends and another begins. This accounts in part for the many different descriptions of those regions, and the great variety of names assigned to them.

Anda, The Lowest of the Heavens

It lies nearest to the physical universe. Its capital is called Sahasra dal Kanwal, meaning a Thousand-petalled Lotus
[right here Dr. Johnson substitutes the common yogic terminology of sahasrar for sahans (dal kanwal) to give justification for the far superior nature of the Path of the Masters; but as we shall see, Sahans Dal Kanwal, is described by Soamiji himself as being an eight-petalled lotus, not a thousand]. Its name is taken from the great cluster of lights which constitute the most attractive sight when one is approaching that world. This great group of lights is the actual "power house" of the physical universe. Out of that power house flows the power that has created and now sustains all worlds in our group. Each of those lights has a different shade of tint and they constitute the most gorgeous spectacle as one enters that magnificent city of light. In that city of splendors may be seen also many other interesting and beautiful things. Also, here may be seen millions of earth's most renowned people of all ages of our history. Many of them are today residents of this great city and country. Naturally they are quite happy. It is far superior to anything ever seen on this earth. Yet this is but the first station on the upward Path of the Masters.

This region constitutes the negative part of all the superphysical zones. That is, it lies most distant from the positive pole of creation. This region is sometimes classified as a part of Brahmanda, but the Saints prefer to consider it as a separate grand division of creation. It has many distinctive features of its own. Lying nearest to the physical universe, it forms the port of entry for all the higher regions. All souls who are passing to still higher regions must pass through it. The great majority of human souls at the time of death pass to some sub-plane of this region. But very few, comparatively, go direct to this central portion of the Sahans dal Kanwal region. It is through all of these regions that the Masters and their disciples must travel on their way to higher worlds. This section of creation is not immortal or imperishable. Neither are its inhabitants. Many of its inhabitants believe that they have attained immortality because their lives there go on for extremely long periods. All below that is subject to death and dissolution. There are two kinds of dissolutions. The one, simple dissolution" which reaches up to the lowest section in Brahmanda, the region called Trikuti; this occurs after many millions of years, and the other, the grand dissolution" which occurs after immeasurably long periods of time and extends up to the top of Brahmanda. Of course, both of these dissolutions include the entire physical universe, every sun, moon and planet in it. At that time every star and its satellites are wiped out, and then follows a period of darkness equal in duration to the life of the universe. When the period of darkness has expired, a new creation is projected, and the heavens are once more alive with sparkling stars. With each new creation begins a new "Golden Age" for each planet and its inhabitants. But between minor dissolutions there are also periods of renewal for the life of each planet when Golden Ages succeed dark ages. There is a general idea, finding its way into most religions, that this world is to come to an end. And so the Masters teach. But the end is a very different proposition to what it is generally supposed to be. It will come at a time when all worlds of the physical universe will be dissolved, and after periods of darkness and silence, new worlds will take their places. The inhabitants of all of those worlds to be dissolved are drawn up to higher regions in a sort of comatose state to be replaced upon these worlds when they are ready for human habitation. They will then begin a new life here under more favorable conditions. These periodic dissolutions come to the physical universe after many, many hundreds of millions of years. No man need worry now, lest that time is near at hand. It is many aeons away yet.

The Grand Division of Pinda -- The Physical Plane/Multiverse of Dark Matter and Light

The fourth grand division, beginning from above, is called Pinda. It is the gross material or physical universe. Here coarse matter predominates, there being but a small percentage of mind and a still smaller amount of spirit. Our earth is a small and insignificant member of Pinda. It embraces all the suns and their planets known or unknown, to astronomy. It extends out into space far beyond the reach of any telescope. Astronomers have never been able to count these worlds; although as their instruments become more perfect, the range of their observations is extended. Who shall set limits or indicate bound to those starry depths? Who can number the numberless? Who can circumscribe the boundless? To the farthest extent of space wherever there is a material sun or a speck of dust they are all included in this fourth grand division which the Masters call Pinda.

In this division, coarse material predominates. Permeating this coarse material are many finer substances, including mind, and last of all there is a modicum of spirit to give life to all the rest. In this lowest of all divisions of creation there is but little light and a very low grade of life when compared with Brahmanda. But if compared with Sat Desh, this world is pitch darkness and the life here, in comparison to that, is scarcely cognizable at all. Its substance is coarse, clumsy, inert, and full of all manner of imperfections. These imperfections, as said before, are due to the paucity of spirit at this pole. This condition of negativity is the soil out of which all evil grows. However real it may seem to us, negativity is the absence of reality, and the absence of reality is the absence of spirit. Food is a reality to us, but hunger is also a real condition to our consciousness. But hunger is due to the absence of food. In its last analysis, all pain, longing, all desire is only a cry of the mind and soul for more light, more spirit. In like manner, evil is due to, the absence of spirit. And the reason we have so small a percentage of spirit substance at this end of creation is because this is the negative pole of all creation. Pinda is the extreme negative pole. It is consequently so far depleted of spirit that it lies in a state of semi-death, a condition of heavy inertia over which broods deep shadow.

Out of this condition rise all the manifold difficulties experienced by mortals on this plane of life. As one leaves this lowest plane and begins to ascend toward the positive pole of creation, the light increases, and hence more life, more beauty and more happiness. This is all entirely due to the increase in the percentage of spirit on the several planes. Love, power, wisdom, rhythm, perfection of every sort take the place of negative conditions which prevail in the lower sections of the universe.

It should be said here, with all possible emphasis, that just in proportion to the degree of spirit substance prevailing in any region, world, person or thing, will its perfections be manifest. And vice versa, in proportion to the lack of spirit, imperfections will show themselves. In proportion as matter predominates, those states which we call evil will manifest. A depletion of spirit, is therefore, the one fatal disease of the physical universe. Out of that state all other diseases spring up. In the last analysis, we believe there is but one disease in the world -- spiritual anemia.”

   [Notice that Julian Johnson uses the term "sahsra dal kanwal and "thousand-petalled lotus" to describe the first inner region. As will be shown, Soamiji used the term "Sahans dal Kanwal" and said this region had only an eight-petalled lotus. This has significance in comparing other schools of yoga with Sant Mat].

   Continuing, we have a more lyrical description of creation by Huzur Maharaj:

“A current issued forth from the feet of SOAMI [Lord]. It is the Prime Current and the Creator of the entire creation.

The Name of that ADI DHARA. (Prime Current) is RADHA [Soul]. THAT alone is the doer and dispenser of every activity.

The Source or Origin or Fountain-head from whom the Prime Current emanated, is ADI SOAMl (Absolute Lord) of all.

Where that current halted in its descent, the creation of Agam Lok [Inaccessible Plane] was brought into being.

Agam Lok is a vast sphere. It encompasses all the creation.

The entire creation below is being cradled just in a small nook of Agam Lok.

On completion of the creation of Agam Lok, a current issued forth from there.

It descended and halted, and evolved the creation of Alakh Lok [Invisible Region or Plane].

When the sphere of Alakh Lok was formed in the above manner, the current descended, and created Sat Lok.

Sat Lok [Plane or Realm of Truth] is the Dham (Abode) of Sat Purush, and is inhabited by Hansas.

Each of the Hansas [souls] has a dweep (island) to himself. They are absorbed in the Darshan [Vision] of Sat Purush.

Up to here is the creation of Sat (Truth) or pure spirit. Neither Maya nor cruel Kal exists here.

There is neither any desire nor any work. All are absorbed in the Darshan of Sat Purush and feed on Amrit (ambrosia).

All live in perfect harmony and enjoy rapturous bliss. There is no trace of pain and anguish due to Kal [god of time-death- illusion] and there is no burden of Karma.

For a considerable period of time the creation remained like this - a region of Truth and pure bliss.

Time, The "Fall" of Kal, the Gnostic "Demiurge" or Universal Mind

Then, from the lower portion of Sat Pur (Sat Lok) emanated a Shyam (blue) current. It came down and underwent considerable expansion and ramification.

It remained constantly engaged in the Sewa (service) of Purush but, inwardly, it was cherishing some other desire.

It disclosed its mind thus, "0 Sat Purush [God]! 0 Merciful One and Giver of all things! Grant me the sovereignty of a separate region, and furnish me with the seed of Surat. Life here is not suited to me. Your region is not agreeable to me."

Hearing this, Purush replied, "Get out from this place. You are a nuisance here. Go and evolve a creation for yourself in the lower part of the pre-creational neutral zone. Take your seat there and rule over that dominion."

The name of that current is Niranjan. It has all the characteristics of Kal.

Purush evolved another current with a yellow hue. Its name is Adya.

By the order of Purush, this other current was sent down. It associated with Niranjan.

In Sunn, they came to be known as Purush and Prakriti, and in Trikuti, as Maya and Brahm.

They halted in Sahas-dal-kanwal, from where the three Gunas (qualities) came into being.

Here, Adya assumed the form of Jyoti, and Niranjan assumed a dark blue complexion.
They first brought into being Brahm-srishti.
Then, the creation of Triloki (three worlds) was evolved.

Niranjan then engaged himself in Dhyan (contemplation) of Purush (Sat Purush).
Jyoti took upon herself the burden of looking after the creation.

The three Gunas or gods became her assistants. They evolved the rest of the creation.”

-- Huzur Maharaj, from "Prem Bani Radhasoami", Volume Four, Agra, India

   This appears to be a derivation from the Sar Bachan of Soamiji, and, in turn, possibly the Anurag Sagar of Kabir, of which we will hear more about later. In the first description of the inner regions given above, it is noteworthy that Julian Johnson uses the term "Sahasra dal Kanwal" and equates it with the Sahasrara or thousand-petalled lotus as traditionally mentioned in yoga, particularly kundalini yoga. Sar Bachan Poetry, Part II, p. 277, by Soamiji, however, clearly states that Sahans dal Kanwal is a region of an eight-petalled lotus - followed by a lotus of twelve petals in Trikuti, thirteen in Sunn, and ten at Maha-Sunn. It is also of interest that further on in Sar Bachan, on page 394-395, it is stated that there are twelve "kanwals" or ganglia or lotuses in the human microcosm. Six are the traditional chakras in the spine from the coccyx or muladara up to the eyes or ajna chakra. The next three would be unique although not unheard of in the literature outside of Sant Mat, and appear to be centers deeper within the brain, although the impression given is that one is to believe that they are out of the body altogether. But is this so?

   Soamiji says that the seventh Kanwal is Sahans dal Kanwal, the eighth is in Trikuti, and the ninth is at Daswan Dwar (considered the tenth door or tenth orifice, the other nine being the lower, external bodily orifices). This will suggest to some that the tenth orifice is at the brahmarendra or top of the head, and that the other preceding kanwals are experienced as the attention moves through the structures of the brain (including the "sky of mind" in the braincore) before passing out or beyond through the corona radiata into what may be the true sahasrara. Are kanwals or chakras seven through nine actually between the midbrain to the top of the brain, and experienced as attention curves through the ventricles and corpus collosum before passing out through the corona - or not? This begs for elucidation. Sant Rajinder Singh has said that one will have proof that there is life after death when one reaches the third inner plane. This seems like it would only would make sense if the first two inner regions are really experienced before death in the domain of the braincore itself, otherwise why wouldn’t one have proof that there is life after death when he reaches the first inner plane? I have an answer, but will give it shortly. Radhasoami gurus Huzur Maharaj and Maharaj Saheb in their writings both added the interesting but confusing comment that the doorway to the lower subtle regions was in the gray matter while the doorway to the "purely spiritual" regions was in the white matter. Rumi, too, said, "in the folds of thy brain lie wonderous regions."

   Soamiji stated: "I give out details of the ganglia, I have seen within my body. Twelve Kanwals (lotuses, ganglia) are found in the human microcosm." What are we to make of this, then, in light of the statement of the sage Ramana Maharshi, that "the light in the brain is but the reflected light of the Heart" ?

   Yogis like Swami Sivananda taught that spiritual illumination comes when the kundalini or shakti passes through the lower chakras, purifying one of gross attachment, and then finally rising into the sahasrara. The Kriya yoga of Paramhansa Yogananda held to a similar idea of purification and also considered the sahasrar not as an actual chakra per se but the doorway to the infinite. Some argue that Nirvikalpa Samadhi is the end result of this process, while there have been traditional tantric gurus who have argued that through the union of Shiva and Shakti a non-dual awakening may even ensue from such an experience. I ask a question, therefore, at the outset of this article: Is the sahasrara or thousand-petalled lotus the same as the eight-petalled lotus of Sahans Dal Kanwal in Sant Mat, or does it really represent something more comprehensive than that? Soamiji goes on to list the tenth kanwal as in Maha-sunn, the eleventh at Bhanwargupha, and the twelfth at Sat Lok. These are all still considered in the "human microcosm". Is it possible, then, that the highest reach or depth of the true Sahasrara is really Sat Lok, with further absorption into the wordless and formless state of Anami actually traditional ascended Nirvikalpa Samadhi? If it isn't, why isn't it? Personally I don’t think it is, but the explanation is complex. We will get to it later. This is not to diminish the realization of Anami, but rather to suggest categorizing Nirvikalpa in its traditional yogic profundity. While it may not represent final enlightenment, it is still said to be no small thing. Can it be that there are semantic differences between the traditions that cloud our understanding? The answer to this is, "yes," and will be addressed as we go along.

   But we are getting ahead of ourselves. There is much ground to cover before returning to this important topic.

2. Despite the promises of Soamiji, "Unless I see with my own eyes, I will not believe the sayings of the Master,” and “Know yourself by yourself, and do not rely on the sayings of anyone else,” therefore, much still seems to be expected to be believed without argument from the beginning. It is common in Sant Mat to say that “all Masters speak of the same path” and that its teaching is the same as many teachings throughout the ages. This makes the path sound like the highest and also helps legitimize it. It is said that Jesus, Buddha, and other classic figures all taught the same thing. But one can easily reach the conclusion they did NOT teach the same thing, at least not as historically recorded. In none of the schools of high Buddhism is shabd yoga taught, nor is there undisputed evidence that Jesus did so, other than a few oblique references in the gospels that are interpreted to suggest that he did. I am not saying they did one way or the other. There is obviously subtle light and sound experiencible within. That is not at issue. The point, however, is that one must assume that Jesus and Buddha taught this specific method of yoga in private only to a select few in order to justify such a claim.There is actually some evidence of this, in the apochryphal gospels of Judas and Mary. There is also the problem that any number of mystical schools, such as Kriya Yoga, also attempt to gain legitimacy by claiming Jesus as one of their own.

   If someone adheres to a particular ideology, he tends to defend it in the terms of that ideology itself instead of from a position of intellectually neutral comparative analysis. If one is a follower of another path, or if an initiate is decided to be seen as not a ‘good’ satsangi, for instance, it it sometimes argued that their practice or thoughts the work of Kal or the negative power instead of tackling the criticisms themselves. This is no longer a justifiable position as mankind gets less and less provincial in its communication with each other. The teachings must be able to withstand debate from without and not just within. Otherwise, I ask, what is the purpose of having conferences like the World Fellowship of Religions and Unity of Man, such as were held by my guru, Sant Kirpal Singh? I say this with all due respect; it is time for the light of truth to be shed on the Path of the Masters - as well as all other paths (and “non-paths”). It is now time for philosophy (the “love of truth”), and no longer the time for religion and theology. In order to proceed further on the path, one must get to square one, or what the Buddha called “Right View”, or otherwise no matter how far one appears to advance he may not reach the highest truth.

   Shabd gurus do make a point of encouraging people to examine the path critically, but then once that is done and the seeker has "made up his mind", he or she is advised he should follow the master's instructions, etc., and not worry about thinking anymore. But for many this is not enough. How many initiates, moreover, truly make an in-depth investigation of the path as it compares with others before making their decision? Even if one has, a true path must be able to withstand any new arguments that arise, for how can one be certain that he has examined all the issues in his initial study? Must one ignore new questions or criticisms that arise just because he has committed himself to a path? If, on the other hand, one relies only on his immediate feelings in making such a decision, such feelings are unfortunately subject to error as well as change when later held up against the light of reason and experience. So understanding, even just intellectual understanding, can not be bypassed.

   Seeking is supposedly about discovering truth. Therefore, it appears someone must ask the questions raised below, and I risk the wrath of the faithful and even God if need be to do so. It was never my intention to be in such a position. I would rather just revel in inner bliss and a simple guru-devotee relationship. Yet my master confounded my assumptions, called me his friend, and in the end said I was a new man and that I should tell everyone so. Therefore, as Ramanuja once shouted from the rooftop while saying what he was told not to say, “I don’t care if I go to hell if it will help one soul find the truth.” I do hope that more than a few as well as my heart-friend will find me unworthy of damnation for this investigation.

   There has, before we finish with this section, also been an ongoing controversy among Sant Mat teachers (beginning with Faqir Chand) whether it is actually the Master who "gives" anyone a contact with the inner light and sound, or whether he merely points out the technique for the disciple to find out what is already there. I believe both of these may be the case, depending on the lineage one is a part of and the guru’s competency therein. In the line of Kirpal Singh, it is claimed that it is the Master Power, directly or indirectly, which can and will (at initiation) actually drag the attention of the initiate within to grant him experiences, and many can attest to that first hand. Personally, I believe they can and do. In other lineages within Sant Mat, this is not promised, and there are apparently some masters who are only competent to give meditation instructions, but no “transmission”. This will all be discussed further below.

3. This promise of an experience at initiation (as a boost on the way, and as proof of the guru’s competency) was started by Kirpal Singh, and most initiates of that lineage (Darshan Singh, Rajinder Singh) do experience something, even before their official initiation (which is said to be the moment of thought-transference from the Master, not necessarily the actual time of the official initiation), sometimes shortly after, which promise is not the case with initiates in the Beas or Agra line. I believe there is a divine siddhi involved, at least in the Kirpal lineage, whereby the Masters, whether consciously, or unconsciously through their own inner attunement, can temporarily invert the attention of their disciples, but does that guarantee the ability to grant or produce eventual enlightenment, or that the guru himself is completely is enlightened? It would certainly elevate him beyond the ordinary teacher, that is not in question. And this is not meant to disparage or criticize this path, only to seek understanding. Many teachers on other paths, like Ranmakrishna and Yogananda, have been able to give temporary experiences of the preliminary inner stages of mystic light and sound; Sant Mat claims that they will only be able to take their disciples so far, and not to the highest, which requires a Divine commission. This may be true, but, again, it is a matter of faith on this path.

   4. There is a controversy within Sant Mat that begs for a more adequate explanation. This pertains to the role and nature of the Master’s subtle radiant form. There may certainly be paradox and divine mystery involved, but there is no reason for obscurity. For example, Sawan Singh said since the physical master could not possibly be in contact with thousands of disciples at one time, therefore he creates an "astral duplicate" that resides in the third eye of the initiate and which looks over him and only “reports”, as it were, to the master when something really important needs personal attention. The Master Power, not the physical master, is otherwise constantly looking after the disciple once he is initiated.

   One is sometimes advised to seek the company of one’s guru’s successor, but continue contemplating only on one’s own guru’s form, when it appears. Sant Mat in general claims that the form is “real”, and that all true masters are one and may appear. There have been some spiritual schools which denigrate or lessen the value of such a form by arguing that it is only a mental projection from the disciple's own mind or soul, saying that Christians see Jesus, Hindus see Krishna, etc. That, however, doesn’t mean such an “ishta” as mentioned on the Path of the Masters is not real, or is a product of the gross imagination of a disciple, but the question does arise whether it is a product of the deeper mind and ultimately the soul or Overself of the disciple, and not necessarily “God” or the guru directly. It would certainly have to be a lofty definition of Soul to account for the radiant form of a living who appears of Himself. Yet PB describes the philosophic view:

   "It is the mystic's ego which constructs the image of his teacher or saviour, and his Overself [divine Soul] which animates that image with divine power. This explains why earnest pupils of false teachers have made good progress and why saviors dead for thousands of years still seem to help their followers."

"Only when well-advanced does he learn that the help he thinks he got from a guru came often from the Universal Being. It was his own personal thoughts which supplied the guru image, but the power which worked was from that Being."
(Notebooks. Vol. 16, Part 1, 5.183,189)

   The key words here are, “only when well-advanced.” Of course, this is a paradox. Supposedly at the highest level Mind, God, Soul, and Master are all One. There can certainly, moreover, also be telepathic and transcendental help from the master even without the presence of the form, and even whether or not one is receptive or aware of it. Even the master may not necessarily be aware of it, and yet still be a conduit for such help. Again, PB explains:

   "The conscious personal mind of the teacher may know nothing of the help that is radiating from him to one who silently calls on him from a long distance, yet the reality of that help remains." (Ibid, Vol. 2, 6.744).

   This was precisely Baba Faqir Chand's position. Furthermore, PB affirms that the blessing of the attention of a sage, given even once, is so profound that its effects may manifest over the course of some years:

   "The guide may send his blessing telepathically only once but if it is powerful enough it may work itself out through a hundred different experiences extending over several years. Because he identifies himself with the timeless spaceless soul, his blessing may express itself anywhere in space and anywhere in time. Moreover he may formulate it in a general way but it may take precise shapes unconsciously fashioned by and suited to a recipient's own mentality and degree of development....Just as the sun does not need to be aware of every individual plant upon which it sheds its beneficent life-giving growth-stimulating rays, so the master does not need to be aware of every individual disciple who uses him as a focus for his meditations or as a symbol for his worship. Yet each disciple will soon realize that he is receiving from such activities a vital inward stimulus, a real guidance and definite assistance. This result will develop the power unconsciously drawn from the disciple's own higher self, which in turn will utilize the mental image of the master as a channel through which to shed its grace." (Notebooks, Vol. 2, 6.752, 784)

   Not only Faqir Chand, but Sant Rajinder Singh has in so many words affirmed that this is more or less how it works. Only in rare instances does the incarnate master personally involve himself in the disciple's personal inner life, but his own higher self is like a grand switchboard into which the many, many disciples are plugged into. The help or grace goes "over the head" of the adept as it were, but it is no less real. PB writes:

   "With a teacher, it is the inward relationship that matters. What, then, is going to happen when there is only one Teacher and many thousands of students? How can all the wishes, dreams, and thoughts reach him, yet leave him time for his work? Obviously, it cannot be done. So Nature steps in and helps out. She has arranged a system very much like a telephone swithboard. The incoming "calls" are plugged into the subconscious mind of the Teacher. The "line" itself is composed out of the student's own faith and devotion; he alone can make this connection. Then, his wishes, dreams, and thoughts travel along it to the subconscious of the teacher, where they are registered and dealt with accordingly to their needs. In this way, they do reach the Teacher, who can, at the same time, attend to his work. Sometimes Nature deems it advisable to transfer a particular message to the conscious level. In such a case, it may be answered on either the conscious or subconscious level. Occasionally, too, the teacher deliberately sends one out when he is guided to do so." (Notebooks, Vol. 16, , Part 1, 5.273)

   The latter could account for visions of a Master's form that appear to people who have never even heard of the Master before, but were destined to meet. This happens with frequency in Sant Mat.

   To be sure, once again, there does seem to be a difference between a form which comes of itself in meditation, and stands before the Master's charged words, than simply a subconscious manifestation of a disciple's (culturally or religiously) conditioned mind (again, such as when Christians tend to see visions of Christ, and Hindus of Krishna, etc.). The Kirpal lineage of Sant Mat Masters' forms have appeared to many who had never even heard of them before. This would contradict the theory that it is just a manifestation of one's subconscious mind in every instance. If a true Master is indeed a mouthpiece of the Absolute Soul, or God, however, due to the purity and depth of his realization, then his Gurudev or radiant subtle form is certainly a glorious thing which could be imprinted or arise within and attract the soul and mind of his chela or disciple, and which thus is inherently divine and even non-dual. This could be considered a true vision.

   Baba Faqir Chand, a Sant Mat guru who was a disciple of Shiv Brat Lal, and who was recognized by Sawan Singh, discovered that many miracles and appearances of his form to his disciples occurred without any awareness on his part. He concluded that the form was a product of the disciple's imagination or faith, and not the Master, and he taught likewise, changing the teachings of Sant Mat at the behest of his guru and with the blessing of Sawan Singh. Perhaps Faqir's most radical departure from the teaching of Sant Mat was in his claim that all visions were "phantasmagoria", akin to the after-death appearances that the Tibetan Book of the Dead warns are products of one's own mind. Faqir went from considering the things he saw inside as objectively real to seeing them as subjective mental creations, and he increasingly asked the question, "who" sees the visions, and "who" hears the sounds?" He apparently never got the full fruit of the enquiry in the form of firm knowledge of the Self, but what he wrote, however, is interesting:

   “On the basis of my experiences I say that solution to all our worldly afflictions is beyond the mental realms. Go even beyond the state of thoughtlessness. Spirituality begins from thoughtlessness or the state of Mahasunna. I am indebted to those who consider me as Guru. They helped me to go beyond the mental realms. Now my Sadhana is of the Surat and not of the mind. But you cannot reach this stage so easily because you have the desires for name, fame, and wealth. Therefore, the teachings of the saints are not for the public in general. Do you think that the present method for initiation adopted by the Gurus is for the well-being of mankind? Decidedly not. These Gurus are doing this all for their own name, fame, and centers. This method of initiation would ruin those who get it because they are not aware of the thoughts of their subconscious mind. They do not know the power and the secret of their thoughts.”

   “O man, your own mind is your Guru and the follower. Understand this secret from the Sat Sang of the realized man. Entertain noble and constructive thoughts and make your life. None can help you. Even a saint who dwells in light and sound cannot do anything for you. I dwell in light and sound, but I cannot do anything for you. After a long struggle, I have reached the stage of complete surrender to Him. It is all your faith.”

   “This life is a bubble of consciousness. This bubble is the creation of His will and it will vanish at His will. I am nothing, but still, I am everything. I have been a son, brother, husband, and father, but I do not ensnare myself in this world of attachments. This is the essence of all the religions, but none tries to understand it. What is to happen must happen, so why make hue and cry? Saints live in the state of forgetfulness.”

   “For me, the spontaneous form is that I am a bubble of consciousness. I do not claim that I am a God. He who claims himself as Brahma is not a practical man. He may be intelligent and well-read. If someone is really Brahma, let him do some good to the suffering humanity, or at least save himself from sorrows and pain. None can do it. All harvest the fruit of deeds.”
(from Truth Always Wins by Baba Faqir Chand)

   Many have argued, based Faqir's book, that the master's form is therefore a projection of the disciple's own mind, yet I feel this concluson is unwarranted in many cases. Many people who never heard of a certain master before have had their inner darshan, and this does not seem to be simply a projection of their inner desire or pre-conditioned mental tendency. The true guru's radiant subtle form can appear where and when he wishes, and, it is claimed, God or the Sat Purush can project it in the same manner. Sant Darshan Singh, without refuting Faqir Chand's principle critiques, felt that he was misguided about Sant Mat. But others no doubt feel the same way towards him, so what's a poor boy to do?

   There is also the vast issue to explore of the teaching that there are reflections of higher regions in lower ones, which each have seven sub-levels, that can deceive those without the highest insight or help of one who has accessed such regions. Neither Faqir Chand nor the Kriya lineage speaks of the help of the inner guide to the extent that the teachers of Sant Mat do. It is, however, beyond the scope of this article to get into this fascinating issue in depth.

   Dr. I.C. Sharma, successor to the radical and iconoclastic Faqir, didn’t follow the latter's thinking that the form is 'merely a subjective vision', i.e., a personal creation, but that it was important to visualize and concentrate on it in the lower planes as long as one realized it wasn’t the be all and end all. In other words, the stages are necessary. Sant Kirpal Singh said (in Godman, p. 108) of the gurudev or radiant form of the master, that "even the Saints adore this form and derive ecstatic delight from it." And it is part of the humility and divine physics of the lineage that all masters defer to their own master, even after their realization. This helps keep the transmission of the lineage pure. So even though a Master is merged in the light beyond any form of his master, and in the great Beyond beyond that, he still gets charm from his master's subtle form. And why not? He gets charm from all forms as well. While he is a Master now, in his own right, for conventions sake and an outward show of humility these masters usually defer to their own master as the doer and source of grace.

   Still, PB wrote on the terminal stages of the path of devotion:

   “This last stage, where the presence and picture of the Master are displaced by the pictureless presence of the disciple's own spirit, is accurately described in the words of Jesus to his disciples: "It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you ... when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth." Any other interpretation of them leaves them without reasonable meaning...When a man has at last found himself, when he has no longer any need for an outside human Symbol but passes directly to his own inner reality, he may stand shoulder to shoulder with the teacher in the oldest, the longest, and the greatest of struggles.”

   "The teacher is a support needed by the disciple to help him progress through successive stages of the quest, as they are stages of thinning illusion. When he stands on the threshold of reality, then the last and thinnest illusion of all must be left behind, the support of any being outside himself, apart from himself, for within him is the infinite life-power."
(Notebooks, Vol. 2, 6.590; Vol. 16, Part 1, 5.285-286; Vol. 2, 6.859))

   I Therefore at some point the disciple must stand on his own two feet. As PB wrote:

   "In the end he must inwardly walk alone - as must everyone else however beloved - since God allows no one to escape this price." (Notebooks, Vol. 2, 3.325)

   Sant Mat holds that in Sach Khand you are not strictly speaking seeing a mere vision but "God as a person" as the Sat Purush. The advaitists, of course, disagree, but solely on philosophical grounds, as they have not had this experience, nor do they have a concepton other than a unidimensional one of experience beyond the conceptual mind. Contemporary anadi stands out among the direct path type of teacher in maintaining that beyond the mind lies more than one experience - consciousness - but several stages of deepening into being, realisation of the soul, and realisation of God. He says that the commonly accepted non-duality of consciousness is only beyond the gross level of duality created by the mind, but beyond that there is in reality a subtle duality of soul and God, which is what the sants say also. But the advaitists believe that the impersonal subject of experience is the absolute; they don’t recognise that there are more than one type of experience ‘beyond the mind’, and two impersonal subjects: soul and the universal subjectivity, God, the I AM. Sri Nisargadatta, however, said, “ As long as you think yourself to be a person, He too is a person. When you are all, you see Him as all.” (I AM THAT, p. 88). This is an absolute type of statement, and may not reflect the full nature of reality. Vedantist V.S. Iyer, a teacher of Paul Brunton, and Ramakrishna Order monks Nikhilinanda and Siddeswarananda, wrote that "even if you see Sat Purush, it is just a thought" and "He who says he sees the Sat Purush inside in meditation is no sage." This is a radical conception indeed, as in Sant Mat the mind is supposedly left off at the level of the causal plane, two realms below Sach Khand, and Sat Purush is supposed to be an inherent eternal reality. While advaita admits of no creation or causation (ajata), it does allow, says Nikhilinanda, for the Effulgent Nature of Reality to appear as if there were creation, and from the position of Reality there is no separation between the Real and its manifestation. Only from the empirical standpoint do they posit Maya as Transcendental Illusion responsible for our ignorant perception of creation. In Truth, there is no separation, and nothing needs negating. All is one.

   Ramana also spoke of God as a person, the "first person" or "I" in the Heart, but nevertheless beyond the vision of light. Scripture tells us, “No man sees God and lives.” Iyer stated:

   "Ideas never reach Atman. The mind never knows it. He who says he has a vision of the highest or describes it as supra-mental, etc., does not understand Atman, because it is free from imaginations." (Commentaries, Vol. 1; see note 29).

   According to Iyer, it may not be a personal vision at the level of a dream or a product of one’s personal mind, but it is still in the realm of the imagination, albeit at the highest level. Even if it is the great vision of light, there is still a perceiver; when the perceiver is gone, then who sees what, and who has merged with what? This is an important question. And it is where it is necessary to bow to the fact that there is Atman and there is Paramatma. The universal projection is not a product of the soul, but of Paramatma. So it is not just imagination. Epistemological considerations just do not apply so rigidly here. The Sants would say that beyond the ego the soul sees and cognizes by virtue of her own light. The Sat Purush, chief principality of Sach Khand, absorbs the soul(not the ego, but the soul, freed from all coverings of koshas) further on into the Nameless One. And despite Soamiji's lyrical descriptions of Sach Khand, any sense of separation or bifurcation of the mind into percever and perceived, as in the lower orders of creation, is supposedly non-existent here. The Sants insist this is a purely spiritual realm, with mind and matter left far behind.

   Sant Darshan has written that after traversing the physical, astral, and causal planes," the soul no longer has mind, but perceives and understands with its own light." Yet, one might ask, can the soul by its own light perceive and understand anything other than Itself, without a vehicle (i.e., kosha) to do so? Anthony Damiani gives the traditional philosophical argument:

   “Any mystical state, any dream state, any wakeful state is a content and an object of consciousness. Different ones are going to demonstrate different characteristics, and there’s going to be an infinite array of possibilities, but the point to be grasped is that every one of them is an idea to consciousness and that the mind puts forth its own ideas and then experiences them....If you go to a higher level than this one, it will still be a content of consciousness; and if you go to an even higher level, or even to the level of being itself, there will always be a content of consciousness....That’s why it is so important to grasp this principle firmly. Hold on to it, because with it you will be able to analyze all experience and tear apart any misconceptions you have....This is true of all the seven levels of existence, even if you live in the angelic world. So if someone came from another level of existence and said, “Yes, but your analysis doesn’t hold for my plane of existence,” I would say, “Is it a content? Is it an experience for you? Is it a world that you are perceiving? Is there a perception taking place? You know it? Yes? Then it’s subject to the same analysis.” That’s how it cuts through everything and that’s why this teaching is direct and the most comprehensive one you will find. This teaching has been around for thousands of years and it won’t disappear.”(1)

   “Mystical experiences are still on a penultimate stage of the imagination. You become aware of that. And no amount of superlatives will take you away from that stage....it’s still not [ultimate] reality." (2)

   “PB wrote The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga prior to reaching the jivanmukta [liberation in life] stage. And the statement he makes there is that through personal feeling and intuition he had already grasped the fact that the mystical level is not dominated by reality, and is not that reality. But it would only be a person who has disciplined and developed an extreme rational consciousness who would be able to see through the superlative effulgence of the mystic state, and see its shortcomings.”(3)

   The great Sankara said in his commentary to the Brahma Sutras:

   "The highest beatitude is not to be attained through Yoga." [although yoga is a useful preliminary to concentrate the mind and prepare it for inquiry into Truth]

   Why do some high paths, such as the Tibetan school of Dzogchen, teach that the goal of meditation is not to go inside? Surely they know of the existence of the tenth door and the inner realms. Why did a venerated master such as HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche say not to strive for advanced states and inner bliss?

   "We should realise that the purpose of meditation is not to go "deeply into ourselves" or withdraw from the world. Practice should be free and non-conceptual, unconstrained by introspection and concentration...The everyday practice of dzogchen is just everyday life itself. Since the undeveloped state does not exist, there is no need to behave in any special way or attempt to attain anything above and beyond what you actually are. There should be no feeling of striving to reach some "amazing goal" or "advanced state."

