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

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THE UNKNOWING SAGE: THE Life and Work of Baba Faqir Chand

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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

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

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
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
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
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
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
about their visionary manifestations?
Moreover, is it true that  all  religious visions are individual
creations, determined by the faith and concentration of zealous
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
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
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
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
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."

This incident is very characteristic of Sri Bhagavan.
It is characteristic that the distress or devotion
of one of his people should call forth an  involuntary 
response and intervention in a form that can only be called

Arthur Osborne,  Ramana Maharshi And The Path of Self-Knowledge 
(Bombay: Jaico Publishing House, 1982), pages 93-94.

Ramana's experience of bilocation indicates that Faqir Chand's
categorical statement about all gurus not knowing about their
visionary manifestations may need qualifications.
Simply put,  some  saints  appear  to know about their miraculous
appearances.  The number of these "fully aware" mystics, however,
is so incredibly small that it is not an exaggeration to say that
Faqir Chand's "unknowing" hypothesis explains 99% of all the
so-called guru visions in the world. The overwhelming majority of
inner visions are projections of one's  own  mind which have no
substantial "reality check" with either the outer world or the
inner regions.
the object
of devotion in these transpersonal encounters
are, for the most part,  not  aware of
their role.
Thus, the  Chandian Effect   is a general explanation which

 The Chandian Effect , so named because Faqir Chand was the
Sant Mat guru to speak at length about the "unknowing" aspects of
visionary manifestations, designates two major factors in
transpersonal encounters: 1) the overwhelming experience of
 certainty  ( ganz andere/mysterium tremendum ) which
accompanies religious ecstasies; and 2) the subjective projection
of sacred forms/figures/scenes by a meditator/devotee without the
conscious knowledge of the object/person who is beheld as the
center of the experience.  I first coined the term in my article,
"The Himalayan Connection: U.F.O.'s and The Chandian Effect,"
 The Journal Of Humanistic Psychology  (Fall 1984).

covers almost all transpersonal visions.  Ramana's experience and
others like his represents a very small, bracketed, "special" case
scenario.  As such, it warrants further inspection, but should not
be misconstrued as a general reference point with which to
adjudicate transmundane happenings.

Concerning these "special cases,"
Sawan Singh, a deeply admired master in the surat shabd yoga
tradition (1858-1948), for whom both Faqir Chand and his teacher
Shiv Brat Lal had tremendous regard, wrote that the outward guru
 can and does know  about the inner condition of his disciples.
This knowledge, Sawan Singh pointed out, is conveyed to the physical
master via the inner Shabd (Divine Sound), though only in extreme
cases where the outer master's attention is needed. 

See Sawan Singh's letters to American and European disciples in 
 Spiritual Gems  and  The Dawn of Light  published by
the Radhasoami Beas Satsang.

Writes Sawan Singh to one of his disciples:

Now regarding your question about the Inner Master and that Inner
Master guiding the disciple, first of all, what is the Inner

The Real Saint or Perfect Master is one with the Supreme Lord,
having merged His Being with the Supreme.
Now, as the Supreme Lord has all power, so do the Perfect Masters.
He can do as He pleases, and anywhere and always, so that He may
better work with, protect, and instruct and guide His disciples.

Every time He gives the initiation to anyone, He creates an Astral
Image of Himself in the disciple.
And from then on, the Master never leaves the disciple.
The Double, or Other Self, or Image of the Master is sometimes
what we call the Inner Master.

Now, if anything occurs in the life of the disciple that requires
the personal attention of the Master, here (in India) in the Body--this
Inner Master at once reports to the Conscious Master (in India) and
the Conscious Master gives the thing his personal attention.

The Master sometimes calls these Doubles of Himself his agents.
They do his work, taking care of all his disciples.
They have the power to act without limit.
They can do what the Master wishes Them to do, and They obey His

The human side of the Master here (in India)  may not know what is
going on in the life of that person.
It may be on the other side of the globe.
He will not be aware of the details, but He can know them if He

But manifestly, you see how difficult it would be for any one man,
as man, to go to all parts of the world and take care of so many.
If the Master had a million disciples, He would have an Astral
of Himself in every one of them, and that Agent of the Master would
look after the disciple at all times, reporting to the Master here
(in India) only in case of extreme emergency. 

