Sant Mat

Sant Mat was a spiritual movement in the Indian subcontinent in the 13th century CE. The name literally means "teachings of sants", i.e. mystic saints. By association and seeking truth by following sants and their teachings, a movement was formed. Theologically, the teachings are distinguished by inward, loving devotion by the individual soul (atma) to the Divine Principal God (Parmatma). Socially, an egalitarian understanding stands separate from qualitative distinctions of the Hindu caste system, and to those between Hindus and Muslims.[1]

The lineage of sants can be divided into two main groups: a northern group from the provinces of Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, who expressed themselves mainly in vernacular Hindi; and a southern group, whose language is archaic Marathi, represented by Namdev and other sants of Maharashtra.[1]


The expression Sant Mat literally means "Teachings of the Saints" – the "Path of Sants (Saints)", "Path of Truth", "Right or Positive Path". As "point of view of the Sants", the term Sant is pivotal. Derived from the Sanskrit sat (सत) and has overlapping usages (true, real, honest, right). Its root meaning is "one who knows(is) the truth" or "one who has experienced (merged into) Ultimate Reality." The term sant has taken on the general meaning of "a good person" but is properly assigned to the poet-sants of medieval India.[2]

The Sants

The Sant Mat movement was not homogeneous, and consisted mostly of the sants own socio-religious attitudes, which were based on bhakti (devotion) as described in the Bhagavad Gita.[3] Sharing as few conventions with each other as with the followers of the traditions they challenged, the sants appear more as a diverse collection of spiritual personalities than a specific religious tradition, although they acknowledged a common spiritual root.[4]

The poet-sants expressed their teaching in vernacular verse, addressing themselves to the common folk in oral style in Hindi and other dialects such as Marathi. They referred to the "Divine Name" as having saving power, and dismissed the religious rituals as having no value. They presented the idea that true religion was a matter of surrendering to God "who dwells in the heart".[3]

The first generation of north Indian sants, (which included Kabir and Ravidas), appeared in the region of Benares in the mid–15th century. Preceding them were two notable 13th and 14th century figures, Namdev and Ramananda. The latter, according to Sant Mat tradition, was a Vaishnava ascetic who initiated Kabir, Ravidas, and other sants. Ramanand's story is told differently by his lineage of "Ramanandi" monks, by other sants preceding him, and later by the Sikhs. Sant Mat practitioners accept that Ramananda's students formed the first generation of sants.[5]

Sants developed a culture of being close to marginalized humans in society including women, and the Dalit (Atishudras). Some of the more notable sants include Namdev (d. 1350), Kabir (d. 1518), Nanak (d. 1539), Mira Bai (d. 1545), Surdas (d. 1573), Tulsidas (d. 1623), and Tukaram (d. 1650).

The tradition of the sants (sant parampara) remained non-sectarian, although a number of sant poets have been considered as the founders of sects. Some of these may bear the sant's name, but were developed after them by later followers such as Kabir Panth, Dadu Panth, Dariya Panth, Advait Mat, Science of Spirituality and Radhasoami.[6]

Only a small minority of religious Hindus have formally followed Sant Mat, but the tradition has considerably influenced Hindus across sects and castes. Bhajans (devotional songs) attributed to past sants such as Mira Bai are widely listened to in India and in Hindu communities around the world. The sant tradition is the only one in medieval and modern India that has successfully crossed some barriers between Hindu and Muslim blocks. Julius J. Lipner asserts that the lives of many Hindus have been leavened by the religious teachings of the sants, which he describes as liberating.[3]

The Sant Mat tradition refers to the necessity of a living human master, which is referred to with honorific titles such as satguru, or perfect master.[7]

Similar movements

Classical Gnostics,[8] medieval Sufi poets such as Shams Tabrizi, Jalal al-Din Muhammad Rumi or Hafez, as well as Sindhi poets, are considered to have many similarities with the poet-sants of Sant Mat.[9]