   There is a reason for this, too, which we shall reveal shortly when we attempt to tie all of this together.

   On the positive side, even Ramana Maharshi said that "visions are better than no visions," in so far as they indicate an increasing depth of concentration, but that they must be gone beyond before true Self-Realization. All school say that. In Sant Mat the only "visions" or perceptible phenomena to be paid attention to in meditation are the Light, the Sound, and the Master's Form, which itself must stand before repetition of the five charged words given at initiation. These five charged words are an ancient tradition or dispensation in many traditions that are said to be the 'open-sesame' to the succeeding inner regions. Except that in the last two regions up to Sach Khand the mental vehicle which would repeat these names is left behind, thus only the Naam itself and the Master's Light would assist the soul.Thus, the Form is an extremely important aid at deepening concentrative absorption towards the final goal. This, too, extends only through the lower three planes, after which the realms are, first, archtypal, or formless-form, and then formless. Thus, once again the Master's grace itself is the saving element. The allegory given by Soamiji in the beginning of this paper is just that, an allegory, for upon reaching Sach Khand, or the station of Atman, there is no form, and no one to answer a Sat Purush who asks one how he has gotten there, saying," by the grace of a saint." Any other explanation makes no sense according to standard yoga psychology. Kirpal Singh stated:

   "In the lower planes [the Form] continues, but absorption comes at every plane. When you devote your whole attention into the Form of the master, you sometimes become absorbed; but that continues in further stages. Absorption is better. It does become that Light. You are Light; you become one; you forget; but you are conscious all the same. It does come at every step. Ultimately, it becomes One, and there is no form when you are absorbed into Sat Naam. Then, Sat Naam takes you to the stages where there is final absorption. Otherwise, the Form continues to work in the radiant Form on the different planes." (Sat Sandesh, Feb. 1975, "A Thief in the Form of a Friend")

   Somewhere I read that the form of the Master changes from plane to plane but resumes human form upon reaching Sach Khand, where one meets "God as a Person", and in the above quote he does say that there is no form when you are absorbed into Sat Naam, leaving the possibility open that until you are actually absorbed into Sat Naam, or the Sat Purush, one still might see form in Sach Khand, but the philosophical criticism still begs for an answer. How can there be form when all the kosas are shed and one is supposedly beyond mind and maya? This must be a formless realm.

   The final goal even in Sant Mat is spoken of as realizing the Master to be ones own very Self. A difficulty in even interesting anyone in discussing these things is that the bliss increases as one ascends the inner stages, a bliss that one no less than the Buddha said was extremely difficult for the aspirant to transcend. According to Buddha, beyond the stages of bliss come the stages of insight, and then Nirvana. When is non-duality realized? This will be discussed later, in sections #13 and #14.

5. According to Arran Stephens, author of the book Journey to the Luminous, Darshan Singh, Kirpal’s successor, claimed that when Faqir Chand was asked to describe the various inner planes he did not name their proper order and specifically could not or did not give the proper answer to the question of how many steps led to the pool of sanskaric purification named Manasarovar in the third plane. Of course, Faqir claimed this very thing, that there was no fixed ordering to all of the planes. This may be wrong, but it is a complex issue. Darshan also said Faqir Chand was in error when implying that the luminous form of the Master was not 'real', or a direct manifestation of Reality.

   The subtle Gurudev is said to lead directly to the Satguru or Satpurush, the true or divine form in Sach Khand. In Buddhism similarly there are the Sambhogakaya and Dharmakaya forms of the Buddha, active in the realms of form and the formless. Yet in general, Buddhism and Advaita argue that anything visible is not the reality, so, for instance, Sach Khand would not be considered “spiritual” in their sense of the term, as there must be a perceiver to see the sights and sounds there. Again, the Sants are adamant that the light and sound there is spiritual, beyond the mind or manas, and the soul paradoxically and transcendentally sees by her own light; there is no duality there, but an enigmatic comingling unity. These type of words are poison to the ears of the advaitist. Some other yoga schools, however, use this terminology of ‘spiritual’ planes.This is not to detract from the value or validity or even necessity of such higher realizations, only one should understand that in such yoga schools the word spiritual is sometimes (but not in Sant Mat) being used to mean realms of the higher mind or vignanamaya kosha in contrast to realms of the lower mind or manas where there still must be some means of dualisitic perception. Yet in the higher traditions there is still mention of the logos; even Buddhism speaks of the heavenly Avalokitesvara whose sweet sounds will take one back to the soul’s true home. Sach Khand, however, to the advaitist sounds like a celestial subtle plane, due to the language used to describe it. The Sants counter that they are hindered in their description by the limits of words, and must picture these realms in the language of metaphor. For the sages the word spiritual implies both a formless, subjective realization, and the non-dual nature of reality within and without.

   Brunton, however, writes:

   "Those who find that beyond the Light they must pass through the Void, the unbounded emptiness, often draw back affrighted and refuse to venture further. For here they have naught to gain or get, no glorious spiritual rapture to add to their memories, no great power to increase their sense of being a co-worker with God. Here their very life blood is to be squeezed out as the price of entry, here they must become the feeblest of creatures." (4)

   Ramana enigmatically referred to scripture that said that the gyani is "invisible even to the Gods," and "trackless like a fish swimming through water." This appears in contrast to the saint or sant satguru, whose luminous radiant form is described as "blazing a path of light for miles and miles through the subtle realms," although it need not be so, if we understand the non-dual nature of the reality such a Sant has realized.

   Ramana, upon dying, famously said: “where can I go; I am here?” Interestingly, nearing the end Kirpal Singh said he would soon be going, and one disciple asked, "where are you going?", to which he replied, "Oh, where we all go." Paramhansa Yogananda likewise remarked, "All paths are paths to God, because, ultimately, there is no other place for the soul to go." (Journey to Self-Realization, p. 51)

6. Sant Rajinder Singh, as mentioned, has said that one will be assured that there is life after death when one reaches the third plane. This is interesting, but does that in itself imply that the first two inner planes are then not after-death planes but reside in the brain and are thus still within the body? I don’t think so, but interestingly, the Sar Bachan Radhasoami (Poetry) : Part Two appears to say so. After Sahans Dal Kanwal and Trikuti, one enters the Banknal and then goes through Daswan Dwar (the “tenth door”) to reach the third inner region of Sunn:

   “Surat moves onward and opens the door. It enters Banknal (crooked tunnel) and gets across. It passes through high and low valleys. It turns up the pupil of the eye.” (p. 118).

   “Turning up the pupil of the eye” and entering the “tenth door” or aperture (the other nine being the bodily openings: eyes, ears, nostrils, mouth, and two below) implies attention finally leaving the body. Babuji Maharaj of the Agra branch said that “within the folds of thy brain there are many beautiful regions,” etc. He may have been quoting Maulana Rumi, who likewise said, “Within the folds of thy brain there are wonderful gardens and beauty spots. Should you like to enjoy them, hie to a Murshid (Master) for instruction.” (5)   Maharaj Saheb, a Sant Mat guru after Rai Salig Ram, even more explicitly said,

   ”In the fissure between the two lobes of the brain there are twelve apertures, which provide the means for communion with the six subdivisions of Brahmand and with the six subdivisions of the purely spiritual region. The apertures appertaining to Brahmand are to be found in the gray matter, and those appertaining to the purely spiritual region, in the white matter.” (6)

   First off, this passage is somewhat confusing, as it suggests that someone who has an accidental death would have no access to the spiritual regions because he had no chance to pass through the apertures in the white matter of the brain. Some Buddhist schools teach this also and advocate phowa initiations to make sure the conscious exits the body through the top of the skull. But can this really be the truth? Other Sant Mat masters have said that a true disciple in such a case is immediately with the Master within, so this cannot truly be an impediment]. The suggestion definitely, however, is that the path of Sant Mat initially takes place in a passage through the brain, the most direct route being via the central channels in the white matter (i.e., via the corona radiata), culminating in the “God-light” or “purely spiritual region(s)” that manifest when one truly pierces the crown center in ascended samadhi. This implication or interpretation is somewhat uncommon in the Sant Mat or Radhasoami literature, which generally assumes a gnostic position considering all of the subtle realms to be outside, or above and beyond, the body, while Saheb seemed to be suggesting that, as experienced in meditation, they are actually in the braincore, with only the alleged truly spiritual realms beyond the limits of the body. Sometimes Sant Mat writers claim that the third eye is between and behind the eyebrows (i.e, near the pineal gland, with the pituitary more towards the center of the head), while the so-called "tenth door" leading to Daswan Dwar, the third region, is at the crown of the head - where the fontanelle is in an infant. So, this would suggest that only the highest inner planes, such as Bhanwar Gupta and Sach Khand are truly out of the body, as the spatial descriptions of a lower region where the ”crooked tunnel” (Banknal) is found seems to suggest the passageway in the braincore itself. This would also mean that Sahansdal Kanwal, the first inner station in Sant Mat, may not be the exact equivalent of the thousand-petalled lotus of the true Sahasrar as described in traditional yoga sutras, but yet a region in the sky of mind in the braincore, which would, however, truly be felt to be outside of or interior to the body for the normally extroverted individual. This is certainly highly enjoyable; as Sawan Singh once said, "if you go in an inch, it is better than a trip around the world," but its actual nature should be clarified, so adequate comparisons can be made with other schools.

   For instance, in the Kriya Yoga as taught by Paramhansa Yogananda, the "spiritual eye" is visualized at the ajna or agya chakra, but passage between the agya chakra and the sahasrara at the top of the head is said to culminate in nirvikalpa samadhi and “transcendance of the astral and causal bodies”. The actual passageway is said to be a subtler form of the sushumna called, in their school, firstly the vajra and chitra nadis (luminous astral nadis, the "spine of the astral body"), and then the "brahmanadi" (or the "spine of the causal body"). Thus, in the kriya school, the implication is also that the astral and causal worlds, at least before death, are somehow within or cotermionous with the physical body or brain itself. Rajinder Singh solves this dilemma for us by asserting that the planes do interpenetrate one another, but certainly exist on their own after the severance of consciousness from the physical body.

   Soamiji also interestingly but confusingly describesTrikuti as being within the sushumna, the central yogic channel that culminates in the sahasrar, an additional implication that this region may not be outside of the body. That is, however, contradicted by many, many near-death experiences (NDE’s). Sant Kirpal Singh, in his book Godman, quotes Guru Nanak:

   "The Master exhorts the jivas to listen to this music in the Sukhman, the artery between the two eyebrows; Then be established in Sunnya (the Region of Silence), with the result that all oscillations of the mind would cease. When the chalice of the mind thus turns into the correct position, it will get filled with the Elixer of Life, making the mind steady and self-poised. The ceaseless music of eternity becomes a constant companion." (7)

   The upturning of the chalice of the heart is standard mystic terminology, but the standard reference to the region of Sunn is to the third inner plane. Is that then also experienced only in the brain, at least, so long as one is alive? The importance of these questions lies in establishing the true uniqueness of shabd yoga as contrasted with other traditional yogic explanations.

   The exposition of this in the Kriya Yoga in the lineage of Paramhansa Yogananda is even more confusing. [for more on this, see Paramhansa Yogananda and Kriya Yoga: A Comparative Analysis ]. In that path, as in Sant Mat, the aspirant is to focus at the spiritual eye, located between and behind the eyebrows, which is said to actually extend from that subtle center backwards to the medulla. According to Yogananda,

   "The spiritual eye is perceived as a golden aura surrounding a sphere of blue, in the middle of which is a five-pointed start of white light...The point of origin of the single eye is in a subtle spiritual center in the medulla oblongata (at the base of the brain where it joins the spine). The energy from this single eye divides at the medulla and pours through the brain into the two physical eyes, through which the world of duality is perceived. The spiritual eye with its three lights, or three different rays - one within the other like an extending telescopic lens - has all-seeing spherical vision. Through the gold ray, the deeply meditating yogi beholds all matter and the mass of radiation (the vibratory cosmic energy) permeating the universe. Penetrating the blue light {the reader may recall references to the "blue pearl" by Swami Muktananda], the yogi will realize the Christ or Krishna Consciousness - the Kutastha or infinite intelligence of God - which is present in all creation. Piercing the tiny five-pointed white star, the yogi experiences Cosmic Consciousness - the transcendant consciousness of God that underlies all creation and that is also beyond the realms of manifestation in Infinitude. The yogi in Cosmic Consciousness perceives that all creation, including the microcosm of his body, is a projection of the fivefold rays of God's Cosmic Consciousness."

   "The tricolored rays of the spiritual eye, through a complex transformation known to yogis, form the physical body of man the microcosm. The golden rays of cosmic energy, for example, are strongly inherent in the vital red blood, and are manifested in the electric current that flows through the nerves. The blue rays are a predominant factor in the gray matter of the brain, which provides a medium for the expression of thoughts through sensory-motor activity - just as on the universal scale Christ Consciousness provides the medium that upholds all of nature's activities. And the white rays are the predominant factor in the white matter of the brain, in which God's transcendant Cosmic Consciousness is insulated."
(Journey to Self-Realization, p. 92-94)

   The last sentence in this quotation is most interesting, and similar to the comments above of Maharaj Saheb that relate the "spiritual Regions" to the white matter of the brain. In his first book, A Search in Secret India, Paul Brunton wrote of similar comments given him by Radhasoami guru Sahabji Maharaj of Dayalbagh:

   "The innermost parts of our brain centres are associated with subtle worlds of being; that, after proper training, these centres can be energized until we become aware of these subtler worlds; and that the most important centre of all enables us to obtain divine consciousness of the highest order..The most important of these centres is the pineal gland, which, as you know, is situated in the region between the eyebrows. It is the seat of the spirit-entity in man....It is the focus of the individual spirit-entity which gives life and vitality to man's mind and body...Since the human body is an epitome of the entire universe, inasmuch as all the elements employed in the evolution of creation are represented in it on a miniature scale, and since it contains links with all the subtler spheres, it is quite possible for the spirit-entity in us to reach the highest spiritual world. When it leaves the pineal gland and passes upwards, its passage through the grey matter of the brain brings it into contact with the region of universal mind, and its passage through the white matter exalts its consciousness to lofty spiritual realities." (p. 244-245)

   Paramahansa Yogananda's guru, Sri Yukteswar, in ,uses the same terminology of the Sants, even speaking of practicing shabd yoga once the preliminary kriyas in the lower chakras are successful, but also alters the order of the inner planes. He has Mahasunn coming before Daswan Dwar, whereas the Sants have it afterwards. This may or may not give possible credence to Faqir's radical claim that the planes are not necessarily experienced in a fixed order. Yukteswar then lists the regions of Sat Lok: Alak, Agam, and Anami, much like the Sants. But he also speaks of a more integral realization beyond this, where non-duality (the Father) is established all of the time. This is not explicitly described in the Sant Mat literature.

   The basic ordering of the planes, nevertheless, follows a traditional seven-fold patterning. To complicate matters, it is sometimes said that there also are seven sub-planes in each. [The word "seven" is a common theme in ancient Vedic theology: seven rivers, seven sisters, seven delights, seven thoughts, seven flames, seven rays, seven tongues, seven mothers, etc]. In the Puranas, from which the sage Ramanuja bases his cosmology, there are listed first seven netherworlds (atala, vitala, nitala, tatataya, mahatala, sutala and patala), and then seven higher worlds, beginning with our Earth-realm or Bhur, followed by Bhuvar-loka, Svarga-loka, Mahar-loka, Jana-loka, Tapo-loka, and finally Satya-loka. Sri Aurobindo's mystic researches as well as investigation of the Rig Veda revealed a similar schema, with three lower worlds (Earth, Antariksha or the middle region, and Heaven (Dyaus), corresponding to body, life, and mind, divided from the higher divinity by an intermediate region known variously as Truth Consciousness, Greater Heaven (Brihad Dyau), the "Wide World," the "Vast" (Brihat), or the "Great Water," or "Maho Arnas"; this is the fourth Vyahriti mentioned in the Upanishads as "Mahas", most likely corresponding to Vijnanamayakosa / Buddhi. This could with some certainty be considered to correspond with Daswan Dwar, where the "lake of mind" or manasarovar is located. This may possibly be the origin of the Biblical passage where the 'waters divide the firmament from the Earth'. The higher supreme worlds embodying Sat, Chit, Ananda are not as such named in the Vedas. Aurobindo says, however, that in the Puranic and Upanishadic systems the seven worlds correspond to seven psychological principles or forms of existence: Sat, Cit, Ananda, Vijnana, Manas, Prana and Anna (Being, Consciousness, Bliss, Intellect, Mind, Life, and Body). He says that "both systems depend on the same idea of seven principles of subjective consciousness formulating themselves in seven objective worlds." (The Secret of the Veda, p. 45)

   As mentioned, Sri Yukteswar has a slightly different ordering of the planes. He lists them alternately as: (1) the Puranic schema already mentioned, or (2) Gross, Sunya (Ordinary Vacuum), Mahasunya (the Vacuum), Dasamadwara (the Door), Alakshya (Incomprehensible), Agama (Inaccessible), and Anama (Nameless). In yet a third classification he lists the various levels as Annamayakosa, Pranamayakosa, Manamayakosa, Jnanamayakosa, Heart/Citta/Buddhi, Anandamayakosa, Son of God/Atman, Chit-Ananda, and Sat.

   In Sant Mat there are sometimes listed five planes (i.e., Guru Nanak in his Jap Ji lists Dharm Khand (Realm of Action), Gian Khand (Realm of Knowledge), Sarm Khand (Realm of Ecstasy), Karm Khand (Realm of Grace), and Sach Khand (Realm of Truth), and sometimes eight or nine: Physical, Astral, Causal, Mahasunn, Bhanwar Gupta (Supercausal), with Sat Lok divided into four planes, Sach Khand, Alakh, Agam, and Anami. The latter division is reflected in many systems, where the experience of the Great Void or Void-Mind [in this case, Sat Lok] encompasses three levels of deepening realization or penetration beyond Atman.

   Theosophy generally uses a nine-fold schema: Physical, Etheric, Astral, Lower and Higher Mental, Buddhic, Atmic, Monadic, and Logoic.

   Clearly, it is reasonable to suggest that these modern systems basically follow the Puranic pattern. What is of most interest, however, was, as pointed out by Sri Aurobindo, that the planes all interpenetrate. That is why a non-dual realization is the final goal. In Sant Mat it is not mentioned publically so much, but Yukteswar and the Yogananda school frequently spoke of the realization of jnana along with the higher states. [This issue will be discussed in detail later in this paper in section #14, where it will be suggested in what ways Sant Mat can be considered to be a jnana path].

   Sri Aurobindo wrote:

   "The triple principle was doubly recognised, first in the threefold divine principle answering to the later [post-Vedic, or Upanishadic era] Satchidananda, the divine existence, consciousness and bliss, and secondly in the threefold mundane principle, mind, life, and body, upon which is built the triple world of the Veda and Puranas. But the full number ordinarily recognised is seven. This figure was arrived at by adding the three divine principles to the three mundane and interpolating a seventh or link-principle which is precisely that of the truth-consciousness, Ritam Brihat, afterwards known as Vijnana or Mahas. The latter term means Large [this could mean Universal Mind in the Sant Mat classification] and is therefore an equivalent of Brihat. There are other classifications of five, eight, nine and ten and even, as it would seem, twelve; but these do not immediately concern us."

   "All these principles, be it noted, are supposed to be really inseparable and omnipresent and therefore apply themselves to each separate formation of Nature. The seven Thoughts, for instance, are Mind applying itself to each of the seven planes as we would now call them and formulating matter-mind, if we may so call it, nervous mind, pure mind, truth-mind and so on to the highest summit, parama paravat...So also the seven rivers are conscious currents corresponding to the sevenfold substance of the ocean of being which appear to us formulated in the seven worlds enumerated by the Puranas. It is their full flow in the human consciousness which constitutes the entire activity of the being, his full treasure of substance, his full play of energy."
(Ibid, p. 98)

   "The sevenfold waters thus rise upward and become the pure mental activity, the Mighty Ones of Heaven. They there reveal themselves as the first eternal ever-young energies, separate streams but of one origin - for they have all flowed from the one womb of the super-conscient Truth - the seven Words of fundamental expressions of the divine Mind, sapta vanih...The Force rises into the womb or birthplace of this mental clarity (ghrtasya) where the waters flow as streams of the divine sweetness (sravathe madhunam); there the forms it assumes are universal forms, masses of the vast and infinite consciousness...This is also his own new and last birth. He who was born as the Son of Force from the growths of earth, he who was born as the child of the Waters, is now born in many forms to the goddess of bliss, she who has the entire felicity, that is to say to the divine conscious beatitude, in the shoreless infinite." (Ibid, p. 120-121)

   These last two paragraphs are examples of the philosophical poetry of Sri Aurobindo; they use Vedic imagery and are not meant to stand alone in total clarity without further study of his work on the Veda. What they are meant to show is the ancient nature of the seven-fold schema of worlds, and also the big picture of a non-dual realization, uniting all of the planes in a conscious experience.

   Still, we have yet to fully understand this matter of "inside" and "outside". Ramana Maharshi said:

   "Leave out the body-consciousness (the idea that I am the body) and then where is 'in' and where is 'out'? All life-consciousness is One throughout." (Face to Face with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Laxmi Narain, ed, 2007, p. 276)

   What then does it truly mean to be “outside the body?” If one takes the view of the jnanis or sages who state that it is closer to the ultimate truth to say that all bodies and worlds arise within the Soul or Mind, and it is a fact that while alive in the gross plane all bodies, sheaths, or koshas interpenetrate, then that would certainly not preclude one having experience of the subtle regions once the gross body disintegrates at physical death. Some sages maintain, that while that is true, that as the physical, subtle and causal bodies interpenetrate in consciousness while one is alive, one can do sufficient sadhana while in the gross body, bypassing the need for ascent. Sant Rajinder Singh, in fact, has started to speak in this manner about the various inner planes:

   "Most religions believe that there are higher regions of existence to which the soul goes after it dies...The question is, where are these realms? They are not zones in outer space delineated by borders. All these realms exist concurrently with this one. The reason we are not aware of them is because they operate on a different frequency or vibration." (Sat Sandesh – April 2003).

   It is plausible to assume that there can be a relative 'up' or 'down' in reference to the subtle bodies just as there is in relationship with the physical bodies. At some point, however, the words will become meaningless, once one has reached the realm of the great cosmic archtypes, between the the three lower worlds and the higher divine realms.

   If all of this is truly so then some of the aforementioned contradictions and discrepencies are overcome. If all of the planes exist concurrently, they must all exist in consciousness, or the soul, and then the 'direct path' of the sages is somewhat exonerated.

   In this vein, Sant Jagat SIngh, guru between Sawan Singh and Charan Singh, said, "90% of spirituality is correct thinking." Sant Kirpal Singh, my guru, once asked me, "do you want anything, my friend? - do you want to leave the body?", to which I answered, "no, nothing." He became animated and exclaimed, "You're an emperor, I'll kiss your feet - "nothing" is God!" Further, when someone asked him. "Master, do you still meditate?", he replied, "If you get your PhD do you still have to learn the ABC's?" Very mysterious language coming from these gurus, and obviously something to be revealed to only a few to avoid confusion for the unripe mind. Other saints have acted likewise. Lord Krishna, after giving Arjuna the Cosmic Vision, as recounted in the Bhagavad-Gita, then said, "Now I will teach you." Ramakrishna gave visions and samadhis and devotional exercises to his devotees, but instructed or taught only one disciple, Vivekananda. This he did through the help of his copy of the non-dual Ashtavakra-Gita which he kept hidden from the others, including his chief biographer, "M", or Master Mahasaya.

   More recently, when asked why he did not teach non-duality, Gurinder Dhillon, successor guru to Charan Singh, and another master in the Radhasoami lineage, answered, "because the disciples would not understand it."

   Kirpal Singh and many others thought highly of Ramakrishna, often capitalizing on his oft-repeated phrase to Vivekanda, "Yes, I see God as clearly as I see you - even more so!" But the implication most often is that Ramakrishna had not transcended the causal plane, the uppermost limit of the lower three worlds. Many in Sant Mat would likely argue that his realization was limited to the region of Brahm, with Nirvikalpa samadhi achieved there, but not to the higher regions above that. The sometimes conjectured equating of Nirvikalpa samadhi with the plane of Anami Lok is not right, as Nirvikalpa samadhi can be achieved from any plane. The realization of Anami Lok is much deeper and richer than standard yogic Nirvikalpa, as it not only grants a non-dual vision but also knowledge and discrimination garnered from passage through all of the planes.

   Swami Sivananda, whom Kirpal Singh respected, used the following language when writing about the kundalini. This is very interesting because speaking from a different yoga tradition he used several terms identical to some of those used in Sant Mat, with a different explanation. He, too, like Yogananda, and Ramakrishna [when he was talking to the yogis - but not Vivekananda] - argued that merger of the attention into the sahasrar produced liberation:

   "Brahmarandhra” means the hole of Brahman. It is the dwelling house of the human soul. This is also known as “Dasamadvara,” the tenth opening or the tenth door. The hollow place in the crown of the head known as anterior fontanelle in the new-born child is the Brahmarandhra. This is between the two parietal and occipital bones. This portion is very soft in a babe. When the child grows, it gets obliterated by the growth of the bones of the head. Brahma created the physical body and entered (Pravishat) the body to give illumination inside through this Brahmarandhra. In some of the Upanishads, it is stated like that. This is the most important part. It is very suitable for Nirguna Dhyana (abstract meditation). When the Yogi separates himself from the physical body at the time of death, this Brahmarandhra bursts open and Prana comes out through this opening (Kapala Moksha). “A hundred and one are the nerves of the heart. Of them one (Sushumna) has gone out piercing the head; going up through it, one attains immortality” (Kathopanishad).

   “Sahasrara Chakra is the abode of Lord Siva. This corresponds to Satya Loka. This is situated at the crown of the head. When Kundalini is united with Lord Siva at the Sahasrara Chakra, the Yogi enjoys the Supreme Bliss, Parama Ananda. When Kundalini is taken to this centre, the Yogi attains the superconscious state and the Highest Knowledge. He becomes a Brahmavidvarishtha or a full-blown Jnani."
(Kundalini Yoga, p. 32-33)

   This would be highly refuted by the Sants; they generally use the term Daswan Dwar in a different meaning than the yogis, in that it is refered to the third inner plane, not a brain structure. This is important to keep in mind. But as we have seen, Babuji Maharaj, Maharaj Saheb, and Sahabji Maharaj spoke differently about it.

   Despite these discrepencies and apparent contradictions, I suggest thatthe issue can be resolved if it is accepted that there are simply two uses of the word, 'Daswan Dwar', or the 'tenth door'. In the common yogic and (sometimes) Sant Mat usage, it at one time means the crown center, and at other times it refers to a passage on the third inner plane, essentially the 'gravitational' dividing line between the more material-mental and more mental-spiritual regions. Those teachers that don't recognize the higher meaning of the term would in most instances likely be of lesser realization,although, not necessarily.

   Like Sivananda, Ramakrishna at times spoke in the traditional yogic manner of reaching the higher centers for liberation [when he was not teaching Vivekananda non-duality]. He said:

   "The mind ordinarily moves in the three lower chakras. But if it rises above them and reaches the heart, one gets the vision of Light....Even though it has reached the throat, the Mind may come down again (from utterly unworldly consciousness - PB). One ought to be always alert. Only if his mind reaches the spot between the eyebrows need he have no more fear of a fall, the Supreme Self is so close."

   He goes on to say that reaching the thousand-petalled lotus of the sahasrara at the crown of the head is liberation or God-consciousness. This is what Swami Sivananda said also. The great Tibetan adepts Marpa and Naropa also spoke of meditating to reach the thousand-petalled lotus. Now, to my mind, the thousand-petalled lotus of the sahasrara (which is the definition of sahasrara) cannot be the same as the Sahans Dal Kanwal of the Sants, which only has eight petals. Just the way these great yogis or saints describe their attainment does not sound remotely like the beginning stage of the inner journey as portrayed by the Sants, but something far more significant. I am not saying that it is realization, sahaja samadhi, the natural condition, but only a profound state nevertheless.

   Words, moreover, are no doubt poor substitutes for reality. Ramana considered even this world to be nothing but spiritual. This, again, can only be true, however, if the concepts of matter as well as the ego-soul or ego-self is rejected in favor of the view and insight that "all is a perception or appearance to Mind". But why must it be one or the other, as the vedantins would have it? Isn’t reality more rich than that? In Sant Mat, the various planes are described as containing differing amounts of matter and spirit, from gross material, material-spiritual, spiritual-material, to purely spiritual. For Ramana, Buddhism and Zen, anything perceivable ("things") or conceivable ("thoughts") could be considered “mental”, all arising in and as Mind. To them, the concept of matter is really no more than a guess, with no proof. This doesn't mean one may not experience or feel a difference while passing through different planes, etc., but only that the same epistemological discipline must be applied when discussing each of them and their relationship to truth. Mystics in general have no interest in doing this, assuming what they see and feel is real. To sages and philosophers, however, such an endeavor is important if not crucial if ones interest is in truth, and not just bliss or peace. It is, they say, essential for a full understanding of concepts such as "soul,"   "spiritual", and "consciousness."

7. Plotinus, Paul Brunton, Ramana Maharshi, and Buddhism teach that the Reality itself is neither within or without, that the highest inner trance state (ie., nirvikalpa) is still a subjective realization, a partial realization only, which must also be integrated or realized in the normal waking state as well as 'sahaj samadhi', if truth be ones goal. This, they say, grants non-duality. That is, the "drop appears to merge into the ocean" in nirvikalpa, but the "ocean merges into the drop" in sahaj. That would appear to make Radhasoami or Anami Lok of the Sant Mat tradition appear to be only a halfway house on the philosophic path (in as much as it is, as described, similar to nirvikalpa - nameless and formless, without attributes), whereas Sant Mat considers Sach Khand as the halfway house of Self-Realization, with Anami as God-Realization. I, for one, have difficulty reconciling the two positions. Sant Darshan Singh, a blessed soul, peace be upon him, answered a similar question regarding gyan or jnana by simply stating that gyan masters reach the highest human states of realization or samadhi, but that only Sant Mat takes one to the highest. Once again, this begs for more elucidation. Exactly how and why is this so? Hang in there, for a possible answer will be given in a little while. [Interestingly, on a side note, one of Sant Darshan's favorite books was Somerset Maughan's, The Razor's Edge, which is supposedly the story of a seeker's visit with the sage Ramana Maharshi].

8. Scriptures and teachers seem to be in agreement that the waking state or earth life is the most important gift for realization, that enlightenment must be achieved or realized here and now, not after death. Few outline exactly why that is so. For instance, Kirpal Singh said one can make more progress HERE than after death. He casually mentioned sometimes that that is the case because the inner planes are so deceiving, bewitching, and also consoling, that the spiritual progress that can be made here in a few months would take hundreds of years up there. Others have pointed out that here ones experiences are so vivid, etched in stone, as it were, while up there they are, without the anchor of the body, too vivid and subject to distraction. There is the quote from the Buddhist sutra, The Transmission of the Lamp, which says that one can be lost for many, many kalpas in the bliss, not just in the inner realms, but the inner void itself. This suggests there is something special about the waking state, and that it is not only to be dismissed as illusion, to be dualistically left behind in search of some permanent spiritual place. The "Radhasoami state" seems to imply a realization that would encompass this perspective. Brunton, a philosopher-sage, clearly states that all yoga is only preparatory for inquiry, and that realization is achieved in the full waking state. Brunton's teacher, V.S. Iyer, argued that the waking state is essential for Self-Realization because only here (not in nirvikalpa or sleep) is the faculty of Buddhi (Reason) active - which is not merely intellect as yogis frequently misinterpret it, but the highest faculty of the mind which distinguishes the real from the unreal. "Through Buddhi will you come to Me," said Krishna in the Gita. For the vedantist, realization requires, among other things, as stated, the faculty of buddhi in the waking state, not in trance. This is because, according to the vedantic argument, our beginningless ignorance began in the waking state and there it must end. This is definitely not the teachings of the sants, as reflected in Sar Bachan of Soamiji or Anurag Sagar of Kabir. For them our ignorance or fall began in the supracausal realm. This and the very concept of creation itself are major and important differences between the two schools. For more on this topic, the reader is directed to see The Enigmatic Kabir and come to his own conclusions.

9. Ramana said that ones samskaras or inherited egoic tendencies must be scorched one by one as they arise and traced to the Heart while alive. This is the vedantic position. It is much different from Sant Mat which teaches that the samskaras are only removed, one, by the master’s grace at the time of initiation, and, two, after the soul passes through an "inner" pool of Mansarovar or Amritsar on the supracausal plane [more on this later]. If the latter view is true then nothing besides Sant Mat makes sense. The suggestion of the sages on the importance of the waking state, however, is that realization consists in seeing truth without excluding the waking state. Nanak said, "Truth is above all but higher still is true living." If that is not just a metaphor, what is its true meaning? What Truth was he talking about - the truth of the inner reality found at the innermost level of trance - like Anami Lok or Nirvikalpa samadhi - or the Truth of sahaj? Certainly nothing can really be above Truth. So truth must in some sense include life. Which brings one back to the argument that realization must be had while alive - not in meditation alone.

   This is not discussed by Sant Mat masters, to my knowledge, although they do certainly mention this world as a place to pay off karmic debts. To their credit, however, it might be argued that the non-dualists who often criticize them lack a cosmogony, or theory of creation, in fact as they deny it, holding strictly to the ajata theory, and many of these teachers may only be privy to having had a glimpse of reality, however long it lasts, and not full realization. That is apparently clear among Papaji disciples, many of whom were declared enlightened by him, when it became clear that that was just not the case. A glimpse, even if it lasts five years, is not the same as fully grown union with ones Soul, which, according to Paul Brunton, may entail a number of successive lives of spiritual APPLICATION , even AFTER nirvikalpa has been attained, or re-attained, in any particular life. That would also suggest, on the other hand, and to be fair, that simply traveling to Sach Khand or even Anami once would not grant ultimate and permanent enlightenment by itself, although Sant Mat teachers, where they allude to it, which is infrequent, appear to differ on this point. Some sages say that the longer one dwells in the Void the deeper ones realization becomes and the more one understands it, especially if one has some metaphysical background to accompany the mystical fulfillment. So it would seem the same arguement for repeated immersion would apply to mystical merger in Anami Lok. Sant Darshan Singh, in his biography, mentioned that by a certain date he had been able to achieve the ability to go there at will, implying that before he had gone there, but not at will. Obviously, the former is a higher accomplishment than the latter. The idea of will is a tricky one, however, as there are sages like Ramana Maharshi who speak of losing the will or vikalpa to do anything, that the Self does all, which would include the inherent wisdom of knowing when retracting the emanant of the soul into itself was of use for its divine purpose. Kirpal Singh would say that he did not do anything, and that if his Master did not send his grace, he was nothing. Taking him at his word, one might assume that would apply to when he might be absorbed into Anami, hold initiation, or even going to the grocery store. When one loses the personal will, what does it mean to speak of having the ability to do something at will?

