By James Bean
Copyright December 2006
"Repeat the Name of your Beloved, day and night, again and again. With care in thought, word and deed, you will cross to the other shore." — Dadu
One of the most mysterious passages recorded in the New Testament:
"’Teacher’, said John, ‘we saw a man driving out demons in your Name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.’
"’Do not stop him,’ Jesus said. ‘No one who does a miracle in my Name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.’" (Mark 9: 38+39)
One can wonder who this mystery person was and what group he belonged to, since the disciples had apparently never heard of him. There is a passage somewhere in the New Testament which says, "I have sheep not of this fold", also implying multiple groups or disciples, more than one "true" group of devotees out there somewhere, in other words.
The initial reaction of the disciples is quite typical — human nature. Some things never change. "Same as it ever was" (line from a Talking Heads tune). I’ve seen people react this way many times: "…..We told him to stop, because he was not one of us."
I was given a video tape once from someone in Oregon. They said it was from Kirpal Singh’s group, Sant Mat. I watched this video, but none of the faces looked familiar to me. None of the names, buildings or the locations looked familiar either. It was like seeing a satsang in a parallel universe or meeting "cousins" you didn’t know you had. It was at a place called Kirpal Sagar ("Ocean of Kirpal"). Eventually I discovered that this was a gathering in India at a school associated with an initiate of Master Kirpal who said he was told by Master Kirpal to look after this school and satsang center. It was a different branch of Ruhani Satsang that did not join with any living Guru after the passing of Master Kirpal Singh in 1974.
According to Ruhani Satsang there were thirty six teachers that emerged after the passing of Master Kirpal who claimed to be his spiritual successor: 36! Most of these teachers are not known to us in the West but have ashrams or small satsangs in various parts of India.
With Sant Mat, and with most spiritual paths, East and West, there is an etiquette of focusing upon your teacher. Each satsang is associated with a certain guru. Only his photographs will be displayed at such gatherings, or those of previous gurus in the same lineage of teachers.
Quite often in many groups there is an ethos that their teacher is the "one-and-only" competent living guru of the present time, that usually there is "only one" such teacher or "gurumukh" spiritual successor at a time on earth. I think of this, not so much a statement of fact pertaining to history, but more of a "bhakti" or "devotional truth" for the satsangi. Having a spiritual Master is sorta like marriage, as it should be. Spiritual promiscuity doesn’t seem desirable and has not been a successful approach that leads to any sort of enlightenment. As one teacher used to say, "Better to dig one deep well and hit water than to keep digging dozens of shallow holes in the ground getting nothing, seeking but never finding." Your teacher is your "one-and-only", so to speak.
In terms of Sant Mat history however, there has never been a time during the last several centuries when there was "only one" Satguru in the world in the Sant tradition. There have been examples of multiple lineages of Masters contemporary with one another since at least the time of Kabir and Guru Nanak in the fifteenth century. Both Guru Kabir and Guru Nanak appointed gurus to be their spiritual successors, each existing contemporary with one another, the Ten Sikh Gurus in one line of Masters and the successors of Guru Kabir in another. Kabir Panth soon branched out into many, many lineages.
At the same time the Tenth Sikh Guru (Gobind Singh) was alive, was another Sant with same name. Who was the Master who initiated this other Gobind Singh? I am not sure. That is probably a mystery lost to forever to history. This other Gobind Singh was the Master who initiated Sant Paltu Sahib (1710-1780), who became a well-known Master. Paltu’s mystic hymns are still popular in India even now.
Meet Dariya Sahib, Saint of Bihar
Dariya was born in 1674 and passed in 1780. At the age of sixteen Dariya was initiated into Surat Shabd Yoga by a Sant Mat guru. He eventually became a very powerful Master and founded the Dariya panth, a spiritual movement with a large number of ashrams and satsangs all over India with many followers. Dariya appointed two spiritual successor gurus to carry on after him. Their names were Guna Das and Teka Das. Eventually Guna Das died so Teka Das became the guru of the entire sangat.