"Extract From A Letter By The Great Master To A Disciple,"
 Science Of The Soul  (June 1985).

Hence, according
to this perspective, the outward master does  not  know  most
of the time.   Similar to Ramana Maharshi's experience, the
Beas master learns of his visionary manifestations on only special
The  modus operandi  behind how certain masters could possibly
about their disciple's spiritual experiences is explained in a
remarkable passage by Da Kalki (alias Da Love Ananda; Da Free John; Bubba Free
John; Franklin Jones): 

I am fairly certain that by the time this book is published,
Franklin Jones (his real birth name) will have assumed a new name.
[Alas! I am correct, as I go through the final proofs Da Kalki is now known as Da Avabhasa.
Naturally, this too will most likely be changed by the end of this
year (1992).]

After that time [when Da Free John achieved Enlightenment],
when I would sit for meditation in any formal way, instead of
contemplating what was arising in myself,
I would contemplate other beings as my own forms.
Instead of my own psychic forms arising, the psychic forms, minds,
and limitations of others would arise.
I was aware, visually and otherwise, of great numbers of people,
and I would work with them very directly on a subtle level.
In some cases, these people would soon contact me and become
involved with me in a personal relationship.
Others were people I already knew.
I would work for them in the subtle way, and then watch for
signs and demonstrations in their outward lives of the reality
of that manifestation.
I tested everything in this manner. 

Bubba (Da) Free John,  The Enlightenment Of The
Whole Body  (Clearlake: Dawn Horse Press, 1978),
page 38.
My citation of Da Kalki should not be
construed as an endorsement of his mastership;
it is not.
Although I am sincerely a great "fan" of
Da Love Ananda's writings, I am a very harsh
critic of his personal lifestyle.
I have written an extensive article on this
very point--how to distinguish the  message 
from the  medium --because it is vitally important to
remember that a superb writer/thinker does not mean that by
extension that the person is "God-Realized" or a "Perfect Master."
Moreover, I am not all that sure that Da Kalki has any psychic
experiences. I just happen to think that his explanation of
 possible  psychic experiences is clear and rational.
See "The Paradox Of Da Free John: Distinguishing The Message From
The Medium."  UCSM  (Volume One, Number Two).

Charan Singh, the late head of the Radhasoami Satsang at Beas,
for instance, chose disciples for initiation by simply looking
at them.
I have personally seen thousands of people file directly in front
of Charan Singh and in a matter of a few seconds he turns his head
the left or to the right, indicating whether the seeker was
accepted or rejected for Nam-Dan. 

Nam-Dan is a ceremony where the living Satguru gives the "Gift of
Nam" or Initiation to chosen disciples.  It includes precise
details about how to meditate and withdraw one's consciousness from
the physical body by means of a three-fold method:  simran 
(repetition of holy name(s)),  dhyan  (contemplation of the
light or the guru's form within); and  bhajan  (listening to the
divine sound current).
There are  several movies which have filmed this unusual
selection process for Nam-Dan, including  Satguru  (London 1976),  The
Dera Documentary  (Dera Baba Jaimal Singh, Beas, India, 1970's),
and  Guiding Light  (Dera Baba Jaimal Singh, Beas, India 1983).
I personally witnessed the event inside the famous Satsang Ghar at
Dera in the Winter of 1981.

Needless to say, it is an awe-inspiring sight, and one which I
confess is beyond my limited comprehension. 

During his second world tour in 1970, Maharaj Charan Singh was asked the
following question: "Is the physical Master aware of all the
initiates' inner experiences?" Charan Singh's answer demonstrates
that the outer master  does  know about his visionary
manifestations.  Responded Charan Singh: "Our real Master, as I just
told you, is the Shabd and Nam.
And when we are connected with that Shabd and Nam, that Shabd and
Nam takes care of us.
 The physical Master, of course, is aware of all that.  [My
emphasis.] But, you see, it is Shabd and Nam which is our real
Master, that takes care of everything."  Thus Saith The Master 
(Beas: R.S. Foundation, 1974), page 150.