   In Sant Mat it is also mentioned that there is a plane named Maha Sunn, between the created an uncreated realms, where the soul, divested of all the koshas except the anandamaya kosha or bliss sheath, which some yoga schools equate with undifferentiated maya, can go no further under her own power, and depends on the superior light and power of the Master of the Beyond to ferry one across to Sat Lok, the home of the soul and where she regains her primordial freedom. This is a unique feature exclusive to Sant Mat.

10. Here is an anecdote that brings questions to my mind. I am giving all of the questions first, after which there will be the resolution and explanation to help resolve some of the questions. I realize so far this may seem very pedantic to many; to others perhaps not so. Anyway, in Ramana's case there was a disciple, Palanaswami. When Palanaswami died, Ramana said that his eyes opened, which to him signified that his "I-thought", as he put it, or ego or soul, escaped into and was "reborn in the higher planes". To Ramana that signified that Palanaswami must take another birth before realizing the Heart (Self or Soul, source of the feeling of "I", not to be confused with the heart chakra), that if Ramana had been there he could have "pinned his ego down in the heart," thus scorching his sanskaras there, never to be reborn again. One other case in particular worth examining occurred to the famous disciple of Ramana, Ganapati Muni. It was Ganapati who gave the young Venkataram the name Ramana Maharshi. He was a teacher in his own right, and had spent twenty years in yogic sadhana. A few years after meeting Marharshi he experienced a spontaneous, forceful awakening of kundalini-shakti (which he confessed was not caused by any intention on his part, but was the “result of the grace of his Guru and God”), and which began a two-week ordeal in which he endured the yogic phenomenon known in the Taittirya Upanishad as vyapohya sirsha kapale, or the “breaking of the skull.” Ganapati began to feel a flood of energy through his body at all times, with a stream of bliss piercing his head making him completely intoxicated. He felt totally out of control of his body and went to Maharshi for guidance. The sage blessed him with a pat of the hand on his head and said not to worry.

   ”That night Ganapati suffered terribly. There was an unbearable burning sensation throughout his body...It looked as though his head would break into pieces any time. he suffered unbearable pain... Suddenly a sound was heard, something like smoke was seen. The Kundalini had caused an aperture at the top of his skull...After the experience for ten days something like smoke or vapor was found emanating from the orifice at the top of the skull. By that time the burning sensation subsided. The play of force became bearable. The long story of suffering, pain, and agony ended. The body was filled with the flow of cool nectar of bliss. The face of the Muni reflected an ethereal splendor. His eyes bore the effulgence of the supernatural. After this extraordinary experience of kapalabheda, the Muni lived for fourteen years...” (8)

   In spite of the unusual nature of Ganapati’s transformation, Maharshi affirmed that he had not attained enlightenment. When asked after his death whether the Muni was realized, Ramana replied, “How could he? His ‘sankalpas’ (inherent tendencies) were too strong.” In other words, in Ganapati Muni’s case the overwhelming awakening of the kundalini was not sufficient to unlock the “knot of self” that was still alive at the heart. "Ganapati Muni used to say that he could even go to Indra loka and say what Indra was doing, but he could not go within and find the "I." Sri Bhagavan added that Ganapati Muni used to say that it was easy to move forward, but impossible to move backward. Then Sri Bhagavan remarked: “However far one goes, there he is. Where is moving backward?" (9)

   Of course, this "escape into the higher planes" warned about by Ramana and Lakshmana Swamy is exactly what is considered advisable by Sant Mat. So there is a major difference here. My teacher in Ithaca, NY, Anthony Damiani, once told us that both he and his wife Ella May heard the big bell overhead in meditation, and he confirmed to us that we could go with it, because it would "take you up." The big bell is the prominent sound of the Naam one hears on the threshold of the astral world. He also said that experience of the subtle planes would completely devalue our experience here. However, he said he didn't pursue following the bell sound higher because "it wasn't where he wanted to go." I didn't understand at all what he meant at the time. He also said that he "didn't want holiness," which I didn't quite understand either. He held out for the completion of his inner concentration and mind's tracing itself to the Heart, which gave him stable realization of the witness self, (after a period of application), which he described as "peace, peace, peace." He acknowledged the possibility of spiritual ascent, and eventually different possibilities of spiritual evolution, but wanted to realize the heart-root first, which, he said off-handedly, would "take your head off." He said to those of us who were into shabd practise to "get this (the witness) first." The idea is that, without such prior realization of true consciousness, entering the inner realms would be deluding. In Sant Mat this possibility of delusion is also asserted, however the major point they emphasize is that what is required is the "sheet anchor" of the true Master's Radiant Form or Light to guide one without danger through the maze of possible inner experiences as quickly as possible to reach Sach Khand and the formless realms beyond. To achieve this, the agency and help of a qualified adept is necessary, and the soul, merged with the form of the master can go, undercover, as it were, directly to Sach Khand, the first plane of Sat Lok, without danger of gettiong lost on the way.

   Here is what Ramana commented about sounds like the bell. It reflects his view that the soul is not exclusively within the body, but the body and mind are within the soul, or better, the Self, but it is unusual and does not stand, imo, as a refutation of the claims and path of Sant Mat:

   A disciple Mastan wrote: "For some time I was meditating at night for about an hour, I used to hear the sound of a big bell ringing. Sometimes a limitless effulgence wold appear. In 1922 when I visited Bhagavan at his new ashram at the foot of the hill, I asked about this. He advised me, "There is no need to concern ourselves about sounds such as these. If you see from where it rises, it will be known that it arises on account of a desire (sankalpa) of the mind. Everything appears in oneself and subsides within oneself. The light, too, only appears from the same place. If you see to whom it appears, mind will subside at the source and only reality will remain." (The Power of the Presence, Part Three, David Godman, ed., 2002, p. 32)

   The sound of the bell is a sankalpa within the mind? Ramana had an uncompromising view of the nature of all visionary or auditory phenomena, including the big 'vision' that constitutes the world itself, namely, that they all arose in the Self or what the Buddhists would call Mind. That there was a great universal or absolute Mind that projected a relatively objective world-image and an individual mind or soul that participted in and within limits co-created that image was not in his world view. Ramana's teaching on the nature of visions is illustrated by the following excerpt from the rare and out-of-print book, Conscious Immortality: Conversations with Ramana Maharshi, by Paul Brunton:

"The sights and sounds which may appear during meditation should be regarded as distractions and temptations. None of them should be allowed to beguile the aspirant.
Q: Do the appearance of visions or the hearing of mystic sounds come after the concentrated mind is still and blank or before?
A: They can come both before and after. The thing is to ignore them and to still pay attention only to the Self. Forms which interfere with the main course or current of meditation should not be allowed to distract the mind. Bring yourself back into the Self, the Witness, unconcerned with such distractions. That is the only way to deal with such. interruptions. Never forget yourself. Intellect is the astral body. It is only an aggregate of certain factors. What else is the astral body? In fact, without intellect no Kosa is cognised. Who says that there are five Kosas? Is it not the intellect itself?
Q: There are beautiful colours in meditation. It is a pleasure to watch them. We can see God in them.
A: They are all mental conceptions. The objects or feelings or thoughts, i.e. all experiences, in meditation, are all only mental conceptions."

"When Sundaresa lyer, a local teacher, described yogic experiences, including visions of light, ringing of bells etc. which he was having, Maharshi replied, " they come, and they would pass away. Be only the witness. I myself had thousands of such experiences, but I had no one to go to and consult about them."
Q: Can we not see God in concrete visions?
A: Yes, God is seen in the mind. The concrete form may be seen. Still, it is in the devotee's own mind. The form and appearance of the God-manifestation are determined by the mentality of the devotee. But the finality is not that for it has the sense of duality. It is like a dream vision. After God is perceived, Vichara commences. That ends in the realisation of the Self. Vichara is the final method.
Q: Did not Paul Brunton see you in London? Was it only a dream?
A: Yes, he had the vision. Nevertheless he saw me in his own mind.
Q: But did he not see this concrete form?
A: Yes, but still it was in his mind. Keeping God in your mind as everything around you becomes Dhyana. This is the stage before realisation which is only in the Self. Dhyana must precede it. Whether you make Dhyana of God or Self, it is immaterial, the goal is the same.
Q: St. Theresa and others saw the image of Madonna animated. It was external. Others see the images of their devotion floating in their mental sight. This is internal. Is there any difference in degree in these two cases?
A: Both indicate that the person has strongly developed meditation. Both are good and progressive. There is not difference in degree. The one had conception of divinity and draws mental images and feels them. The other has the conception of divinity in the image and feels it in the image. The feeling is within, in both instances.
Q: In the spiritual experience of St. Theresa, she was devoted to a figure of Madonna which became animated to her sight, and she was in bliss.
A: The animated figure prepared the mind for introversion. There is a process of concentration of mind on one's own shadow which in due course becomes animated and answers questions put to it. That is due to Manobala (power of mind) or Dhyanabala (power of meditation). Whatever is external, is also transitory: Such phenomena may produce joy for the time being. But abiding peace, i.e. Shanti, does not result. This is gotten only by the removal of Avidya (ignorance)."

   Ramana's main position was that listening to the sounds was good, but better if done in junction with vichara or self-enquiry. This is like combining samadhi and vipassana or insight practices in Buddhism. But to call the sound of the bell a sankalpa or tendency in the mind seems an unwarranted conclusion and diminished view of the complexity of reality.

   As is the following explanation from Dzogchen Buddhism, where uniting the inherent nature of one’s mind or "child luminosity" with the "Ground Luminosity" or "Clear Light" while alive, as well as when it dawns at the time of death, is considered the most important means for liberation, while at the same time for those not so advanced it is advised to practice phowa transference, or directing consciousness so that the soul leaves the body through the crown of the head for passing directly to the pure buddha realms [see, The Tibetan Book on Living and Dying, by Sogypal Rinpoche].   This is different from the perspective of Sant Mat, where it is assumed that, not only does everybody pass out of the body through the crown of the head (barring traumatic accidents), even if you do pass out of the body via the crown, your direct access to the purely spiritual (or buddha) realms is not automatically assured, but depends on the grace of the spiritual master and/or one's prior progress on the path. However, one is assured that one's master will be there to guide one at the time of and after death itself. The stage by stage of dissolution during the death process, as well as recognition of and responsibility for it by a disciple on the Dzogchen path, is therefore, it seems, bypassed by initiates into Sant Mat, where the Master's radiant form comes for the disciple at the time of death, assuring a smooth passage, leaving the body behind like a fallen leaf. This would obviate a three-day or forty-nine day vigil or waiting period after physical death as advised in Tibetan Buddhism as well. Indeed, the promise given by the Sant Mat lineage at least since the time of Kirpal Singh has been that the Master takes complete charge of the sanchit or storehouse karmas of the disciple and at death takes him to a suitable inner plane to progress further, even escort him to Sach Khand and beyond, a glorious promise much like the one proclaimed in the New Testament:

   "Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. For I have come down from heaven. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day." (John 6: 35, 38, 40)

   And as Sant Darshan Singh affirmed:

   "In spite of our blemishes, our shortcomings, our enslavement to the world and worldly desires, the Master has taken us to himself. The Master belongs to the realm of immortality, and in taking us to himself he takes us within the ambit of eternity." (Spiritual Awakening, Chapter 8)

11. Also somewhat curious was a comment by Ramana’s that when the soul or "I-thought" merged in the heart there was a sound like the tinkle of a bell that the jnani could hear that indicated liberation. He indicated that that was the case with his mother, whose soul he guided at death until it merged in the Heart, but that it was not the case with Palanaswami whose "eyes opened at death meaning his soul had escaped to be reborn in a higher plane" instead of merging once and for all in the Heart. So what for Sant Mat was an escape and a boon was for Ramana a failure to attain self-realization. I don’t know in what way if any the tinkle of a bell sound relates to the naam or shabd in Sant Mat or not. Many in Sant Mat hear the tinkling of bells all the time. The words of Ramana do not suggest it is the same, because Ramana did acknowledge the existence of inner sounds or nada as a concentration method favored by its adherents to lull the mind into samadhi. He didn’t speak of it as a way into higher planes, however, which he looked on as a kind of unnecessary detour - and devotees remarked that his eyes looked like two stars, and that he appeared to return from a far-off place when he came out of inner absorption. He, however, like Anandamayi Ma, seemed to go inside into full trance less and less as he got older. Shree Atmananda said that once you realize that your own nature is happiness, you will never again be attracted by the goal of happiness in samadhi. You might enjoy it for refreshment, but not for realization.

   Now, returning again to what Sant Rajinder said, that one would have certainty of life after death once he reached the third plane, my question remains, why wouldn't one get assurance of life after death after reaching the FIRST inner plane? The suggestion was that the first two planes were not outside the body. In addition, it may also be asked, how can there truly be any "up" or "down" or spatial sense except in relationship to the body? V.S. Iyer said that inside and outside apply only to the body, and since the body is a perception in the Mind, such concepts become meaningless. So how can one truly go up AFTER leaving the chakra system by passing into and through the brain? Where is up once the body is dead and you are in a mental realm(s)? Sant Mat would argue that there is still a sense of up and down in relationship with the other bodies or coverings of the soul, such as the astral and causal, as they are in the realm of space and time or Kal, and this is entirely possible and a reasonable explanation within the domain of relativity.

   Coming back to my question about how, and in exactly what way, is this life the most important for realization, and in precisely what way can one make more progress here, one asks, "Why is the waking state considered so important?" Kirpal quoted Jesus about how after death "no man can work", so one had better work now. PB said that this world is more valuable than after death states because only here are lessons etched so strongly on the ego, whereas after-death realms are more dream-like. Sant Rajinder Singh has said that souls are supposed to be literally 'lined up' waiting a chance at getting a human body, as there are currently not enough suitable bodies available in which to make appreciable spiritual progress.

   The Sant Mat masters do say that one can work from the subtle planes after death, but, again as mentioned, that it can take a much longer time than here. Buddhist scriptures generally say that the personality disintegrates back to the elements, after the death of the body, and that the ego-soul does not survive, certainly not after the so-called "second death", where the subtle elements disperse. Kirpal once joked said, "we have to make the most use of the man-body, and that is - to get out of it!" I think he was speaking somewhat tongue in cheek, because I saw more in Him than that would imply. But for the spiritual beginner that can make intuitive sense. Certainly advaita would disagree. And I think Kirpal would have disagreed also, at least in the sense that there was purificatory work to do here. A disciple, Rameshwar Dass, relates in Ocean of Divine Grace, p. 97-98:

   I told Maharaj Ji, "My friend told me that You would give me a glimpse of my Divine Home. But that has not been my experience." "As for taking you up there," He said, "it could be done, but in your present condition you will not be able to stay there; nor when you come back would you be able to carry on with your normal life on earth."

   I personally feel that there is more to it than that, which is that before ego-death or ego-transcendance such higher planes cannot be experienced totally without a sense of illusion. The master would not disagree with that. And, for some it is possible that only the final experiential stages may become known after a lifetime of striving in apparent darkness. This need not be cause for despair, if one practices with the right view.

   The vedantic answer as to why the waking state is important is expressed by Iyer in the following quote:

   "Gnan is to see that all things are the mind's own creations, that none are different from yourself, that none are other than the mind itself, and that therefore there is no second thing. But this you can get only by analyzing world during the waking state itself and finding it to be like a dream. This is why truth must be understood when awake, not in blank trance, when facing and seeing the world, not in negation of it." (Commentaries, Vol. 1 ; see note 29)

   A quote of Soamiji that seems out of place within even Sant Mat teachings was made by him on the day of his death:

   “Life-long Bhajan and Simran is only for this reason: That one should not forget at this time (at the time of death).” (Sar Bachan p. 21)

   This also causes questions to arise. What was his true meaning here? Forget what? -Bhajan and Simran? -The image of his Master? It is said in many traditions that one’s last thought is very important, but surely “life-long bhajan and simran” , according to Sant Mat, is for the purpose of achieving liberation in life, isn’t it? And surely the general trend of ones mind over a lifetime is more important than any stray thought that crosses it at the time of death. What if, when one’s time comes, as has happened even to great sages, one lapses into a coma, or has an accidental death? Does then the inability to remember anything cancel out one's progress, relationship with his guru, or, most importantly, one's enlightenment? The answer is, “No.” A dear friend of mine was killed instantly in a head-on collision with a truck on a snowy night, and later Sant Rajinder Singh in answer to a point-blank question by an intiate as to where our friend was today, replied, “in Sach Khand, because of his great attachment to Sant Kirpal.” This remark by Soamiji was likely directed to one person at a particular time for its impact value, but, nevertheless, when placed in a source text like Sar Bachan can create confusion. There is an unbreakable grace-laden connection with one’s initiating Master in the path of Sant Mat.

   Once more, the waking state is valued in most traditions because they say realization must take place while here to be true liberation. Why? Perhaps one answer is because it is very important both how we interpret or understand our experiences across all of the states, and also that we do not live here or go ‘within’, in ignorance. Also, the faculty of buddhi or higher reason is not active in sleep or trance, and in advaita it is said that it is, in fact, buddhi which gets enlightened. “The Self is always shining in the intellectual sheath,” Ramana Maharshi often quoted from scripture, as the intellectual sheath or buddhi is closest to Atman and reflects its light. When it gets enlightened it stands aside and Atman is realized. Technically, the bliss-sheath is closest, but as it is made of undifferentiated maya there is no knowing or enlightenment possible when it is active, such as in sleep. It is present when the soul is in Maha Sunn, as well, and as we have seen, the soul is helpless there. Brunton states:

   "If the body does not become non-existent because, ultimately, it is a thought-form, neither does it become unimportant. For it is only in this body that we can attain and realize the ultimate consciousness...the physical wakeful state is the only one in which the task of true self-realization can be fully accomplished.." (The Notebooks, Vol. 7, Part I, 1.5)

   As in Sant Mat, however, Brunton elsewhere admits that this may not need to be achieved on earth but could occur on "other spheres." There is also permitted this exception in the Buddhist tradition for certain advanced aspirants of a degree of sainthood who had purified a sufficient number of the "fetters" or "defilements". But the attainment would still not be achieved in a purely subjective state in their case, and the higher realms themselves, however blissful and however long one might stay there, which could be kalpas, may be considered "pure" but not necessarily eternal, as they are in Sant Mat. For example, one of the higher fetters in Buddhism is "attachment to the formless realms".

   Dzogchen Buddhism somewhat differently argues that only awakening to the "Ground Luminosity" of Mind while alive assures merger with the Clear Light when it initially dawns at the time of death. This is the great opportunity for liberation according to their teachings. If one cannot hold onto this realization at the time of death one then passes into the dawning of the "dharmata realm", which is the all-pervading creative radiance of Mind, similar to how the Sants describe Sach Khand. Failing to sustain awareness of that, one falls into identification with mind and ego once more and passes into the various intermediate realms of the bardos, and eventually rebirth. Only through experience in the waking state with its sharply defined limits can one be prepared, through spiritual practice, for the dawning of Mind or the Clear Light at death. In Sant Mat the waking state is also valued to prepare one to be aware while in the bardos or inner planes, as well as for the working off of karmas, but the defining difference after death is the boon of the Master coming for the soul, sparing him the bewildering and disintegrating experience of the withdrawel of the attention and pranas, a less than auspicious exit into an undesirable lower realm, and even further rebirths prior to liberation. There is no teaching about immediate recognition of the Dharmakaya prior to passage through all the inner planes to Sach Khand and beyond. Nevertheless, there are hints here and there in Sant Mat about the non-necessity of experiencing all of the planes in a linear fashion. Kirpal said some initiates may go directly to Sach Khand and not experience the other planes along the way, although, generally, they would, at least to some degree, as in a brief "meet and greet" of the various deities presiding therein. He also said, "you are already there, you just don't know it." But he was very clear that a disciple of some degree of attainment, and even those without much in the way of that but who nevertheless had full faith, may not have to be reborn but could continue their sadhana on inner planes, at the discretion of the Master:

   "The initiates have a great concession: at the time of death, your Master will come to receive you, and not the angel of death. He usually appears several days or weeks before death to advise you of your coming departure from this world. I'm talking about those who keep the precepts! For those who do nothing with the gift of Naam, he may or may not appear before they leave the body...In your final moments, and much beforehand if you have gained proficiency in meditation, Master's radiant form will take you to a higher stage where you can make further progress. At the time of death the initiate will be as happy as a bride on her day of marriage! He may then place you in the first, second or third stage, or he may take you direct to Sach Khand. In some cases, where worldly desires and attachments are predominant, he will allow rebirth, but in circumstances more congenial for spiritual growth." (Arran Stephens, Journey to the Luminous (Seattle, Washington: Elton-Wolf Publications, 1999), p. 41)

   One enigmatic incident relating to the "distance" or relationship of Sach Khand to the earth plane (Pinda) is illustrated by the following. Sawan Singh, when asked how long it took him to go to Sach Khand, closed his eyes for a second and then reopened them, saying that that was how long. In the yoga sutras, however, it is said that for concentration to mature into absorptive samadhi takes two and a half minutes. How is this discrepency reconciled? I can think of two answers. Either the Sants, as sometimes is said, do not let their attention descend below the throat center, a yogic process called lokasamgraha, whereby they are able to continue to interact with and teach others while still holding on to the intuition of freedom they enjoyed in savikalpa or nirvikalpa samadhi or the inner planes, and are therefore able to ascend to Sach Khand much quicker than in traditional yoga paths, in as much as the body is almost already transcended, or, two, they reside in a non-dual state, and Sawan was speaking from a higher, or perhaps, metaphorical, point of view. In the Gurbani, Sikh scriptures, Sach Khand is described as both an after death realm and a state of consciousness one can enjoy during earth life. Master Charan Singh clarified this point:

&bsp  "Maharaj ji, do the saints have a short-cut inside?"

   Charan Singh:

   "They have a short cut in the sense that they have immediate access to the Father. After reaching sainthood, they do not have to pass through all those stages on their way to the Father. Christ also indicated that he could leave the body when he wanted to and he could take it up again when he wanted to, as he was always with the Father and he and the Father were one." (Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. 1 (Beas, India: Radha Soami Satsang Beas, 2010, p. 446-467)

   This suggests that the Master is in a non-dual state, if the quote of Jesus applies; on the other hand, it can be interpreted to mean he can access the state of highest samadhi instantly, but he is not in a non-dual condition otherwise. Kirpal Singh remarked in another context that the Master can take some of the disciples directly to Sach Khand without passing through the preceeding planes, seeming to imply the same thing.

   Sant Rajinder Singh said:

   "People often focus on what they want to “do,” but a bigger question is what they want to “be.” The world is caught up in doing this activity or that activity, but when we look at spirituality, the goal is in “being.” Doing involves activities of the body and mind, but being involves connecting with our soul. Our soul is a part of God, a state of permanent love, bliss, and consciousness. It does not need to do anything. When we stop our physical and mental activity and sit in silent meditation, we become our true self, or soul. When we identify with the soul, we will merge back into God and enter a state of eternal love and bliss."

   Again, this could imply non-duality or not. It could suggest the ancient concept of the Atman as a disinterested witness of all activity, or a greater vision. anadi also said that the true identity of the soul is one of eternal union with the Beloved or God; the question for Sant Mat is if one is in this state of eternal love and bliss on all the planes, or only in Sat Lok. Kirpal Singh suggested it is always, when he answered the question, "Master, do you meditate?" by replying, "Look here. If a man gets his PhD, does he have to go back and learn the ABC's?"

   The Waking State: Its Importance

   Buddha, Vedantists, the Ch’an masters and others agree on the importance of waking earth life. Damiani says, further, that without the knowledge the World or World-Idea can teach the soul, one would be utterly incapable of understanding what one was experencing in the mysterious Void (beyond all the manifest planes). One could come out of his trance and still be confused about the relationship between world, self, and God, ie., not enlightened. This is as close as I have found for a metaphysical reason for the importance of the waking state for realization, or, since it is not a ‘personal ‘ attainment, the Void-Mind awakening to itself or coming to self-cognition. The Lankavatara sutra said that one day all beings will get purifed and ascend the stages, but "if they only realized it, all things are in Nirvana from the beginning." How can one realize that "all things are in Nirvana" by leaving some things out (ie., like the world) and only going within? Obviously, one can't. This is the mistake of the yogis and ordinary mystics. The highest teachings always posit stages AFTER the mystical ones. The progression of stages in Buddhism, as stated, beyond those of the beginner, are from ecstasy to peace to insight to Nirvana. Does Sant Mat recognize a stage after going within as far as you can go (as profound as that is), as the sages do? Personally, I think they do. Kabir, for instance, spoke of a stage "beyond Sunn and trance." Brunton writes:

   "After all, even the Void, grand and awesome as it is, is nothing but a temporary experience, a period of meditation. The realization of what is Real must be found not only in deep meditation, in its trance, but when fully awake." (Notebooks, Vol 15, Part 1, 8.187-188)

   And further:

   "The mystic may get his union with the higher self as the reward for his reverent devotion to it. But its light will shine down only into those parts of his being which were themselves active in the search for union. Although his union may be a permanent one, its consummation may still be only a partial one. If his intellect, for example, was inactive before the event, it will be unillumined after the event [this would say something about the idea of "perfect masters"]. This is why many mystics have attained their goal without a search for truth before it or a full knowledge of truth after it. The simple love for spiritual being brought them to it through their sheer intensity of ardour earning the divine grace. He only gets the complete light, however, who is completely fitted for it with the whole of his being. If he is only partially fit, because only a part of his psyche has worked for the goal, then the utmost result will be a partial but permanent union with the soul, or else it will be marred by the inability to keep the union for longer than temporary periods."

   "The Mystic may be illiterate, uneducated, simple-minded, but yet may attain the Overself. Thus he finds his Inner Peace. It is easier for him because he is less intellectual, hence has fewer thoughts to give up and to still. But Nature does not absolve him from finishing his further development. He has still to complete his horizontal growth as well as balance it. He has obtained depth of illumination but not breadth of experience where the undeveloped state of faculties which prevents his light from being perfect may be fully developed. This can happen either by returning to earth again or continuing in other spheres of existence; he does this all inside his peace instead of, as with ordinary man, outside it. When his growth is complete, he becomes a philosopher."

   "It is not that the mystic does not enter into contact with the Overself. He does. But his experience of the Overself is limited to glimpses which are partial, because he finds the Overself only within himself, not in the world outside. It is temporary because he has to take it when it comes at its own sweet will or when he can find it in meditation. It is a glimpse because it tells him about his own "I" but not about the "Not-I." On the other hand, the sage finds reality in the world without as his own self, at all times and not at special occasions, and wholly rather than in glimpses. The mystic's light comes in glimpses, but the sage's is perennial. Whereas the first is like a flickering unsteady and uneven flame, the second is like a lamp that never goes out. Whereas the mystic comes into awareness of the Overself through feeling alone, the sage comes into it through knowledge plus feeling. Hence, the superiority of his realization."

   "The need of predetermining at the beginning of the path whether to be a philosopher or a mystic, arises only for the particular reincarnation where attainment is made. Thereafter, whether on this earth or another, the need of fulfilling the philosophic evolution will be impressed upon him by Nature."
[The "philosophic discipline" is the development and balancing of the faculties of feeling, knowing, willing, and intuition, as well as the full inner mystical realization as well as metaphysical realization of non-dual Oneness]. (, Notebooks, Vol. 13, Part 2, 4.9,11-13)

   “The understanding that everything is illusive is not the final one. It is an essential stage but only a stage. Ultimately you will understand that the form and separateness of a thing are illusory, but the thing-in-itself is not. That out of which these forms appear is not different from them, hence Reality is one and the same in all things. This is the paradox of life and a sharp mind is needed to perceive it. However, to bring beginners out of their earthly attachments, we have to teach first the illusoriness of the world, and then raise them to a higher level of understanding and show that the world is not apart from the Real. That Thou Art unifies everything in essence. But this final realization cannot be got by stilling the mind, only by awakening it into full vigour again after yogic peace has been attained and then letting its activity cease of its own accord when thought merges voluntarily into insight. When that is done, you know the limitations of both yoga and enquiry as successive stages. Whoever realizes this truth does not divorce from matter--as most yogis do--but realizes non-difference from it. Hence we call this highest path the "yoga of nonduality." But to reach it one has to pass through the "yoga of philosophical knowledge." (Notebooks, Vol. 16, Part 1, 2.116)

   Maybe the jnanis and non-dualists are wrong, and the emanationists, such as the Sants and sages like Plotinus, are right, that down here we only see as in a glass dimly, a poor reflection of the real - but up there "face too face." Maybe any non-dual realization must be made abiding on all planes after passing through multiple "zero-points" or apparent "deaths". Even though the Real is not separated from nature, or the hierarchy of planes, perhaps it is true that only the purified soul has a chance at realizing God, and that such must be attained through passing through and understanding successive levels of the cosmos. If the Soul is a permanent emanation of the Divine or the Nous, as Plotinus says, perhaps then, having a satori or deep awakening while on the earth plane does not in itself simply dissolve all that lies between 'Nature and the Nous', as many non-dual teachers imply while casually and with self-assurance bordering on its own form of fundamentalism dismiss all discussion of cosmology and the Soul. In Sant Mat as well as some of the gnostic traditions such as that of Plato and Plotinus, the true form of the Soul is known only in its own domain, and what we see and know down here is but a glimmer of the reality, even though it is paradoxically a manifestation of the reality and can be realized as such. Perhaps it can be said then that even if one intuits the Nous in the waking state, i.e., has the non-dual realization, the soul still naturally desires to seek its origin.

   Maharaj Saheb, in his discourse, "Ode to the Unknown God," said:

   "Radhasoami Dayal [the Merciful Lord of the Soul] has graciously assumed human form to grant redemption to the entire humanity, nay, He has made the reflection of His Form available even at the lower chakras.
   "Still lower down, He assumed the dark bluish form of Niranjan. Such is my beloved Radhasoami. Descending to the heart centre, He became subject to desires. Such is my beloved Radhasoami. He, however, reduces the evil tendencies of Indri-centres (lower centres pertaining to senses). Such is my beloved Radhasoami." (quoting Swami Ji Maharaj, Sar Bachan Poetry, Book One)"

   In philosophical terms what he seems to be saying, in this instance, is that the Idea of Man, and the form of the Master-Soul, gets reflected from plane to plane from Sach Khand on down. The higher up, the more it approximates the eternal emanation from the Nous, even though the One is always existent and "there is nowhere that it is not."

   In any case, in Sant Mat it is said that after the soul reaches the radiant form of the Master on the threshold of the astral plane, most of its personal toil is over and the rest is in the hands of the Master, who attracts the soul like iron filings towards a magnet. Likewise, upon reaching Sach Khand, the emanated soul is then in the hands of the Sat Purush, who absorbs the soul likewise by stages in to the Anami, the nameless and formless absolute realm. So what we are talking about is far beyond the aegis of the personal will. Timothy Smith similarly writes from the point of view of the Sam'khya tradition of this need for grace:

   "Finally, when the cosmos itself reaches a moment of perfect self-knowing, Buddhi, through the Grace of Ishvara and with the support of Prakriti, stands aside, and a new Bodhisattva is born. With neither will nor ego-identity remaining, this is the moment of viveka turning upon itself – and being turned upon itself. This is the assimilation of mentalism and the fruition of epistemological discipline. The remaining ascent from Purusa to Âtman shall unfold in the mysterious remoteness of pure, empty Being.... The higher tattvas [Buddhi, Aham'kara, Tanmatra], starting with Aham’kâra, are not the product of the individual Purusa alone, but are the work of Îshvara, Shakti, and Shiva. As such they can not be truly dissolved by any individual act, including viveka."

   In The Crown of Life: A Study in Yoga, it is implied that Surat Shabd Yoga fulfills if not transcends the goal as elaborated in the Sam'khya school. This makes a precise categorization of the terms Sat Purush and Anami even more compelling.

   In Sant Mat it is said that even a state of oneness, in which the mind merges in ITS own source in the causal plane, is a stepped-down manifestation of higher spiritual realizations of oneness, with which it is often confused. Maharaj Charan Singh said:

   "Unless the mind returns to and merges in its origin, the soul cannot be released from the negative power and cannot begin its real spiritual evolvement to God-Realization." (Katherine Wason, The Living Master (Radha Soami Satsang Beas, 1984) p. 136)

   The reader will refer to the schema of planes given before for a visual example of this. The mind is said to merge with the universal mind at the second main stage of the inner journey with soul travelling beyond on its own. This is much different than advaita. Katherine Wason writes:

   "The stage of Brahm is the apex of reality , the very height of spiritual attainment, to one who has not a perfect Master who has gone beyond the reach of Brahm. With the blending of self into Universal Mind and the expanded consciousness which embraces the furthest reach of the cosmos of the Universal Mind, it seems that no stage can be further attained. For how is it possible even to conceive of a stage above and beyond Universal Mind, often called Unity itself? To merge into that which interpenetrates the entire universe would seem to constitute the furthest limit of spiritual ascent.”
   “Yet for one initiated by a perfect Master, the now purer and far more powerful force of the Shabd lifts the disciple out of this appearance of Unity and transports him to the stage of Parbrahm - "beyond" Brahm. And here a greater, more glorious dimension of consciousness is met. For each stage reflects the higher, and a reflection - no matter how real and pure and beautiful it may seem - cannot but distort and vaguely hint at that which it reflects. Thus the appearances vanish and the Oneness of Brahm is known to be but a part of the Whole. In fact, the sojourner directly comprehends that there is not only one Brahm, but others as well - that within each of these Brahmandi regions revolves the same vast, seemingly limitless cosmic scheme, each with its own cycle of birth and death and liberation, each with its own Universal Mind and astral and material creation.”
   “At the third stage of the spiritual journey, the soul is pure, completely unfettered and free. The once slumbering spirit realises its true identity as a drop of the Supreme Ocean and for the first time wakens to the full wonder and glory of God...Now the soul is in the majestic realm of pure spirit-consciousness, and awe and joy and wonder become increased beyond imagination. At each threshold of the stages of consciousness..the soul is flooded with the awareness that glory of a greater dimension lies beyond...By the great Love and Light of the true Lord Himself, the soul, united with God-consciousness, expands and advances to the three remaining regions".
(Ibid, p. 306-308)

   12. The concept of the void is necessary to mention here, because of the fact that in Sant Mat it is explained that there is a great void or region called Maha Sunn separating the materio-spritual regions from the purely spiritual ones, in which even great souls get suspended until the living master of the time brings his great Light through it to guide them out of it and "usher them into" the spiritual planes. This may be confused with the concept of the void(s) as given in Buddhism. For it is unlikely the two are the same. It is even more confusing when it is recognized that in the consideration of the void or ‘emptiness’ in Mahayana Buddhism, ‘emptiness’ itself is also ‘empty’. It is not considered to be a state as such but more often as a dialectical methodology of understanding the non-entitification of things. For more on this please see ”Empyiness Is Empty” on this website.