Tulsi Sahib, Saint of Hathras
Tulsi was born in 1763 and passed on in 1843. He would have been in his teens when Dariya was still alive. Early in his life Tulsi did extensive traveling around India. In the book, "Tulsi Sahib — Saint of Hathras", it states: "Tulsi Sahib’s works include words and expressions of Sanskrit, Arabic, and Persian ….. Marathi …. he has freely used words of Braj, Avadhi, Rajasthani (Marwari), Gujrati, Punjabi and Maithili, which leads one to conclude that, like many other Saints, he must have traveled widely in U.P., Rajasthan, Gujrat, Punjab and BIHAR." It is my theory that Tulsi might have received initiation into Sant Mat meditation from Tika Das while he was in Bihar. There’s no way to know at this time, though I am sending this question to a guru in the Tulsi lineage who has an ashram center in Bihar, hoping to get his views about Tulsi’s guru, and my theory about Tika Das being his guru. Tulsi said he had a guru, but this teacher is not named in any of the writings that have survived. We’ll see what this Master from Bihar thinks of my Tika Das theory and some of the other theories about who Tulsi’s guru might have been.
Back to Tulsi: Tulsi Sahib eventually established a satsang in Hathras, where he initiated souls into Surat Shabd Yoga. And his mission was contemporary with Tika Das’s mission in Bihar. At the present time there are still gurus in the lineage of Tulsi Sahib leading satsangs and initiating souls in Hathras, Bihar and other places around India. The same is also true in the Dariya Sahib branch of Sant Mat. Tika Das appointed guru successors. That lineage is still with us even now. According to Domain Singh, webmaster of the Dariya Sahib Website, there are "two hundred Saints" presiding over various ashram centers in the Dariya sangat at present.
From the book, Dariya Sahib — Saint of Bihar, we read: "It was also made clear by Dariya Sahib that these successors would have the right to appoint their own successors and that is how the order would continue. On being asked by Fakkar Das, his brother, how long this order would continue Dariya Sahib replied that as long as the practice of the Sound Current remained central to the discipline, and the order kept pure and free from external rituals and formalism, the line would continue. When the practice of the Sound Current is mingled with outer appearances (bhekh) and external rituals, the Sound Current (Shabd) will part company. Then the power transmitted by me, said Dariya, will leave, and the souls will go into the mouth of Kal. At that stage, he would come to this world and start a line of the Sound Current once again. This is how, he said, he had been coming for aeons.
"Thus, having explained everything and all aspects of the saintly mission, and having fulfilled the purpose of his life, he passed on his responsibilities to his successors and departed from this world in ….. 1780."
One devotee of Param Sant Tulsi Sahib was Shiv Dayal Singh of Agra. Tulsi was the guru of Shiv Dayal’s family. After the death of Tulsi Sahib, Shiv Dayal Singh along with several others became gurus, in and outside of, the sangat of Tulsi Sahib: Baba Devi Sahab, Surswami, Radhaswami, Girdhari Das, and Ramkrishna. One branch of the Tulsi Sahibi group refers to Shiv Dayal as "Sant Radhaswami Sahib."
Due to not desiring to write an entire chapter here, I will rap things up here, only mentioning in passing, that there were many recognized Saints/Sant Satgurus part of Swami Ji’s inner circle in Agra. The Sant Mat "Family Tree" branches out dramatically in all directions ever further after the time of Swami Ji Maharaj, Huzur Maharaj Rai Saligram, Gharib Das, Bagga Singh, Deva Singh, Partap Singh, Sanmukh Das, Data Dayal Shiv Brat Lal, Baba Faqir Chand, Baba Jaimal Singh, Huzur Baba Sawan Singh, Kirpal Singh ………….. etc………….
