Edited by David Lane Publishers: MSAC Philosophy Group, 1100 N. Grand Avenue Walnut, California 91789 Phone: 909 594-5611 (4593)
With appreciation to Professor Mark Juergensmeyer.
Excerpt (with permission) from

The Unknowing Sage: The Life and Work of Baba Faqir Chand

From the Prologue

Abstract - Describes a radical Indian guru in the Sant tradition who argued that masters and gurus were deceiving their disciples by making them believe that the Master knows when he appears in their visions and meditation. Faqir argues that they do not know; rather, such visions are the outcome of one's inherent capacity for higher structural (or neurological) adaptation.

Edited by David C. Lane



     Faqir Chand [1886 to 1981] was a remarkable Indian sage who spent over seventy-five years practicing an ancient meditation technique, popularly known today as surat shabd yoga, which attempts to induce a consciously controlled near-death experience. Mastery of this practice, according to adepts of the tradition, enables one to experience regions of light and sound beyond the normal waking state, providing glimpses into higher realms of consciousness.

     Near the end of World War One, Faqir Chand was recognized by his own guru Shiv Brat Lal and others in the movement to be an advanced shabd yoga mystic. According to Faqir's own account, he could almost daily leave his body at will and experience exalted states of awareness. Nevertheless, Faqir Chand was not satisfied with these attainments and sought for something higher and more permanent. Eventually Faqir realized that no matter how subtle or blissful a meditation experience may be, it did not in and of itself constitute the ultimate in spiritual realization. Rather, the ultimate truth was that no experience could capture or contain the transcendental mystery of Being. In the highest stages of development man does not develop a keen sense of omniscience, but a radical and irrevocable understanding of unknowingness. In sum, one realizes that he or she is nothing but a mere bubble in a sea of existence which is infinite in all directions. As such, the bubble simply surrenders its entire being to that Power which is, in truth, living it.

     Thus Faqir Chand became quite outspoken about how gurus, masters, prophets, and mystics, posing as all-knowing beings, have deceived millions of followers by duping them into believing that they have omnipresence and omnipotence when in fact they have neither. What enlightened sages possess, rather, is access experientially to a higher spectrum of awareness, which, in turn, reveals not final or absolute truth, but a growing awareness of how truly mysterious life really is. As Shiv Dayal Singh, the founder of Radhasoami, poetically put it: "Wonder, Wonder, Wonder; Wonder hath assumed a form."

     Coupled with Faqir's tacit realization of unknowingness, he also exposed for the first time in the Sant tradition how visions of religious personages are the products of one's own inner development. For instance, when one undergoes a near-death experience and beholds a Jesus or a Nanak or an Angel in the middle of the light at the end of a long, dark tunnel, it is not the esteemed figure who is himself orchestrating the encounter. Rather it is the neophyte who is projecting the sacred personage on to the light from his/her own biological and cultural history. The light may well indeed be a transcultural phenomenon, part and parcel of a higher order of awareness or merely a neurological event, but the interpretation of who resides in that light (Is it Jesus? Is it Nanak? Is it my uncle Joe?) is entirely a personal affair, shaded by the nuances of an individual's sojourn for tens of years on a planet we call Earth.

     Faqir is perhaps best known for his frank admissions of ignorance surrounding his miraculous appearances to disciples during times of need. He unilaterally confessed that he was never aware of appearing to his devotees. Nor did Faqir Chand claim that he had understood the secret of Reality. As he said on many occasions, echoing the words of such greats as Lao Tzu, Socrates, and Nicholas of Cusa: "How can I make any claims about attaining the Ultimate. The truth is that I know nothing." Hence, Faqir Chand raised the slogan of "Be-Man," arguing that to become a human being, endowed with discrimination and compassion, is a great thing in itself. To be spiritual, Faqir would assert, necessitates that one become a true man (or woman) first.

     The Mt. San Antonio Philosophy Group, while not advocating any one position in philosophy or religion, established the Faqir Chand Library Series in honor of vichar, "clear thinking." As the late Sardar Bahadur Jagat Singh, a contemporary of Faqir's, once stated, "Clear thinking is 90% of spirituality." Future volumes in the series will include works in both science and religion which promote the Chandian spirit of honest and frank criticism. This volume, The Unknowing Sage, represents the first comprehensive study of Baba Faqir Chand's life and work in English.