   Nevertheless, there are void experiences in Buddhisim which are not considered experiential as such, but as the absence of experiencing, while in Sant Mat the plane of Maha-Sunn is referred to as a dark experiential void, like a form of dark space, that the soul passes through on the way to Sach Khand and the true Void of Anami Lok. Once again, in Buddhism where reference is made to the void it is generally not to a phenomenal void but, rather, either a realm of the absence of ego, or, alternatively, as ‘suchness,’ the only reality there is. In Maha Sunn, however, there is the experience of darkness, but in the true void there is no darkness and no "I", so this, it appears reasonable, would have to be at least what is called Anami in Sant Mat. The Void, Sunyata, Suchness, whatever name one chooses to point to the non-conceptual truth, is not dark (another concept or experience), but the clear light of Reality, the goal-less goal of all the paths. How could Sant Kirpal Singh, for instance, explain such a thing to his disciples other than on a one to one basis and not necessarily through words but through a potent spiritual silence? Looking back now, I see the reason for Kirpal's exclamation to me, "God is nothing!" In Buddhism, God IS nothing, or the Void-Mind, which is really not nothing but the fulness (purna) of reality, or as Rumi put it, the "Unmanifest-Manifest". The void, unfortunately, is probably the most misunderstood concept in Buddhism. It does not mean nothing as conceptually understood, but rather, non-conceptual reality. It is the REAL.

   The Dalai Lama appears to take a middle ground, emphasizing the importance of both achievements, concentration and insight:

   "This pattern of training in the path, training first in ethics then in meditative stabilization and then in wisdom is not just a pronouncement of the Buddha but accords with the actual fact of experience in training the mind. In order to generate the view realizing emptiness in any strong form, never mind that special level of mind called special insight realizing emptiness, it is necessary that the mind not be distracted, that it be channeled, that it be brought together and made powerful. Thus in order for the wisdom consciousness to be powerful and to be capable of acting as an antidote, it is necessary for the consciousness itself to be channeled. Thus meditative stabilization is needed for wisdom.

   In order to have meditative stabilization, in which there is a quieting of internal mental distractions, it is necessary prior to that to restrain coarser types of distraction of body and speech. Thus one engages in practices of ethics that involve restraint of these coarser activities of body and speech in order to lay the groundwork for meditative stabilization. Thus ethics is first, meditative stabilization second and wisdom is third in the order of the three trainings. This is certified by experience.”
(The Thirty-seven Practices of Bodhisattvas, Preliminary Teachings to the Kalachakra Initiation, 1989).

   PB states:

   “The Void must not be misunderstood. Although it is the deepest state of meditation and one where he is deprived of all possessions, including his own personal self, it has a parallel state in the ordinary active non-meditative condition, which can best be called detachment...After all, even the Void, grand and awesome as it is, is nothing but a temporary experience, a period of meditation...The awareness of what is Real must be found not only in deep meditation, in its trance, but when fully awake.” (Ibid, 8.186-188)

   I cannot argue with such sages. In my humble, limited understanding what they say seems to make sense. Further, just as meditation needs a long time to be successfully cultivated, such insight apparently also needs a long time to be understood, seen for what it is, and perhaps most importantly, believed, in order for reality to positively reveal itself through grace.


13. The Nature of the Planes and Bodies

   Okay. Now it is time to put much of this together so that we can understand it, perhaps in a new way. The next few sections may be the most important part of this paper. How is Sant Mat unique, and how does it differ from Buddhism, Ramana, and other sages? What happens after death for the initiate? How is Sant Mat a non-dual path after all? In the next three sections I have had significant help from an initiate friend of my named Mark, some mutual sharing of ideas. That's the only satisfactory way of with dealing with this material, to get more than one mind working on it, it is so complex.

   First, here is a more concise but also intricately described and compiled version of the Sant Mat shemata given towards the beginning of this article, with some new points of interest, which one might do well to read. Besides the usual advise to avoid the 'left-hand path', it also mentions that in higher regions there is the possibility of being allured onto a 'right-hand path' which will lead one to higher places but which are essentially dead-ends. hence the necessity of a living master who can guide the soul. All of the descriptions of tunnels, left and right, etc., in higher regions, have made me at times wonder if these regions are in the folds of the brain, but on closer inspection, with what little experience I have had, has led me to a different conclusion. When one goes deep enough in meditation with the help of the shabda-brahman - the real higher Power built into the worlds, created and uncreated - one knows one is beyond the confines of the physical body. The 'silver cord' mentioned in the Bible remains uncut, and one can come and go at will.

   My limited experience is that these inner experiences are mostly non-physical. They are no less real than the physical world, in some ways more, being less veiled, but still relative, until one sheds all coverings and reaches Sat Lok or Sach Khand. While relative experience they should not be called imaginary, as some vedantins and Upanishads such as the Mandukya say, as they are real projections of Isvara, the Creator or Sat Purush. To say, as the Mandukya does, that Hiranyagarbha and the dream state (taijasa) are identical in essence, does not seem to do justice to the actual experiential nature of reality. The true nature of all these phenomena is, of course, nondual - when realized as such - and so cannot be categorized one way or another - real/imaginary, inner/outer, up/down, descending/ascending. Phenomena like nadis or tunnels are part of relative experience, but referring to them in relative ways like imaginary or 'makyo' can have a teaching value, but is only a tool rather than a 'true' picture of reality. In a certain sense we can say that the sense of solidity of a door is 'imaginary', maya, unreal, illusion, but until a rather advanced level of realization, we had better open the door to pass into the next room. So from deeper levels all these things are not the deepest understanding - chakras, planes, ascending/descending, trances, karma, bodies, time, tunnels, etc. But just as walking through doors is not a relative experience most of us are likely to transcend in the near future, so all this other stuff is a 'relatively' real part of experience. Some of it, though, is more subject to our personal beliefs than others, so experiences like what happens during death is not entirely the same from person to person. Sri Aurobindo spoke of 'annexes to the subltle realms', that is, personal hells superimposed on the relatively real universal projections. So, some aspects are universal, and some are personal. But overly simple dismissive statement such as calling the light and sound illusory, or, as Ramana once told someone, a 'deep samskara or tendency for experience', or similarly calling planes or tunnels maya, is awkward and incomplete metaphysics - not the most elegant way to honor both absolute and relative dimensions of experience. A great Zen master was once asked 'how do you relate to the idea of karma?' (a relative principle) He said 'a Zen master does not ignore karma?' Nor does he probably ignore doors and walls.

   The various higher planes are not contained in the brain. Yogis who say so are experiencing reflected versions of the higher planes. This is also the Sant Mat position. But one does go through the brain-core, as Rumi mentioned in some of his lyrical verses, and many people experience visions of light and subtle audition there. But it is only a step on the way.The inner realms and bardos are definitely trans-physical. When one passes through the visions of light that are within the reach of the brain, pierces the moon, star, and sun, and is then pulled up by the big bell sound, he exits the brahmarendhra at the top of the head and enters the astral world. This is not the thousand-petalled lotus and the end of the road, but just the beginning of the progressively real journey to the Godhead. It cannot be bypassed through trickery, or a non-dual realization that is solely physical plane based. Such paths dismiss the soul in a cavalier way. True, these planes with corresponding bodies of one's own (astral and causal; or astral, mental, and causal, depending on the system) are temporary and within the realm of space and time (in Sant Mat, Kal and Maha-Kal), compared to our formless identity on the spiritual planes beyond. That is why Sant Rajinder Singh says you will know for sure you survive death when you reach the third plane, Daswan Dwar, in my estimation, as this is the plane of final rest for many initiates between rebirths - for those who need to reincarnate. The average soul does not have access that far up, and is limited to experiencing one or the other of the astral heavens before passing into unconsciousness before rebirth. To complete the death process, one must also drop the astral and causal bodies, which is normal. This is known as the 'second death'. Therefore, to be beyond these bodies is to know that something real survives, even if the knowledge is not permanent, when and if one is reborn with a new body and brain.

   One of the great modern masters of these regions with a highly sophisticated knowledge of the workings of the planes, reincarnation, and so on, was named Daskalos. He made a point about this issue in an interesting way - he said 'the brain cannot think. The mind thinks. The brain is simply a receiving station where the mind imprints its thoughts in the physical body'. In other words, not only are these lower planes not enfolded in the brain, even the power of thought does not have its seat there, but rather is in the mind, which by a kind of vertical telepathy, imprints in the brain thought and reason. [This might serve as an explanation for the possibility of animals becoming liberated. While it is usually accepted in the yogic traditions that only in the man-body, with an advanced brain equipped with a self-reflective neo-cortex, is the process of self-realization possible, Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi felt that animals, too, could also attain salvation. If such a brain is not really necessary, and although it might be the exception to the rule, dependent on a Master's direct influence, then that would account for the famous case of Lakshmi the cow abiding in nirvikalpa samadhi and also reaching mukti, according to Ramana's own words].

   Daskalos' teaches that the soul knows its deeper self behind the outer personality of the three bodies, and comes to final rest between incarnations at the third inner plane. Reaching even the first inner plane can bring strong conviction that one survives death, but at this level one has not yet fully dropped identification with the astral and mental (or causal) bodies, which are also not only temporary like the physical, but are also veils that usually obscure the consciousness of the higher, formless 'bodies' beyond these, which include formless realization of a continuity of experience beyond each cycle of incarnation. Hence the temporary bodies are ruled by Kal, a type of 'time' linked to form experience, while the supracausal planes are ruled my Maha Kal, which rules the meta-time of the higher self that remains conscious of the story of evolution from life to life. So coming to that level of identity really drives home the relative truth of this deeper level of our spiritual nature beyond temporary bodies, physical and subtle. That is likely why Rajinder Singh made the remark about the third plane.

   Again, even when going to the lowest of these inner regions, if done so with real clarity and presence, one immediately feels one is in a realm with greater relative reality greater intensity of feeling, greater vividness of sensation and perception, by comparison with which the physical world seems foggier, denser, heavier. When experienced in a way that reveals the relative nature of each realm, physical and astral, for instance, the physical by contrast seems less substantial and more restrictive. From a nondual point of view this difference is relatively inconsequential, for in the nondual view one no longer identifies with a sense of limitation versus freedom. But this non-duality must be realized on every plane. That is the reason for the various jhanas or degrees of absorption - combined with vipassana or cultivation of mindfulness and insight - in Buddhism. [This is not to say that the various samadhis and jnanas in Buddhism correlate to the planes in Sant Mat; after reading the above material, it seems likely that they do not. One big potential difference is that they are described without the help of the shabda-brahman, the primal manifestation of the Sat Purush, and the grace of the Master Power, or the human master who is at-one with that God-Power].

   However, the Buddha himself warned that one can get attached to these higher experiences, and without understanding one may return without realizing the non-dual truth. This is why traveling to a higher plane by itself is not necessarily wisdom - though it can be used to cultivate wisdom - for just because a higher, heavenly world allows greater freedom of expression and fulfillment of desire, does not mean that one no longer has desire or the dualism that desire is rooted in. That is why non-dual contemplation and cultivation optimally must occur at each level. So the true nature of what these various planes really are, and how that relates to spiritual development, is quite complex. It is possible that the current systems that exist in our world for understanding them will be considered very primitive from the point of view of future cosmologies.

   Doubts can come up, and that is why it can be good to keep sharing our experiences and such with each other (the general world 'sangha'), to reinforce our understanding.

   Kirpal was asked if he thought anami was the highest plane, and he apparently said "I think so, but if you here of anything higher, tell me - I want to know about it". This may not be higher, but is a teaching worth mentioning - and then perhaps forgetting. The teachings that Theosophists like Blavatsky say they received from higher bodhisattvas in various parts of the world like Tibet, India and the Middle East, included a cosmology that said that, not only, as many teachings say, are the divisions of the universe into great planes mirrored in each plane so that each plane has many (usually said to be seven) subplanes, but that also this mirroring works in reverse, so that the various world or planes we know from various systems are actually the subdivisions of the cosmic physical universe. And in this view, there is another octave of 'planes' beyond the highest normally spoken of, but that any contact with them will appear completely transcendental to our physical consciousness.This is very advanced, and would be like trying to teach calculus to a one year old. If this is true, it is a good thing that one does not seem to need to ascend through all these world to have liberation, as liberation seems to almost move in a different direction, as if the planes were layed out in one direction, say vertically, whereas access to the Absolute is more of a horizontal awakening. There are states that feel more whole, transcendent, liberated, universal, and that they can be accessed in our ordinary state, and that the more we develop them, the more peaceful, free, compassionate and lucid we become.

   Sant Mat and Non-Duality

   Here is one way of looking at the non-dual realization in terms of Sant Mat. In the state of nondual presence (atmic realization, rigpa), when integrated with human experience, there is awareness of the world as sensations, thoughts, desires, emotions, and so on, and even advanced experiences like the Sat Purush. But, as these phenomena arise, they are accompanied by a lucid wisdom, a direct spiritual realization (beyond not only intellect but even intuition) that each phenomena that arises in one's consciousness is actually buddha-nature (or whatever one wishes to call it - emptiness, the Tao, Brahman). So there is a kind of dual perception where maya presents itself to nondual presence/ awareness, moment to moment, as experiences of apparently separate phenomena, and remaining rigpa or atmic vision means that one does not slip into experiencing this phenomena as of a separate nature from oneself. The witness is empty. The phenomena is empty. The Sat Purush is empty. Nothing but emptiness witnessing emptiness. The power of this realization liberates the phenomena that is arising as well, so that the karmic power driving some of these phenomena is liberated by the power inherent in the fact that one 'perceived them nondually' (to use a clumsy phrase). This state is different than nirodha, or internal nirvikalpa samadhi, in which all phenomena have temporarily ceased arising. Many Vedantists immersion in this kind of nirvikalpa can have great power to enhance the clarity of one's nondual realization, but it has no power to liberate remaining karma/vasanas because they are not being allowed to arise so the can be liberated in the presence of nondual realization. They have been set aside in order to enter nirvikalpa trance. But it may be that this state does strengthen the state of rigpa or nondual presence when one does re-emerge. [That is the value of repeated immersion in the shabda-brahman and higher planes].

   In Dzogchen various stages of nondual contemplation are described that are determined by the depth of power one has developed in the intensity of rigpa or atmic realization, so that, for instance, vasanas may need to arise repeatedly to be fully liberated, while in the more advanced stages the liberation of vasanas is instantaneous. Further, advanced Togal practices are employed to cause a more enhanced expansion of nondual realization that is more like turning on a light in a room full of karmas, liberating many at once rather than in succession, as vasanas usually arise in human consciousness. But all this business of karmas/samskara/vasanas being liberated as they arise in nondual presence is really a relative and progressive view of what is happening. In the state of rigpa, there is not concept of changing, liberating, transforming, purifying. All phenomena arising are seen as a nondual energetic (shakti) display of one's own nature, self- perfected from the beginning, and not obscuring anything. At a higher stage, the practitioner gains the ability to access the nondual view or realization, but only in meditation. The karmas that remain in one's nature are experienced as an obstruction that block out nondual awareness, but one has the ability to use one's will to penetrate through the obscurations and enter 'the view' at will, nondual presence, rigpa. At an even higher stage, one is continously stabilized in nondual realization, but some personal karma remains. This would be just before Sach Khand, if one is practicing non-dual vision simultaneously with meditation. But one's point of view is that these karmas, arising in one's experience, are no longer 'in between' oneself and emptiness, causing obscuration. It is as if one has moved to the other side of the cloud of thoughts, emotions, sensations, etc. that continue to arise, but now one experiences them as nondual, so they are no longer experienced as an obstruction to nondual realization. This is a harder realization to attain than simply accessing nondual realization in trance, because in the latter, one has set aside these apparent obscurations to make it easier to see behind them to emptiness. This can help gain access to the nondual state of presence, but it will not be stabilized in one's ordinary awareness until it has gained an intensity werein phenomena are no longer experienced as an  obstruction to  realization, and further, each moment of phenomena  is fully  experienced nondually, on all planes. This takes greater  intensity of realization. In Sach Khand, personal karma has been exhausted, so that the  intensity of nondual presence is not only greater, but is more  fully integrated with the lower bodies, releasing more of their   latent potential for expression. This is probably why there  has been debate in Vedanta about whether nirvikalpa or sahaj samadhi is Self- Realization. Technically nirvikalpa feels like liberation,  and in a  very real sense, is, because one is in a liberated state of presence. But one's karma is not fully liberated until Sainthood is reached, so one could say that the bodies will express a higher degree of liberation at that stage, especially the causal body.

   As each plane is mirrored in every other plane, then Sach Khand, for instance, has a reflection in each form dimension. Every incarnate master who is in atmic or nondual realization is a type of reflection of Sach Khand in the physical world. 'Shambhalla' would be the planetary manifestation of a kingdom that reflects Sach Khand in the physical world (though many believe, as makes sense to me, that this would be more 'etheric' physical, as that is the physical subplane that mirrors Sach Khand). Since each plane reflects a version of each other in a way that is conditioned by the reflected plane, the reflection of the lower planes in the higher is more difficult to comprehend, as it realized as the essences of lower manifestations. So, for instance, we do not have earthy objects in the formless planes, but the Idea/essence of the earth element as a pure light/sound/Idea exists there. So, too, does Time exist there, but as a pure Idea, not as an sequence of events and a sense of duration.

   There is a reflection of Sach Khand on all three of the lower planes, and it is perfectly real. It is not someone's imagining of it. It is just as real as any physical place, though in a certain relative sense, it is more real, as it vibrates with a much greater sense of Beingness, or Reality, and so leaves one with a more powerful sense of the 'substance' of it than physical experience does, by comparison. But, when talking about journeying to higher planes, if we are talking about the deepest meaning of moving plane by plane, withdrawing from each body in turn until reaching Atman/Sach Khand, then it would be more allegorical to talk of form environments and such, even though that is very real too. The formless experience of Sach Khand, though to our ordinary human nature may sound unappealingly impersonal or abstract, is actually even more sublime in its purity than the form level reflection. But since the part of our nature that is attuned to that level is, whether form or formless, in a more nondual state, then the difference doesn't matter so much.

   In a sense the higher realms intermediate between the lower three worlds and the divine planes are the realms of Platonic Ideas and Ideal Forms, not forms in the material sense, but the abstract archetypes upon which manifestation is based, as well as the primal causes behind manifestation. Some of the keys to understanding the realms to my mind are these:

   (1) From a nondual point of view, the essence of the realms must be the same. Ultimately the essence of all planes is Brahman or the Nondual.

   (2) At the level of dualism, again the nature of the planes is the same. So if a lower plane can be said to be 'material', then in some essential way, all the planes are material. And if some planes can be said to be planes of spirit, then all planes must be spirit in some sense. Since one meaning of Spirit is the Nondual, which is not against or in contrast to anything, then when we say that the higher planes are purely or deeply spiritual, then what does this mean? They are spiritual in two ways. They more readily reflect 'realization' of the Nondual, so they seem more spiritual than the lower planes. But the lower planes can reflect nondual realization as well, as in sahaja samadhi, so that is not a characteristic that is limited to the higher planes. The atman may be the part of us that always realizes its nondual nature, but all planes can do that. So another meaning of spiritual that can be applied to the higher planes is that they are more universal. This is a key understanding. The nondual and the universal are not the same, though they are often confused. The universal is part of relativity and duality, for it gets its meaning in counterrelationship to the particular, the individual, the specific.

   (3) All of the planes, then, represent a spectrum of states from what, to our dualistic perception, will appear at one end of the spectrum as a plane of almost pure form, the material plane all the way up to a plane that is almost pure Spirit or Mind, ultra-universal. This last plane reaches into the very foundations of the essence of mind and consciousness itself, like the notion of Unity, Polarity, Selfhood, Infinity, or Eternality. These kinds of Pure Ideas, liberated from being perceived as being tied to any specific manifestation of them, form the very highest planes - Luminous, Eternal, Infinite, Expansive, Liberated. But they are not the final nondual, because they are part of a spectrum of experience from form to formless, specific to universal, finite to infinite, which still partakes of dualism, and so is not fully liberated, in the original Buddhist sense.

   (4) The formless, Mind, universal planes are planes of greater wholeness, cohesion and unity, because the nature of Formless Abstraction is that is moves deeper and deeper into identification with Categories of Reality, Universal Ideas, Principles, Archetypes and Laws. We shift our focus from the realm of particulars that these Universals are the Soul of, the underlying Formative Patterns that hold all specific forms in shape, as well as provide the forces that interrelate forms as laws from Love and Gravity to Karma and Time, to the realm of Universal, and we will feel timeless, blissful, whole, unified, silent, peaceful. This provides a powerful foundation for nondual realization, but is not the same.

   (5) It is easier to reflect nondual realization in our nature that exists in these higher planes, so if we journey to, or attune to, this higher level aspect of ourselves, we will not only be aware of the universals (sometimes, at first, only as simple qualities like silence and eternity), but we will also connect with a level of our nature that has already developed a good measure of nondual realization. This can confuse people about the nature of these planes, making people believe their inherent nature is nondual realization. That is kind of true, but not really.

   (6) The planes can be looked at as existing in a continuum divided into three main groups. The first set of planes is dominated by form, bodies, objects, individuality, matter. The highest set is dominated by Spirit, Universality, Pure Mind. The third set of planes is in the middle between these two, and has a relatively greater balance of spirit and matter, universality and individuality. (7) There are three form planes - physical, emotional and mental (this last is really a material form of mind, not true Universal, Abstract Mind. It is filled with images, words and other forms of mind that are very personal, earth bound, form-based.)

   (8) The highest three planes are planes of pure Mind - Universality. It is very hard to name these planes. The lowest of these is the fifth plane counting from the densest, most material, and is the home of our Atman. (9) The middle plane, making seven in all, is the plane of spiritual intuition.

   (10) All the planes have seven subdivisions that mirror the greater seven planes. So, for instance, the physical plane has seven subdivision, the highest three being ethereal or energetic/pranic, and is the formative foundation for the dense body. These three levels mirror the highest three planes, which in the larger divisions are the 'ethereal, Universal Planes. This etheric or pranic aspect of the physical level of our bodies is where the seven chakras are to be found. These have a profound relationship to the seven major planes, but also have other levels of meaning and functioning. The other four planes are the planes of earth, water, fire and air. They make up the dense physical body. (11) The next two planes are also planes of form, so they are realms of shape, form, bodies, environments, objects, events, etc. They are also divided into the etheric aspect and the dense aspect. They are the astral and mental. The dense aspect of the mental plane can be called the concrete mind, as it is the aspect of our human intelligence that visualizes and names forms. The etheric aspect of the mental plane can also be called the higher or abstract mind or mental body. In some systems it is called the causal body. It is used by the higher self (atma/buddhi) for interacting with the lower planes.

   (12) The fourth plane, the intuitive, is more formless, being in the middle, but still has what some have called 'formless form'. It is a meeting place between the higher and the lower, and a plane where the levels of pure mind can interact with form, and a level where our form-based human consciousness can begin to look directly into the more purely Universal planes.

   (13) Mirroring the larger pattern of dividing the planes into three groups, this middle, soul/intuitive plane can be also divided into three levels. In Sant Mat the lower aspect, which is more 'tainted' with form, is Daswan Dwar, and the higher, etheric aspect is Bhanwar Gupha. This latter is the threshold to the higher trinity of planes. The exact mid-point, an point of profound equilibrium and balance between the lower and higher, is the fourth sub-plane of the fourth plane. This is called Mahasunn is Sant Mat. The place of perfect balance is also the point of darkness.

   (14) Beyond all the planes is the ground of them all - the Nondual, the Absolute. This reality can be accessed in different ways. The part of one's nature that is identified with the densest plane, the physical, and ascends through the planes, thus gathers experience and a more balanced relationship to all of them, and can then experience transcending them all 'through to the top', in which case the nondual will seem like it is another plane above the seven planes (or nine if you count the subdivisions of the intuitive). But it is also possible to pierce through the planes directly to the nondual from any plane. Doing this will also bring with it increasing access to all the other planes, as this liberates one from the dualistic identifications that give rise to the separate planes in the first place, so they all become accessible from the base of nondualism.

   (15) In this schemata, the anandamayakosha is the same as the intuitive body. As this is a plane that still has a balance of spirit and matter, the matter aspect gives rise to 'bodiness'. But as it is relatively more formless, partaking deeply of the qualities of the higher planes, it does not have the kind of shape the lower bodies do. It is a formless body. Hence it blissfulness. This body is also beyond the vijnandamayakosha (discriminative sheath), so lacking the more dualistic judgmentalness of that sheath, the anandamaya is free of self-judgment, guilt, condemnation, and the like, which is another reason it is blissful. It is not the bliss of SatChitAnanda, though. The latter is the bliss of nondual awakening. This sheath is the home of a very conscious aspect of ourselves. In the average person, it is not as nondual realized as the Atman, but it is wise and compassionate. If the average person where to immerse themselves in the anandamayakosha without actually transforming into the consciousness of that level of realization, it would go into an kind of unconscious blissful sleep, deep sleep. That does not mean that this body is an unconscious body, but rather that is how the ordinary jiva or incarnated self would experience that level. But if one is raised to that level by transforming into the anandamayakosha-self, one would experience a great illumination and expansion of consciousness. It is only one veil removed from the atman. Kirpal Singh said that it is almost like an integral part of the Soul itself.

   A few words might be said about the Intuitive Body, midway between the lower three bodies and the spiritual planes above, as this is not discussed very much in any of the literature. Although not having a three-dimensional shape like the physical, astral and mental bodies, and also being beyond time and space as experienced in the psychophysical levels, the intuitive body does have a kind of ‘formless form’ and as such is still considered a ‘body’ or ‘sheath’ that covers the innermost Self, Spirit or atman. The intuitive body contains the pure archetypes, ideas and principles that form the foundational matrix for our more concrete personality and physical life. The intuitive body is also the more permanent aspect of our reincarnating identity, being the body where the seeds of karma generated in each incarnation, as well as in our experiences in the astral and mental worlds, are stored between incarnations. It is also the level of our nature where the essential wisdom and character developed through each incarnation is integrated and preserved. While each of the three more spatially manifested bodies (physical, astral and mental) have seven major chakras, along with the primary channels or nadis, that form the foundation of each body, the intuitive body contains a more essential version of these etheric centers that expresses as a single, multi-faceted and multi-dimensional chakra or lotus that is the essence of the intuitive body of a human being. This may be called the ‘soul body’ and has also been called the ‘egoic lotus’. As this ‘meta-body’ or lotus manifests on the lower planes, beginning at the etheric mental level, it differentiates into a more three-dimensional shape with seven spatially distinct chakras and numerous lesser centers and channels. The intuitive body has been called the karana sarira or ‘causal body’ in yoga, the ananda-maya-kosa in Vedanta, the soul or higher self, and the permanent personality (Daskalos). This level of consciousness and identity is but one level removed from the atman or liberated spiritual Self.

   (16) The vijnandamayakosha correlates to the higher mental body - the reasoning, discriminating, thinking body. When this sheath is illuminated with higher realization, it becomes a source of relative wisdom and moral discrimination.

   (17) The manomayakosha is a combination of the lower mind and the emotional bodies. It is also sometimes called the kama-manas, or desire-mind.

   (18) The pranamayakosha is the etheric physical body, with chakras, nadis, and meridians.

   (19) The annamayakosha is the dense physical body, the lower 4 subplanes. The body dependent on food.

   (20) Ultimately all the planes are actually interpenetrating, so that manifest throughout the whole form dimension are the universal dimension. They have no meaning without each other. And, implicit within universals are their particulars that 'express' them. The two realities are mutually interdependent and co-arising. So, if one deeply investigates the physical realm, one will gradually discover the underlying univerals that the physical is founded on, and so will find the univeral expressed in the particular, and the particular implicit in the universal. We can separate them out in our consciousness for various purposes, but in nondual awareness we grow in our appreciation of their profound interdependence. This is a basis for the jnana path.

   Karma, as such, is 'plane specific'. Any attachment or aversion to anything and a given plane forms a karmic link to that plane. One is liberated from a plane by ceasing to be anything but purely equanimous towards it. This can be accomplished in various ways, but results in the same thing. One must not only cease to be currently tied to that plane, but must also neutralize past tendencies of attachment or aversion formed in relation to that plane. Since the physical is the coarsest plane, it is generally easiest to develop equanimity towards that plane first, then refine our detachment and realization towards subtler worlds. More advanced initiates are developing a most sublime form of nondual realization that comes from complete indifference even to the most sublime formless realms. This, of course, is the hardest level of equanimity to develop.

   Since the three bodies are the ones that are the lower three vehicles that are temporary with each incarnation and define our human nature as beings manifest in form, when one has completed karma at those levels, one is fully liberated from human karma. There are two ways to define liberation, one, as a state of mind, and, two, as freedom from karma. At the fifth level (Sach Khand)one is both in a nondual state of mind and has fully exhausted all three levels of human karma. At the fourth level (Banwhar Gupta) one is also in a 'liberated' state of mind, sahaja, but the very subtle mental/causal karmas are not yet fully exhausted. But this is not so much karma that it obscures the ability of the individual to remain in a nondual state in which they no longer experience dualism, nor do they experience the remaining karma as a problem. Since they are in the nondual view at the fourth already, they are liberated, though they have some remaining subtle or causal karma. The inner realization of a master is uneffected by whether or not they have karma yet to play out. But if there is some karma left, some integration to achieve, it will contribute to conditioning the manifestation of the body(s) of the master. Thus there may be greater degrees of Mastery despite realization of Sach Khand.

   In Sant Mat, there are several levels beyond the Atman: Alak, Agam, and Anami, the latter variously also called Nirala, Radhasoami, Maha Dayal, etc.. These levels are also recognized by many schools such as in Buddhism, some schools of Hinduism (Sri Yukteswar, for example), and certain schools of Western esotericism.

   Beyond all planes of the relative universe is Brahman or the Tao, the nondual or primordial reality. The Nondual is beyond all these levels and yet is the essential nature of all levels. No level is closer to Nondual than another, although some levels, particularly the subtlest three, are much more conducive to direct realization of the nondual or Absolute. We can group the highest planes together as formless planes that give easier access to increasingly liberated nondual realization. In these planes or levels one’s awareness and being are not only infused with direct perception of the Absolute, but also an awareness of one’s relative Self or Atman (rigpa in Dzogchen) as liberated and luminous, and being of the same substance as the Absolute. Here one also encounters the Universal Presence or Logos, the essence of all awakened Being. But even the realization on has on these planes grows, and so we must not equate these worlds with a particular level of developed enlightenment.

   The densest three planes are the most veiled. These are often called the realms of separation or maya, not because they are intrinsically less divine, but because these realms are characterized by a perception that everyone and everything is separate, limited and imperfect. Remember, each of these worlds are really states of consciousness or understanding, even though the greater maya or ‘veiledness’ of the densest realms gives rise to the illusion or appearance of concrete forms, beings and an objective universe.

   Once again, the intermediate or intuitive plane is a transitional realm, with two or three divisions, depending on classification, partaking of the characteristics of both the higher and lower trinities. It is therefore a kind of doorway between the formless realms of nondual illumination, and the more concrete realms of form, time, space and activity. We might also say that the subtlest three planes are planes of purely universal states, and the densest planes are the realms more dominated by awareness of particulars. The middle realm is the realm of intuitive awareness of the interrelation of the universal and the particular, the unity in diversity.

   Even though the higher worlds, being less veiled, can make access to nondual realization easier to develop, this direct perception of the nondual can be had from any plane or world, because each level can be purified and transformed so that it can reflect the Absolute. And each level gives a new richness to nondual realization, so that until nondual realization is developed in all levels, one has not yet developed the fullest, most balanced awakening.

   Each of these planes of consciousness has seven subplanes that mirror the major planes. The subtlest three subplanes of the form planes are called the etheric aspect or dimension of each plane. The three lower worlds, being realms of form, time and space, are populated by many forms of life, and are made up of countless worlds and landscapes. Just as the physical universe is made up of vast numbers of worlds such as subatomic realms, jungles, oceans, continents, planets, solar systems, galaxies, and so on, so too the astral and mental planes comprise an even greater variety of these realms, all just as relatively ‘real’ as the physical universe. So, for instance, there are astral and mental dimensions that are equally a part of the total reality of our planet, where there are events and dramas transpiring that affect the totality of the Earth. The psychological worlds (astral and mental) are populated by countless beings, all inhabiting regions that resonate with their karmic conditions. Subsequently, the various realms may be categorized according to their level of consciousness and karma, which we find named in various traditions by such terms as heaven realms, hell realms, purgatories, the realm of ‘hungry ghosts’, etc. Thankfully, on the path of Sant mat the intitiate is led straight through or beyond all of these bewitching and bewildering sub-regions.

   To calm any heated brains, the following excerpt from the famous Lankavatara Sutra should be a healing balm, with which we will close this section:

   "Thus passing beyond the last stage of Bodhisattvahood, he becomes a Tathagata himself endowed with all the freedom of the Dharmakaya. The tenth stage belongs to the Tathagatas. Here the Bodhisattva will find himself seated upon a lotus-like throne in a splendid jewel-adorned palace and surrounded by Bodhisattvas of equal rank. Buddhas from all the Buddha-lands will gather about him and with their pure and fragrant hands resting on his forehead will give him ordination and recognition as one of themselves. Then they will assign him a Buddha- land that he may possess and perfect as his own."

   "The tenth stage is called the Great Truth Cloud (Dharmamegha), inconceivable, inscrutable. Only the Tathagatas can realise its perfect Imagelessness and Oneness and Solitude. It is Mahesvara, the Radiant Land, the Pure Land, the Land of Far-distances; surrounding and surpassing the lesser worlds of form and desire (karmadhatu), in which the Bodhisattva will find himself at-one- ment. Its rays of Noble Wisdom which is the self-nature of the Tathagatas, many- colored, entrancing, auspicious, are transforming the triple world as other worlds have been transformed in the past, and still other worlds will be transformed in the future. But in the Perfect Oneness of Noble Wisdom there is no gradation nor succession nor effort, The tenth stage is the first, the first is the eighth, the eighth is the fifth, the fifth is the seventh: what gradation can there be where perfect Imagelessness and Oneness prevail? And what is the reality of Noble Wisdom? It is the ineffable potency of the Dharmakaya; it has no bounds nor limits; It surpasses all the Buddha-lands, and pervades the Akanistha and the heavenly mansions of the Tushita."
(from The Lankavatara Sutra, Chapter 11, trans. D.T. Suzuki, as condensed in The Buddhist Bible, by Dwight Goddard)

   14. Sant Mat versus Buddhism

   It appears at first glance, and in popular versions of these teachings, that Zen and vipassana Buddhism do not emphasize or pursue trance, while shabd yoga and some vajrayana buddhist paths do. Vipassana per se is not a trance practice, but the Theravada/Hinayana schools that most purely reflect the Buddha's original teachings do includes the jhanas or states of absorption, which are 'samadhi' or 'trance' practices.

