SWAMI SHIV DAYAL SINGH JI MAHARAJ
A simple step was taken in colonial India over a century and half ago in the city of eternal love, the abode of the Taj Mahal, Agra. The man who took that step was Swami Shiv Dayal Singh Ji Maharaj, and today that one step has emerged into one of the largest spiritual movements in the world known as the Radhasoami Satsang, with a following of over two million people world-wide.
Swami Shiv Dayal Singh, popularly known as Soamiji Maharaj, was somewhat of a mystic. He imagined the human soul to be Radha, whose goal is its merger with her Soami, the eternal reality, hence the name Radha Soami. This is somewhat in keeping with the Vaishnav tradition, which too lays emphasis on vegetarianism and refraining from alcohol.
Soamiji Maharaj was not much in favor of spreading his thoughts or woo disciples to his fold. In fact, he ruled out systematic advertisements for his newly founded satsang in Agra. He used to insist that anyone who chose to follow him must give up non-vegetarian food, abstain from alcohol, lead a high moral life and engage in over two hours of shabd yoga meditation.
In the mid 1850s, Soamiji Maharaj had a handful of followers in Agra. However, his teachings attracted disciples from across the country and at the time of his death in 1878, Soamiji already had several thousands of followers.
Despite having a strong following, Soamiji Maharaj did not appoint a successor, therefore following his demise commotion ruled the roost till sometime. Several disciples emerged as would-be successors, which led to a split in the group and six successors led the movement forward. Although this split remains till date, ironically, this is the very reason for the Radhasoami movement to move outside Agra and spread to the rest of the country.
Soamiji's wife Radhaji, Rai Salig Ram, Sanmukh Das, Gharib Das and Partap Singh, Soamiji's younger brother are some of his prominent followers who branched off, forming individual satsangs. This splintering off, led to the propagation of Radhasoami teachings to a wider audience although with slightly varied interpretations.
Jaimal Singh, another of Soamiji's disciples, established his satsang on the banks of the river Beas in undivided Punjab. And today this satsang is the most famous of the Radhasoami satsangs across the world. In fact, its followers number more than the followers of the rest of the satsangs put together.
Maharaj Sawan Singh Ji with Satguru Partap Singh Ji (Namdhari)
Clearly the most successful Radhasoami branch in the world is the Beas Satsang, with a following that surpasses all of the other satsangs combined. Jaimal Singh Ji Maharaj, also called Babaji Maharaj, established his satsang in Beas in 1891. And today the Beas satsang is an autonomous body, which doesn't bear allegiance to any of the other Radhasoami satsangs.
Jaimal Singh hailed from a Punjabi Sikh family. He was inspired by the talks of Soamiji Maharaj and became his follower. After his guru's demise he set up his dera(camp) three miles to the east of village Beas, near Baba Bakala town on the northern bank of river Beas. At that time, that place came to be known as Dera Baba Jaimal Singh and is called the same even today. This is the present center of the Radhasoami sect in Punjab.
Baba Jaimal Singh's successor was Baba Sawan Singh, who also was a Sikh by birth, hailing from the Narangwal village in Ludhiana district in Punjab. Baba Sawan Singh was succeeded by Baba Charan Singh Ji. The latter three heads maintained the Dera Baba Jaimal Singh at Beas as their headquarters
The followers of this sect draw heavily from the holy book of the Sikhs, the Granth Sahib. Yet, throughout their history they haven't tried to intercede with the regular proceedings of the mainstream Sikh religion or try to portray their leaders in the same vein as the 10 gurus of the Sikhs.
MAHARAJ JAGAT SINGH JI
Beas Ashram: At the time when Babaji Maharaj established Dera Baba Jaimal Singh, he had built a small hut, about nine square feet in area. Today at the same place stands a beautiful colony, all-pervading calm and peace being the hallmark of the ashram.
Maharaj Sawan Singh Ji, succeeded Babaji Maharaj after the latter's demise on 29th of December 1903. And he immediately got busy with the business of propagating the teachings of the Radhasoami movement, winning followers from as far as Europe, North America, Africa and Asia of course. His tenure saw immense progress in the fortunes of the Beas ashram. In His time, 1903-1948, the Dera made phenomenal progress in all its aspects. The Beas ashram grew both in fame and size, with its boundaries growing to several thousand square yards. Initially, on its properties were built a number of small rooms. This cluster later took shape of a huge colony of beautiful houses.
When he passed away at the age of 90 plus in 1948, his will was read out according to which his personal and private property was bequeathed to his family and the religious property, which he held as the spiritual master of the Dera was given to his successor as the head of the movement.