Of course, I have only written briefly about a few of the "Northern Sant" lineages. There is another major branch to the south, the so-called "Southern Sants", such as Sant Tukarama and numerous Sant lineages of Maharashtra. Typically, the Northern Sants are closer to Sufism and further away from the Vaishnava tradition to some degree. The Southern Sants however seem closer to the Gita, Krishna and Vaishnava. The Hari Krishnas claim Mirabai, Tukarama, Ravidas, and a few other Sants as their own – Saints in their tradition. At the same time as there were Northern Sant lineages of gurus, contemporary with those are many more operating to the south in India.
Tulsi Sahib was of the opinion that Sant Mat dates back to the time of Krishna thousands of years ago, and that Krishna knew of Sants in India back then during the time of the composition of the Bhagavad Gita.
When has there ever been "only one" Sant Mat guru or "Gurumukh successor" "of the time" in Sant Mat history? The answer is: never has there been only "one" guru at a time.
Another general principle of Sant Mat history is: the more we know, the more the numbers go up. In other words, the more familiar we become with the various paths in the Sant Mat category, the more gurus and ashrams and branches we shall discover. A few years back, some were saying that there must be "around two hundred" gurus and groups in India in the Sant Mat category. Based on my continued research, I would say that is a very low number!
Paraphrasing Guru Nanak’s Jap Ji:
Countless are the gurus,
Countless the gaddis,
Countless the satsangs,
Countless are the Sants,
Countless are the Mats,
Countless are the satsangis.
Of course these groups are not all the same. There are several stages groups might pass through during their history. Some may be in the "alive" category, with both guru and disciple having inner experiences, radiant forms, inner regions experienced and not simply theories and teachings found only in books. There are groups that lost their living guru in recent times and there was no successor, thus no new people are getting initiated in those groups. There is one very large group which has become a world religion that worships a book as a kind of guru. Ironically, that very same book says to NOT worship books, idols made of stone, places of pilgrimage, holy rivers, etc… There are groups where nobody has inner experiences. Those usually don’t focus so much on a living Master, and their magazines and satsangs tend to feature quotes from gurus who lived many decades earlier, in the 1940’s, 1930’s, 1920’s or 1520’s.
There have been a couple highly unethical teachers, false, "of Kal", hurting people, with dead bodies buried in the "backyard" and abused members coming forward to tell of their encounters with negative entities. There have been many honest, loving, radiant, Godly beings that have graced this planet with their enlightened compassion. There have been Sadhus with some attainment that have helped the souls that have crossed their path — nothing wrong with that. There have been nice-guy gurus without much attainment, but who have helped to make the world a better place by spreading some aspects of the teachings and ethical ahimsa principals of the Masters to larger audiences around the world.
In other words, amongst this long list of paths will be found groups representing many different states and stages of development, vibrancy and decline, some alive, some slowly becoming another religion looking to the past for inspiration, with past Saints and Prophets — a new People of the Book with temples and holy relics. There are those who market themselves to the new age community in the West and are fast becoming more astral or new age with each passing day, as the ranks are populated by those they have sought to initiate — the downside "successful" marketing. And there are those who seek the path of the masters who go within and successfully practice Surat Shabd Yoga in a way that is almost identical to the Ideal spiritual path described by Swami Ji of Agra, with a rich mystical approach to meditation practice, traveling quite far along in their journey back to God. For them, these teachings of Sant Satgurus are not just "talk" or "myth" or "belief" or about a "hypothesized" Higher Self, but very real experiences that human beings can attain, seeing with their own eyes, hearing with their own ears, traveling through Inner Space, "the Kingdom of the Heavens within."
Sant Sevi Ji Maharaj: "Another common misconception is that prophets, saints and mystics search for ‘new’ truth. Rather, what they do is to simply remove the layers of dirt of accumulated misinterpretations that have corrupted the truth. Then the saint will bring forth the very same truth in a new light. The original truth must repeatedly be presented to suit the current age." (The Harmony of All Religions)