Baba Sawan Singh's reply to Dr. Johnson
Agra, September 27, 1932
Dear Dr. Johnson,
I have before me your letter without date which reached me on the 24th instant. I must admire the bravery you have shown in throwing out a challenge to me and I shall gladly wait to see whether you have also got the courage to stand the hard logic of facts. I have had, besides, an occasion to read your letter of the 7th instant which you were good enough to write to Miss Bruce and which contains several flings at me. But would it not have been more dignified if the challenge had come from your beloved master, or, at least, after making an effort to know the whole truth about Dayalbagh from him or from our literature? In the 3rd paragraph of your letter to me, you point out that you have brought your notions from America and, in the 5th paragraph thereof, you say, “This letter expresses only my private opinions and convictions and for them I alone am responsible.” This shows that you did not take the trouble of consulting him, although living so close to him. In doing this, I am afraid, you have gone against the rules of jigyasa and also your own decision, viz., “I must follow the Master each day in every detail,” so soon after arriving at it.
To dispel all misunderstanding, I would at the very outset tell you that I am prepared to accept the challenge if it comes from your Master. You can tell him that I do maintain that the brothers and sisters, here in the pure atmosphere of Dayalbagh are decidedly better in all respects than their social equals elsewhere. But you are wrong in thinking that these people constitute our entire Satsang Community. They are only a small fraction of the community spread all over the country. You are also wrong in thinking that all the men living in Dayalbagh work in our industries. It is only about 20% of them that are employed in the industries. You are again wrong in inferring that the existing industrial activity at Dayalbagh is the “crucial point” responsible for division in the ranks of our Faith. There was no such activity of this kind in the time of Huzur Maharaj, Maharaj Sahab and Sarkar Sahab, and yet both your Master and Master’s Master chose to fly their own flag. You may take it from me that there is no chance here for prosperity of the kind you have in the West that makes people forget God and Religion. We are only leading a clean, healthy and peaceful life by trying to live up to the ideals set before us by our Revered Leaders. Many of the people are working honorarily, and not one of them gets more than a living wage. The cheer and radiance, on the faces of the residents here are not due to worldly prosperity. They are the results of the spiritual atmosphere of Dayalbagh.
You will, perhaps, be surprised to know that the chief point you have raised in your letter, has been answered by me times out of number, both by word of mouth and in writing. Here is a paragraph from a pamphlet on Dayalbagh published in 1928 that will speak for itself:-
“We very well realize that life here on earth is but short-lived and that little importance is to be attached to worldly success and prosperity. We also very well know that educational, industrial and charitable institutions are not directly conducive to spiritual progress. But whatever we have done in the past and whatever we are doing in the present, is in obedience to the August Commands of our Revered Leaders and in the consciousness that we are only doing our duty — our duty to the Worshipful Lord and our duty to Those Whom we hold in the highest esteem, our duty to our brothers, sisters and children, and our duty to humanity at large. It is our humble wish and prayer that the Supreme Father, in His unbounded Mercy, be graciously pleased to grant that we may keep to the path of duty unto our last breath, so that when the time comes for us to lay down the reins of office, we may do so with an easy conscience and with the satisfaction that our faults and frailties, innumerable as they are, have not stood in the way of the fulfilment of His Divine Will — Radhasoami.”
I would here add that the experience of the past 19 years has shown us that the institutions at Dayalbagh have not only been useful in saving hundreds of children of the community from going astray, but also in relieving thousands of parents from the burden and anxiety of upbringing their sons and daughters and enabling them to attend to their devotional practices undisturbed.
If you do not mind, I would ask you whether the brothers owing allegiance to your Satsang do or do not follow any worldly pursuits and whether they are all recluses and apostles of single felicity. If they are following worldly pursuits and leading the lives of householders, they are clearly doing exactly the same that the workers here are doing, of course, with the difference that they are living in a different atmosphere. And if these pursuits result in the sort of harm you have mentioned in your letter, I think you will be well advised to bestow your attention on your own men first, it is no use practising a thing and covering it with the fig-leaf of a convenient phrase.
Some time ago I read in a book that consciousness is the surface of our minds, of which, as of the earth, we do not know the inside, but only the crust. I am sorry I have to apply these words to your case. While in your letter to me you renounce the little arrangement that we have made here to make life tolerable for some of our brothers and sisters as likely to detract from the spiritual outlook of ‘the individuals concerned’ in your letter to Miss Bruce you give vent to your feelings of gratification at the comforts provided for you at the Dera in the following words:-
“The Beloved Master has assigned to me a nice little bungalow standing a way off to itself … and they are cleaning it up now and getting it ready for me … I shall have flowers and plants and real garden of my own, though I will not promise to work it myself … He said next year if I liked he would build another storey on top of it for sleeping. It is now only one storey building, and I am going to have an oven, so I can have real American whole wheat biscuits … I have now arranged for the exclusive rights to the milk of one cow and so I can get some cream, I hope.” Are you not, Dr. Johnson, getting much more than the poor workers here, with the only difference that you do not work for what you get? Do the poor souls here stand to lose in spirituality for the mere sin of working for an honest living? And it is extreme hardship in procuring necessaries of life and the want of comforts of the kind mentioned by you that we, to quote your own words, “the best agents to drive men to the feet of the Master”?
And there is one thing more that I would like to ask you here. Why did you not open your mind to me when you did the honour of a visit last month? If, as you say in your letter to Miss Bruce, your purpose in India is not sight-seeing, pleasure or recreation, why did you not make it convenient to attend our Satsang and study the spiritual side of life in Dayalbagh instead of spending so much of your precious time in seeing the Taj, Sikandra etc., and why, in Dayalbagh also, of all things you chose to see the Model Industries and the Dairy?