     After meeting personally with Baba Faqir Chand, it became exceedingly apparent to myself and Professor Mark Juergensmeyer (who visited Manavta Mandir in late August of 1978)
[See Juergensmeyer's book, Radhasoami Reality (Princeton University Press, 1991)]

that the old sage was something of an anomaly amongst Indian gurus. For, although Faqir Chand had a rather large and devoted following (numbering in the thousands), he absolutely disclaimed himself of any miracles attributed to his spiritual work, saying quite frankly that they were products of either the devotee's previous karma or intense faith. Indeed, it was this very insight which led Faqir to his own enlightenment.

     When Faqir Chand began to initiate disciples into surat shabd yoga, at the request of his master Shiv Brat Lal, a most curious thing happened. His devotees began reporting that Faqir's radiant form appeared inside their meditations. Others related miracles that were caused by Faqir's prashad (blessed food), letters, or advice. However, all during this time Faqir claims that he had absolutely no knowledge or awareness of his form appearing to distant provinces or performing miracles to the sick and dying. As Faqir himself wrote,

     "People say that my Form manifests to them and helps them in solving their worldly as well as mental problems, but I do not go anywhere, nor do I know about such miraculous instances."
[Faqir Chand, The Essence Of The Truth (Hoshiarpur: Faqir Charitable Library Trust, n.d.1976?)]
     It was at this point when Faqir asked himself, "What about the visions that appear to me? Are they a creation of my own mind, and does my guru also not know about his appearances to me?" Only then, according to Faqir, did he realize the truth: "All manifestations, visions, and forms that are seen within are mental (illusory) creations."
[Faqir Chand, The Secret of Secrets (Hoshiarpur: Faqir Charitable Library Trust, 1975)]

     After his realization, Faqir began preaching his belief that all saints, from Buddha, Christ, to even his own master Shiv Brat Lal are ignorant about the miracles or inner experiences attributed to them. In a paper given to the American Academy of Religion in March 1981, I used the term "The Unknowing Hierophany" to describe what Faqir Chand believes; that is, a "Divine" vehicle within the temporal world that is unaware of its spiritual manifestations.
[A revised form of this original paper was published under the title "The Hierarchical Structure of Religious Visions," in The Journal Of Transpersonal Psychology (Volume 15, Number 1)]

     Though Faqir is probably the most outspoken, other great religious leaders, saints and mystics have expounded on this same unknowingness. However, it is not seen by most (especially devotees) as an explanation of their subservience to the Great Mystery, but rather as a statement designed to exhibit the saint's humility, or as a tacit attempt for concealing his real mission and purpose.

     Jesus, for instance, is reported in the Gospel of Mark as asking the crowd that was following him, "Who touched me?" After this, a woman who had suffered from a flow of blood for twelve years came up to Jesus and told him about her plan for a Divine cure. By a brief touch a miracle happened, as she was cured from hemorrhaging.

     At this Jesus said, "Daughter, your faith has made you well."
[Saint Mark, translated and edited by D.E. Nineham (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1976)]

     The famed sage, Ramana Maharshi, when asked about Jesus' power to perform miracles, substantiates what Faqir Chand had taught for over forty years:

     "Was Jesus aware at the time that he was curing men of their diseases? He could not have been conscious of his powers. Such manifestations are as real as your own reality. In other words, when you identify yourself with the body as in jagrat, you see gross objects; when in subtle body or in mental plane as in svapna, you see objects equally subtle; in absence of identification as in sushputi, you see nothing. The objects seen bear relation to the state of the seer. The same applies to visions of God."
[Talks With Sri Ramana Maharshi, Volume I, II, and III. (Tiruvannamalai: Sri Ramanasramam, 1972), pages 17 and 355]
     Along with this "unknowingness" there is also the internal, ever-present supreme knowledge which saints and sages have described as the hallmark of enlightenment. Jesus said, "The Father and I are one." The Sufi martyr, Mansur al-Hallaj, shouted before his execution, "ana'l-Haqq" (I am the Truth). Sarmad, the Jewish-Indian saint, exclaimed, "I am King of Kings." And Meister Eckhart, in slightly different language wrote, "The eye with which God sees me is the same eye which I perceive Him."