The Radha Soami movement in North India is regarded as a repository of the tradition of the Sants and their teachings, as well as their approach to religious endeavours, and presents itself as a living incarnation of the Sant tradition. The most notable being Radhasoami Satsang Beas, situated on the banks of the river Beas, whose current living master is Gurinder Singh. According to Mark Juergensmeyer, that claim is also made by the Kabir-panthis, the Satpanthis, the Sikhs and other movements that continue to find the insights from the Sant tradition valid today.[10]

Prem Rawat and the Divine Light Mission (Elan Vital) are considered to be part of the Sant Mat tradition by J. Gordon Melton, Lucy DuPertuis, and Vishal Mangalwadi, but that characterization is disputed by Ron Geaves.[11][12][13][14] The 20th century religious movement Eckankar is also considered by David C. Lane to be an offshoot of the Sant Mat tradition.[15] James R. Lewis refers to these movements as "expressions of an older faith in a new context".[16]

See also


  1. ^ a b Linda Woodhead; et al., eds. (2001). Religions in the modern world: traditions and transformations (Reprint. ed.). London: Routledge. pp. 71–2. ISBN 0-415-21784-9.
  2. ^ Schomer, Karine, The Sant Tradition in Perspective, in Sant Mat: Studies in a Devotional Tradition of India in Schomer K. and McLeod W. H. (Eds.) ISBN 0-9612208-0-5
  3. ^ a b c Lipner, Julius J. Hindus: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices (1994). Routledge (United Kingdom), pp. 120-1 . ISBN 0-415-05181-9
  4. ^ Gold, Daniel, Clan and Lineage amongst the Sants: Seed, Substance, Service, in Sant Mat:Studies in a Devotional Tradition of India in Schomer K. and McLeod W. H. (Eds.). pp. 305, ISBN 0-9612208-0-5
  5. ^ Hees, Peter, Indian Religions: A Historical Reader of Spiritual Expression and Experience, (2002) p. 359. NYU Press, ISBN 0-8147-3650-5
  6. ^ Vaudeville, Charlotte. "Sant Mat: Santism as the Universal Path to Sanctity" in Sant Mat: Studies in a Devotional Tradition of India in Schomer K. and McLeod W.H. (Eds.) ISBN 0-9612208-0-5
  7. ^ Lewis, James P. (1998). Seeking the light: uncovering the truth about the movement of spiritual inner awareness and its founder John-Roger. Hitchin: Mandeville Press. p. 62. ISBN 0-914829-42-4.
  8. ^ For Sant Mat's affinities with Classic Gnosticism, see: Davidson, John, 1995, The Gospel of Jesus. Davidson, The Robe of Glory. Diem, Andrea Grace, The Gnostic Mystery. Tessler, Neil, Sophia’s Passion, on-line.
  9. ^ Alsani, Ali. Sindhi Literary Culture, in Pollock, Sheldon I (Ed.) Literary Culture in History (2003), p. 637–8, University of California Press, ISBN 0-520-22821-9
  10. ^ Juergensmeyer, Mark. The Radhasoami Revival pp. 329–55 in Sant Mat: Studies in a Devotional Tradition of India in Schomer K. and McLeod W. H. (Eds.) ISBN 0-9612208-0-5
  11. ^ Melton, J. Gordon, Encyclopedia of American Religions
  12. ^ DuPertuis, Lucy. "How People Recognize Charisma: The Case of Darshan in Radhasoami and Divine Light Mission" in Sociological Analysis: A Journal in the Sociology of Religion Vol. 47 No. 2 by Association for the Sociology of Religion. Chicago, summer 1986, ISSN 0038-0210, pp. 111-124.
  13. ^ Mangalwadi, Vishal (1977). World of Gurus. New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House Pvt. Ltd. p. 218. ISBN 0-7069-0523-7.
  14. ^ Geaves, Ron. "From Divine Light Mission to Elan Vital and Beyond: an Exploration of Change and Adaptation" in Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions Vol. 7 No. 3. March 2004, pp. 45–62. Originally presented at 2002 International Conference on Minority Religions, Social Change and Freedom of Conscience (University of Utah at Salt Lake City). At Caliber (Journals of the University of California Press)
  15. ^ Lane, David C., "The Making of a Spiritual Movement", Del Mar Press; Rev. edition (December 1, 1993), ISBN 0-9611124-6-8
  16. ^ Lewis, James R. The Oxford Handbook of New Religious Movements p. 23, Oxford University Press (2003), ISBN 0-19-514986-6