I am sorry I have had to write all these unpleasant things, but I am sure you will not mind it as I see no better way of helping you out of the mire of wrong notions than breaking the crust of your consciousness a little.
You have been pleased to say in your letter, “the wise men of all ages have sought to draw men’s attention away from worldly matters.” A most sweeping statement indeed! Do you count Krishna among the wise men of the world or not? If you do, you will do well to reflect over his life for a moment and to read the following from Chapter III of the Bhagwat Gita:-
“There is nothing in the three worlds, O Parrtha! that should be done by Me, nor anything unattained that might be attained; yet I mingle in action.”
“For if I mingled not ever in action unwearied, men all round would follow My path, O son of Pritha!”
“These worlds would fall into ruin, if I did not perform action; I should be the author of confusion of castes, and should destroy these creatures.”
You will please also take the trouble of enquiring from some friends over there as to who was the founder of the city of Amritsar, the headquarters of your district. Was it not one of the great Gurus of the Sikh religion? But why refer you to old history when current history has got proofs to answer? Is not your own Beloved Master building a colony at Beas? At least this is what he told me personally some years ago. He was then also pleased to add that he was himself supervising and running the brickfield, and that it was a sort of work he has been doing all his life.
I think I must now pass on to the most important point in your letter. The facts recited above should be enough to make it dear to you that although there may be a lot of difference in what you and we say yet the difference in what both you and we are practising, is no greater than between Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Gone are the days for the unreal atmosphere of a logic-hopping metaphysics. Thinkers now realize that thought without action is a disease.
I do not deny for a moment that there have been men in the world who preached the philosophy of renunciation of action. As a matter of fact, it is the seed sown by such people that is responsible in the main for most of our present miseries. Given a diseased constitution, a neurotic mind and a life of empty leisure and gloomy ennui and there emerges the proper physiology of a man preaching this unhealthy philosophy. Ours is the Bhakti-marg, the path of devotion and dedication — not renunciation. Consult your Beloved Master on this point or read some of the Satsang literature in the subject, and you will understand the wide difference between the two paths.
Simple living, contentment, humility and non-attachment to worldly objects are no doubt virtues that have been given a place of honour in our religion, but they do not bear any special affinity to poverty. Hardships of life do exercise a deterrent effect on men and, under their influence, many men do turn their attention to their Creator when no earthly assistance is forthcoming. They also do turn religiously-minded people deeply religious, but history records something different also. These conditions have also led individuals to suicide and nations to rebellion and revolution. I admit that people in hard circumstances have often resorted to prayer and to places of worship for help, but I very much doubt “that in most cases poverty and extreme hardship are the best agents to drive men to the feet of the Master.” I would add that in Bhakti-marg the highest status is assigned only to God-loving and God-seeking devotees, and poverty is no stepping stone to the acquisition of these virtues. A beggar may be more attached to his old blanket and begging bowl than a rich man to his shawl and cup of gold, and a well-to-do person may be more God-loving and God-seeking than a poverty-stricken individual. History shows that, in ancient times, Raja Janak was more God-loving than all the paupers of his kingdom and, as late as in the last century, we have the example of our own Huzur Maharaj, our second Revered Leader, Who was a more earnest seeker of God than all the rich and poor of Agra.
If, however, you mean to suggest that intoxication of wealth is very detrimental to spiritual elevation, I would readily agree with you. But you should at the same time remember that so are all intoxications, including the intoxication of renunciation. It is for this reason that we are taught to discard attachment and intoxication of worldly objects and not action, i.e. worldly pursuits and worldly objects, and lead a life of service and dedication. This leads me to say something about service or sewa. In your letter to Miss Bruce, you have quoted at some considerable length from Sar Bachan. This shows that the holy writings of Our Revered Founder are receiving your attention. A perusal of these will disclose to anybody that Soamiji Maharaj had laid the utmost emphasis on the necessity of sewa. I would invite your attention specially to the following couplet:-
“Gur agya se jo shish karai, So kartut bhakti phal dei.” Rendered into English, it means:
“Whatever a devotee doeth in pursuance of the commands of the Satguru, beareth for him the truth of Bhakti.”
Dear Dr. Johnson, when we know that what we are doing here is strictly in pursuance of the August Commands of Soamiji Maharaj, the Revered Founder of our religion — commands supplemented and confirmed by one and all of our subsequent Satgurus –, when we know that in pursuing our activities we have no other motive than to secure the pleasure of our Satguru, when we know that hundreds and thousands of our brothers and sisters while enduring numerous hardships and privations are giving of their best in the spirit of service, and lastly, when actual experience has clearly shown to us that in doing all this we have been meriting greater grace of the Supreme Father from day to day, how then, can we give any weight to a conflicting opinion, coming from a friend, howsoever friendly, but ignorant of the very alphabet of our religion?
I know that my letter has become very lengthy, but I shall consider my labour amply rewarded if it succeeds in making at least two things clear to you, viz. (1) that we have very good reasons in support of our activities here and (2) that our minds are open to conviction. By way of further proof of our bona fides with respect to no. 2, I may refer you to my letter dated the 21st September, 1932 to your Beloved Master inviting him to address the brothers and sisters affiliated to our Sabha during the next X’mas week, when we hope to have a record gathering. He is welcome to bring to light all our mistakes and show us better light on the occasion, if he can.
With best wishes and Radhasoami,
Dr. J.P. JOHNSON, M.D.,
Dera Baba Jaimal Singh,
Via Beas (Distt. Amritsar)
Read Dr. Johnson’s rejoinder