Another example of extraordinary manifestations which go beyond 
Faqir Chand's hypothesis of unknowingness comes from Baba Jaimal
Singh, the first guru of the Beas satsang and a personal disciple of
the founder of Radhasoami, Shiv Dayal Singh.  In the following
excerpts, Jaimal Singh details a most remarkable  physical 
bilocation of his guru. Recollects Baba Ji:

Once, during Christmas, the army units were allowed four holidays.
As I had no official duty assigned to me during that period,
I felt that I could best spend it in meditation in my room.
Accordingly, I told the cook that I should not be disturbed, that
if I needed food I would personally ask for it.
Also, if anybody asked for me,
he should be told that I was out.

It so happened that soon thereafter
my presence was required
for writing some accounts.
However, as my door was locked,
everybody who came to call me
went back disappointed.
the officer of the Unit had
demanded full account
from the clerk who really
did not know what to do in
my absence.
Just when a thought crossed
his mind that he should report
my absence to the officer,
he saw me and heard me say
to him that he should take down
the account.
This the clerk did.
Such accounts were rendered
three times daily,
and were thereafter sent to
the officer concerned by the
clerk immediately after he got
This continued on all the
four days during which I
was engaged in meditation
in my room.
However, I knew nothing
about it, for
I would leave my room only
at four o'clock in the
morning and ten o'clock at
night just to answer nature's
When the holidays were over and I came
out of my room, I was called
in for accounts for the day previous
I explained to the clerk
that I had been confined
to my room for the last
four days and had not given any
accounts at all for the entire
The clerk then called the two 
persons who had been present at the
time the accounts were rendered.
One of them even produced the
paper from which I had actually
dictated, saying that I could
myself ascertain whether this
was the account written by
me in my own hand.
When I examined this paper,
I found it to be exactly
what it should have been.

I silently meditated upon Huzur
Swami Ji's Feet and bowed in
gratitude for His unbounded
Grace in representing me during
my absence and carrying out
the job assigned to me for
that period. 
Baba Jaimal Singh,  Spiritual Letters  (Beas: R.S. Foundation,
1984), pages 13-14. In the same book Jaimal Singh relates several
other extraordinary bilocation experiences.

Although Jaimal Singh's experience was extraordinary, there have
been other reports by mystics of similar  physical  bilocation
excursions.   The important point to remember, though, is that

See D. Scott Rogo's  Miracles: A Parascientific Inquiry Into
Wondrous Phenomena  (New York: The Dial Press, 1982), Chapter
IV, which deals specifically with bilocation experiences around
the world.

such experiences are the  exception , not the rule in mysticism.
The value of Faqir Chand's revelations of ignorance is that most
gurus (I am tempted to say  all )
in India and elsewhere are in the same lot, but falsely parade their
attainments to sincere, if gullible, disciples.
Faqir's startling insights show that most religious visions are,
in fact, products of one's own mind. 

When I use the term "mind" here it should be equated with
"imagination." Naturally, all visions are of the mind in the strict
sense of the term, but those manifestations which cannot be
correlated by  others  either in this world or the higher
are, for the most part, merely vivid extensions of one's

However, we should not take Faqir's confessions as precluding the
possibility that certain rare saints  do  have access to
knowledge far beyond our comprehension, and that being residents
of those higher regions have the ability to directly transmit such
information to their respective followers. 

If I may interject a personal note here, I must confess that I find
myself more and more agreeing with Faqir Chand and his claims of
As a seasoned observer of the guru scene, most of what I discover is
petty human motivations. To be sure, there are gurus who have deeply
impressed me with their compassion and humility (Charan Singh being,
at least for me, the most impressive), but I have yet to unearth an
airtight, empirical case for genuine psychic powers. There are
some uninspected loopholes which reveal that natural (versus
supernatural) processes were involved.
I realize that my skepticism will turn off a number of
parapsychology buffs, but in light of Occam's Razor I
see no overwhelming evidence to suggest that Faqir Chand's
autobiographical admissions are not right on the mark.

Moreover, we should keep in mind that Faqir Chand's use of the term
"ignorance" has two meanings.
First, Faqir uses the term in an absolute sense equating "Ignorance"
(with a capital "I") with God, thereby agreeing with many saints
and mystics that the Lord is an unqualified Mystery (as Shiv Dayal
Singh put it: "Wonder, Wonder, Wonder; Wonder hath assumed a form").
In this reference, there will most likely be little debate with Faqir
However, Faqir also uses the term "ignorance" to describe his
realization that gurus do  not  know about their visionary
As we have noted, there may be exceptions to this general rule,
though they have yet to be empirically verified.
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