   Similarly, madyamika or mahayana Buddhism recognizes jhanas, or deepening states without full trance in order to find the ground or primordial consciousness. The jhanas of various schools of Buddhism, however, (in which they are variously called states of absorption, samadhis, concentrative states, tranquity states, jhanas, etc.) are in fact trance states. The preliminary state of access concentration described in some schools of Buddhism is not a trance state, and can be used as a doorway either into trance states (samadhi) or vipassana practice. The next four levels are called form-absorptions, because one is still aware of form, such as sensations, memories, thoughts, etc., though one's concentration is unusually deep, and the mind very still. The next four levels are called formless absorptions. These are the levels of infinite space, infinite consciousness, nothingness, and the stage of neither perception nor non-perception. In some schools, depending on approach, the first four are considered deep meditations, but not yet fully beyond body consciousness. In other school, all eight levels are considered trance states (no awareness of the body). All schools of Buddhism agree, though, that the last four are samadhi states of profound concentration, bliss, and lucid, expansive awareness. Very unified and pure. The traditional teachings, verified by modern practitioners, is that with the onset of the formless jhanas, the various bodily states nearly cease, such a breathing and heart rate.

   The Buddha believed that these where powerful states to cultivate, and could lead to profound purification of character, expansion of consciousness, and siddhis, among other things. But he did not feel that one could achieve full enlightenment through this approach. The Buddha also said that none of these states where the highest 'Truth'. And he said it was especially important not to confuse the various formless jhanas like infinite space, infinite consciousness, or nothingness, with the 'ground' or unconditioned reality.

   For the Buddha, all these levels where 'not It'. Yet he did describe a samadhi oriented practice that could give trance access to the 'unconditioned', which in this context he called nirodha, meaning cessation - the complete transcendence of all relative experience, form or formless. To access nirodha in trance one has to first master all eight jhanas and also be good at vipassana, which is quite an achievement. Then one learns to enter each jhana one level at a time, and in each one in turn practice vipassana so as to cultivate the wisdom of seeing the relative and incomplete nature of each level of samadhi. If one did this while progressing from one level of trance to another, upon reaching the highest jhana, one would simply rest in that level until a ripeness occurred that would allow an effortless movement into nirodha. [This might be considered by some to be the same as nirvikalpa samadhi or anami, but it is not certain, for one can experience nirvikalpa samadhi from any plane. Vedantist James Swartz describes becoming absorbed into Ramakrishna's belly on a subtle plane and going into nirvikalpa samadhi! See www.shiningworld.com]). Interestingly, the Buddha claimed that it was not possible to gain access to nirodha until one had reached the stage of enlightenment called the 'non-returner' (one stage before the arhat), a stage wherein one no longer had any physical karma and so would not need to return to the physical world out of karmic necessity. Many or all of the various jhanas would be accessible before this stage, but not nirodha.

   This matter of becoming free from karma is one that major emphasis is placed on in Sant Mat. They claim that no other school knows how to accomplish that, but the Sants do. Moreover, the notion of only reaching the higher jnanas after one is free frmo karma should give great pause to the contemporary non-dual teachers, who feel one can go from the empirical reality straight to the absolute reality, suchness, or void-mind, solely through understanding. The question is what ground are they talking about - the ground of the mind, the ground of the soul, or the ground of the Oversoul or absolute Void-Mind - anami for the Sants? The problem is there are different voids, which are not just conceptual distinctions, although many modern as well as ancient non-dual teachers might have one think so. This is a problem that has been an issue and source of debate over the millennia. Hence, for instance, the Buddha mastered the jhanas and then felt, much to his teacher's dismay, that this was not the true or final 'void' or ground, but some still relative one. It is not beyond suspicion that, since many modern nondual teachers lack adequate understanding, training, and guidance to distinguish these states, they commonly confuse much of this, misjudging their own and other's level of realization.

   Some great mystics may conceivably reach Maha Sunn, for instance, and believe it is the Absolute Void or Dharmakaya (Reality), when it is actually a phenomenal void, although beyond the mental vehicles.

   Zen tries to get to the suchness - emptiness or reality much like mahayana, but without much in the way of metaphysics. Traditionally, there actually is a fair amount of sophisticated theory in the Zen tradition, but it is usually not offered to students, unless they have progressed far and are being trained to teach. Then it is considered useful and not a distraction. In modern times zen has degenerated significantly in many instances from the zen of the great patriarchs, especially in the moral arena.

   The problem lies in recognizing what one in fact experiences. Unless your master is very great you may not be able to get clear verification. And, again, there are different degrees of penetration into reality. Read and you will see that even after multiple outstanding satories he still had to practice thirty more years for enlightenment in that school. Same for Hakuin, two of the greatest Zen Masters.

Sant Kirpal Singh had Zen masters come to the ashram, and they had tears in their eyes from laughing so hard with him, so he knew alot more than satsangis might think he did. One may also be aware that this was true for Ramana. People have the impression that his teachings were very simple, perhaps at times oversimplifying and maybe not adequately honoring the various stages other less advanced yogis were at. Actually, a thorough study of Ramana shows that not only was he very learned, rich and sophisticated in his understanding and teachings, but frequently said things that directly contradict what he said at other times, such as whether one needed for the mind to "sink into the heart and die", or "just be who you are." Most teachers today opt for the later as it is easier.

   He was skillfull with other styles of spiritual practice that he never openly taught. There is a story, for instance, of an advanced tantric practitioner who came to Ramana because the kundalini had risen into the head chakras but he could not 'get it' to reach the crown. Ramana took him into a private room, but some students went to listen at the window, curious what Ramana would say to this yogi. What they heard was Ramama becoming a a tantric adept and giving this yogi a sophisticated understanding of what was going on and how he need proceed, including giving him a mantra to use for his case.

   In Dzogchen these days some try to keep the mind free and open, some calling that in itself enlightenment, the problem being that until one has been able to find a stable center of conscious-awareness to return to, letting the mind be open can lead one to stagnate ina relatively subconscious state. I am thinking of the popular work by the venerable Dilgo Gyentse Rinpoche, Dzogchen in Ordinary Life. This is a complex issue, but most true Dzogchen teachings that work with this 'free and open' awareness are very aware of and have complex strategies for preparing students to practice in this way, as well as ways to work the these practices to remain balanced and alert. Dzogchen is generally taught in the context of the Nyingmapa lineage, and is considered the final of nine stages or tantras, all of which are preceded by preliminary practices. For the Buddha, vipassana was they practice he taught that was based in 'free and open' awareness. But he said that should first get a foundation in right conduct, then a preliminary foundation in deep concentration, and only then switch to cultivation vipassana, which should then ideally be pursued alongside trance or samadhi practices. The threefold foundation of practice he taught is therefore also somewhat sequential - sila (morality), samadhi (various concentration, trance, and purification practices) and prajna (wisdom developed through vipassana).

   Unfortunately in the West, practitioners here generally developed their approach to various forms of Buddhism backwards - typically becoming enamored of vipassana and other 'higher' practices such as Dzogchen, while ignoring or tying to skip over the traditional order of approach as taught by the Buddha and others. Everyone likes the idea of doing the "keep the mind in its natural state" practice. They forget , for instance, that Dilgo Rinpoche he spent fifteen years in caves and meditated six hours a day for years afterwards and probably teaches differently to the monks who have taken vows than they are aware of. For a sobering description of the sadhana of the venerable vipassana master, Luangta Maha Boowo (1913-2011, and the skillfull interconnection of moral virtue, concentration/mindfulness, and wisdom/insight practice, see the free on-line version of his new book, Samana, in particular the chapter "From Ignorance to Emptiness." In this short section he explains how the samadhi of emptiness [the theravada equivalent of nirvikalpa], as well as the stabilisation of that under the conditions of ordinary life, both advanced stages on the path, are yet, in essence, "fetters" to the Nibbana of the Buddha, the 'ultimate emptiness'. This is a worthwhile read.

   The power of 'free and open' awareness is that it is a particularly suitable practice for opening to nondual realization, for when awareness is balanced with equanimity, concentration and investigation (as is the method of vipassana), and all levels of experience from physical to psychological to spiritual, are allowed to arise without preference, this openness is actualizing nondualism in its aspect of not preferring one object of awareness to another, one plane to another, etc. The danger of trance states is that they express an inherent preference for higher and higher planes, allowing for the danger of attachment to these planes. Vipassana is the antidote to this.

   Mahamudra is a pinnacle practice in some Tibetan teachings, just as Dzogchen is in others (particularly Nyingmapa and Kagyu). In all these traditions, an open focus meditation that integrates nondual awareness with all other levels of experience, including activity in daily life, is the final practice (if not employed in some form at other stages). In all lineages Mahamudra or Dzogchen is always preceded by various tantric practices (such as the Six Yogas of Naropa that Milarepa and Marpa used, which is basically a form of kundalini yoga), or Deity Yoga (also a tantric practice as used in Vajrayana), as well as various preliminary practices such as Ngondro. So at the heart of all major Buddhist lineages is a practice that the Buddha taught originally as vipassana, and later was spun in various ways as zazen, shikan-taza, Mahamudra, Dzogchen, etc. all of which have at the essence to be fully present with all that is arising moment to moment, cultivation no attachment to any technique, plane, or viewpoint, which leads to realizing sahaja samadhi or what the Buddha called 'nirvana with elements', meaning the experience of nondual realization/liberation while fully aware of the relative level of experience.

   My main question has long been: does shabd yoga strictly and merely by inversion even to the highest levels of mystical ascent realize the natural state of sahaj samadhi spoken of by the great sages like Ramana, Ashtavakra, Sankara, Buddha, etc.? I think there have been Sant Mat saints who have - like Kabir, Rumi, and Kirpal -, but that it is not a given just through the mystical process. Moreover, are the various trance or samadhi states as taught by the Buddha, for instance, or in other school such as Vedanta or Raja Yoga, not to mention the vast array of other schools more or less the same as the stages/states of Sant Mat. I believe some are, and some are not. One of the key differences is that what the various levels of trance accomplish, how they are experienced, and what one gets out of them, depends a lot on how one approaches them. For instance, the Buddha actually taught two types of trance samadhi practice. One was normal jhanas/samadhis, the other jhanas in which one also cultivated vipassana within that particular trance state. A different approach, with different consequences. Plotinus said that we must "teach our souls." In other words, if we don't have the right doctrine or view, we won't understand the experiences we do have.

   The Buddha, as far as we can tell, used the term jhana in two ways - trance jhanas, but also what he called vipassana-jhanas. The former where absorptions leading to samadhi trance, and the later simply designated the various stages to absorption or deep concentration in various states of contemplation/realization as they arise doing vipassana. There were four of these basic vipassana-jhanas that one progresses through stage by stage, culminating in a satori experience (a kind of fifth stage). Then one must return to the second vipassana-jhana, which would again ripen by doing vipassana through a deeper version of the second, third and fourth vipassana-jhanas a second time, culminating in a second satori or nondual awakening. Again one would return to the second vipassana-jhana, ripen through more realization stages culminating in a third satori (now one is a non-returner). At this point one has completed physical karma, but is not yet in sahaja samadhi (though it is a very peaceful, virtuous, conscious state with easy access in meditation to nondual awareness). Proceeding through the vipassana-jhanas a fourth time culminates in a fourth and final satori from which one does not 'come back out'. One is now an arhat, permanently established in what Ramana called 'external nirvikalpa samadhi', which he distinguished from internal or trance-based nirvikalpa samadhi. One is jivan-mukti, liberated while embodied. Many adepts may have attained the non-returner stage and have access in samadhi to nondual awareness (and so believe they are fully enlightened), but are not fully liberated jivan-muktis (arhats) because they have not taken the final step to bring that nondual awareness fully into waking awareness. of course, this is what Paul Brunton (PB), Atmananda Krishna Menon and others have argued. For instance, PB wrote:

   "The Overself should not be reached merely in trance; it must be known in full waking consciousness. Trance is merely the deepest phase of meditation, which in turn is instrumental in helping prepare the mind to discover truth. Yoga does not yield truth directly. Trance does not do more than concentrate the mind perfectly and render it completely calm. Realization can come after the mind is in that state and after it has begun to inquire, with such an improved instrument, into truth." (10a)

   The result of this is a state that is constant, whether one is in meditative trance or not, and requires no further practice or even vigilance, as the condition, the natural state, maintains itself. Needless to say, this is the culmination of a great maturity, and few have attained it. PB describes this condition in the following way. I offer this as another example of another ancient teaching that is something for meditators on trance-samadhi mystical types of paths to consider along with their devotional search for the soul, and for those teachers also to ponder if they need to seek further training in order to realize the condition known as "open-eyes." He states:

   "The "natural" philosophic attainment gives insight as a continuity whereas meditation gives it as an interruption. More, its attitudes are so relaxed, its operations so effortless, its outlook so carefree, that those who have to work hard to get the temporary enlightenment know that nothing else in life has the same importance, the same value." (10b)

   "A tacit insight, nothing more," is a saying that has been attributed to the Buddha upon his enlightenment, after he had passed through the eight progressive jnanas of meditation and realized that they were not 'it'.

   And what does one get for his labors? The sense that he is a "conscious co-worker of the divine plan", as Kirpal Singh would sometimes say? Again there is paradox. The answer is, "yes," if the meaning is that one sees the God-Power as the real doer; and "no," if one if takes oneself as an independent agent. For what has one become when he reaches Sach Khand or Anami Lok, the great Emptiness? Kirpal would even more often say that he was "nothing," a "mere pipe," helpless without his Master's grace." As PB wrote:

   "Those who find that beyond the Light they must pass through the Void, the unbounded emptiness, often draw back affrighted and refuse to venture farther. For here they have naught to gain or get, no glorious spiritual rapture to add to their memories, no great power to increase their sense of being a co-worker with God. Here their very life-blood is to be squeezed out as the price of entry; here they must become the feeblest of creatures." (10c)

   This is an important point to think over. It has the potential to draw together many different paths. For the Master is even more vulnerable than his disciples!

   Continuing, in Theravada, in the first significant stage, one has the samadhi of emptiness; then he comes out of it and continues to inquire, investigate mental states, etc., until he overcomes the attachment to the samdhi of emptiness and reaches emptiness in natural life. Then he goes beyond even this 'attachment' to the final emptiness or the Nibbana of the Buddha. beyond all categories and concepts.

   According to anadi, each state must be realized, then cultivated, stabilised, and integrated. Then one can move on to the next true stage. That takes care of the argument of many newer teachers.

   In true Dzogchen, this liberation is the third of three stages - first gain samadhi access to rigpa or nondual presence, then stabilize rigpa in non-trance meditation (like vipassana), then integrate it into daily activity. Ramana taught, similarly, that raising the kundalini to the crown chakra brought internal nirvikalpa samadhi, but not full jivanmukti. To do this on the kundalini path, one needed to bring the kundalini back to the heart and establish it there through the channel he called the amrita nadi, an extension of the sushumna which curved back from the crown center to the heart. The kundalini, completing this deeper movement, established one as a jivanmukti. Of course, this is not what the Sants teach, and it is not clear proof that one is free of karma and totally non-dual realized throughout the planes by this approach. It is not clear that realizing yogic nirvikalpa is the half-way house to realization, in other words. Even Ramana went back and forth teaching this and also teaching the ever-attractive, "just be who you are." For example, he, like PB above, said:

   "We try to grasp something strange and mysterious because we believe happiness lies elsewhere. This is the mistake. The Self is all-pervading. Our real nature is liberation, but we imagine that we are bound, we make strenuous efforts to become free, although all the while we are free. Birth and death pertain only to the body, they are superimposed upon the Self, giving rise to the delusion that birth and death relate to the Self. The universe exists within the Self. Discover the undying Self and be immortal and happy. Be yourself and nothing more. Thoughts change but not you. There is neither past nor future; there is only the present. Yesterday was the present when you experienced it; tomorrow will also be the present when you experience it, therefore, experience takes place only in the present, and even the present is mere imagination, for the sense of time is purely mental. All that is required to realize the Self is to be still. What can be easier than  that? Your true nature is that of infinite spirit." (Ramana Maharshi, source misplaced)

   Ramana basically offered two paths to realization. One would be the trance path which would be savikalpa samadhi, to internal nirvikalpa samadhi, then to external nirvikalpa or sahaja samadhi. But he also taught that one could bypass the two internal stages of samadhi and go directly into sahaja samadhi. This could be done by doing Self-Inquiry in the spiritual heart.

   Vipassana and other integrated presence practices are methods of direct realization of sahaja without need for trance states. In fact, the Buddha said that one of the fetters that remained after one achieved nirvikalpa samadhi (and becoming a non-returner), and that could be removed by doing vipassana, was attachment to higher planes. Because in a very profound sense, the nondual is not really one of the planes, it is the ground of all the planes, and so can be accessed from any level. It is just easier to initially access it in trance, which can give the illusion that it is a higher plane.

   So can the path of Sant Mat bring one to sahaja samadhi? Yes, the difference is that, in the trance path, one must pass back and forth from internal states to outer consciousness many, many times, which leads to gradually integrating the inner realization with ordinary consciousness. Eventually, the stage is reached of internal nirvikalpa samadhi (for the Sants, anami, which may possibly be much deeper than nirvikalpa as traditionally described) which, when experienced often enough and then returning to the physical world enough times, leads to nondual realization being integrated with the physical body. I don't think it happens by itself necessarily, however, and I also realize it is not on the top of the list of concerns for most of us! But for a saint or a sage it would be. This point merits further exploration:

   Shabd Yoga As A Jnana Path

   “In Buddhism, we distinguish between spiritual experiences and spiritual realizations. Spiritual experiences are usually more vivid and intense than realizations because they are generally accompanied by physiological and psychological changes. Realizations, on the other hand, may be felt, but the experience is less pronounced. Realization is about acquiring insight. Therefore, while realizations arise out of our spiritual experiences, they are not identical to them. Spiritual realizations are considered vastly more important because they cannot fluctuate.”

   “The distinction between spiritual experiences and realizations is continually emphasized in Buddhist thought. If we avoid excessively fixating on our experiences, we will be under less stress in our practice. Without that stress, we will be better able to cope with whatever arises, the possibility of suffering from psychic disturbances will be greatly reduced, and we will notice a significant shift in the fundamental texture of our experience.”
(Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche, "Letting Go of Spiritual Experience," (Tricycle, Fall 2004)

   This is a common criticism of mystic paths, of which Sant Mat is one. But can we re-categorize it so that it reflects the aspects of a jnana path, rather than only an emanationist bhakti path? I believe we can. Sant Kirpal Singh wrote:

   “By a process of self-analysis, He (a Sadh) has known the self or the spirit in Its real form - to wit, that it is of the same essence as God; and now He strives for God-knowledge.”

   Each spiritual path makes use of some constellation of spiritual qualities more than others. Some emphasize love, devotion, surrender, faith. Another may emphasize self-analysis, discrimination, inquiry, wisdom and realization. Yet another may focus on compassion and service. And a fourth will emphasize esoteric technical knowledge, skills, power and mastery. There are other leanings as well. Many paths have a variety of these facets, and different people may practice within the same tradition with different approaches.

   A path and a specific practice is like a person – it has a form or body(s), a soul (virtue and relative wisdom) and a spirit (basic spiritual sensibility – such as nondual, theistic, nature mysticism, etc.). So, when looking at a path or specific practice, we can understand the overall approach or practice by looking at the specifics of the form used (mantra, following the breath, visualizations, pranayama and so on), but also we can understand the soul of the practice by looking at the specific qualities that are emphasized, and also the deeper ‘spirit’ or essence of the practice in terms of the spiritual vision, philosophy and ultimate goal of the path or practice. So, for instance, a path with the outer form of repeating a mantra can be the expression of various orientations in that the inner soul and spirit of the approach may differ. The same mantra (form) may be repeated by one person with a quality of faith, surrender and devotion and with the underlying spirit of Theistic sensibility, seeking union with God. Another practitioner may use the same mantra with an emphasis on technical precision, concentration and discipline, with the aim of leading the kundalini to a particular chakra, with the ultimate aim of impersonal liberation. Many combinations are possible with different forms, qualities and spiritual sensibilities, even when the outer form of the practices are more or less the same.

   Since all qualities are interconnected, emphasizing some leaning will ultimately bring development in other areas as well. Someone emphasizing technical development or devotion will ultimately develop wisdom and realization. While someone leaning towards discrimination and equanimity will ultimately develop love and compassion. But…. it seems to generally be true that the fastest route to the development of specific qualities is to actively include them in our path.

   Shabd or nada yoga is a form of spiritual practice that is practiced in various contexts. In the Sikh tradition it is most commonly associated with a bhakti style emphasizing faith, simplicity, purity, surrender, devotion and love. In that context it may not be a form of practice that is based primarily on using discrimination, awareness or inquiry to cultivate wisdom and liberating realization, but it does, secondarily, lead to a powerful process of insight and awakening. It may be argued that if the context and attitude to practicing shabd yoga included a stronger aspect of these qualities, then the wisdom fruits of this path may arise more immediately and richly. But that does not mean they are not inevitably present in that approach already to some degree.

   There are other traditions that use nada/shabd yoga strictly in a context of nondual wisdom development, or in the context of raja yoga, or in the context of technical kundalini/tantric yoga approaches. Also these paths vary as to their core cosmologies, some being Advaita, other qualified, and even some with purely dualistic cosmologies.

   So in what way does shabd yoga act as a form of discriminating wisdom practice, generating self-knowledge and culminating in Self-Realization? Through the following:

   (1) By meditating on the inner sound, the practitioner is first learning to concentrate. In this phase awareness moves back and forth between the sound current and distractions of sensation, emotion, memories, plans, etc. This helps to develop a foundational insight, a discrimination between the sound current and the personality/ego. This leads to greater self-knowledge about the contents of one’s personality, and the difficulties they pose to deeper concentration and peace of mind.

   (2) Gradually, as concentration develops, attunement to the sound current reveals soul qualities of peacefulness, awareness, concentration, detachment, love, surrender and so on. The movement of awareness back and forth during moments of distraction and periods of concentration continue to deepen the intuitive insight not only into the difference between soul qualities (which the sound current is now a focus for attuning to) and the lower bodies, but also gives rise to increasing insight into the value or desirability of soul-identification over identification with the lower bodies and ego.

   (3) Further, this growing insight and deepening attunement to soul throws into greater relief the nature of the ego, its various expressions as anger, selfishness, loneliness, pride, inferiority, sadness, attachment, manipulation and so on. The contrast between these states of ego and qualities of soul become clearer and clearer as the practitioner gradually deepens concentration on the sound current and loosens identification with the personality limitations. The dukkha or unsatisfactoriness of the separate ego, and the deep spiritual satisfaction of soul grows clearer and clearer over time.

   (4) Eventually, enough purification of karma, release of attachment, and disidentification from the lower bodies allows the consciousness to become absorbed enough in the sound current and inner soul qualities that the individual is able, in meditation, to withdraw from body awareness. This deepens the insight that one is not the body, because one is now directly aware of not only existing 'outside' of the body, but also of a finer astral body that one now finds oneself in. This expresses a clear moment or transition in self-knowledge, not the last, but an important turning point.

   (5) Through further meditation on the sound current, one gains further insight into one's higher nature, especially at this stage one's spiritual self or soul as a center of formless identity, wholeness, peace, virtue and wisdom. Dropping awareness of the physical body and extended meditation on the sound current allow for a greater participation in soul experience at this stage, more fully clarifying the difference between soul and lower states of consciousness.

   (6) Eventually the practitioner of shabd yoga raises above the astral and causal bodies as well. These each lead to new levels of self-knowledge as the distinction between one's lower and higher nature becomes clearer and clearer. At this stage, have moved beyond the causal level of our nature, the practitioner is immersed in a profound level of soul identification, which continues to deepen throughout the process of moving through the mahasunn and Bhanwar Gupha. At this stage the aspect of the soul that becomes more vividly aware of its union with the Oversoul or Sat Purush comes to the forefront, deeply enhancing that dimension of one's spiritual understanding.

   (7) Rising above this plane and merging in the atman at the level of Sach Khand, the soul experiences final realization of the difference between itself and the lower bodies or sheaths. This wisdom is fundamental to the agency that has provided the capacity of the soul to realize this truth.

   (8) Inherent in this realization is the deepening Realization that the nature of the atman is inseparable from the Sat Purush.

   (9) Stages of ascent beyond Sach Khand refine this nondual illumined state further and further.

   Therefore, even though in the Sikh tradition the qualities emphasized in the practice of shabd yoga are not ‘jnani’ qualities per se but those deepening concentration that lead to movement from plane to plane, there is still secondarily and inevitably a growing realization/wisdom that comes from proceeding through these stages and experiences.

   Returning to the lower bodies at the end of each cycle of meditation also serves to enhance the intuitive wisdom of the soul in its realization of the difference between these levels of its nature, continually enhancing the wisdom that leads to awakening from false identifications, first by contrast and disillusionment, later by profound illumination.

   Practice over time furthers the ability of the soul to stage by stage bring more of this realization back into waking day to day consciousness, both by the deepening inner realization in meditation, and by the gradual purification of the sheaths that also results from the process, allowing the soul to reflect more its realization in the lower bodies as they get saturated with the higher love, light, and wisdom.

   "Sound arises in the inner sky of pure consciousness, the heart-space in the head, the sky of the heart. What manifests is Life-Power, the One." - Nityananda

   [End of "Shabd Yoga As A Jnana Path"]

   Vipassana practices hold a key to efficiently integrate higher realization with the human personality and physical body, because one practices holding as deep a realization as one can in direct relationship to those levels of experience, integrating that level of realization into the human aspects. Both aspects transform over time (the depth of one's realization and the various dimensions of our human nature - body, emotions, thoughts) eventually leading to integrated nondual realization. So both the Buddha (and Ramana as another example) taught that it is possible to cultivate sahaja samadhi without cultivating trance states.

   So what is the value of trance states? One important one is that they are, for many people, the fastest way to develop a deeply peaceful, centered, concentrated state of mind. And even vipassana (zazen, Dzogchen, etc.) will progress much faster with that foundation. The approaches normally used for vipassana allow for reliable progress without significant samadhi power developed first, but it is widely believed, and was considered by the Buddha, to be better with it. Deep concentration can and is developed within vipassana practice, but it is often easier to develop concentration when focusing on a specific subject (visualization, mantra, shabda) rather than while cultivating the open awareness at the heart of vipassana. There are also many other advantages and values of using samadhi/trance practices. In fact, the Buddha had many of his liberated arhat disciples continuing to expand and enrich their 'post-realization' states, to enhance their relative wisdom and expand their capacity for service. This included enhancing access to higher worlds, developing siddhis, and expanding relative knowledge. This is, of course, totally consistent with Sant Mat.

   In light of all this, the teaching of Nisargadatta that after death one is simply absorbed back into the absolute seems extreme.

   There is a special value unique to Shabd Yoga which the Buddhist style jhana, or vipassana, practices do not cultivate. And that is that the Shabd itself is a special focus of concentration. The Shabd is the Logos, Shabda Brahman, or, to translate into Buddhist terminology, the Sound of the Primordial or Universal Buddha. So to meditate on the Shabd is to directly attune to the Universal Presence of Nondual Enlightenment, a living, dynamic Presence that transmits realization directly into the meditator.

   In other words, most of the Buddhist versions of samadhi practice do not involve the immersion in a source of grace the way Shabd yoga does. This is a great advantage for the path of Sant Mat. But is it still a samadhi path, so it is not necessarily as efficient at bridging that realization back into the body. That is why combine Shabd Yoga with a vipassana-like practice or insight-contemplation may be useful. [However, it must also be said that when one investigates what it takes to pursue the path of the Buddhist jnanas, in this current age Sant Mat looks like a breeze by comparison.

   Also, the way one learns to move from plane to plane in each approach makes it possible that the nature of the realization and transformation that is taking place at each stage and plane is not the same. In shabd yoga, it is not just 'trance', but an actual death and rebirth, in stages. So, for instance, reaching Sach Khand in Shabd Yoga is the result not just of samadhi but a transformation resulting from communion with the Sat Purush that is not the same as what transformation has transpired for a Buddhist using the typical jhana practices and reaching the same 'plane'.

15. After Death

   This is what is generally understood to take place after death for non-initiates. First, the consciousness 'in the body' withdraws and is located now in the astral world. If it is a naturally more conscious individual, there will be some awareness that it has died. Karmic connections will tend to dictate who will be available to help after transition. For most souls these will be extended family members. For more advanced souls, mentors, elder initiates and masters. The more conscious the person, the more rich the process of transition, the higher the aspect of the astral world entered into. Very advanced initiates often skip over the astral and even some higher planes. It depends on many factors. Many souls will experience the first stage of transition as like a dream, and due to their confusion about what has transpired, they will carry over in the own subconscious the elementals of this life (as in a dream) and continue experiencing a 'life', believing they are still living in the physical, and will behave accordingly. This is not necessarily a painful state. They are working out astral karma, but not very quickly. For many of them it is not hard to convince them that they have died, and then with that simple realization, their experience shifts and they move into higher astral worlds. For many normal souls, and 'junior' initiates, there will be awareness that dropping the body has taken place, and a more or less smooth transition will take place, in which the person will assimilate into a new life in the astral world. Whether the transition was more conscious or not, the fact of having dropped the physical sheath will gradually have its effects, for the lack of a dense body will cause various heavier desires to fall away, allowing the soul to become more conscious and begin to have deeper understanding of what has happened and where they are. Depending on the person, this can take anywhere from seconds to years.

   Initiates will usually make this transition very quickly because of two facts - the grace of the master, and the power of their own consciousness, which by virtue of the fact that they are initiates, generally means that they are not young souls who are likely to be more confused and take longer to awaken. Having dropped the body will make it easier to expand into a more conscious experience of the next world, and the help of friends, family and sangha and guru all make this inevitable. And if their level of consciousness is adequate when they die, they don't even need any help, but will simply make a conscious transition, understand what is happening, and typically have a very positive transition.

   Now, here is the key. A human soul has two basic parts. A part that exist in higher planes, which has different aspects, and an emanation from this part that forms another self on the lower planes, the incarnate self. They are the same soul, in two levels of expression. The essence of the higher self is the atman, spirit, Overself or rigpa. This part rests in nondual realization and does not 'descend' into incarnation. This is the part of us that 'lives' in Sach Khand and is already illumined. Although the intensity of this realization can grow, it is still nondual realization. The atman's realization also shines into the anandamaya sheath 'below', creating a formless, higher dimensional 'body' that also has a type of identity that remains close to the atman, but in the average person does not have as much nondual awareness. This body is also called the causal body in Vedanta, because in it are stored the seeds of the karmas that give rise to rebirths in the realms below. These two levels comprise not just planes or worlds, but also we have a permanent form of identity on these planes, permanent in that they provide continuity from birth to birth. These levels of self do not get dropped after each incarnation ends. The bodies below these get gradually dropped after each birth (in some schools the basic divisions at these levels is physical, astral, mental. In the five body Vedantic system they are divided somewhat differently and are annamaya, pranamaya, manomaya, vijnanamaya kosas). These bodies are temporary each life. The consciousness of the higher self, atma/buddhi, grows from life to life, assimilating wisdom, character (virtue), and nondual realization that is never lost, but 'remains in the higher worlds', so to speak. From life to life as the higher consciousness grows, the bodies generally get more refined, and reflect more of the higher realization that is developing in the higher self. Eventually the combined effect of extensive soul development in the higher planes, and finer bodies developed in the lower planes (through transforming karma and 'upgrading' the elementals that make up one's manifest character), allows the consciousness of the deeper self [this is similar to what Sri Aurobindo referred to as the 'psychic entity'] to shine through the lower bodies, giving rise to more and more illumined states of consciousness expressed in the lower bodies.

   After death, the individual in their astral body will become more permeable to the higher self's consciousness, allowing more wisdom and virtue (and ultimately nondual illumination) to shine through, how much depending on the state of evolution of the soul, but always more that the physical self experienced because there is now one less sheath to veil it. So the consciousness, now shedding its vasanas that had to do with being in a physical body, will be integrating more with the inner self. This, for most people is a gradual process. Eventually it is time for the second death where the astral is also shed. This allows the consciousness to become even more permeable to the higher self, their consciousnesses merging even more. By this time the awareness of the person is no longer very similar to what it was when they were in incarnation. They have significantly awakened to remember much that their soul or higher self already knows on its own plane (anandamaya/atman). Finally, after some time, a third death will ensure, and the consciousness will fully assimilate back into the higher self, enriching the higher self with experience. The aspect of the higher self that is the anandamayakosa 'self' is somewhat veiled with dualism, yet it is mild. This self has discriminating wisdom. One might call it 'enlightened dualism'. That is, it discriminates about virtue, distinguishes good and bad karma, strives for enlightenment, functions as true conscience, and tries to guide each incarnation, within the limits of karma. So each life enriches the relative wisdom and virtue of this level of our nature, even if it has not been a very good life karma wise for the outer personality. The inner self still harvests wisdom from the experience, because its core nature does not fall into identification with the lower bodies, maintains perspective, and assimilates wisdom. Since this self is pretty wise in most people, especially those on the path, one method of growth is to simply clear the lower bodies of obstructions, allowing the inner wisdom and virtue to naturally shine through. But that will only take one so far. This anandamaya self must eventually complete its process of becoming illuminated by the atman or nondual self through both developing virtue and surrendering to nondual presence, which are all interrelated. So the lower ego self, identified with the lower bodies, gradually integrates its identity with the anandamaya self, attaining what in Sant Mat is called Self-Realization (prior to God-Realization), which in Sant Mat does not mean Atmic or nondual realization, but rather advanced virtue and relative wisdom realization, beyond the temporary bodies and bondage in the realms of Kal and MahaKal. Then the anandamaya self is fully liberated into nondual realization (in degrees).

   So, in between lives a temporary version, in the ascending model, of this larger process takes place wherein the lower self is gradually assimilated into the higher, anandamaya self. As this gradual assimilation progresses, both selves are enriched. The anandamaya self 'digests' the consciousness of the lower self, harvesting wisdom and virtue. And the lower self is infused with the much greater realization of the higher self. So by the time it reaches Daswan Dwar, it is no longer the incarnate identity it was, it is essentially transformed back into union with its self at the anandamaya level, reawakening to this much deeper level of awareness, like coming home, or as if it had been asleep, identified with the lower bodies. Not the home of Sach Khand, but still a much more spiritual and wise level. The higher self is the ongoing accumulation of all the wisdom and virtue of all the previous experiences, both in physical and subtle realms. This level is sometimes (as in Vedanta) called the causal level because, though the higher self here is not consciously identified with all the unresolved vasanas or karmas that are yet to be liberated, they do exist there now in seed form, to re-emerge in future births, sprouting forth through the lower bodies. So even though the higher self at that plane is not identified with these vasanas, it is limited by the subtle veil their presence as seeds creates between its consciousness and deeper nondual awakening.

