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David Christopher Lane, Ph.D. Professor of Philosophy, Mt. San Antonio College Lecturer in Religious Studies, California State University, Long Beach Author of Exposing Cults: When the Skeptical Mind Confronts the Mystical (New York and London: Garland Publishers, 1994) and The Radhasoami Tradition: A Critical History of Guru Succession (New York and London: Garland Publishers, 1992).
Agra, India | August 24th 2018
Listening to the Inner Sound
The Perennial Practice of Shabd Yoga
David Christopher Lane & Andrea Diem-Lane
Recently my wife, Andrea, and I were invited to be plenary speakers at an international conference at the Dayalbagh Educational Institute in Agra, India, in commemoration of the 200th birth anniversary of Shiv Dayal Singh, the founder of Radhasoami.
Before arriving in India, we made layovers in Tokyo and Singapore in order to minimize our jet lag. Having been to India a number of times before, I knew from first hand sleep deprivation that flying for 22 hours or more can be a bit harsh on the body.
Thankfully, my entire family (we brought our two young boys, Shaun and Kelly, with us as well, since in their two previous trips to North India they had fallen in love with the culture) arrived in New Delhi well rested.
I was expecting about 70 or so academics to attend the conference, but was a bit shocked to receive an email the night before from the event’s coordinator, Professor Vishal Sahni, informing us that the “seminar was going to be held in the Central Satsang Hall Dayalbagh, which can seat nearly 10,000 people in one go. This is apart from the 400 branches/ centres all over the world which will be connected electronically.”
Not sure what to expect, we were overwhelmed by the overflow crowd and the wonderful spirit and generosity of those in attendance. Before our presentations, my old mentor and friend, Professor Mark Juergensmeyer (head of Global Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara) gave a beautiful summation of his forty plus years studying the history of the Radhasoami tradition as an outside scholar, which culminated in his groundbreaking work, Radhasoami Reality (Princeton University Press, 1991), for which I was fortunate to work on for many years as his research assistant both in India and at Berkeley.
After this, the main speaker of the event was Prem Saran Satsangi, a distinguished scientist and the current spiritual leader of Dayalbagh, who provided us with a detailed trajectory of his own academic career peppered with several astute observations about the interface between science and religion.
I was impressed with some of the questions that were asked during the panel discussion, particularly about what distinguishes genuine science from mere theological speculation. It was an exhilarating and informative discussion and we learned much in the process.
Our own talks were centered mostly on the history of shabd yoga (the practice of meditating on the inner sound and light) over time and the tremendous influence Shiv Dayal Singh, the founder of Radhasoami, has had on the spread and popularity of the discipline worldwide.
The day before the proceedings, Professor Juergensmeyer and I got the wonderful opportunity of visiting Prem Saran Satsangi in the open fields at Dayalbagh, where he along with hundreds of others work the ground for several hours daily. It was a truly impressive sight, since usually spiritual leaders of Prem Saran Satsangi’s status don’t perform such tasks, especially with such consistency.
The whole atmosphere at Dayalbagh is permeated with a sense of equality and comradeship. This carried over at the seminar the next day and everyone was infused with an infectious joy, even though the talks were highly intellectual and technical.
Prem Saran Satsangi and the entire community at Dayalbagh is laser focused on trying to understand shabd yoga meditation from a scientific perspective and in this pursuit have joined forces with a number of eminent scientists around the world who are trying to understand consciousness and its intersection with neuroscience, quantum theory, and evolutionary biology.
We are currently in the process of making a six part, mini film series based on our plenary talks. The first two films, narrated by Jason Zenobia, have already been produced with the others to be finished later this month.
The following are the first two films, along with the extended talks in PDF format as well as links to the published paperback book and specialized website.
 After having having finished an annotated bibliography on Radhasoami for Oxford University Press this past summer, Professor Juergensmeyer and I are now in the process of updating and revising the book Radhasoami Reality for a new edition which will be forthcoming. Also in the process of working on the first Encyclopedia of Radhasoami, which will focus on the many branches/leaders in the movement.
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