Sant Mat is a spiritual philosophy which originated in the Indian sub-continent during the fifteenth century which literally means “Teachings of the Saints”. The philosophy is centred-around the necessity of a living Master. Some of the notable Masters in the Sant tradition include Kabir, Ravidas, Guru Nanak, Mira Bai and Shiv Dayal.
There is a debate around the revision of traditional teachings and emergence of a newer version of Sant Mat which has been prevalent on the internet forums for more than a decade now. Sant Mat followers who have been on the path for decades claim that the present Gurus have been creating a new version of the teachings which they have termed as Sant Mat 2.0. But are the teachings really changing or is it a new approach of expressing the same old truth?
Attributes which form the core of Sant Mat teachings include – Living Guru, Initiation, Satsang (Discourse) & Love. These have remained unchanged since centuries. However, the way of expression of these core teachings by a living Master depends upon the needs of the seekers of the time. Material world with time and space is ever changing and so are the forces which influence the seekers of the day. So the mystics also keep on reshaping how they deliver the core teachings. A living Master presents the core teachings in such a manner that it can be easily understood by the present seekers, keeping in mind their strengths and weaknesses. The core teachings themselves never change. Which is precisely why there is so emphasis on the need of a living Master. In-fact Sar Bachan says –
Forsake the hope in the past Gurus, I say to you, for your own good.
Accept the Guru of the times, I say to you, for your own good
Saints sometimes use stories and analogies to explain the truth. When a new Master comes in, he may use different stories and analogies and we say the teachings have been changed. While providing the description of the inner regions and to express their grandeur, the book Sar Bachan says – there are diamonds and rubies and tall trees in these inner regions. The seekers of the present times may not be able to relate to these things so the Saints express them in a manner we can relate to, so our minds can easily absorb the timeliness truth. Which is why some of the present Masters have said – “The role of the mystic is to help you realize Truth, not to lead you from one illusion to another.” They come to eliminate our illusions and connect us with the Shabd within which takes us to its terminal source.
There have been past instances as well where the Saints made certain modifications so Sant Mat practices suit the present times. The medium through which the meditation practice was performed itself was changed during the times of Soami Ji (Shiv Dayal of Agra) as mentioned by Lala Pratap Singh in the book “The Biography of Soamiji Maharaj” –
Saints, in bygone days, used to lay down the condition that a person could be initiated in this practice, only after he had renounced his household and become a recluse. Then, Surat Shabd Yoga was performed through the medium of Pranayam, which is very difficult and dangerous practice. The rules of abstinences and continences imposed by it are also very rigid, and no house holder can observe them. Therefore, very few persons could derive any benefit from this practice. Now, Radhasoami Dayal, in His unbounded grace, has started initiating householders. He has discarded Pranayam altogether. He has rendered the mode of this Abhyas (practice) so easy that men and women, young and old, all can perform it. There is no need to leave household and avocation. An Abhyasi (practitioner) can, in his life time, realize the benefit and efficacy of this Abhyas, and be convinced of his salvation.
As had been recorded in number of religious books, during old times the physical form of the Guru used to be highly elevated. As during the times of Soami Ji, the practice of partaking ‘Charanamrit’ (blessing water by immersion of guru’s feet) and Guru blessing prashad with his own saliva was prevalent. However, during the present times such practices have been discontinued and there is an increased push to focus on the inner Master. Some of the present Masters, pointing to themselves have said – even this is an illusion. Real Guru is the Shabd within.
With everything around us changing including – the cosmos, the societies, our thinking and our needs. There is always a need to express the timeliness truth in a new fashion and the living Masters have been addressing to this need at all times. These changes are sometimes subtle when comparing successive Masters in a lineage but are more profound when comparing Masters who have worked several decades apart. Saints have always faced criticism from the orthodox people from the times immemorial but they don’t care about it. They travel from one state to another, one country to another – going through all sorts of discomforts to spread the message of Truth. A True Master is not a prisoner of the traditional expression of the teachings, he is one who conveys the truth fearlessly to the seekers of his time. The seekers who are marked for him are automatically drawn towards him. Just like when a shepherd calls for his sheep, the sheep is drawn towards him. It does not go to any other shepherd but its own.
Our way of thinking is shaped by our beliefs and backgrounds and we are bound to have doubts when the expression of the teachings is reshaped. But the truth that we seek is one and cannot be explained to our satisfaction by any philosophy. It has to be experienced. It is also the message of the living Master.
It is not the strongest of the spices that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.Charles Darwin