   So, does the consciousness of the individual that dies go back to Daswan Dwar? In my tentative view, yes and no. No in the sense of not as it was. But yes in the sense that it is gradually assimilated into that level, with the unresolved vasanas return to seed form. The self that arrives at Daswan Dwar is, in a certain sense, not the same self that died, but a transformed and purified self. To learn to go to Daswan Dwar in meditation is to learn to 'die daily', so that the mutual infusion of these levels goes forth during life, rather than after death. This way the lower self is gradually assimilated and transformed into the higher self during life, and the lower karmas and experiences are transformed by the soul, enriching its realization and preparing it for the final stage of assimilation into the atman (and beyond). If Daswan Dwar has been reached during meditation while still alive, then one does not need to gradually assimilate during the after death stages, and will simply go to that level or beyond, or continue, like many do, to retain a lower body to be of service on those planes.

   Being an initiate ensures that one's master will be there when you pass over, and will guide you though these states. There is nothing to fear about all of this. For initiates, death is a primarily a beautiful experience. There is a sense of liberation (relatively) and often a feeling of revelation. Often, though, there is a period first of gaining perspective on the past incarnation, which at first may be difficult, as we may have carried over the tendency to judge ourselves too harshly for our human weaknesses and limitations. But eventually, usually fairly quickly both due the nature of the process and to the help of others, our consciousness shifts. We gain more perspective about why our life took the form it did, we see the karmic patterns behind it, we see what we learned, what karma was worked out, and what hidden grace helped us, and greater understanding and compassion emerge. Then we come to balance and peace about our life, and we move on. If one cannot do a specific practice like absorption in the nada at the time of death, then simply remember the master, even repeating his name, for this will ensure one will recognize His presence more immediately. He will definitely be there, but we may blind ourselves to this at first by our doubts, fears, and self-judgments.

   One experience of a practitioner, a Darshan Singh initiate, who will remain unnamed, professed to having a numbers of higher plane masters before Him, whom Darshan recognized as real, and who has himself integrated various practices with one another, sheds light on a broader vision of this process. This is not advice for anyone to follow, just food for thought for the curious or 'hungry'. One may take it at face value for him or her. We have tried to be impartial throughout this paper and are not departing from that guideline now:

   "Although I have used many spiritual practices, the heart of my path is nondual transmission by grace. I was initiated by my lineage back into conscious awareness of my dharma and relationship to them in 1982, at which time a 'process' was started that involves, among other things, the transmission of Shakti/nondual realization in a sustained form ever since. This has been both a very inspiring and extremely demanding process, because, as you know, strong initiation brings up vasanas that are unresolved. In our lineage, this is done by degree. But once the disciple has reached the stage where surrender is adequate, a more profound transmission of fire/consciousness can be released. If adequate surrender is not developed yet, this can cause a backlash reaction from the ego that is counter productive. So it needs to be gradual and regulated to the stage of development. But even when surrender is more developed, the process of compressing that much transformation into so short a time can be very stressful. So, I am very familiar with various forms of the dark night, kundalini-process symptoms, etc. My teaching cycles tend to correspond to when I have stabilized a new plateau. Although I do meditation practices and karma yoga, the real power of my awakening is from this transmission, which aims to directly actualize realization in day-to-day awareness, without the need for travel to higher planes. But I do meditate also, emphasizing a vipassana-like practice because it most directly helps to surrender to the transmission and integrate it into daily life. For other reason I often use other practices, especially meditation on the naam, but more as a supplementary practice. But the naam at this stage is also present in my awareness throughout the day, and feels more like an integral part of my awareness and presence, rather than something only heard in meditation and experienced as something outside of myself. So an aspect of shabd yoga for me is attuning to the nada during activity as an energetic or vibratory aspect of the state of presence itself, rather than more of an inner and trance practice (though I also do that too, usually during the night).”

   “Although I do not currently emphasize trance practices, I have had many experiences of those dimensions. In the early stages these were facilitated by my inner teachers much of the time. During this stage I was introduced to various levels of the inner worlds. So, though I am not as masterful at accessing these planes as people like Daskalos or the Sant Mat gurus, I do have some personal experience to base my 'opinions' on about these realms. But also we must remember that contact with so-called higher planes does not only happen in trance. These planes are all interpenetrating vibratory/consciousnesses and can be attuned to while in one's body at any time. Since I am already have a strong connection with higher planes by nature, much of my practice is geared towards integrating realization in the lower planes, rather than trying to access higher worlds. So most of my contact with higher worlds is done in the context of remaining in my body, so that I do not over stimulate myself (the energy is already very strong and so there is a danger of over stimulation), and so I attune to the realization, quality and experiences of other realms in a state of 'integrated presence' to keep balanced.”

   “My inner lineage first showed me what this state of integrated presence could be like in 1984. To make a longer story shorter, I was with a client doing spiritual counseling, he was talking about a relationship. I was starting to identify with him and judge his partner for her behavior. I noticed this and pulled back to a deeper state of presence. Then I felt a Greater Presence 'reach into me' and expand my consciousness. This began to emerge in me as a feeling of my deeper self 'incarnating' into my body. As my consciousness was expanding, I noticed that, to be in this state at my stage, my unresolved karma/vasanas had to be set aside temporarily to allow this sahaja state to manifest. I felt these energies being kind of pushed down my spine into my lowest chakras until they were pushed out the back with a pop. When this happened (it all took a short time) I simply snapped into a new state that it is nearly impossible to describe. The foundational aspect of this state was that everything just 'was'. The judgment I had felt a minute before was now replace with such a profoundly embracing state that there didn't seem to be room anymore to step back and judge anything. Also, I remained 'in my body', though in fact the nature of the body as I was aware of it in this state was radically transformed.”

   “For one, the presence of nondual realization was so pervasive that there was no discernable boundaries any longer between planes. The various planes now stood revealed as a seamless continuum of consciousness that embraced what we would ordinarily call the physical plane (which was now not material but a form of conscious) through the subtle planes, into spiritual planes. Since all were illumined from a nondual state, they were seamlessly integrated, none higher than another, and certainly not stacked up, one on the other in a two dimensional fashion. They were part of a multidimensional wholeness that revealed patterns and beings and yet was nondual at the same time. In this state, I 'saw' the nondual nature, evolving soul, and personality/karmic aspects of not only the client, but also the woman who he was involved with, and others who were part of their story. I could see the karmic conditions of their lives, and the way their souls were 'incarnated' into them, how they mirrored their stage of evolution, and how it was all absolutely perfect, in the sense that their karmic situation in incarnation perfectly mirrored the stage of the soul's evolution and they were all, therefore, incarnated in the right experiences for their spiritual evolution, like a glove perfectly fitting a hand. There was nothing to judge. These were not ideas I was having in my mind in that state. They were part of a multilayered, direct intuitive/nondual realization of the nature of what was so. I was directly realization these things through a profound oneness with them. In that state, I no longer had ordinary sensation, but yet was aware of the physical world, I did not have emotions, but was aware of the psychological dimension, and I did not have ordinary thoughts, but had superconscious realization. As usual with these things, my description feels very inadequate. Gradually a reflective self-awareness began to emerge, and I slowly started to emerge from the state. I began to have a part that was observing what was happening to me, and having thoughts like 'this is interesting', 'I wonder how long this will last', 'gee, I wonder if I can talk while I am in this state, integrating it with behavior'. I could, for while still hold a certain level of this while talking with the client, but the thinking that emerged gradually drew my back out the state. I have been in various forms of these states many times since, including in trance as well, but I do not grasp after them. They served to directly introduce me to the nature of more realized states, that not only helped transform my consciousness in the moment, but provided direct insight that helps to gradually surrender to higher realization over time."

   It must go without saying that this is but an example, and not a prescription for anyone to follow. Each must find his own way. He concludes with what seems to me a note of sanity for our day and age:

   "As we move towards a more scientific approach to evolving our understanding of the spiritual life, our experiences are our data, which we need to share with each other to expand our mutual base of experience and enrich understanding. We are the experiments, and so we need to share that with each other."


16. Sant Kirpal Singh once criticized Russell Perkins for editing out a reference in his book NAAM, where a Buddhist monk said the sound of a bell caused his awakening into satori (which was described as a samadhi, although it was clearly a satori). Russell edited it to read that the person heard an INNER sound, but Kirpal Singh said to leave the quote alone, because that’s the way the sutra read, but also said that the person was mistaken, and that he only THOUGHT it was an outer sound, for how could an outer sound ‘DRAG one into samadhi?” In this case, the monk went on to describe this satori as apparently initiating a series of deeper mystical experiences for him. Now, satori and samadhi are very distinct experiences. As D.T. Suzuki explains:

   "When a man's mind is matured for satori it tumbles over one everywhere. An inarticulate sound, an unintelligent remark, a blooming flower, or a trivial incident such as stumbling is the condition or occasion that will open his mind to satori. Apparently, an insignificant event produces an effect which in importance is altogether out of proportion....When the mind is ready for some reasons or others, a bird flies, or a bell rings, and you at once return to your original home; that is, you discover your now real self." (from The Gospel According to Zen, 1970, p. 39)

   An example of a satori awakening was that of a nun Chiyono who studied Zen under Bukko of Engaku. For a long time she was unable to succeed in her meditation. At last one moonlit night while carrying water in an old pail bound with bamboo, the bamboo broke and the bottom fell out of the pail. At that moment Chiyono was set free, moving her to write this poem:

   “In this way and that I tried to save the old pail
   Since the bamboo strip was weakening and about to break
   Until at last the bottom felt out.
   No more water in the pail!
   No more moon in the water!”

   In the above instance, then, either one of two things was true. Either (1) Kirpal Singh apparently did not recognize the way countless Zen practitioners achieved satori through their ripe minds being awakened to reality in a moment through an outer sight or sound, and strictly adhered to the Indian belief that only inner (trance) experience was spiritual, and didn’t understand other schools or experiences which contradict that and was using this monk's account only to support the philosophy of Surat Shabd Yoga (all of which I am inclined to doubt, for a number of reasons: Kirpal was a scholar of the traditions, had read 300 biographies of different saints and sages and great men as a young man, and was friends with numerous Buddhist teachers), or (2) he said what he did because he didn’t want to confuse his meditating followers with more sophisticated, non-dual teachings. Ramakrishna was the same way when he was with Vivekananda in contrast to most of his followers. He put the advaita books such as the Ashtavakra Gita away when Master Mahasaya (“M”) was around because he knew the latter was keeping a diary and didn’t want him to confuse many of his disciples who were not ripe enough to understand such things. My experience with Kirpal suggests this was the case.

   The idea that a "perfect Master" never makes a mistake, or that every word he utters is absolute truth, is also a stumbling block for many initiates on the path. It must also be understood generally as an erroneous conception of enlightenment. PB said:

      "It is pathetic for the philosophically minded, and especially for the inheritors of the formerly close-guarded hidden teaching, to observe how followers of a mystical or religious guide take all his words without exception quite literally and all his revelations as incontestable truth. When Sri Ramakrishna said that a man must die within twenty-one days of achieving illumination, he said what other mystics are likely to contradict rather than confirm. And when he asserted that hardly one man in a century attains the goal through following the philosophic path, there is no support from the traditions of the hidden teaching for his assertion. All this is written despite my most respectful admiration and warm reverence for Ramakrishna and despite my unhesitating belief that he was a man of genuine spiritual self-realization. I do not select his statements for criticism deliberately but only because they are the first ones which happen to come to mind. There are several other mystics, whom I and most of us honour, whose sayings could equally have been drawn upon as containing examples of this kind of contestable teaching." (Notebooks, Vol. ?, 9.30)

   A master on the path of Sant Mat is "perfect" in that he can go at will to Sach Khand (the "office of the Master" according to Dr. I.C. Sharma) or the eighth and final plane, Anami, and lead others there; it doesn't mean he will in his human body never make what looks like a mistake, or necessarily have absolute knowledge or wisdom regarding all doctrines, including those he has never studied, for instance jnana. He might "drop his fork" or spill food. He may make mistakes of fact from time to time when he speaks. He may even make ‘teaching mistakes’. This is only mentioned because some seekers have held the naive view that such should not happen if a Master is perfect. The Masters, it should be mentioned, would probably be the first to say they are not perfect, even while maintaining the view that their own Masters were perfect. This is out of respect and humility. "Don't call me perfect," said Christ, "only God is perfect." It is a human concept, afterall. Let us leave it at that. None of these examples of so-called imperfection, where present, is evidence that a path or teacher is false or not genuine.

   In advaita, or the view of many sages, "omniscience" does not mean knowledge of everything you can think of, but rather the permanent and continuous knowledge of Reality. This is especially significant in that the highest form of knowing has so frequently been described as a kind of "unknowing" or "divine ignorance." A little story will illustrate this. In 1991 I met Sant Rajinder Singh for the first time when my friend William Combi pushed me up to the dias to meet the saint. I was writing a book of biographies of spiritual teachers at the time, which William was quick to point out. I was a little embarrassed, and simply said, "I really don't know what I am doing," to which Sant Rajinder's instant response, faster than anyone else could notice, was, "Join the club!" Rather than causing doubt to arise, for me it was an instiller of confidence in him and my own guru. To me this meant his knowledge arose spontaneously or intuitively as needed from deep within. Later, I have heard Master Rajinder say, "God-Power does everything, I don't do anything."

   It must be admitted, however, that there is a paradox here. For the true Master is not the physical form, but the Master-Power or God-Power or Oversoul behind the 'breakwater' of the physical Master. And that Power is infinite, and can, for instance, manifest the Master's Radiant or subtle form (and even physical form) to millions of people simultaneously, even beyond or over the head of the human Master's awareness. It is also capable of giving one the advice he needs in any situation, according to the Divine will. So in a sense that is an attribute of omnipresence and omniscience.

   The concept that the human Master is omniscient, omnipotent, etc., while useful perhaps at a particular stage of development of a disciple, however, is too often misconstrued. It simply need not be a stumbling block for anyone. If it is an aid for ones devotion, so be it. Otherwise, no one need be ashamed of admitting the obvious when it presents itself. It doesn't lessen the grandeur of a Master and his scope of influence to see him in his humanness, but, rather, should be a guide to strengthen ones faith. If one is in internal conflict because of a discord between his faith and his Reason, that is not too fruitful. Doubts must be cleared before one can move on. Sant Darshan Singh once replied to a disciple's question of whether a saint always knows whether there are other saints alive in the world at the same time. Master Darshan replied, "Of course, saints are all-knowing." Now, to my limited understanding, for a true saint to know that there are other saints alive at the same time does not necessarily imply being "all-knowing." As this statement, then, is different than Master Rajinder's enigmatic comment to me above, I would like to explore this idea further.

   Ramana Maharshi once remarked somewhat sarcastically after certain guests left, "people think if I can not answer every question that I am not great, etc." The great Zen Master Dogen once said, "the life of a Zen Master is one continuous mistake." Now that one can really make one think if he takes it too literally. One simply can't get ones mind around such a comment. Held in contrast with that of the "perfect master" and it can't help reduce one to an absolute state of ignorance, which is a great achievement! Paul Cash, further, in an article he wrote about his time with Paul Brunton, who many consider to have been a sage, wrote thusly:

   "Once PB asked Paul what his idea of what it is like being a sage. Paul answered that he thought one thing would be that one loves everybody. PB answered, "I'm not that advanced; I don't love everybody." Another time the question of omniscience came up:

   One afternoon I asked him, "What exactly is it about a sage's mind that makes that mind so different from the rest of us?" It was one of many questions I asked that he didn't originally seem to intend to answer. But I persisted and finally he asked me, "Well what do you think it is?"

   I said that I had never been able to believe that it could be omniscience in the sense of knowing everything at once; but I didn't think it unreasonable to conceive that when a sage wants or needs to know, he could turn his mind toward it in a certain way and that knowledge would just arise.

   P.B. laughed heartily and answered, "It's not even that good!"

   "Well, how good is it?"

   "It has really nothing to do with knowledge, or continuity of intuition, or frequency of intuitions. It's that the mind has been made over into the Peace in an irreversible way. No form that the mind takes can alter the Peace."

   "You could say it's a kind of knowledge," he continued, "in this sense. If the mind takes the form of truth, the sage knows it's truth. If it doesn't , then he knows that it's not. He's never in doubt about whether the mind has knowledge or not. But whether it does or not, his Peace is not disturbed."

   I asked if that meant that someone could go to a sage for help and the sage would be unable to help them. He replied that sometimes the intuition comes, sometimes it doesn't; he explained that when it doesn't come, the sage knows he has nothing to do for that person. The continuity of frequency of the intuitions has to do with the sage's mission, not with what makes a sage a sage.

   "You must understand," he said, "that there is no condition in which the Overself is at your beck and call. But there is a condition in which you are continuously at the Overself's beck and call. That's the condition to strive for."

   As he spoke these words, he was the humblest man I had ever seen before or since. For all the extraordinary things about him, all the glamorous inner and outer experiences, all the remarkable effects his writings and example have had on others, that humility is what seems to be the most important fact about him."

    My hope is that these examples will provide food for thought and help settle this matter of perfection for the reader, if not now, then soon. Again, perfection is a concept of the human mind. It really has limited usefulness. I can say this with confidence because even sages will disagree on what it means.

   There is also something to be said, however, about the power of a lineage of masters, whose grace flows from one to the next in an unbroken stream, with each humbly deferring to his teacher as the source of grace, and himself being backed up - and his 'imperfect' aspects 'backed-up' - by those who came before him, and whom he is at one with in the Divine reality. For from the point of view of truth, all Masters are One. An example of this sustaining power is given in the Mahayana text, the Lankavatara Sutra, where it says:

   "What is this twofold power that sustains the Bodhisattvas? The one is the power by which they are sustained to go through the Samadhis and Samapattis, while the other is the power whereby the Buddhas manifest themselves in person before the Bodhisattvas and baptise them with their own hands...This is in order to make them avoid the evil ones, karma, and passions, to keep them away from the Dhyana and stage of Sravakahood, to have them realise the stage of Tathagatahood, and to make them grow in the truth and experience already attained. For this reason, Mahamati, the fully Enlightened Ones sustain with their power the Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas...Thus it is said: The sustaining power is purified by the Buddhas' vows; in the baptism, Samadhis, etc., from the first to the tenth stage, the Bodhisattvas are in the embrace of the Buddhas." (10d)

   Something else to think about.

   Returning to the discussion of the difference between the paths of jnana (the "direct" or "short" paths) versus paths such as Sant Mat (which might be called indirect" or "long" paths, I was privy thirty years ago to the confession of one satsangi, Ed Wallace, with an ecstatic demeanor, and blood-red, tear-filled eyes, who said that after literally having to "drag himself to satsang" for five years he finally achieved by the grace of the Master entry into the first of the inner planes, the experience of which at first scared him, but which appeared to have had the result in him of a marked change of character. When asked, "Is it a place or a state," he answered me, "it's both; it's so perfect - you die, and are born again! And once you are through, you are through forever." Thirty years later, Ed confesses to witnessing Kirpal Singh coming on the inner planes to take charge of numerous souls at the time of death, a testimony to the faithful discharge of the promise of a Godman. Now, such a positive result may have been true for him, but for others whose inner journey was a more gratuitous passage, a temporary gift, they often come out with the vividness of the experience fast receding, and all that is left is a dream-like memory, as the ego re-identifies with the body and consolidates its hold over the being again. That is certainly true for nightime transports. But for others, such as the gentleman mentioned above, his confession was an inspiration to behold. Judith Lamb-Lion's tale of going to Sach Khand, a much higher state, at her initiation, however, was related to me in a much more calm and balanced way. Based on these two honest accounts of death-in-life on this path of ascent it should not be dismissed by the beginner or seasoned advaitist or non-dualist student that the possibility exists of a progressive death and absorption of the ego-soul at succeeding inner plane after inner plane leading to a progressively more integrated form of non-dual realization that is valid in its own right. For that, in effect, is what the Sants and the greatest of the historical mystics are saying.

   An interesting take on this form of path is given by one Swami Satprakashananda:

   ”Knowers of Saguna Brahman [God with form or attributes], according to Sankara, do not have full knowledge (jnana) and their souls depart from their bodies at the time of death, although they do not have to be reborn. The jnanis (knowers of Nirguna Brahman - God without attributes), however, merge in Brahman, and their subtle bodies (souls) dissolve at the time of death....Knowers of Saguna Brahman realize Nirguna Brahman and attain final liberation at the cosmic dissolution, along with Hiranyagarbha, the presiding deity of Brahmaloka. This is called “Gradual Liberation” (krama-mukti), as distinct from “Immediate Liberation” (sadya mukti), achieved by those who realize Nirguna Brahman in this very life.” (11)

   This gradual liberation has also been discussed clearly by Swami Krishnananda, disciple of the reknown Swami Sivananda, whom Kirpal Singh respected. He argues that one can reach Brahmaloka or union with Puroshottama and, thus purified, gain a relative liberation, and then attain final, unconditional mukti from the after-death realms. Paramhansa Yogananda was of the view that most souls achieve final liberation from the higher regions after death.

   Since a chief claim of Sant Mat is that Sat Lok itself is beyond both Brahmaloka and the “three worlds”, as well as cosmic dissolution and grand dissolution, and is eternal, it would most likely agree that the above statement only implies a relative liberation in Brahmaloka, although it would not necessarily disagree on the general concept of gradual liberation or the non-necessity of rebirth for as yet unliberated souls, which it, and even some schools of Buddhism, ARE also in agreement with. It is just that it may take longer on the inside than here on the physical plane.

   For sages such as Iyer, a strict vedantic analysis would hold that liberation is truly not release from the cycle of births and deaths, but knowledge or gyan alone, that is, freedom from even the concept of birth and death. Thus, the sage will perpetually return just like everyone else. His freedom lies in that he knows all is Brahman, and his sympathies and identification are with the benefit of all. That is why he will come back. He is no longer motivated by the hope of a personal salvation, bliss, or peace. Such is a much higher view than this one is presently capable of. Nevertheless, it complements the view of the saints - who also have this universal sympathy or compassion, in their case having risen above the level of the Universal Mind - and is worthy of contemplation.

   One thing that is plain to me, however, on the basis of a (very) few of my early experiences, is that one may become certain by an inner psychic or mystical experience that he is NOT the body, but he doesn’t necessarily know what the ego is, or what the world or God is, nor can he necessarily make sense out of the world when he comes out of meditation, without some other sadhana of purification and metaphysical understanding or inquiry. That is because the mystic believes that what he perceives or feels is real. But what is the world, for instance? Vedanta and Buddhism says that it is an idea, or a series of sensations and perceptions arising within consciousness or Mind. Thus, the body also is an idea, and the ego is an idea, or series of relatively fixed but changing ideas. This knowledge having been made ones own through inquiry, then one is fit to inquire into the soul or Atman, and then Brahman, the All. Otherwise, upon returning from ones inner meditation, the lesser mystic is confronted by a world he does not understand, and he feels a need to return to his samadhi to maintain his peace. That is what is encouraged in most mystical schools in general, where it is assumed that meditation alone is the only means necessary to realize truth. That has always been strongly denied in Buddhism, however, and other branches of philosophy, with strong warnings not to be misled by the ecstasy and even absorptive oneness of trance states but to go beyond them. Jagat Singh, as mentioned, said “90% of spiritual life is clear thinking.” I have wondered precisely what he meant by that. Could it be remotely similar to the following remark by Ramana Maharshi, who said, "Deliverance is just the clarification of the mind, the understanding: 'I am ever in my own real nature; all other experiences are illusory.' It is not something that has newly come about." (The Power of the Presence, Part Three, p. 193) Sant Mat generally, however, teaches that vivek or discrimination will take place automatically by the progressive absorption that occurs from plane to plane on the way to the final goal of anami. In my understanding, Brunton and other sages might be in disagreement on that point.

   Some of the difficulty between reconciling practice of "Long Paths" such as mysticism with "Short Paths" such as Advaita or Zen, lies in: one, the fact that some form of "long" path of moral and concentrative development is a requirement for successful pursuit of a "short" path of inquiry and insight, and, two, the form of the master or teacher one requires on either path. Brunton writes:

   "The Short Path [which it must be warned nevertheless requires its own forms of discipline and preparation] can succeed only if certain essential conditions are available. First a teaching master must be found. It will not be enough to find an illumined man. We will find peace and uplift in his presence, but these will fade away after leaving his presence. Such a man will be a phenomenon to admire and an inspiration to remember, not a guide to instruct, to warn, and to lead from step to step. Second, we must be able to live continuously [or for a sufficient period] with the teaching master until we have finished the course and reached the goal." (12)

   A great deal of misunderstanding among mystic paths also arises over their definition or use of the term "mind". It is common to refer to mind as "the slayer of the real", and as something that must be destroyed or eliminated. Yet this is strongly denied on paths of jnana or advaita vedanta, where the intellectual sheath itself is a primary means of realization of the Atman in the waking state. "It [the Self] is always shining in the intellectual sheath." In yoga, however, the goal is often conceived as kaivalya, or separation of consciousness from all limiting adjuncts, but in advaita it is not. The One is to be realized, and that necessitates self-cognition, not destruction of the mind. There is both Being and Knowing. Franklin Merrell-Wolff writes:

   "It is often stated in mystical literature that the activity of the mind is in a peculiar sense a barrier to the Realization of the Higher Consciousness…”

   “In general, the mystical and occult use of the word "mind" does not carry the same connation that western philosophy or the most authoritative usage gives the term. If for "mind" we substitute the word "manas," at once the mystic's statement becomes more correct. "Manas" is commonly translated as "mind" since there is no other single English word that approximates its meaning. The word "mind" today comprehends much more than the Indian philosophers and mystics mean when they say "manas." Unless this distinction is born in mind, confusion is almost inevitable. For my own part, this confusion caused me some years of needless misunderstanding. What I read violated what I felt intuitively and subsequently demonstrated to be the case. It was not the competent mystics and philosophers who were in error, but the translators and the western students of mysticism and occultism.”

   “I have entered into this point at some length, partly for the reason that in my earlier studies the mis-translation of "lower manas" seemed to require of me a crushing of faculties of the soul that are vitally important for even the Realization itself, for I was quite familiar with what the word "mind" meant in western usage. Others may be facing the same difficulty. Literally, to crush or suppress "mind," giving to that word the meaning it has in western thought, is to crush or suppress the soul. No true mystic means that, whatever he may seem to say as a result of not being familiar with the English term.”

   “Actually, with the mass of men, cognition is bound to egoism, but a divorce of these two is possible. Cognitive activity of a higher type is most emphatically not a barrier to Recognition, and if my experience is any criterion, may well prove to be one of the most powerful subsidiary aids for those who can make use of it. In any case, I must conclude that if by "mind," cognitive activity is meant, then it is not true that the mind must be stilled in order to attain Recognition. But it is true that the cognitive action must be within a matrix of a high order of dispassion.”

   “The higher affections, such as love, compassion and faith are also most emphatically an aid. But upon this point I do not need to dwell, for here agreement among the mystics seems to be practically universal. Further, this phase of the subject has been much clearly presented and better understood. This is the Road through Bliss, the Way most widely appreciated and most commonly followed by Those who have attained God-Realization.”

   “By means of pure cognition, it is possible to enter through Intelligence (Chit). Or, again, one may Enter through various combinations of the higher affections and pure cognition. Such a course is naturally the most perfect. The individual may be more developed on the one side or the other at the time of the Entering. But once he is grounded in Higher Consciousness, there is a tendency for the nature to unfold toward balance, so that finally a Man is symbolized by the "Great Bird" which has two wings equally developed. And these two are Compassion and Intelligence."
(Chapter 77, "The Higher Consciousness and the Mind", from Experience and Philosophy: A Personal Record of Transformation and a Discussion of Transcendental Consciousness)

   James Schwarz (Ram) argues that one must think or use discernment before during, and after enlightenment:

   "There is a strange notion that when one permanently experiences the Self the intellect is switched off for good and you just remain forever as the Self in some kind of no thought state. The fact is that the intellect keeps right on thinking from womb to tomb. God gave it to us for a good reason. Clear logical practical thinking is absolutely necessary if you are going to crack the identity code. It is called inquiry. You want to think before realization, during realization and after realization. Realization is nothing more than a hard and fast conclusion that you come to about your identity based on direct experience of the Self. Only understanding will solve the riddle....No experience will eradicate vasanas born in ignorance and reinforced with many years of negative behavior.”

   Question: Is self-realization a discrete occurrence in time...or is the removal of self ignorance a gradual process over time?

   Ram: It can be either or both. Usually one realizes who one is, falls again under the sway of ignorance, applies the knowledge again, realizes again and so on. It goes on over and over until one day there is absolutely no doubt and the process of enlightenment/ endarkenment stops for sure. Ignorance is persistent and aggressive and one needs to practice the knowledge until the last vestige is rooted out. I have a friend, a self realized person, who said, “I realized the Self five hundred times before my seeking stopped” to illustrate that point.”

   Obviously, during a process of dhyan type of meditation one tries to stop thinking. That is where the mystic schools derive the admonition for one to still the mind. This generally refers to manas, the discursive mind and intellect. However, outside of such a particular exercise philosophic schools argue that one needs the complementary practice of contemplation on the nature of the Self and reality for realization to occur. This requires a faculty of cognition. I personally know of one disciple, Judith Lamb-Lion, who had gone to Sach Khand at her initiation, but still asked, "who am I?", to which Sant Kirpal replied, "Who is asking?" This was akin to Ramana's inquiry, but for the ripe soul only. And his response to the question, "do you still meditate?", being "once you get your PhD, do you have to go back and learn the ABC's?", suggested that he, the Master, enjoyed going inside for refreshment, but it was not necessary anymore for his realization. He admitted as such, that "I, too, like to go inside and enjoy." PB writes:

   “Sahaja Samadhi is not broken into intervals, is permanent, and involves no special effort. Its arisal is instantaneous and without progressive stages. It can accompany daily activity without interfering with it. It is a settled calm and complete inner quiet....There are not distinguishing marks that an outside observer can use to identify a Sahaja-conscious man because Sahaja represents consciousness itself rather than its transitory states....Those at the state of achieved Sahaja are under no compulsion to continue to meditate any more or to practise yoga. They often do--either because of inclinations produced by past habits or as a means of helping other persons. In either case it is experienced as a pleasure. Because this consciousness is permanent, the experiencer does not need to go into meditation. This is despite the outward appearance of a person who places himself in the posture of meditation in order to achieve something....When you are engaged in outward activity it is not the same as when you are in a trance. This is true for both the beginner and the adept. The adept, however, does not lose the Sahaja awareness which he has achieved and can withdraw into the depths of consciousness which the ordinary cannot do.'' (25.2.138 & Persp. p.350)...It would be a poor thing for the sage if he had to sit down and squat in meditation in order to lift himself into peace. This is why he may or may not make a practice of meditation. For whether he meditates or not he always enjoys his inner peace.'' (unpublished, bv/255/3)

   PB gives a hint a the stage of sacrifice of the sage:

   “The escape into Nirvana for him is only the escape into the inner realization of the truth whilst alive: it is not to escape from the external cycle of rebirths and deaths. It is a change of attitude. But that bait had to be held out to him at an earlier stage until his will and nerve were strong enough to endure this relevation. There is no escape except inwards. For the sage is too compassionate to withdraw into proud indifferentism and too understanding to rest completely satisfied with his own wonderful attainment. The sounds of sufferings of men, the ignorance that is the root of these sufferings, beat ceaselessly on the tympana of his ears. What can he do but answer, and answer with his very life, which he gives in perpetual reincarnation upon the cross of flesh, as a vicarious sacrifice for others. It is thus alone that he achieves immortality, not by fleeing forever--as he could if he willed--into the Great Unconsciousness, but by suffering forever the pains and pangs of perpetual rebirth that he may help or guide his own.'' (13)

   17. Instruction in a meditative technique is one thing. The gift of a brief experience of subtle light and sound is another. Establishment of the soul of a disciple in a position to fruitfully engage such subtle meditation via the master's siddhi or power is yet another, and even greater gift. As far as the matter of realization goes, however, Asvaghosa clearly states in his Fifty Verses of Guru-Devotion:

   “The more you wish to attain Enlightenment, the clearer you see the need for your Guru to be a Buddha.” (14)

   If it is ones own divine Soul which paradoxically and mysteriously gives him the inner image of his Master as well as grace (even if mediated through a Master), and at the ultimate level the true Master is one with ones own Soul and the Absolute Soul (both transcendental and of the nature of voidness - and thus far beyond what is commonly understood as soul in occult or mystic circles), then certainly contemplation of a form which comes of itself in meditation, that is, not through the discursive imagination, is an authentic practise and imbedded in the divine structure of the worlds, and has been pronounced as such. Even Ramana Maharshi did not disparage it. The lotus feet of the guru, or the “dust of the guru’s feet”, the radiant gurudev, appearing in the disciple’s heart is supposed to be a great vision, boon, and aid, during life and at the time of death and beyond. It is a cornerstone of Sant Mat. Even Kabir, in his devotional ecstasy, procaimed, “now I see nothing but the radiant form of the master!”

   An additional question, briefly mentioned before, however, is that the Sant Mat lineages divide on whether one should continue contemplating only on one’s initiating guru after that guru’s death, and/or whether it is necessary to take his successor as ones guru. This controversy began after the death of Shiv Dayal Singh. All recommend seeking the company of a true successor, but differ on what to do with ones contemplative practice. Sant Darshan Singh also said that matters pertaining to the disciple's pralabd karma (current destiny) could only be handled by the successor, because that would required a physical body. Many initiates of Rajinder Singh have seen the forms of the preceeding three masters before him coming to them unbidden during their meditations.

   This is an extremely important point that raises a number of issues. First of all, in Sant Mat, at least in the lineage after Sawan Singh and Kirpal Singh, the dispensation has been offered or promised that once a disciple is initiated it will take a maximum of four lives for him to reach Sach Khand or be so liberated. The Master is said to take it upon himself to erase the pool of sanchit karmas from time immemorial that the disciple would otherwise have to bear. This is significant, for, as taught in, for instance, Dzogchen Buddhism, it is these very tendencies, karmas, or habits of uncountable lifetimes that prevent our abiding in the Ground Luminosity of Clear Light which dawns after death, if ever so briefly for the average person. A question arises, however: if responsibility for exhausting the sanchit storehouse of karmas is taken over by the Master at the time of initiation, what would prevent an initiate from only needing one lifetime to realize the truth? The answer must be, only his creating more destiny or kriyaman karma by not living up to the teachings in this life. Even so, Sant Mat says that the decision of a further birth into this earth realm lies in the hands of the Guru. anadi says that it also depends upon if the soul has reached completion of its inborn destiny during this life whether or not he need return. Kirpal said that if one has no remaining desires towards this life one needn’t return, depending on the grace of the Master.

