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Article

Divine Light and Melodies Lead the Way: The Santmat Tradition of Bihar

Department of Philosophy, California State University, Fresno, CA 93740, USA
Religions 2019, 10(4), 230; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10040230
Received: 22 February 2019 / Revised: 19 March 2019 / Accepted: 20 March 2019 / Published: 27 March 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religious Experience in the Hindu Tradition)
This paper focuses on the branch of Santmat (thus far, unstudied by scholars of Indian religions), prevalent in the rural areas of Bihar, India. Santmat—literally meaning “the Path of Sants” or “Point of View of the Sants”—of Bihar represents a unique synthesis of the elements of the Vedic traditions, rural Hindu practices, and esoteric experiences, as recorded in the poetry of the medieval Sant Tradition. I characterize this tradition as “Santmat of Bihar” to differentiate it from the other branches of Santmat. The tradition has spread to all parts of India, but its highest concentration remains in Bihar. Maharishi Mehi, a twentieth-century Sant from Bihar State, identifies Santmat’s goal as śānti. Maharishi Mehi defines Śānti as the state of deep stillness, equilibrium, and the unity with the Divine. He considers those individuals sants who are established in this state. The state of sublime peace is equally available to all human beings, irrespective of gender, religion, ethnicity, or status. However, it requires a systematic path. Drawing on the writings of the texts of Sanātana Dharma, teachings of the Sants and personal experiences, Maharishi Mehi lays out a systematic path that encompasses the moral observances and detailed esoteric experiences. He also provides an in-depth description of the esoteric practices of divine light (dṛṣti yoga) and sound (surat śabda yoga) in the inner meditation. After providing a brief overview of the history and distinctive features of Santmat of Bihar, this paper will focus on the specifics and unique interpretations of the four structural principles of the tradition: Guru (spiritual teacher), dhyān (inner path of mediation), satsaṅg (spiritual discourses or congregating practitioners for meditation or study), and sadācār (moral conduct). Through a close analysis of textual sources, Sants’ oral discourses that I translated, as well as insights from my participant-observant experiences, I will examine how the four elements reorient the practitioner from the mundane world to the sacred inner experience of śānti. View Full-Text
Keywords: Santmat; Sants; religious experience; divine light and sound; medieval Sant tradition; moral conduct; modern gurus; śānti; dhyān; guru Santmat; Sants; religious experience; divine light and sound; medieval Sant tradition; moral conduct; modern gurus; śānti; dhyān; guru
MDPI and ACS Style

Howard, V.R. Divine Light and Melodies Lead the Way: The Santmat Tradition of Bihar. Religions 2019, 10, 230. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10040230

AMA Style

Howard VR. Divine Light and Melodies Lead the Way: The Santmat Tradition of Bihar. Religions. 2019; 10(4):230. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10040230

Chicago/Turabian Style

Howard, Veena R. 2019. "Divine Light and Melodies Lead the Way: The Santmat Tradition of Bihar" Religions 10, no. 4: 230. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10040230

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