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Sikhism and other related groups


Similarities with the Radhasoami Tradition

The 'Paramhansa Advait Mat' Book


Shabdism in North America

David Lanes' Comments

on the connection between early Divine Light Mission,
Advait Mat and Radhasoami groups in India.

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Prof. David Lane (author of 'The Radhasoami Tradition' and webmaster of The Neural Surfer website) has made some comments regarding the connection of Divine Light Mission with Radhasoami groups (notably that Shri Hans was also initiated by one of their Gurus, Sawan Singh) and the Advait Mat group (which is the subject matter of the 'Paramhansa Advait Mat' Book ).


"The Divine Light Mission was essentially a branch-off of the Shri Paramhans Advait Mat Group in Guna..... Sarupanand was Hansji's guru......Hansji was also apparently initiated by the late Sawan Singh of Radhasoami Satsang Beas.There is a book entitled Shri Paramhans Advait Mat published in India (Guna) and available at UCLA in Los Angeles, CA., which tells about their lineage....It is quite informative....."


"Gyani Ji at Sawan Ashram in 1978 told me that Hansji had been initiated by Sawan Singh in the 1920s, but later left due to some personal problems (I think Gyanji said something about sex, but such gossip is notorious in India and not be relied upon unless there are many sources). The Advait Mat group is indeed different than Radhasoami, although my friend Aaron Talsky suggests that the founder of Advait Mat may well have been initiated by either Shiv Dayal Singh or one of his successors (Talsky did some research on this issue while in India, but I have not seen the verification so it remains speculative).
Sarupanand is mentioned by DLM and there was indeed a split off after his death and if I am not mistaken this group also mentions Hansji."

"Advait Mat is different than Radhasoami in terms of lineage (except that the founder may have been at one-time connected to the early leaders of Radhasoami).
Hansji was clearly a follower of Sarupanand of Advait Mat. Hansji is also reported to have received initiation from Sawan Singh of Radhasoami Beas, as reported by Kirpal's personal secretary at Sawan Ashram, Gyanji (who I personally interviewed in July of 1978 on this issue). Hansji's doctrines are clearly reflective of Advait Mat (especially the pressing of the eyeballs, and the shortish hair--versus Beas's Sikh lineage gurus). I visted one of the Advait Mat centers in Delhi. A letter to their headquarters in Guna may reveal more."


Garland Publishing has also published a critical history of Radhasoami guru succession (the main catalyst for Twitchell's Eckankar movement, John-Roger's M.SI.A., and a host of other New Age styled religions) which I wrote as my Ph.D. dissertation back in 1991. Also coming out is Exposing Cults: When the Skeptical Mind Confronts the Mystical (Garland: August 1994). I should also mention that there are a number of good "outside" studies of shabd yoga, sant mat, and radhasoami, which are written from a critical perspective. Juergensmeyer's Radhasoami Reality (Princeton University Press) is perhaps the best of its kind.

There are now more than 30 shabd yoga related groups operating in America which have some genealogical connection to Sant Mat/Radhasoami. To list a few: Ching Hai (Buddhist/Sant Mat fusion: she was initiated by Thakar Singh); John Roger Hinkins (Mormon/Eckankar/Sant Mat fusion; he was initiated by Paul Twitchell; Jerry Mulvin (he was a higher initiate in Eckankar); Rajinder Singh (Darshan Singh's successor and the heir to Paul Twitchell's own teacher, Kirpal Singh); Gary Olsen (and the Master Path; followed Eckankar); Divine Light Mission (whose founder and Guru Maharaji's father was a follower of Sarupanand and Sawan Singh); and many more.

There is not just one shabd yoga group in India, but rather tens upon tens of them (I would daresay that the number runs in the hundreds, perhaps), most of which have a presiding guru. Such shabd oriented groups range from the Kabir-panthis, to theTulsi Sahibis, to the Sat Namis, to the Sikhs (and their various sub-branches, Nirankaris, Namdharis, etc.), to the Paltu Sahibis, to the Divine Light Mission (yes, the one-time boy guru's father was associated with shabd yoga--Shri Paramhans Advait Mat in Guna), to Ruhani Satsang, to Sawan-Kirpal Mission, to Sant Bani, to Radhasoami Beas, Soami Bagh, Dayal Bagh, Peepal Mandi, Tarn Taran, etc., etc. (See the genealogical tree in Juergensmeyer's RADHASOAMI REALITY for a partial sketch).