   The spiritual Master is said to be able to assume the karmas of others on his own body. A body, as stated, is essential for this particular task. This is not a unique article of faith in Sant Mat. The following beautiful account of the death of the Gyalwang Karmapa illustrates this phenomenon:

   "By the time that I saw him, His Holiness had already had many operations, some parts of his body removed, things put inside him, his blood transfused, and so on. Every day the doctors discovered the symptoms of some new disease, only to find them gone the next day and replaced by another illness, as if all the diseases in the world were finding room in his flesh. For two months he had taken no solid food, and finally his doctors thought the life-supporting systems should be disconnected. But the Karmapa said, "No, I'm going to live. Leave them in place." And he did live, astonishing the doctors, and remaining seemingly at ease in his situation - humorous, playful, smiling, as if he were rejoicing at everything his body suffered. Then I thought, with the clearest possible conviction, that the Karmapa had submitted himself to the cutting, to the manifestation of all those diseases in his body, to the lack of food, in a quite intentional and voluntary way: He was deliberately suffering all of these diseases to help minimize the coming pains of war, disease, and famine, and in this way he was deliberately working to avert the terrible suffering of this dark age." (15)

18. Kabir’s Anurag Sagar claims that Kal the negative power always produces imposter masters to fool the “unelect”, and that part of the search is for the seeker to find the gem among the dirt. Kirpal Singh said there is always at least one true master alive on earth, and clearly said that there may be more than one. Sant Darshan Singh said on at least one occasion that there was only one. Shoonyo, successor to Dr. I.C. Sharma, said that there could conceivably be many.The founder of the modern Sant Mat or Radhasoami lineages, Shiv Dayal Singh, implied there could be more than one, with both Rai Salig Ram and Jaimal Singh becoming gurus after him. Sant Mat often mentions that contemporaries Kabir and Nanak were both perfect masters.

   19. Returning to the main discussion - which is one of mysticism and emanationism (including kundalini, Kriya, Sant Mat) versus non-duality, jnana, Ch'an, or Zen, etc. - once out of the body (and from an absolute point of view, even while in the body), don't ideas of high or low, inside and out, essentially lose their ultimate meaning, as they are only concepts or ideas in the mind? We have already discussed this in part, saying that the subtler bodies being still within space and time (Kal) have their relative dimensions, although ultimately there is no such thing. Sant Rajinder Singh succinctly explains that this is indeed the case even on that path:

 Q: Where are the inner realms?

Master: “When we withdraw our attention to the single eye, we become absorbed in the inner Light and Sound. Then, after we meet the radiant form of the Master and rise above body-consciousness, we find inner realms. These inner dimensions or realms exist concurrently with our physical universe. For lack of better terminology we speak of inner and outer, or higher and lower regions. These realms are not exactly descriptive because we are talking about states of consciousness. They do not exist in time and space., but we have the illusion that our physical world is in time and space. The physical region with the earth, sun, planets, and galaxies  exists simultaneously with spiritual regions. We measure time and space in this physical universe because that is the only frame of reference that we know. But all these regions, from the physical to the spiritual, exist as states of consciousness. When we talk about traveling to inner or higher regions, we are not actually traveling anywhere or going up or in. We are actually refocusing our attention to a different state of consciousness or awareness.”

   From the point of view of Advaita, as mentioned, even the body is essentially nothing more than an idea or collection of sensations, perceptions, and beliefs in consciousness. Therefore, from the point of view of truth, does it matter, as some of the Tibetans maintain, how one ‘leaves’ the body? What if an initiate is murdered or killed in a horrible accident and is suddenly jerked out of the body, as has happened? I have already spoken of one such case. We are told that no matter how we die we will be instantly with the Master within. "The Master always resides in the disciple's innermost heart center," said Kirpal Singh.

   Saints and yogis have said that one can leave the body through different centers: the navel, the heart, or the head, etc. They generally feel that a conscious exit via the head is most fruitful, and some have said that if one exits the body or dies via the anahata chakra, for instance, one may be lost until the next life in lower reflections of the true higher planes. In Sant Mat, barring the case of terrible accidents, all initiates exit the body through the crown of the head and are difectly in the presence of their Masters within.

   Sants argue for the superiority of the head or third eye over the heart as the main portal to the beyond, but generally do not address the debate on the causal spiritual heart spoken of by the sages or the heart chakra of the yogis. They simply say that the heart-lotus of the saints is between the eyebrows. That is their portal into the Beyond. Whereas sages such as Ramana Maharshi say the entire inner journey through the subtle, psychic realms via the divya chaksu (third eye) can be avoided by absorption of attention or mind in the heart, the subjective source of the separate self or ego. Traditionally, such as in the Upanishads, the heart is considered to be the seat of the soul in the body. Presumably this may account for the apparent exception-to-the-rule in the case of Lakhshmi the cow, whom Ramana said atained mukti upon her death. If the soul is in the heart, the lack of a man-body or human form, and lack of a third eye, may not always be an absolute impediment to liberation. An objection might be raised that in the case of Ramana by his own admission he had little or no experience of the overhead planes, so cannot speak for the realizations of the Sants. That is true. Comparisons between the two positions are therefore difficult. Sri Aurobindo made the same comment about Maharshi when a disciple asked him questions concerning differences between their philosophies. Maharshi in turn criticized Aurobindo's experiences of the Supermind, Overmind, etc., in effect saying they were all within the Self only. When such sages disagree, we should feel little doubt over seeking answers to our own questions.

   Sant Mat sometimes describes Sach Khand as the realm of Atman in exactly the same terms of “infinite light” as Maharshi spoke as the experience of atman reflected through mahatattva (cosmic consciousness); even more, according to Sar Bachan at least, scenes and sounds there, with gushing fountains of light. The disciple of Sant Mat eventually attains to a realm of no sound and no light (Anami), which it calls Absolute God, but sages like Paul Brunton, Ramana, Nisargadatta would still almost certainly disagree with the idea that even that is the end of the path. Sahaja samadhi, which may or may not be the “radhasoami state”, still awaits the mature soul. It should be noted that Hazur Baba Sawan Singh was attracted to advaita, but after study of Kabir's Anurag Sagar decided the path of shabd was higher. In Sant Mat, the state of sahaj is supposed to happen more or less automatically, through the infused power of the shabda-brahman.

   20. Ramana, it must be noted, was of the view that all types of experience are unnecessary - even while many of his disciples had all sorts of classic yogic and mystical experiences in his company. He also made gentle fun of those of his disciples who wanted to see “the light of a million suns.” Brunton called that "the penultimate experience." A rare yogic text called it , great as it was, "maya". Interesting, isn't it, that Maharshi made fun of what most Sant Mat disciples would die for, and what, in fact, sound alot like descriptions of Sach Khand! Ramana also said that one could not really say it was not light, however, that the metaphor was appropriate, but it was the invisible light of understanding.

   The highest mystical experience is generally considered in the standard yogic literature to be nirvikalpa samadhi (samadhi without form, the source of subjectivity), with anything perceptible still in the realm of the psychic or subtle. Thus Sach Khand would not be “spiritual” in this traditional understanding. It is described in Sant Mat as the "full effulgence of the light of the Creator." Yet it is not Atman as traditionally defined, which is ithout attributes. Kirpal Singh once did mention, however, that the description of Sach Khand as being that of millions of suns, etc., was in fact an allegorical description, but the question remaind, is it realization of Atman, and, if not, what is it?.

   According to Sant Rajinder Singh, the Theosophical schema, in a addition to various subplanes in the astral world, outlines seven subplanes in devachan, the lower four constituting the mental plane, and the higher three the causal plane. In Sant Mat, the soul is free of birth and death when it reaches the super-causal plane, where only a thin layer of the anandamaya kosha is said to cover the soul. After that is Sach Khand, or Sat Lok. As mentioned, Dr. I.C. Sharma called Sach Khand “the office of the Master”, and Param Sants are said to go higher, to Alak, Agam, and Anami. There is no doubt that these planes are intoxicating compared to ordinary life in this sublunar earthly sphere. However, while Sach Khand may possibly be beyond dissolution and even grand dissolution of the lower created worlds, as these masters teach, it, once again, is paradoxical to call it spiritual, in the philosophical sense, as there is said to be light and sound and visible beings there, living on their “dweeps” (islands) and enjoying nectar, as the Sar Bachan of Soamiji says. We cannot ignore what Anthony Damiani emphasized, that “no amount of superlatives” will take away from [the] fact that if there is a perceiver and a perceived there, it is not the Reality." No matter how intense and high the bliss and ecstasy, these must be gone beyond before the Soul is realized. This, however, is clearly not the case in Sach Khand. So someone is incorrect. The mystical experience of an ocean of light, however wonderful, is itself still the penultimate stage of the mystical path. The words "spiritual planes", however, is valuable within the sense it is used in Sant Mat. In Buddhism there is mention of glorious Dharmakaya realms, where only buddhas and bodhisattvas of the highest realization may dwell.

   Yet, once again, the highest mystical experience is supposedly beyond all objectivity, as the realization of ultimatesubjectivity, and can then, it seems, only be found in the Sant Mat experience in the Anami state or region - if that is understood and experienced as beyond subject/object distinctions as nameless and formless would seem to imply. Some in Sant Mat, in fact, feel that not only is the Radhasoami state higher than Anami, but that it itself is just the beginning. Anami and even Radhasoami are described, however, in terms such as "the wonder region," into which, according to Baba Jaimal Singh, Sawan Singh's Guru, the gurumukh disciple will "get merged", which, however, is supposedly beyond subject and object. This is a contradiciton only if we are talkng about a separate ego that merges into God. But we must remember that here we are talking of a process of the Soul, which is eternally in unity with the divine One, the I AM, and not that of an 'ego-soul wanting to 'save' itself. There is also a death as the emanant of the Soul quits each inner plane. Even the mind is transformed until it merges in the universal mind in Trikuti. This is a radical insight and requiring a radical shift in one’s view of the world and sense of identity. Ramana called an approach of assuming the reality of an ego-soul that gets purified to finally enjoy or even get merged with an Oversoul or Paramatma a "deceitful stratagem," but he was not talking about the true soul. Here is what he said:

   "...devotion is nothing more than knowing oneself. The doctrine of Qualified Monism [i.e., Ramanuja] also admits it...Their traditional doctrine says..that the individual soul should be made pure and then surrendered to the Supreme; then the ego is lost and one goes to the regions of Vishnu after one's death; then, finally, there is the enjoyment of the Supreme (or the Infinite)! To say that one is apart from the primal Source is itself a pretension; to add that one divested of the ego becomes pure and yet retains individuality only to enjoy or serve the Supreme, is a deceitful stratagem. What duplicity is this - first to appropriate what is really His, and then pretend to experience or serve Him! is not all this already known to Him?"......"all lokas, even Brahma loka, do not release one from rebirth. The Bhagavad Gita says: 'Reaching Me, there is no rebirth...All others are in bondage'...so long as you think that there is gati (movement) - as implied in the word gatva (having gone to) - there is punaravritti (return), also. Again, gati implies your Purvagamanam (birth) What is birth? It is birth of the ego. Once born you reach something; if you reach it, you return, also. Therefore, leave off all this verbiage! Be as you are. See who you are and remain as the Self, free from birth, going, coming, and returning"....."People would not understand the simple and bare truth - the truth of their everyday, ever-present and eternal experience. That Truth is that of the Self. Is there anyone not aware of the Self? They would not even like to hear it (the Self), whereas they are eager to know what lies beyond - heaven, hell, reincarnation. because they love mystery and not the bare truth, religions pamper them - only to bring them around to the self. Wandering hither and thither, you must return to the Self only. Then, why not abide in the Self right here and now?" (17)

   Adyashanti argues similarly to Ramana:

   "The taste of no separate self is totally liberating. "No separate self" does not mean there is a spiritual experience that goes something like, "I have extended myself infinitely everywhere, and have merged with everything." That's a beautiful, wonderful experience for a separate self to have, but that's not what Oneness is. Oneness is not merging. Merging happens between two and since there is only one, then any experience of merging is one illusion merging with another, as beautiful and wonderful as that experience may be. Even when I experience having merged with the absolute, with the infinite, with God, it simply means that my fictitious self has merged with another fiction. Mystical experiences aren't enlightenment." (18)

   "The merging experience is very pleasant and very beautiful, and you may or may not ever have it. If you have a particular type of body-mind, you might experience having it every five minutes. If you are another type of body-mind, you might have it every five lifetimes. It means nothing whether or not this happens or how often.”

   “I have met many people who can merge at the drop of a hat, and they are about as free as a dog chasing its tail in a cage. Merging has nothing to do with being free or actually having any idea what Oneness really is.”

   “Oneness simply means that everything is the One. Everything is That, and everything always was That. When there is a very deep knowing that everything is One, then the movement of the me trying to find a past experience ceases. Movement is cut off. Seeking is cut off. The seeker is cut off. Realization cuts everything off all at once.”

   “Every experience that you will ever have is the One, whether that experience is merging or having to go to the bathroom. Even when it's beating a stick on the floor and saying, "This is it. This is the Buddha. This is enlightened mind. It doesn't get more enlightened than this!" It is all God.”
(From Consciousness -- Everything is That, by Adyashanti)

   Sant Darshan Singh, by contrast, described his ultimate experiences in the following manner:

   "He has taken me above body consciousness...to the higher planes, leaving the stars, the moon and the sun behind, making me one with him in his radiant effulgent form. He has taken me into moments of eternity; beyond the limitations of time and space, and then, giving me a glance of love, a boost...he has taken me...into the highest realms of spirituality. On the way he has introduced me to the various Masters who have blessed this earth since time immemorial, and arranged for our conversation. We have conversed in a language which has no tongue...no words...no alphabet...in a language which is eternal. We have conversed in the language which was in the beginning..which was made Word, in the language which [divine] lovers even now speak. This is the language which will continue to the end of all time...And after taking me to our Eternal Home, Sach Khand, he has taken me to higher realms known as Agam and Agochar, those regions which are fathomless...beyond human imagination. And after that we reached Anami, the ultimate vast region which has no shores...no limitation...no name..." (19)

   "We cannot possibly reach our goal of union with God without the help and constant guidance of an Adept. The distractions and pitfalls that line the way are unsurmountable, and one would be lost a thousand times even before one crossed the first inner plane. But the Guru's task does not end even after the soul has realized its own essential divinity. He takes us to the region known as Sach Khand, or the True Home. Here the soul comes face too face with its Creator and is finally in the realm of the Absolute, the Unchanging Permanence. From now on the spiritual journey is the story of progressive merger, to a state where the creature cannot be said to behold the Creator for they have at last become one. Such indeed is the inner journey which the spiritual Adept makes possible and which he enables us to traverse successfully." (20)

   And from Sant Kirpal Singh:

   "The soul has been imprisoned for ages and it is only through the kindness of the Master that it can be released. There is no other way." (Spiritual Elixir - Chapter 20)

   So the question of the difference between the ego, objective to the soul, and the soul, itself impersonal subjectivity and forever united yet simultaneously merging into the ultimate subjectivity, God, is settled according to the Sants, but not for the non-dualists. At this point I refer the reader back to sections 13, 14, and 15 of this paper for exegesis on this important matter.

21. The branches among Sant Mat, as stated, are divided on whether Anami is the highest realm, or whether there is something beyond, called “Radhasoami”, which may or may not be a region, per se. This is where there is a lack of preciseness or limitation in our language. Some of this may be unavoidable, yet if Radhasoami is not a region, but a more universal, transcendental realization, similar to that described by sages like Ramana Maharshi or the Buddha, beyond even the formless state represented by Anami, then it should be made explicit. It may not matter much to beginners but overall it is important. And perhaps not all Sant Mat masters have attained the highest philosophic realization, but only the highest mystic one. Even in cases where they have, because so much theologic tradition has been built up around Sant Mat, it might not be possible for the gurus to teach differently, even if they have the radical insight, without undermining the faith of thousands, if not millions of disciples. And perhaps they help more people by simply teaching the way they do. Perhaps it is more practically effective to teach an initial dualistic search, with more advanced instruction demonstrating higher stages of the path being given by those of their gurus with the specific capability. But, as Kirpal Singh was fond of quoting from Socrates, “I love Truth more than Plato.” At some point, Truth is better.

   In other passages Sant Darshan speaks more radically, however, about the true condition of the soul:

   "If we think that the Master is in one physical location, that is the most erroneous way of looking at things. The Master is always with us. He is nearer to us than our throat; he is within us. He is within our eyes; he is within our forehead; he is within every pore of our body...The Master is with us all the time. We are caught in the tresses of the beloved and we cannot wiggle out of them. We cannot even move our finger we are so tied up in our Beloved's tresses. Only if we look inside ourself will we find our Beloved master with us. Our Master can even be with us physically all the twenty-four hours. He is not gone. He has not left the earthly plane. He is here - now! [words similar to those of the dying Ramana Maharshi: "where could I go? I am here."]... We should call him from the core of our heart. He has not gone anywhere. He is with us; he is within us; he is without us; he is in every pore of our body. He enlivens us in our voice; he is in our breath; he is in our looks; we only fail to perceive him...Be one with him and he will be with us all the time. There is no magic in this room. it is only the oneness of our attention." (21)

   And, interestingly, Sant Rajinder Singh recently has also appeared to modify the language of Sant Mat to move one step closer to the advaita or non-dual position, as well as that of modern science. While touring Budapest in 2007 one woman expressed that when she sat for meditation she sometimes felt afraid. The Master responded by saying that we often feel fear because of the language used such as “rising above body-consciousness.” The words, he said, do not clearly define what is happening. The spiritual regions are going on concurrently with this physical region. We are not rising “out” of the body, he explained, but are "tuning into different frequencies." This is a radical departure from the explicit message in all of Sant Mat to date, whose appeal to suffering seekers is exactly that the soul does rise out of the body, exactly as at the time of death, with the ability to return guaranteed because the "silver cord" mentioned in the Bible remains intact.

   Examining the statement further, one can see the difficulty faced by the Teacher. If he in this instance is trying to tell someone that "we" are really not a "something" that goes anywhere, but that "we" only deepen in the experience of more and more dimensions within our self, then this traditional teaching as given loses its comparative uniqueness. Moreover, saying that we are really not leaving the body but "tuning into different frequencies", still leaves unanswered the more basic question, " 'who' is doing the tuning in?" Without resolving that question first, the gyanis or sages say, self-understanding has not yet occurred and the potential for fear will remain, as well as the potential for misunderstanding one's experiences. If this is answered according to advaita, it will be argued that in fact there is no separate "one", no fixed entity, to tune into anything (and also no fixed entity that is born or dies), in which case the motivation to meditate in this specific manner itself is called into question and needs further argument. What is the goal one exactly is trying to achieve? This is now not so clear. Is this ascent a necessary and direct means to enlightenment, or, as traditions such as advaita would argue, are the practice and samadhis only preparatory, in some cases, to final inquiry into the Self?

   If there is no leaving, or no one who leaves, the body in meditation, then is there any one who leaves the body at the time of death - and does this also need to be understood in a radically different way? Thankfully this matter is eventually taken out of our hands. Non-dualist or not, a power takes the soul out of the body at death.The teachings of the advaitists purporting to speak from the position of absolute truth, however, even deny incarnation itself, and speak radically differently about death and the state of consciousness of an "I" after death - or in life, for that matter - some denying it any intermediate reality at all. There may be limitations in their point of view, which they will admit is not for beginners, but what they say must be considered. If the Masters say that the body is just a thought, or perception arising in consciousness, however, which even the language, "we are not really rising out of it", suggests - or at least is compatible with - then the concept of "leaving" the body would also need to be re-explained, and the books possibly re-written, a difficult and perhaps thankless task for those charged with upholding a tradition with countless followers at many levels of understanding.

   Sant Mat is a bhakti path, and few are likely to be interested in questions like these. Just sit in the silence, receive the love, and don’t worry. I pray for a cool breeze from the Masters to soothe my overheated brain, and I, too, wish above all for pure love.... But such questions have been around in some form for hundreds of years and will not go away. They are not mere mental hair-splitting but inquiries that affect the very means, intention, and understanding of one's sadhana and the guru-disciple relationship. If the soul or power of the soul called the attention does not really rise up and leave the body during meditation, but only appears to, what are the meaning of heart-felt statements like the following from Sant Kirpal Singh, quite representative of Sant Mat:

   "You cannot imagine with what longing the Master Power awaits you at the eye focus ready to receive you with open arms."

   As the reader will find under Biographies: “The Death of a Dream and a Gift of Truth”, I have a personal and not merely intellectual interest and need for such answers, having been cast down from the eye-focus by the Master Power many years ago for what I hope was my soul's own ultimate good, but which continues to strain my faith and endurance to the limit. If I think of the fallen state of the soul, I suffer immensely. If I inquire " 'who' wants to leave the body", or " 'who' thinks he must leave the body", or "who thinks he is a 'thing' that must leave a body?", and the Soul responds with an intuitive glimpse, there is relative peace. So this entire article thus represents not just a philosophical investigation but a continuing prayer to the Masters for guidance and grace.

   I respectfully ask, therefore, what exactly was the Master pointing to here? It seems to speak directly to the heart of Sant Mat as a distinct philosophy.

22. In the article Sophia's Passion: Sant Mat and the Gnostic Myth of Creation, Neil Tessler within the framework of Sant Mat attempts to explain their teachings within classic creation stories wherein the realms of creation allotted to “Kal”, the negative power (himself an eternal emanation of the Sat Purush or creator God, actually said to be “created out of the finest hair of the Sat Purush”), are lower than the highest, uncreated Heaven of Sach Khand. While Kabir's Anurag Sagar is very interesting, beautiful and enigmatic, it is debateable whether it should necessarily be a taken as a metaphysical and literal description of conditional and absolute realities. It should be mentioned, however, that the reknown saint, Hazur Baba Sawan Singh Ji Maharaj, considered Anurag Sagar as essential for understanding the difference between Sant Mat and other paths, so its reading should not be lightly dismissed. Again, see the biography of Kabir on this website for more on this.

   Tessler writes:

   “The several creation myths developed by the Masters serve to describe the relationship between the Absolute in its non-attributive formless essence, known in modern Sant Mat as Anami or Radhasoami, and its manifested attributes. As Kirpal Singh has written, "In one there is always the delusion of many, and the totality does signify the existence therein of so many parts. The ideas of a part and of the whole go cheek by jowl, and both the part as well as the whole are characterized by the similarity of the essential nature in them.”

   “The essence of a thing has its own attributive nature and the two cannot be separated from each other. Just as the essence is both one and many, so is the case with its attributive nature."
[Kirpal Singh, The Crown of Life; A Study in Yoga]

   “These attributes first appear in their purest and most realized form as the primordial "creation", known in the East as Sach Khand or in Gnosticism as the Pleroma or Fullness, (terms which will both be used synonymously throughout this paper). Creation is, however, a misnomer, for Sach Khand is not created as such, but rather it is the expansion into distinct being of the eternally perfect and fully elaborated attributes of the Absolute. These cosmic attributes are known as the Sons of Sat Purush in the East and the Aeons in Gnosticism. Sat Purush or the Only-Begotten is the Aeon that is the Being, the mind, as it were, of the Absolute; pure consciousness and consciousness on all planes, thus also the bridge to creation proper. As Hans Jonas has written,

   "The Only-Begotten Mind alone, having issued from him directly, can know the Fore-Father: to all the other Aeons he remains invisible and incomprehensible. 'It was a great marvel that they were in the Father without knowing Him.' (Gospel of Truth 22.27)”

   “The number of these eternal emanations of the divine varies according to reference. The gnostic version described by Hans Jonas gives four Aeons with their consorts to make eight, "the original Ogdoad", who then further elaborate to make another seven pairs for a total of thirty. The Kabiran version gives sixteen with Sat Purush being the first emanation.
The myths now run in two distinct directions, at least in the gnostic forms. The Kabiran version and one gnostic version tells us that there was an Aeon that cherished a desire for its own creation as an inherent part of its nature. We could say that the potential for separation from God is in itself an Aeon. This leads ultimately to a creation existing in negative polarity with eternal Sach Khand, spinning the attributive universes that exist in Time. This separative Aeon, known as Mind or Time (Kal), is Sat Purusha's first expansion in the gnostic version and fifth in the Kabiran version. Kabir's Anurag Sagar states that "He is created from the most glorious part of the body of Sat Purush". Thus Sat Purush is cosmically linked to the "lower" creation, which eventually develops through Kal's activity. In this we are warned away from value judgements, and reminded that this entire process is under Divine Will (Hukam).”

   This last statement is important, because how many nevertheless do think of Kal in value judgements? But how can this be the true perspective when one has realized Oneness? Answer: It is the paradoxical nature of reality. As Rabia of Basra said, however,

   “In love with God, I have no time left to hate the devil; My love to God has so possessed me that nothing remains but Him.”

   Here is an illustration where even Sant Kirpal Singh, whom I revere - or perhaps the editors or assistants working on his book, Godman ? - may possibly have stretched a bit to maintain the traditional dualistic negative power/positive power dichotomy. One must keep in mind that Kirpal Singh wrote this book, as a devotional gesture to his guru, Sawan Singh, when he was still a disciple, twenty or more years before he was a Master, although it was not published until 1967. Speaking in glowing terms of the oneness of the Master and God or God-Power and how such a state is possible, Kirpal states:

   In discourse 7 of the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna thus sets to rest this question:

   "Not knowing my transcendant, imperishable supreme character, the
   undiscerning think me who am unmanifest to have become manifest.
   Veiled by the delusive mystery created by my unique power,
   I am not manifest to all; this bewildered world does not recognize me,
   birthless and changeless."

   Then he writes:

   "Blessed indeed is the man who is ready for immediate transformation into God, for to such an individual he at once reveals his Godhood; as Krishna revealed his oneness with Kal to Arjuna..." (22)

   Krishna, previously implied to be one with God, is here relegated to the lesser avataric status or "oneness with Kal" the negative power as considered within the Sant tradition. All very confusing. Explainable, but still confusing - certainly for a Hindu who would consider Buddha or perhaps Christ or even Ramakrishna to have been avatars. In any vision of Oneness, whether it be the ‘oneness’ of the soul, or the ‘oneness of the ultimate, "Kal” must be taken back into one's being and no longer projected outside. It must, however, be kept in mind that Kal is not really a person, i.e., satan, but a principle, but who can apparently manifest in form. Judith Lamb-Lion, disciple of Kirpal Singh, described a mystic encounter where she met Kal, who "was black and had feathers. She removed a feather and saw light and God behind him and no longer was afraid." This is also essentially what the Tibetan Book of the Dead tells one to do: recognize everything as a projection of one's own mind.. This non-reactivity and acceptance must be habitually practiced every day, however, to be effective at the time of death. What this all suggests is that the dualistic vision of the cosmos, described metaphorically in many spiritual and religious teachings, is ultimately to be transcended.

   The more positive aspect of the Kabirian myth is where the aeon Kal is not inherently evil or sinful, but power is granted to Kal as a concession by the Sat Purush so that the cosmic play will go on for some time and souls will not immediately return to the Forefather as soon as they are incarnated for the first time, but be trapped in the lower worlds until rescued by the manifestation of the Positive Power, the Sant Satguru. Needlessly to say, advaita (i.e., sources like the Mandukya Upanishad) do not accept such cosmological theories of creation at all. Which isn’t to say that they are not more true thannot.

   Two metaphors, therefore, seem to exist for the path to Truth. The most ancient is the emanationist one of the "ladder" or "ascent" to the highest or deepest realm of consciousness. The non-dual metaphor currently in vogue is that of the "bottom falling out of the bucket" or "the bubble of ego bursting" wherever one finds himself. Is it necessary to fulfill both of these "paths" for complete Truth to be realized? Is there a choice? Is one more important than the other? Does the "Radhasoami" realization in Sant Mat produce a non-dual enlightenment? It seems that in some cases it may, in some case maybe not, as they seem to derive from different antecedent causes. The Gyan samadhis so criticized as only as "the highest human realizations" by the Sant Mat masters may not automatically become the experience of these Masters just because they fulfilled the complete course of inner inversion, and, therefore, only the rare Master in that lineage may have the means to make an accurate comparison, in my humble and hesistantly introduced opinion. On the other hand, however, does the "non-dual" enlightenment in traditional or popular Buddhism, Zen or Advaita last any longer than the body, unless the course outlined by the Sant Mat Masters is fulfilled?

   Realization certainly doesn't seem to remain unbroken in its continuity, in either case, as even the masters and sages who choose to return to help others temporarily sacrifice their enlightenment when they assume a new body, and must spend some time regaining it (Sant Kirpal Singh called it a "refresher course"), although in their case the regaining is relatively assured.

23. Once again, there is still supposed to be light and sound beyond Sach Khand, and if so the three higher regions beyond Sach Khand (Alak, Agam, and Anami, only the latter which is described as formless), can not by definition be equivalent to the three higher degrees of penetration into the Void Mind mentioned by Plotinus (Soul, Intellectual Principle, and the One), and by Paul Brunton as Overself (Soul), World Mind, and Mind, all of which are formless, egoless, dimensions. Sach Khand then would be the highest subtle or celestial plane, which Sant Mat denies, calling it the first true spiritual region, beyond mind and matter, and says that you can't know that is the case until you get there, least of all because many lower stages seem like reflections of the higher.

24. The very way Sach Khand is described is paradoxical, however, so its claim to be a “spiritual” region may not be dismissed outright. Our language is a poor guage of reality, in the final analysis. Sach Khand, as a divine realm where souls see by their own light and recognize other souls and their Creator, is very much like the following description given by the great Sufi, Ibn Al ‘Arabi:

   ”A final spiritual intuition will show you our forms manifest in Him, so that some of us are manifest to others in the reality, know each other, and distinguish each other in Him. There are those of us who have spiritual knowledge of this mutual recognition in the reality, while others have not experienced the plane on which this occurs. I seek refuge in God lest I be of the ignorant.” (23)

   And also by Plotinus, on the realization of the Nous or Intellectual Principle, the image of which is the Soul:

   "A blissful life is theirs. They have the Truth for Mother, Nurse and Nutriment; they see all things: not the things that are born and die, but those which have Real Being and they see themselves in others. For them all things are transparent and there is nothing dark or impenetrable, but everyone is manifest to everyone interiorly and all things are manifest to the most intimate depth of their nature. Light is everywhere manifest to light. There, everyone has all things in himself and sees all things in others, so that all things are everywhere and all is all and each is all, and the glory is infinite." (v. 8, 4).

   So far be it for this poor one to speak of what he knows not , but if clarification can be given to bridge the contradictions within the traditions, I fervently ask that it be granted, by experience if not in words.

25. Generally, in Sant Mat there is no recognition or proposal of what Paul Brunton called "Short Path" practices to cultivate insight, as complementary to concentration practice, and to supplement the often long and dreary years of attempts at purifying the ego-soul so it can go "within" - such attempts which can in spite of themselves often reinforce the identification with the ego itself - prior to actual experience of the higher realms themselves, which through the power of the Word will progressively annihilate the earth-bound soul until it shines in its primal glory.. This is less likely for those who make themselves accessible to the company of a true master and develop love for him. Sometimes in Sant Mat this is difficult, due to the great number of disciples. This is one reason many are turning to non-dual teachers for what they feel is to be more direct, accessible, and practical guidance. The Upanishads themselves were the product of a few students sitting at the feet of the master until all doubts were resolved. This turning away from the path could be unfortunate, however, throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Again, however, Paul Brunton explains that the mystical schools above all are the most likely to offer one method for all, whether that is suitable for an aspirant or not. There are several reasons for this:

   "The average teacher takes from his own personal experience what helped him most or what his own teacher led him to, and passes it on to the student as being "the Path," the only way to God, the sole method of arriving at truth - whether this particular way or method suits the individual type or his degree of development or not. He almost forces it on the student, even if it is contrary to the latter's entire temperament or need. The poor student finds himself locked up in his teacher's personal opinions and practices, as if nothing good existed outside them."

   "It is the mark of a well-qualified teacher that he adapts his advice to fit each disciple individually. If everyone is recommended to practise the same method irrespective of competence, his personal history and temperament, his grade of development or capacity, his character-traits and tendencies, in a number of cases it will be largely ineffectual."

   Again, the antidote is to go in all humility to the Master-Soul and tell him your problems; if he is a true master the help will be there.

26. So at some point sages say that one must move from the practise of pursuing concentration on a projected ultimate object (i.e., God), with attention extended outside of the heart, and inquire or find the subject, and then the ultimate Subject. Supposedly this happens automatically through Naam bhakti. Zen Master Bassui (1338-1500), however, echoed Ramana:

   "What is this mind? Who is hearing these sounds? Do not mistake any state for Self-realization, but continue To ask yourself even more Intensely, What is it that hears?"

   There are hints here and there that even some of the Sant Mat masters recognized this. As mentioned previously, a disciple I knew, Judith Lamb-Lion, who confessed in Kirpal Singh’s company and was acknowledged by him to have gone to Sach Khand at her intiation, still asked him in private, “WHO am I?” to which Kirpal replied “WHO wants to KNOW?" It should be mentioned that Kirpal did not suggest this inquiry or practice to just anyone. This was a ripe soul who had also been taken to Sach Khand, and for whom the question still arose. Therefore we are talking of very high spiritual states. This would make sense of Ramana's comment:

   "It is said in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad that the first name of God is 'I'. 'Aham nama abhavat' ['I becomes the name']. Om came later." (25)

   'Om' here refers to the creative vibration or life-current, similar to Naam or Shabd in the Sikh or Sant tradition, except, in the teachings of the Sants, the scope of "Om" is attributed to that of the lower three worlds only, which are the purview of the vedas and vedantic sages. Sar shabd and Sat shabd are said take one much higher and lead to liberation. Ramana was quite adamant that eventually the quest into the truth of the Self is alone the direct path to the right awareness of the Self or realization. He affirmed that meditation is a preliminary aid to this quest for breaking up the idea of the body as the self, but that in all yogas, or stages of yoga, other than that of enquiry, it is assumed that there is an entity called 'the soul' pursuing that quest, which he says is a false assumption. In summary, for Ramana all yoga and meditation is just preliminary to the ultimate path of vichara or enquiry, wherein the source of the apparent ego-soul is realized as the Self. As previously argued, the view that the subject discovered through inquiry is the ultimate Subject, instead of the Soul, is a traditional assumption of advaita vedanta, which may not be true. It may simply be a traditonal inheritance we have received from an age when the teachings of truth were presented in only impersonal terms.

   Here is an example of how Ramana would direct his listener from a relative to an absolute viewpoint:

Sri Ramana Maharshi: "Individual human souls are not the only beings known."

Question: "And the sacred regions Kailasa or Vaikuntha, are they real?"

Sri Ramana Maharshi: "As real as you are in this body."

Question: "Do they possess a phenomenal existence, like my body? Or are they fictions like the horn of a hare?"

Sri Ramana Maharshi: "They do exist."

Question: "If so, they must be somewhere. Where are they?"

Sri Ramana Maharshi: "Persons who have seen them say that they exist somewhere. So we must accept their statement."

Question: "Where do they exist?"

Sri Ramana Maharshi: "In you."

   [Didn't Baba Sawan Singh say much the same thing?
   "Everything, including the Creator, is within you." ]

Question: "Then it is only an idea, which I can create and control?"