Further reading

  • Barthwal, Pitambar Dutt. The Nirguna School of Hindi Poetry: an exposition of Santa mysticism, Banāras: Indian Book Shop, 1936.
  • Bokser Caravella, Miriam. The Holy Name, Beās: Radha Soami Satsang Beas, 2003. ISBN 978-81-8256-029-1
  • Bokser Caravella, Miriam. Mystic Heart of Judaism, Beās: Radha Soami Satsang Beas, 2011. ISBN 978-93-8007-716-1
  • Davidson, John (1995). The Gospel of Jesus, Shaftesbury, Dorset: Element, 1995. ISBN 1-904555-14-4
  • Davidson, John. The Robe of Glory: An Ancient Parable of the Soul, Element, 1992. ISBN 1-85230-356-5
  • Gold, Daniel (1987). The Lord as Guru: Hindi Sants in North Indian Tradition, New York: Oxford University Press, 1987. ISBN 0-19-504339-1
  • Ināyat Khān. The Mysticism of Music, Sound and Word, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1988. ISBN 81-208-0578-X
  • Juergensmeyer, Mark (1991). Radhasoami Reality: The Logic of a Modern Faith, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-07378-3
  • Kirpal Singh. Naam or Word. Blaine, Washington: Ruhani Satsang Books. ISBN 0-942735-94-3
  • Lorenzen, David N. (1995). Bhakti Religion in North India: Community Identity and Political Action. New York: SUNY Press. ISBN 978-0-7914-2025-6.
  • RSSB. Surat Shabad Yog or Radhasoami.
  • Maleki, Farida. Shams-e Tabrizi: Rumi's Perfect Teacher, New Delhi: Science of the Soul Research Centre, 2011. ISBN 978-93-8007-717-8
  • Puri, Lekh Rāj, Mysticism: The Spiritual Path, Beās: Radha Soami Satsang Beas, 1964, 2009. ISBN 978-81-8256-840-2
  • Schomer, Karine & William Hewat McLeod, eds (1987). The Sants: Studies in a Devotional Tradition of India, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1987. Academic papers from a 1978 Berkeley conference on the Sants organised by the Graduate Theological Union and the University of California Center for South Asia Studies. ISBN 81-208-0277-2
  • A Treasury of Mystic Terms, New Delhi: Science of the Soul Research Centre. ISBN 81-901731-0-3
  • Baba Jaigurudev [1]
  • Dera Sach Khand Ballan [2]
Baljit Singh (Sant Mat)

Sant Baljit Singh (born October 27, 1962) is a sant and spiritual master in the Sant Mat lineage of contemporary saints.

Initiated by his master, Sant Thakar Singh, in 1998, he began work as a master on February 6, 2005. His teachings include the esoteric practice of listening to the sound current, shabda, nāma, or word manifestation of God and address the problems of finding self-knowledge and God knowledge.

Sant Thakar Singh presented Baljit Singh as his definitive and only successor in a speaking event videotaped before a live audience of about 1.5 million devotees in Pimpalner, India on February 6, 2005.

Contemporary Sant Mat movements

Contemporary Sant Mat Movements are esoteric philosophy movements active in the United States, Europe, Latin America, and especially India. These movements assert that Sant Mat shares a lineage with Sikhism and contains elements of thought found in Hinduism, such as karma and reincarnation. They further assert that Sant Mat also contains elements found in Sufism and has inspired and influenced a number of religious groups and organizations. They refer to this spiritual path as the "Science of the Soul" or ‘Sant Mat’, meaning ‘teachings of the saints’. More recently it has been described as "The Way of Life" or "Living the Life of Soul." It incorporates a practical yoga system known as Surat Shabd Yoga.

