Radhasoami Satsang

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A nirguṇa devotional movement originating in northern India in the 19th century. The founding figure was Śiv (Shiv) Dayal Singh (1818–78), although the Satsang (the association of his faithful followers) was formed in 1861 only at the urging of his disciple, Rai Saligram (1829–1898). In his ‘Essential Declarations’ (H.: Sār bacan), Śiv Dayal Singh referred to God as ‘Rādhāsvāmi’ (hence ‘Radhasoami’), but there is no detectable connection to the Vaiṣṇava Rādhā—this Supreme Being is conceptualized as unambiguously impersonal. Nevertheless, the gurus of the tradition, starting with Śiv Dayal Singh himself (also called ‘Radhasoami’ or ‘Soamiji’), are worshipped (whether living or dead) as incarnations of Radhasoami, and as the santsatgurus (the ‘true teachers’), the only available guides to liberation. Their teaching maps a yogic ascent, through a tripartite cosmic hierarchy, which leads from imprisonment in matter to spiritual reunion with Radhasoami. The means to achieving this is through a ‘secret’ technique known as surat-śabd-yoga, meditation on the inner, eternal sound (śabda) which is embodied in the guru.

As Śiv Dayal Singh's successor, Rai Saligram systematized the theology of the Satsang, at the same time opening it to all those willing to undertake guru bhakti and follow a disciplined lifestyle, including vegetarianism. During the time of Rai Saligram's successor, Brahma Shankar Misra (1861–1907), the Radhasoamis divided into the Beas Satsang, and two divisions of the original Agra Satsang, thereafter known as the Soami Bagh and the Dayal Bagh. The Beas group was led by a Punjabi Sikh, Jaimal Singh (1838–1903). Under his successor, Savan Singh (1858–1948), it became the most popular Radhasoami Satsang, with a following including Western converts as well as Punjabis. A satellite organization is the Delhi-based Ruhani Satsang. Retrospectively, the Beas Satsang has attempted to a establish a guruparamparā stretching back to the medieval Sants and the Sikh gurus.

Subjects: Hinduism.

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