Sri Ramana Maharshi: "Everything is like that."

Question: "But I can create pure fictions, for example, a hare's horn, or only part truths, for example a mirage, while there are also facts irrespective of my imagination. Do the Gods Iswara or Vishnu exist like that?"

Sri Ramana Maharshi: "Yes."

Question: "Is God subject to Pralaya (cosmic dissolution) ?"

Sri Ramana Maharshi: "Why? Man becoming aware of the Self transcends cosmic dissolution and becomes liberated. Why not Iswara who is infinitely wiser and abler?" [In Sant Mat, Iswara is situated lower in the scheme of creation than the Sat Purush]

Question: "Do devas (angels) and pisachas (devils) exist similarly?"

Sri Ramana Maharshi: "Yes."

Question: "These deities, what is their status relative to the Self?"

Sri Ramana Maharshi: "Siva, Ganapati and other deities like Brahma, exist from a human standpoint; that is to say, if you consider your personal self as real, then they also exist. Just as government has its high executive officers to carry on the government, so has the creator. But from the standpoint of the Self all these gods are illusory and must themselves merge into the one reality..." (26)

   "Truly there is no cause for you to be miserable and unhappy. You yourself impose limitations on your true nature of infinite being, and then weep that you are but a finite creature. Then you take up this or that spiritual practice to transcend the non- existent limitations. But if your spiritual practice itself assumes the existence of the limitations, how can it help you to transcend them?" (27)

   While that is so, the ego is not the soul. To realize the soul one must transcend the ego and co-operate with its death. So what the jnanis say is only half-truth and not gospel.

27. Sant Darshan Singh said in one of his books that one doesn't get the first glimpse of true happiness until after transcending the fourth plane. In the highest and most true sense this may be so. At the fourth plane the soul stands with only the anandamayakosha veiling it. No doubt there is great bliss as one ascends to such a heavenly realm, and as the ray of the soul returns to its origin it partakes more directly of the nature of that source. Still, one may find it difficulty to accept or simply agree with that comment, no matter how pure and illumined Sant Darshan Singh was, which as far as I can tell few have walked the earth with as much sanctity as he. It is simply that other sages have disagreed with it. Therefore the question arises. True, it is certainly harder to be happy here, and it appears that there is a limit to human happiness, due to its transciency, but it also seems that the communication of such a view could reinforce suffering, in so far as the more one believes or thinks he must get out of the body, the more fixed the belief in the reality of the body becomes, for one thing. Japanese Buddhist Master Fuji, who sat with Kirpal Singh a number of times, was in obvious ecstasy, with a smile as wide as the room, while in this very plane. Kirpal was often that way, too. There is also the example of the emotion-filled exclamation Kirpal made to His master, "Huzur, the peace and security found while sitting at your feet can not be had in higher planes!" Unless this was just a devotional gesture one must question the nature of happiness itself. Does it shine forth while being without ego in the moment, or is it only attained in some far-off inner plane, in the psychological depths of consciousness? If one believes strongly in the reality of the body and world as real, which the very drive to get out of the body must reinforce (not that one should never pursue it), then necessarily one will project his ideal of happiness in that direction only and not recognize it any other way. According to some, that very disposition is a big stumbling block to liberation. Again, we refer to Brunton who wrote:

   "The notion that the truth will be gained, that happiness will be achieved, that the Overself will be realized at the end of a long attempt must be seen as an illusory one. Truth, happiness, and the Overself must be seen in the Present, not the future, at the very beginning of this quest, not the end, here and now.....It is an error, although a reasonable one, to believe that attainment comes only when the whole distance of this path has been travelled. This is to make it depend on measurement, calculation - that is, on the ego's own effort, management, and control. On the contrary, attainment depends on relinquishment of the ego, and hence of the idea of progress which accompanies it. it is then that a man can be still; then that he can, as the bible promises, "know that I am God." (28)

   Ramana also declared:

   "What is meant by liberation? Do the heavenly worlds and heavenly bliss exist somewhere else in the sky? Are they to be experienced in some other world and some other body after leaving this world and the body? The heart alone is the supreme world. Tranquility, in the form of supreme silence, is alone the supreme bliss or the happiness of liberation...The cessation of all worries is the attainment of the supreme truth. By the state of inner consciousness the great life of supreme bliss can be attained at all times in this very world and in this very body." (29)

   Even Master Darshan spoke enigmatically about this, in apparent contradiction to his words mentioned above. In Love's Last Madness (p. 75) we find:

   "Eternal rapture is within reach in this ephemeral world:

    Devote your life to serving in the tavern."

   In this case some of the Sant Mat gurus would generally be honorably and laudibly classified according to the Lankavatara Sutra as "Transformation Buddhas", but not necessarily "Dharmata Buddhas" (such as Hui-neng), that is, those who do not publically teach the ultimate truth of the One Mind, but methods to help the most people they can from the level at which they find them. Many of the greatest sages in history have mixed mysticism with philosophy, trying to help as many people as they could., such is their great compassion and universal vision. As vedantist V.S. Iyer wrote:

   "In Brahma Sutras Sankara says that Brahman is the cause of the world, whereas in Mandukya Upanishad he denies it. This is because he says that at the lower stage of understanding, the former teaching must be given, for people will be frightened as they cannot understand how the world can be without a cause, but to those in a higher stage, the truth of non-causality can be revealed." (30)

   As Hung-Jen (eighth century) said:

   “Throughout the canon, the Tathagata preaches extensively about all types of transgression and good fortune, causes and conditions, and rewards and retributions. He also draws upon all the various things of this world, mountains, rivers, the earth, plants, trees, etc. to make innumerable metaphors. He also manifests innumerable supernormal powers and various kinds of transformations. All these are just the Buddha’s way of teaching foolish sentient beings. Since they have various kinds of desires and a myriad of psychological differences, the Tathagata draws them into permanent bliss according to their mental tendencies. Understand clearly that the Buddha Nature embodied within sentient beings is inherently pure, like a sun underlaid by clouds. By just distinctly maintaining awareness of the True Mind, the clouds of false thoughts will go away, and the sun of wisdom will appear." (31)

   The following quote is going to hurt. PB states:

   "The sage has conquered separativeness in his mind and realized the ALL as himself. The logical consequence is tremendous. It follows that there is no liberation from the round of births and rebirths for the sage; he has to go through it like the others. Of course, he does this with full understanding whereas they are plunged in darkness. But if he identifies himself with the All, then he can't desert but must go on to the end, working for the liberation of others in turn. This is his crucifixion, that being able to save others he is unable to save himself. "And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, `And he was numbered with the transgressors.' Why? Because compassion rules him, not the ego. Nobody is likely to want such a goal (until, indeed he is almost ready for it) so it is usually kept secret or symbolized. Again: "For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." (32)

   Ramana Maharshi and others, even Darshan Singh, have said the same, that they would come back again and again to help apparent other souls.

   . As Kirpal said, "one bulb is replaced with another." Sant Mat believes the Satguru is an incarnation eternally present on the earth, "giving food for the hungry and water for the thirsty," as Christ said.

   There is some merit to the concept of a lineage, where each master watches each other’s back, so to speak, thus maintaining the purity of the transmission, even when a paerticular master is not fully developed. A teacher or Master may in fact still be a true and effective agent of Grace without the ability to advise one in all areas of life or practice; in such cases, one will inevitably be moved out of inner necessity to exercise and develop his intelligence in many matters and seek guidance, with all due love and respect to the primary master of his heart, from other sources as required, and without fear or paranoia about "Kal" or anything else. In traditional devotional paths this independence and self-reliance has usually been considered taboo, but in the age we are living in that is increasingly becoming a no longer viable or believable point of view. The Divine Mind seems to be leading us on a path of evolution and to develop all of ones faculties is part of that evolution. And there is a higher purpose behind this.

   To teach outside the religious and cultural expectations of tradition when needed requires skill, knowledge, and courage. Sant Kirpal did so, with some. Sant Darshan Singh, to his credit, seemed to be moving in that direction, but once admitted, bless his soul, that he “was old-fashioned”. Perhaps he was referring to personal moral codes and such, perhaps not. I was not his personal disciple so I cannot say. He did write that when all is said and done, one must come to the point of surrender. With that there can be no argument. But there is no question that the public message of Sant Mat in general continues to be simply “go in and up”. For some this works, but for many, apparently not so well. There are many, many souls who have meditated faithfully for years and been disheartened with the results. This may not all be attributed to a lack of patience and perseverance or the difficulty of the ordeal, although that can’t be ruled out. Hazrat Inayat Khan told a story of a man who had meditated for years and was disheartened with his progress.The man’s father told him that he practiced for forty years with the same result and was told to pray for a miracle. One day the miracle occured and he broke through into the light. In Sant Mat a big emphasis is placed oon the stage of man-making and te working off of karma. It is sometimes said that ninty-five per cent of the grace is withheld until the time of one’s death, and that is when one will see the full glory of one’s Master. Still, some ‘cash in hand’ is promised even from the beginning.

   In the July 2007 issue of Sat Sandesh magazine Sant Rajinder spoke about how we should meditate because we will see the glorious inner realms and have bliss and peace, and that another benefit is that we will see our relatives and realize that they, too, are in a better place of peace and joy. Now, at first glance, forgive me, when I read this I felt like saying, "What is this, how could he say such a thing? Doesn't it contradicts everything Sant Mat teaches about life after death, especially for the uninitiated? Kirpal Singh's book, Mystery of Death, does not promise that everyone just by dying is in a better place. You have some vivid but dream-like experiences for a while, have a pleasant sleep, and then are reborn until you get it right or wake up. One doesn't progress just by dying!" But after further contemplation, I was reminded of a story about Ramana Maharshi. A man came to him distraught about a son who had passed away. He wanted Ramana to tell him if he would see his son again when he died. Ramana didn't answer him, and the man relentlessly implored him to promise him that he would again see his son when he died. Finally after a long time Ramana said, "yes." When the man left, Ramana turned to one of his advanced devotees and said, "what could I say? If I had said "no" the man's faith would have been shaken to its roots."

   Sri Nisargadatta, in the midst of speaking about the point of view of the jnani, also confessed to using such consoling words when dealing with souls of less understanding:

"Q: Imagine you are ill -- high fever, aches, shivers. The doctor tells you the condition is serious, there are only a few days to live. What would be your first reaction?
M: No reaction. As it is natural for the incense stick to burn out, so it is natural for the body to die. Really, it is a matter of very little importance. What matters is that I am neither the body nor the mind. I am.
Q: Your family will be desperate, of course. What would you tell them?
M: The usual stuff: fear not, life goes on, God will protect you, we shall be soon together again and so on. But to me the entire commotion is meaningless, for I am not the entity that imagines itself alive or dead. I am neither born nor can I die. I have nothing to remember or to forget...
Q: How does the jnani fare after death?
M: The jnani is dead already. Do you expect him to die again?
Q: Surely, the dissolution of the body is an important event even to a jnani.
M: There are no important events for a jnani, except when somebody reaches the highest goal. Then only his heart rejoices. All else is of no concern. The entire universe is his body, all life is his life. As in a city of lights, when one bulb burns out, it does not affect the network, so the death of a body does not affect the whole."

   How many of us are interested in hearing the truth of the self for its own sake? Let us not judge masters too prematurely, for their message is given to many, many people of different background, understanding, and readiness. Paul Brunton wrote, and this may sting, too:

   “This goal must not be mistaken, however, for the orthodox Hindu or Buddhist goal of liberation from the cycle of rebirths. The philosophic aspirant seeks liberation only from mental and emotional bondage to the experiences of these rebirths. He does not hate earthly life nor desire to disappear utterly in the universal life. Unlike the ordinary Oriental ascetic or mystic he is content to come back to earth again and again, provided he can come back with wisdom, understanding and compassion, and participate effectively and selflessly in human affairs. For he knows that death and birth, earth and heaven, are but changes in idea, and that in reality there is one unchanging existence which is birthless and deathless and everlasting. The world is for ever changing, but the flow of changes is itself permanent. Therefore we can find the Eternal here in this world as well as in the supra-mundane realm...”

   “Ultimately we may continue to exist no longer as finite beings, only as the Absolute itself. The person is absorbed into its impersonal source. This deprives immortality of all human meaning. The instinct of self preservation holds us all in so powerful a thrall that we demand its satisfaction even after we have renounced the transient mortal life. For then there is no impress on the universal life, nothing to show in the vast void of the Absolute that the individual has even existed at all. But we as egos shall not pass into nothingness when we finish this pilgrimage from outward existence to inward Essence. We shall pass inwardly into a state where we shall not be involved in time space change as humanly known, a state where they become meaningless terms. This state is as undeniable by a being in it as it is impenetrable by those who stand outside it. But it exists. It is not annihilation, it is the fullness of being.”

   “From this final standpoint there can exist no such process as the cyclic whirl of reincarnation. All births on earth are then seen to be appearances of one and the same thing. The thing is known to be the reality, and its appearances are known to be its shadows. But before this high level is reached man thinks in his ignorance that he has a wholly separate existence from all other men, that he is a finite individual who must be born again and again on earth until he attains the being of the Overself, and that the Overself and he are two things, separate and apart.”
(unpublished essay)

   Rajinder Singh also has said that merger in God is not the annihilation of ones identity, but rather immersion in all the love, joy, and wisdom of God.

  . So I sense that Sant Rajinder was speaking to someone or some particular group of people in his talk for which such a consoling message was a help. Sort of like "Mr. Rogers". Watching Mr. Rogers (God rest his soul) was a humbling experience. A cynical person like myself could never pull off what he did. He was incredible. So, too, the Masters have their amazing play and often there is little to say about why they do what they do. Sooner or later master-teachers say almost everything, to one person or another. In this instance, however, was such a statement of Sant Rajinder's the literal "truth" ? The answer is, for the Sant Mat initiate, it is said that their close relations and loved ones (even to seven generations past) are also given the boon of the Living Master’s help, and are not at the mercy of Kal, or the angel of death, the Lord of the three worlds within which souls recycle endlessly until they meet the Master.

   I am fully aware that some will cringe at what seems like the exclusivity of such a teaching, while others will shed tears of joy.

   From the point of view of the higher philosophy, it is all illusion. But it is as real as we seem to be.

   "Nobody is born or dies at any time; it is the mind that conceives its birth and death and its migration to other bodies and other worlds." - Yoga Vasishta
28. Once more, there is the issue of purification of vasanas or egoic tendencies to clear up. The Sant Mat answer to this is rather unique. In the lineage they say the sanchit karmas, that is, the vasanas, tendencies, and karmas, from time immemorial are eradicated forever by the Master at the time of initiation (at least, in the Kirpal lineage this is said). The pralabd karmas, those making up this lifetime, are left alone, otherwise one would die at the time of initiation. The kriyaman karmas are those one accumulates from day to day by wrong living, and are kept to a minimum by meditation, moral actions, selfless service, and eating a vegetarian diet. If one does this adequately with full faith then at the time of death when the Master takes one through the pool of Manasrovar in the supracausal plane where one sheds his causal body, all ones karma from time immemorial is wiped out forever. Otherwise the accumulated kriyaman karma may require another birth to be purified. This will, no doubt, raise the hair on the neck of the confirmed vedantists, who may not even believe in the concept of karma. So be it. To them it might be said, "see you next life."

   Sages like Ramana Maharshi speak differently about this issue of karmas and samskaras: they say it is an (often long and drawn out) affair that must occur in the waking state, whereby the vasanas of egoity are scorched by checking them in consciousness as they arise and returning consciousness to its source. This must go on even after an experience of nirvikalpa, or formless inner trance. The consciousness must become stabilized under all conditions. One can easily see that this is a very different view. Vedantist Iyer gives a philosophic interpretation of the bath in Manasarovar (Sanskrit: "manas-sarovar", or "lake of mind"). For Iyer, the world in front of us, including the body, is the lake of mind that one must be immersed in until he has firmly established that all is an idea, or a mental appearance. The epistemological argument goes: reality of matter is a guess; we can only known what appears in consciousness; therefore, everything is an idea. This understanding, he says, effectively dissolves the world into Mind, and one realizes in his understanding that he is Atman. Then through further inquiry Atman is known to be the same as Brahman. This, he says, is equivalent of the religious pilgrimage to Lake Manasarovar where one takes his ritualistic bath before going on to Kailas. For Iyer, Kailas signifies Atman. Iyer makes no mention of the mystic interpretation given in Sant Mat. Of course, because he was not a mystic, nor had he access to those transcendental realms, so, as great a pundit as he was, his view was sort of one-dimensional.    29. When I sat before Kirpal Singh, one disciple complained that she couldn’t still her mind. On this path concentration (dhyan) is the sine qua non. Kirpal replied, ”that’s all of our problem!” Some would take that as a matter-of-fact reply, the point being that achieving stilling of the mind was difficult for everyone. Yet perhaps there was an additional meaning to Sant Kirpal’s remark. At the time my “dhyan” was being demolished. Later, I remembered this incident when I read the following words of the chinese master Hung-Jen:

   “The triple realm is an empty apparition that is solely the creation of the individual mind. Do not worry if you cannot achieve concentration and do not experience the various psychological states. Just constantly maintain clear awareness of the True Mind in all your actions.” (33)

   In the Dzogchen tradition the same approach is taken. Not concentration, but letting the mind be open and vast as the sky, neither rejecting or accepting thoughts. The only problem is that if one relaxes the mind prematurely, he will go into the subconscious mind and stagnate. That is why in most traditions the development of mindfulness or concentration is at least a preliminary exercise or practice, and Sant Mat is no exception.

   My experience with Sant Kirpal Singh was unique and led me to feel that he himself may in a sense have transcended the conventional teaching of his lineage and realized Sat and Sahaj, for instance, independent of exclusive inversion. He once asked me if I wanted anything, if I wanted to leave my body, and when I replied (unknowingly, without much intelligence at the time, as I was a young man), “no, nothing,” he immediately got excited and said, “You're an emperor, I’ll kiss your feet, God is nothing!” A couple of days later I had a satori or kensho type of experience at his ashram, which he seemed to recognize and acknowledge, even though I didn’t yet know what had happened at the time. It was not mystical or psychic, or even an experience, but an instant of realization of the ego or person's unreality, even while in the body. Nothing had changed, and everything negative in me remained to be purified, but yet, everything was different. It was one of those infamous "non-events" the non-dualists are so fond of talking about. I knew this was something that never arose in any of my inner meditations before that moment, and could not have arisen as long as my attention was only rivetted on inner phenomena or their expectation. Kirpal, as stated, after giving a long and detailed description of the path to the final goal, once said, "you already are there, you just don't know it." To me this confirms he had a more complete realization than that conventionally elaborated in Sant Mat, and that Kirpal, like Rumi and Kabir, was among the highest gurus in that lineage..

   Ramana spoke of a tiny orifice in the heart which is normally closed, but when opened led to realization of the Self and happiness, here and now. This causal "knot" (granthi) is not automatically opened by the path of ascent, it seems, but rather the knot at the ajna doorway is opened. That is, the “divya chakshu” is opened, but not necessarily the “jnana chakshu” that Ramana talked about. That may or may not open depending on one’s background, prior understanding, etc. Otherwise the ego on the path of ascent "takes a bath" and is purified of gross attachment, but still remains intact as an ego-soul for some time until the soul shines in its pristine glory. Further, on return to the world ignorance to a degree reasserts itself, perhaps not in all, but in many cases. In Sant Mat, it is indeterminate when the knot at the heart opens. It is likely that the greatest of these Masters, such as Kabir, Nanak, Kirpal, and a few others knew the Truth, but this major distinction between the teachings regarding the heart versus the third eye (ajna center) is simply not given much recognition. Rather, the path of the sages is just dismissed as a lesser path, and left at that. This leaves many experiences unexplainable. On the other hand, it is likely possible for the jnana chakshu to open, on the path of knowledge, without the divya chakshu or the heart chakra opening to any significant degree. Perhaps for both to open would be best.

   I humbly implore the Masters that any remaining mystique surrounding Sant Mat should be let go, that they speak openly and plainly, as was done in ancient days, for the good of all. The Tripura Rahasya states:

   "The best among sages can, without hesitation, give complete answers on matters relating to Realization and the sublimest truths. He seems to be spontaneously animated when discussing matters pertaining to jnana (knowledge) and is never tired of their exposition." (34)

   Similarly, the sage Yajnavalkya has been taken as a model of the ideal teacher since the earliest times:

   "He exemplifies a major characteristic of the guru, namely, to teach fully, holding nothing back. Although different teachers use different methods, the authentic guru holds nothing in reserve; he teaches all that he knows and experiences. According to the texts, Yajnavalkya exposed principles relentlessly until understanding took place. These early teachers, though their teaching was frequently obscure and esoteric, were not part of a closed society. There was no fear of a free exchange of ideas even among the teachers themselves. Above all, they were concerned for the lineage of sacred wisdom and the necessity of its transmission." (35)

   V.S. Iyer writes:

   "Sankara was extremely precise and careful in his choice of words. He was no fool in writing...[He] stressed the great importance of freeing our use of words from all ambiguity...Sankara himself has warned us not to use ambiguous words." (36)

   In contrast, the history of the Radhasoami movement since the time of Soamiji has often been one of being encouraged not to ask difficult questions (although I have to admit that my master, Sant Kirpal Singh, said, "bring me your worst question!"). Yet too often the advice is, "we shouldn't ask such things," "we can't know such things," etc.. I will give but one example to illustrate my point, a very important one, in my opinion. In Sant Mat, there is mention of there being "marked souls," those with a moharchap on their foreheads, indicating they are to be chosen for initiation and eventual return to Sach Khand. There is even at least one mention in the New Testament of such a stamp on the forehead of the elect. The following is a statement with references by an angry Beas follower about this topic and its consequences. One will see its essentially drastic message:


   " In this argument we want to look at the "Mission" that the Masters claim to be given by God  and also look at certain defining characteristics of that God which we can infer from statements  by the Masters. We will use two quotes from Radhasoami (RS) books as the source documents:  The first is from the book "The Master Answers" by Charan Singh from 1984.  The second is data attributed to Sawan Singh from the book  "With the Three Masters - Vol. II" (1967) Pages 68 and 176. Q. 310. The first question referred to the Supreme Lord as sending  us down here: Now sometimes in the Radha Soami literature,  may be in some of the discussions, I forgot which, we have  referred to as being prodigal Sons, which indicates that we came  down here by our own choice, rather than being sent down by the  Supreme Lord. Will you comment on that?  A. How could we have a choice, when we were with  the Lord? Choice comes through the mind, and  there is no mind there. We have been sent. We  have been given mind, to be pulled to and function in  this world. But we had no mind there. The question  of our choice did not arise there. If the universe had  to be created, some souls had to be sent, whether they  liked it or not. It is not advisable to discuss many  things. For example, you may have heard or you  may have read but I do not want to give much  importance to it that some souls were quite willing  to come, and others were quite reluctant to come.  Generally, it is said that saints come for those souls  who were reluctant to come into this world, and that  is considered to be one-tenth of the number of souls  sent here. So, only one-tenth will make their way  (p.310 THE MASTER ANSWERS (1964 Charan Singh) back to the Lord and nine-tenths will stay back here  to carry on the universe. That is why everybody will  not be attracted towards the Lord. Some souls are  required for the universe to go on, unless the Lord  wants to finish this whole play. Otherwise, if all the  souls were to go back to Him, there would be an end  to this universe. So the Saints come for those marked  souls. The one-tenth are the marked souls for which  the Masters come, to take them back to the Lord.  They are known as the marked souls. I did not want  to discuss this question. (below dated June, 1945 and attributed to Sawan Singh)"

     "Last night Huzur said, The real secret is that  when this creation was created for the first time it was  most beautiful and fascinating. It was shown to all  the souls and they were asked whether they would  like to live in Satlok or go down to this new creation.  Eight-ninths of the souls said they wanted to go down  to the lower creation, and only one-ninth of the souls  said they wanted to stay at the feet of the Lord. This the all-merciful Supreme Father asked the souls  who did not want to go down, to do so, and to enjoy  the new creation. He added, however, that He would  call them back later on. So it is this group comprising  one-ninth of all the souls that is now going back to  Satlok. Since the creation is infinite, this one-ninth  part is also infinite, and some of these souls will always  be in this world to be taken back. The rest of the  eight parts will always remain here as a part of this  creation."

   "On June, 1945, someone asked why this universe was created. Huzur  replied, This can be understood only after reaching  Satiok, but the perfect Saints possess this secret, which  is not to be found in any books, that this entire universe  was shown to all the souls on the day it was created.  Eight-ninths of the souls said that they would like to  live forever in the material. world; but the remaining  one-ninth said that they did not want anything else  except God. At this the Supreme Lord said, "All of  you go down to the material world. Those who have  asked for me only, I shall come to take them back in  the form of perfect Saints." I said that it was really  surprising that these souls liked this material world  in exchange for the bliss of Satlok. Huzur replied,  "These souls were then not in Satlok, but were in a  passive or dormant state. They liked this material  world because they had not seen any other universe." The Masters claim that their "mission" is to find "marked souls" and bring them back to God.  It is further claimed that each Master has been assigned a specific number of these "marked souls"  to locate and return. This is their stated mission throughout the many RS books. Many RS books contain glossaries, but the term "marked soul" is not defined in any of them. So, just what is a "marked soul". From the above quotes we can see that a "marked soul"  is a soul which came from Sach Khand. It is a statement of fact or citizenship - marked souls  are citizens of Sach Khand and so have the right to return there. You cannot earn the right  to be a "marked soul". You either are or are not. Either way you cannot change it. The  concept of karmas or good or bad works has nothing at all to do with being a marked soul.  The Masters then state the number of marked souls at about 10% of all souls. So, what if you are not a "marked soul". Well, if you are a member of the 90% of non-marked  souls, according to the Masters, there is no hope for you regardless of how good you are.  In the model for the Universe as given in the above quotes, non-marked souls never reach  God. When they are not being "used" to animate life forms in the creation, they are "stored"  in a "dormant state" until needed. I do not believe that I can find, in the language that we use here to communicate with one another,  the words to adequately express the gravity of what is being stated in the above quotes.  Please read them carefully."

   "We begin at a point where the material creation had not yet been  conceived. Souls lived in the Spiritual realms. Now it is time to create the lower or material  worlds. It is desired that these worlds be populated by animate creatures which necessitates  that these creatures have souls. The souls used for this purpose are not souls from the spiritual  planes. They are souls from "a dormant state" - souls who "had never been in Sat Lock".  These souls are destined to "always remain here as part of this creation". They will have  lifetime after lifetime - hopes and dreams - good and bad times, but the most they can hope  for (although they do not know this) is to be put back into "a dormant state". They will  never reach God - they will never see God. Saints will not help them. Only the special  10% who came from an active existence in the Spiritual planes have the right (divine right ?)  to return to those high planes. They have the passport - "the mark" by definition or  divine right or whatever. It is irrelevant what they have done or do now or will do in the  future. None of this has any effect on the fact that they are "marked souls" and therefore  have the right to access the Spiritual worlds. Similarly, those 90% who are "not marked"  have no right and no hope of gaining any right regardless of anything they may do. Now, this is a simply horrible model for the Universe and for God's intentions. If true, we might  as well all hang it up because we are dealing with a God which is vastly different from what  is generally believed. This is a model for a totally non evolving Universe - a stagnant place  where souls spin around but accomplish nothing ruled by a God who creates souls for "utility"  and not out of Love that they might develop and grow and achieve fulfillment. It also suggests an elitist or "master race" type attitude on the part of the Masters. The Masters  and their students, of course, are members of the "marked soul class" and the "masses" or  the general population is the "non-marked soul class" which is doomed and does not count.  To accept this RS model, then, is to worship a God who does NOT have "unconditional love"  but who instead has very conditional love for specific souls and no regard for others. The most likely possibility here is that the god of RS is not the ultimate God but rather one  of the many "gods" which are worshipped by the various sects in India. In fairness, I wrote to Gurinder Singh and asked him to explain or clarify the quotes used  above. As usual, he refused to give any meaningful answer and simply stated that "our  limited minds cannot understand these things". He also added some advice saying, "I  would advise you not to activate the mind unnecessarily". It is good advice, of course.  If you are a mindless zombie you will have no trouble accepting anything.  However, my "limited mind" has no trouble seeing what is being said in the above quotes-  and I do not agree with it and I do not feel that the "god" being described here is the  ultimate and "for real" god."

   [For those with the time, this link and this one will provide access to websites covering much of the controversial 'politics' on this path. I make no excuse for their prejudices or errors, but they bring up many questions that need answering, and their very existence would probably be unnecessary were it not for the unfortunate obfuscation and exclusivity on this path, at least, in some of its branches].

   In Sant Mat, while there is Absolute God, there is its expression, a personal God, the Sat Purush, of whom it has been said from time to time that the "Mauj" or divine will has been 'changed'. Soamiji mentioned this theological concept on at least one occasion. In more modern times, the following statement was may to a friend of mine by Sant Darshan Singh. Things have seemed to be loosening up in recent years - perhaps out of necessity, it is hard to tell - yet this is a much more universal proclamation, in line with that of many saints and sages:

   "I was with Master Darshan in his living room at the ashram in 1988 when he said ecstatically to maybe forty of us,  “In fact all the souls in the universe are destined to go back to God!”  I do not know if the mauj has changed since Master Sawan Singh made the statements above, but I think that may be the case, since the living master can ask for these things and the inner circle of past masters will listen to the living master."

   This is what Paramhansa Yogananda had proclaimed, that "eventually all souls will go back to God - because there is nowhere else to go!"

   "What we call the will of God is not a capricious whim of a playful deity, but the expression of an absolute necessity to grow in love and wisdom and power, to actualize the infinite potentials of life and consciousness." (37)

   Nor must we forget the ultimate non-dual nature of realization in all paths:

   “Our being here is our eternal being. Many people imagine here to have creaturely being, and divine being to be yonder. It is a popular delusion.” -Meister Eckhart

 nbsp I say, with my limited understanding and countless faults, that it is time for secrecy and old language to be abandoned. The truth must be made plain. There are inevitable mysteries and paradoxes on the path to be sure, words as such being but pointers towards wordless truth, but also many 'unnecessary mysteries and paradoxes' due to philosophical provincialism and doctrinal obscurity. Even under genuine teachers, many initiates have suffered from a lack of clarity and understanding.

   All this being said, Sant Kirpal Singh often said that if one wished to be convinced of the greatness of this path, he should go see an initiate dying. Many have attested to the Radiant Form of the Master coming for them at the time of their passing. Hopefully, blessed assurance is granted the faithful soul even before this final event. The promise given by true Sants is that for the devoted disciple indeed there is not only such assurance but also much help. Sant Kirpal Singh said:

   "Satguru is the fountainhead of grace. Strange are the ways in which he works his grace. With just a single kindly look he may bless a jiva forever." (38)

   "Having received the protection of a God-realized man, do you think he would ever forget you? The Master always holds his disciples in the innermost heart center." (39)


(1) Francis G. Wickes, The Inner World of Choice (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1986), p. 81
(1) Anthony Damiani, Looking Into Mind (Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 1990), p. 105
(2) Anthony Damiani, Living Wisdom (Burdett, New York:Larson Publications, 1996), p. 167
(3) Ibid, p. 168
(4) Paul Brunton, The Notebooks of Paul Brunton (Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 1988), Vol. 15, 8.59
(5) Kirpal Singh, Godman (Delhi, India: Ruhani Satsang, 1971), p. 128
(6) Maharaj Saheb, Discourses on Radhasoami Faith (Soamibag, Agra, India: Radhasoami Satsang, 1983), p. 52
(7) Kirpal Singh, Godman, p. 131
(8) “The Muni and the Maharshi,” Part III, The Mountain Path 14, No. 3 (July 1978), p. 147-148
(9) Talks with Ramana Maharshi (Carlsbad, California: Inner Directions Publishing, 2001), p. 272
(10) David Lane, THE RADHASOAMI TRADITION: A CRITICAL HISTORY OF GURU SUCCESSORSHIP (New York, New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1992), Chapter Four: The Politics of Guru Successorship (on-line at: http://vm.mtsac.edu/~dlane/rs4.html)
(10a) Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 16, 7: 122
(10b) Ibid, Vol. 13, Party 2, 4.187
(10c) Ibid, Vol. 15, Part 1, 8.59
(10d) D. T. Suzuki, trans., The Lankavatara Sutra (Boulder, CO: Prajna Press, 1978), p. 89-90
(11) Swami Satprakashananda, The Goal and the Way (St Louis: The Vedanta Society of St. Louis, 1977), p. 179
(12) Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 15, Part 1, 5.112
(13) Ibid, 25.4.17
(14) Asvaghosa, Fifty Verses of Guru-Devotion (Dharamsala, India: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1976), p. 19
(15) Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying (New York, N.Y>: HarperCollins Publishers, 2001), p. 224-225
(16) Rajinder Singh, Spiritual Thirst, p.
(17) Talks with Ramana Maharshi (Carlsbad, California: Inner Directions Publishing, 2001), p. 141, 118, 99
(18) Adyashanti, Emptiness Dancing (Los Gatos, California: Open Gate Publishing, 2004), p. 199-200
(19) Arran Stephens, Journey to the Luminous (Seattle, Washington: Elton-Wolf Publishing, 1999), p. 249-250;
(20) Darshan Singh, Streams of Nectar (Naperville, IL: SK Publications), p. 263
(21) Ibid, p. 106-107
(22) Kirpal Singh, Godman, p. 148, 153
(23) Ibn Al ‘Arabi, The Bezels of Wisdom, trans. by R.W.J. Austin (Mahwah, New Jersey: The Paulist Press, 1980), p. 93
(24) Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 2, 6.513, 524
(25) David Godman, The Power of the Presence, Part One (Tiruvannamalai, India: Sri Ramanasramam, 2000), p. 233
(26) Talks with Ramana Maharshi, op. cit., p.
(27) Ibid, p.
(28) Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 15, Part 1, 5.216, 5.233
(29) David Godman, op. cit., p. 133
(30) V.S. Iyer, Commentaries, Vol. 1 (edited by Mark Scorelle, 1999), p. 197
(31) John R. McRae, The Northern School and the Formation of Early Ch’an Buddhism, 1986), p.
(32) Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 16, Part One, 4.42
(33) The Northern School and the Formation of Early Ch’an Buddhism by John R. McRae 1986
(34) Tripura Rahasya, or the Mystery Beyond the Trinity, trans. by Swami Ramananda Saraswathi (Tiruvannamalai, South India: Sri Ramanasramam, 1971), p. 187
(35) William Cenkner, A Tradition of Teachers: Sankara and the Jagadgurus Today (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas, 1983), p. 11-12
(36) V.S. Iyer, op. cit., p. 196-197
(37) Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, I AM THAT (Durham, North Carolina: Acorn press, 1988), p. 85
(38) Kirpal Singh, Godman, Chapter 28
(39) Portrait of Perfection: A Pictorial Biography of Sant Kirpal Singh (Bowling Green, VA: Sawan Kirpal Publications, 1981), p. 189