Contemporary Sant Mat movements claim to incorporate a personal and private path of spiritual development in the common tradition of mystics past and present. They discuss the irrelevance of rituals, priestly class, mandatory contributions, or compulsory gatherings.

Dadu Dayal

Dadu Dayal (Hindi: दादूदयाल Dādūdayāl, 1544—1603) was a poet-sant from Gujarat, India, a religious reformator which have said against formalism and priestcraft. "Dadu" means brother, and "Dayal" means "the compassionate one".

He was reputedly found by an affluent business man floating on the river Sabarmati. He later moved to Naraina, near Jaipur Rajasthan, where he gathered around himself a group of followers, forming a sect that became known as the Dadupanth.This organization has continued in Rajasthan to the present-day and has been a major source of early manuscripts containing songs by Dadu and other North Indian saints. Dadu's compositions in Braj language were recorded by his disciple Rajjab and are known as the Dadu Anubhav Vani, a compilation of 5,000 verses. Another disciple, Janagopal, wrote the earliest biography of Dadu.Dadu alludes to spontaneous (sahaja) bliss in his songs. Much of the imagery used is similar to that used by Kabir, and to that used by earlier Sahajiya Buddhists and Nath yogis. Dadu believed that devotion to God should transcend religious or sectarian affiliation, and that devotees should become non-sectarian or "Nipakh". He has something to say about that:

Dadu had 100 disciples that attained samadhi. He instructed additional 52 disciples to set up ashrams, 'Thambas' around the region to spread the Lord's word. Dadu ji spent the latter years of his life in Naraiana, a small distance away from the town of Dudu, near Jaipur city. Five thambas are considered sacred by the followers; Naraiana, Bhairanaji, Sambhar, Amer, and Karadala (Kalyanpura). Followers at these thambas later set up other places of worship.

Divine light

In theology, divine light (also called divine radiance or divine refulgence) is an aspect of divine presence, specifically an unknown and mysterious ability of God, angels, or human beings to express themselves communicatively through spiritual means, rather than through physical capacities.


Eknath (1533–1599) was a prominent Marathi sant, scholar and religious poet of the Varkari sampradaya. In the development of Marathi literature, Eknath is seen as a bridge between his predecessors—Dnyaneshwar and Namdev—and the later Tukaram and Ramdas.

Jai Gurudev

JaiGuruDev was the name used by Tulsidas Maharaj, a religious leader in northern India. He was imprisoned for 20 months during a period of political unrest in 1975 and led the Doordarshi political party in the 1980s and 1990s, unsuccessfully campaigning for election to the Indian national parliament. He died in 2012 at an unconfirmed age of 116.


Kabir (IAST: Kabīr) was a 15th-century Indian mystic poet and saint, whose writings, according to some scholars, influenced Hinduism's Bhakti movement. Kabir's verses are found in Sikhism's scripture Guru Granth Sahib. His most famous writings include his dohas or couplets.

Kabir is known for being critical of both Hinduism and Islam, stating that the former was misguided by the Vedas, and questioning their meaningless rites of initiation such as the sacred thread and circumcision respectively. During his lifetime, he was threatened by both Hindus and Muslims for his views. When he died, both Hindus and Muslims had claimed him as theirs.Kabir suggested that True God is with the person who is on the path of righteousness, and thus considered all creatures on earth as his own self, and was passively detached from the affairs of the world. Kabir's legacy survives and continues through the Kabir panth ("Path of Kabir"), a religious community that recognises him as its founder and is one of the Sant Mat sects. Its members are known as Kabir panthis.

Kabir panth

Kabir Panth (Path of Kabir) is a Sant Mat philosophy based on the teachings of Kabir. It is based on devotion to him as one guru as a means to salvation. Its adherents are from many religious backgrounds as Kabir never advocated change of religions but highlighted their limitations.