     These quotations illustrate that mysticism is concerned with spiritual knowledge: the relationship of the soul with God, and not with any secondary psychic abilities which may arise as a result of intense spiritual discipline.

     However, this kind of knowledge cannot be equated with logical, objective learning. The former is the realization of one's eternal nature, a transcendental experience of oneness. The latter is concerned with dualistic thinking, knowing about things--that which is based upon an illusory division of the world into two separate components: the subject and the object. Thus, when saints talk about the ultimate knowledge, they are referring to the Ground of Being, that which is the condition for all subsequent conditions. Consequently, an enlightened master may not know anything about academic subjects such as quantum mechanics, anthropology, or critical history.

     As Ken Wilber astutely comments, "I have yet to see a guru run a four-minute mile with his `perfect body' or explain Einstein's special theory of relativity with his `perfect mind'. . . Perfection lies only in conscious transcendence, not in concrete manifestation."
[Spiritual Choices (New York: Paragon House Publishers, 1987), page 258]

     Even though Faqir Chand was not conscious of his miraculous powers or his healing gifts (nor, evidently, are most other gurus), does it necessarily hold that all masters are likewise ignorant about their visionary manifestations? Moreover, is it true that all religious visions are individual creations, determined by the faith and concentration of zealous devotees? At first glance, the answer would appear to be "yes," because many internal visions are not of factual and historical human entities, but of amalgamated characters, mythic beings, and fictional heroines--some whose life stories may be entirely based upon the writer's own creative mind.
     For example, Paul Twitchell made up the literary figure, Rebazar Tarzs, claiming that the Tibetan monk was over 500 hundred years old and resided in a remote region in the Himalayan mountains. Although Rebazar Tarzs does not, in fact, exist, devoted followers of Paul Twitchell's religious movement, Eckankar, claim to have extraordinary visions of him. What is transpiring is fairly obvious: when one ascends to a different level of awareness (like in O.B.E.'s or N.D.E.'s) they interpret the inner light according to their own particular cultural background. Sikhs see Guru Nanak, not Moses; Catholics see the Virgin Mary, not Buddha; and Eckists see Rebazar Tarzs, not the store clerk at 7/11. For more on this phenomenon, see my chapter, Gakko Came From Venus: The Invention Of A Religious Tradition, in Exposing Cults (New York & London: Garland Publishing, 1993).

     However, on closer inspection it becomes apparent that some masters claim to know about their subtle interactions with disciples and that certain visions may not be merely due to extreme faith or concentration. This psychic awareness, as it were though, apparently arises spontaneously and is not the product of any sustained conscious manipulation.

     A classic example of a fully conscious bilocation experience comes surprisingly enough from Ramana Maharshi, a sage who did not show even the slightest interest in psychic powers or abilities. Recounts Arthur Osborne, Ramana's biographer:

     "About a year after his meeting with Sri Bhagavan, Ganapati Sastri experienced a remarkable outflow of his Grace. While he was sitting in meditation in the temple of Ganapati at Tiruvothiyur he felt distracted and longed intensely for the presence and guidance of Sri Bhagavan. At that moment Sri Bhagavan entered the temple. Ganapati Sastri prostrated himself before him and, as he was about to rise, he felt Sri Bhagavan's hand upon his head and a terrifically vital force coursing through his body from the touch; so that he also received Grace by touch from the Master."
Speaking about this incident in later years, Sri Bhagavan said,
     "One day, some years ago, I was lying down and awake when I distinctly felt my body rise higher and higher. I could see the physical objects below growing smaller and smaller until they disappeared and all around me was a limitless expanse of dazzling light.
     "After some time I felt the body slowly descend and the physical objects below began to appear. I was so fully aware of this incident that I finally concluded that it must be by such means that Siddhas (Sages with powers) travel over vast distances in a short time and appear and disappear in such a mysterious manner. While the body thus descended to the ground it occurred to me that I was at Tiruvothiyur though I had never seen the place before. I found myself on a highroad and walked along it. At some distance from the roadside was a temple of Ganapati and I entered it."

Published by the MSAC Philosophy Group
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