His successor Sardar Bahadur Jagat Singh Ji demise came soon after his guru's on October 22, 1951. And his nomination to the post of master was Maharaj Charan Singh ji Maharaj Charan Singh Ji died on June 1, 1990. But two days prior to his death, he dictated in his last will that his nephew, Gurinder Singh Dhillon would succeed him as both the Spiritual Master of the Dera and the Patron of its many activities. Gurinder Singh is the current spiritual head of the sect.
Sri Satguru Partap Singh Ji (Namdhari) at the 'Dastarbandi' ceremony of Maharaj Jagat Singh Ji
Sri Satguru Partap Singh Ji (Namdhari) at the 'Dastarbandi' ceremony of Maharaj Jagat Singh Ji
Maharaj Charan Singh Ji
Maharaja Charan Singh Ji addressing a group meeting
The objectives of the movement:
These are very clearly defined by the sect and they are:
Diffusion of knowledge useful for spiritual and moral advancement according to the traditions and tenets of Radha Soami Faith as propounded by the Sant Sat Gurus of Radha Soami Colony Beas (Dera Baba Jaimal Singh.)
To provide and make arrangement for holding Satsangs (religious sermons) and Bhandaras(large gatherings) at the colony and other places.
To run a Langar (kitchen for providing free meals) and lodgings for the Sadhus, Sewadars, Satsangis and others and to look after their needs.
To arrange for the printing, publication, sale as well as dissemination of literature on Radha Soami Faith in India.
To establish and/or run a hospital and/or dispensary at or near the said Colony.
Radhasoamis in the West:
Thanks to United States tolerance of varied cultures and religions; most Indian religions and sects have prospered in the country. The Radhasoami movement is not any different.
In 1933, Maharaj Sawan Singh Ji appointed Harvey Myers as his representative of the faith in the United States. James Replogle, another initiate, was asked to conduct initiations in the Midwest and East, while Myers retained the West Coast. Myers served under both Maharaj Sawan Singh Ji as well as his successor Sardar Bahadur Jagat Singh. In 1951, after Maharaj Charan Singh Ji assumed the spiritual mastership at the Dera, the Radhasoami membership saw exponential growth in the United States. While under the former two gurus, there were only several hundred initiates, under Maharaj Charan Singh Ji, the figure rose to over 10,000. Currently, a formal body in the United States oversees the administration of the numerous satsangs across the country. The non-profit, California Corporation, the R.S.S.B. (Radha Soami Society Beas) is governed by a Board of Trustees composed of the Master's representatives and seven satsangis appointed by the Master for specific, stated terms.
The present master Gurinder Singh has firmed up the Radhasoami Beas organization worldwide. He has centralized the appointment of Satsang leaders (the guru personally approves each appointee) and has increased the number of satsangis involved in various seva(free service) projects.
The credit for the smooth operations of the movement in the United States goes entirely to Gurinder Singh who has improved the infrastructure of the Radhasoami organization. He was responsible for fixing an age limit of 25 for initiation seekers. He has revamped the printed initiation instructions. He overlooks the editing of local newsletters and building of new Radhasoami centers across the globe. Each year he travels extensively to countries outside India, to spread the message of the Radhasoami movement. This has probably resulted in making the Radhasoami Satsang Beas as being the most organized and popular Radhasoami groups of all.
The ashram at Beas is a picture of calm and beauty. It has guestrooms where people, who are interested in taking initiation into the sect, can come and stay. At the ashram is present a 300-bed hospital, which provides free medical care to both members of the Radhasoami movement as well as non-members and the needy.
Maharaj Sawan Singh Charitable Hospital:
The MSS Charitable hospital is a vast complex near the Dera, at Beas, on the Grant Trunk Road between Amritsar and Jallandhar. A team of highly qualified and experienced doctors mans this 35-acre hospital, built at a cost of nearly Rs 40 million. Both, the para-medical staff, and other skilled and unskilled employees are housed in a well laid-out residential colony planned to provide all necessary amenities. Visiting doctors, both Indian and foreign, who serve at the hospital for short periods, are also provided with residential accommodation.
The hospital complex also encompasses a serai(inn) for the free accommodation of relatives and dependants accompanying the patients. The serai has a capacity to accommodate 450 people.
One of the special features of the hospital is its annual eye camp, the first of which was organized in 1965. The purpose of this is to give medical aid to people suffering from eye-ailments, particularly surgical removal of cataracts from the eye.