Radha Soami

Radha Soami, or Radhasoami Satsang, is a religious organization founded by Shiv Dayal Singh in 1861 on Basant Panchami Day in Agra, India. It derives its name from the gopi Radha and Soami which refers to Krishna as swami, or as "lord of the soul" according to the Beas group of Radhasoamis.The Radhasoamis, states Mark Juergensmeyer, are considered in Punjab as an offshoot of Sikhism and can also be considered a part of Hinduism because they share their cultural outlook, some practices and theological concepts such as karma, yoga (shabd) and guru. However, they are also different from Hindus and Sikhs because they reject the concept of a sacred scripture, rituals such as Karah Parshad and pilgrimage gatherings and ceremonies. The Radhasoamis are a religious fellowship that accepts saints and living gurus from anywhere.The movement started in Agra, its contemporaneous headquarters are in Beas, with parallel branches found in India and outside India. There are over 30 different Radhasoami groups in the world. Competing Radhasoami groups have headquarters elsewhere such as in Dayalbagh, Agra.

According to Pierluigi Zoccatelli, there were an estimated 3 million Radhasoami followers worldwide in 2004, with many subsects based on the Guru. Of these, the Radha Soami Satsang Beas is the largest and it had 2 million followers. Other subsects and movements influenced by Radhasoami include Divine Light Mission, Eckankar, Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness, Science of Spirituality and others. Some of these groups have tried to distance themselves from the other. Succession upon the death of previous guru has been a source of controversies and schism in the Radhasoami movement since the beginning.

Radha Swami Satsang, Dinod

Radha Swami Satsang, Dinod (RSSD) is an Indian spiritual organisation with its headquarters in Dinod village in the Bhiwani district of Haryana state. It promotes the Radha Swami faith that was started by Shiv Dayal Singh on Basant-Panchami day (a spring festival) in January 1861. The Radha Swami Satsang at Dinod (RSSD) was founded by Tarachand.

The present master of Radha Swami Satsang, Dinod is Kanwar Saheb.


Ramananda (IAST: Rāmānanda) was a 14th-century Vaishnava devotional poet saint, in the Ganges river region of northern India. The Hindu tradition recognizes him as the founder of the Ramanandi Sampradaya, the largest monastic Hindu renunciant community in modern times.Born in a Brahman family, Ramananda for the most part of his life lived in the holy city of Varanasi. His year of birth or death are uncertain, but historical evidence suggests he was one of the earliest sants and a pioneering figure of the Bhakti movement as it rapidly grew in north India, sometime between the 14th and mid 15th century during its Islamic rule period. Tradition asserts that Ramananda developed his philosophy and devotional themes inspired by the south Indian Vedanta philosopher Ramanuja, however evidence also suggests that Ramananda was influenced by Nathpanthi ascetics of the Yoga school of Hindu philosophy.An early social reformer, Ramananda accepted disciples without discriminating anyone by gender, class, caste or religion (he accepted Muslims). Traditional scholarship holds that his disciples included later Bhakti movement poet-sants such as Kabir, Ravidas, Bhagat Pipa and others, however some postmodern scholars have questioned some of this spiritual lineage while others have supported this lineage with historical evidence. His ideas also influenced the founding of Sikhism in 15th century, and his verse and he are mentioned in the Sikh scripture Adi Granth.Ramananda was known for composing his works and discussing spiritual themes in vernacular Hindi, stating that this makes knowledge accessible to the masses.

Sant Kirpal Singh Ji Maharaj

Sant Kirpal Singh (6 February 1894 – 21 August 1974) was a spiritual master (satguru).

Singh was born in India, in a simple rural house, in the western part of Punjab which now belongs to Pakistan. He earned his living as a government officer until his retirement, then moved to Delhi where he founded his spiritual school, Ruhani Satsang, with its headquarters at Sawan Ashram.