There are now several popular religious movements in North America which owe their existence, either partially or wholly, to the Radhasoami tradition of India. The spectrum ranges from immediate connections, as in Eckankar and the Divine Light Mission whose founders have taken initiation from one of the Satgurus, to associative influences where sects have borrowed (and, in some cases, plagiarized) writings and spiritual lineages from Radhasoami. All of these new panths , though, have one thing in common: they give significant emphasis to the Shabd , the transcendent power which is believed to be the creative and sustaining force of the universe (it isalso known as the "Audible Life Stream" or the "Music of the Spheres"). And though there are groups which speak of this "Sound Current" which are both anterior and exterior to the Radhasoami tradition, all of the new movements under discussion have based their knowledge and writings on Radhasoami's own particular interpretation of Surat Shabd Yoga, the practice of uniting the soul with the internal sound energy. In this article, I will describe the relationship of these American religious movements to the Radhasoami tradition and then will examine the reasons why there is such a strong tendency in these new panths to deny their living religious heritage.

The Radhsoami Tradition of India

The name Radhasoami has been generally applied to those gurus and gaddis (the seat/residence of a saint, living or deceased) who trace their spiritual lineages back to Shiv Dayal Singh (1818-1878), the proclaimed founder of the movement who resided in the city of Agra, in the Uttar Pradesh District of India. "Soamiji Maharaj," as Shiv Dayal Singh was called by his disciples, came from a family of Nanak-panthis and was primarily influenced in his religious upbringing by the nirguna bhakti poetry of such Sants as Kabir, Nanak, Paltu, and most significantly Tulsi Sahib of Hathras.

What distinguishes Soamiji's teachings (and subsequently those of the Radhasoami tradition) from Vaishnavism, Tantrism, Goraknathism, Saivism, and other forms of Indic piety is essentially the emphasis he gives to three cardinal precepts:

1. Satguru, both as the Absolute Lord (nirguna) and the living human master (saguna).

2. Shabd, which encompasses both varnatmak (spoken or written) and dhunyatmak (transcendent melody) expressions of the Supreme Lord (Sat Purush).

3. Satsang, the congregation of earnest devotees of the truth.

Upon Soamiji's death, several of his disciples served as gurus, resulting in a proliferation of satsangs. Today there are at least thirty different Radhasoami centers in India with direct lineage connections to Shiv Dayal Singh. For the purposes of this paper, however, we will only be concerned with two of the largest and most influential of these: Radhasoami Satsang Beas and Ruhani Satsang. For it is these two sects which have been instrumental in the development of a number of popular American religious movements. Ruhani Satang and its parent Radhasoami Satsang Beas trace their lineages back to Shiv Dayal Singh through Jaimal Singh, Soamiji's only Sikh successor who eventually settled on the banks of the Beas river in the now thriving farm community of the Punjab. After Jaimal Singh's demise in 1903, his chief disciple and successor, Sawan Singh (1858-1948), founded a spiritual colony in honor of his guru. It was Sawan Singh who has been the most pivotal force in the spread of Shabd Yoga related panths in North America. His impact can be directly seen in the teachings and writings of the Divine Light Mission, Mishra's Yoga Society, Dr. Bhagat Singh Thind's metaphysical groups, and the Movement for Spiritual Inner Awareness (M.S.I.A.).

(excerpt taken from: )

Direct link to his site: David Rife

This very article is now available on this site: Shabdism in North America.

On the distinction between Radhasoami and Advait Mat

I realize the inadequacy of using such a broad term as the "Radhasoamis" to cover such a diversified clan of surat shabd yoga groups, but it serves a highly useful function in distinguishing Shiv Dayal Singh related paramparas from other similar nirguna bhakti panths (such as the Sri Paramhans Advait Mat group in Guna)

David Lane's website is The Neural Surfer


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