He was the President of the World Fellowship of Religions, an organization recognized by UNESCO, which had representatives from all the main religions of the world. He wrote numerous books, many of which have been translated into numerous languages.

His basic teachings consist in establishing contact with God into expression power, called Word in the Bible, and Naam, Shabd, Om, Kalma, and other names in the other scriptures. Singh believed that the discipline of universal character (defined as the Path of the Masters (Sant Mat), Meditation on the Divine Word, or Yoga of the Sound Current (Surat Shabd Yoga) was at the spiritual base of all enduring religions.

Sant Rajinder Singh Ji Maharaj

Sant Rajinder Singh Ji Maharaj (20 September 1946 in Delhi, India) is the head of the international non-profit organization Science of Spirituality (SOS), known in India as the Sawan Kirpal Ruhani Mission. To his disciples he is known as Sant Rajinder Singh Ji Maharaj. SOS has hundreds of thousands of members worldwide. Sant Rajinder Singh Ji Maharaj is internationally recognized for his work toward promoting inner and outer peace through spirituality and meditation on the inner Light and Sound.


Shabda, or Śabda, is the Sanskrit word for "speech sound". In Sanskrit grammar, the term refers to an utterance in the sense of linguistic performance.


Simran (Punjabi: ਸਿਮਰਨ, Hindi: सिमरण, सिमरन) is a Punjabi word derived from the Sanskrit word स्मरण (smaraṇa, "the act of remembrance, reminiscence, and recollection") which leads to the realization of what may be the highest aspect and purpose in one's life. It is the continuous remembrance of the finest aspect of the self, and/or the continuous remembrance (or feeling) of God, thus used for introducing spirituality. This state is maintained continuously while carrying out the worldly works outside.According to an interview of Rabltaoj founder Mr. Kunal Anand,Simran is the name of virtual love who comes like a fairy in his life and goes like an angel and He believes that she is the reason behind Rabltaoj company.

Sirio Carrapa

Sirio Carrapa (born 12 May 1952 in Borgagne) is an Italian teacher and practitioner of mysticism and Surat Shabd Yoga in the Sant Mat tradition. He was a disciple of Kirpal Singh and Ajaib Singh, and he is acknowledged as a spiritual Master ("Sant" or Satguru), carrying on the work of his Masters.

Surat Shabd Yoga

Surat Shabd Yoga or Surat Shabda Yoga is a type of spiritual yoga practice in the Sant Mat tradition.


Surdas (IAST: Sūr, Devanagari: सूर) was a 16th-century blind Hindu devotional poet and singer, who was known for his lyrics written in praise of Krishna. They are usually written in Braj Bhasa, one of the two literary dialects of Hindi.

Surdas is usually regarded as having taken his inspiration from the teachings of Vallabha Acharya, whom he is supposed to have met in 1510. There are many stories about him, but most consideringly he is said to be blind from his birth. He is said to have become foremost among the poets the Vallabha Sampradaya designates as its Aṣṭachāp (eight seals), following the convention that each poet affixes his oral signature called chap at the end of each composition. However, the absence of Vallabha Acharya from early poems of Surdas and the awkward story of their meeting suggests that Surdas was an independent poet.He was a blind by birth[as said].

The book Sur Sagar (Sur's Ocean) is traditionally attributed to Surdas. However, many of the poems in the book seem to be written by later poets in Sur's name. The Sur Sagar in its present form focuses on descriptions of Krishna as a lovable child, written from the gopis' perspective. Surdas was a great religious singer.


Tukaram, also referred to as Sant Tukaram, Bhakta Tukaram, Tukaram Maharaj, Tukoba and Tukobaraya, was a 17th-century Hindu poet and sant of the Bhakti movement in Maharashtra, India. He was part of the egalitarian, personalized Varkari devotionalism tradition. Tukaram is best known for his devotional poetry called Abhanga and community-oriented worship with spiritual songs known as kirtans. His poetry was devoted to Vitthala or Vithoba, an avatar of Hindu god Vishnu.

Sant Mat
Sant Mat

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