Kirpal Singh was born in Sayyad Kasran, a little village in the Punjab (now part of Pakistan ) on February 6, 1894. A lifelong search for God led him to investigate the claims of many Sufis, yogis and mystics ; but he remained sceptical and refused to take anyone as his Guru unless he had some direct proof of his competence. He prayed to God to manifest to him directly, without going through any human; his prayers were answered, and he began seeing the form of a bearded man, made of light, in his meditations. He did not recognize the form, and thinking that it was Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion, continued his meditation practices and abandoned his search, content that God had spoken to him. Seven years later, in 1924, he visited the town of Beas in the Punjab in order to spend some time on the banks of the Beas River . Someone asked him if he had come to see the Master. "No, is there any Master?" So, after enjoying the riverside (he dearly loved water, especially rivers) he went to the ashram nearby, and there, in the person of Baba Sawan Singh Ji, he met the same form on the physical plane that he had been seeing in his meditations for seven years. He was initiated the following day, and devoted the rest of his life to the practice of Surat Shabd Yoga, the spiritual discipline taught by Baba Sawan Singh.
He was never a monk or renunciate, however. Married at an early age, he had three children (one of whom died in infancy), and supported himself and his family by working for the Indian Government. Beginning as a clerk at a pittance wage, and with no college education, he worked his way up to as high a post as was available to a native Indian in those colonial days, with hundreds of employees under him. When he retired in 1947, he had won the love and respect of his Indian subordinates and British superiors alike; and for the rest of his days, he met all his personal needs from his pension, never taking a penny for himself from his disciples.
He sat at the feet of his Guru for 24 years, and very quickly penetrated deep within. By the early thirties, Baba Sawan Singh was mentioning his name to those who asked if he had any advanced disciples; by the late thirties, he had been assigned the job of writing Gurmat Siddhant , a two-volume spiritual classic in the Punjabi language which was, at Kirpal Singh's request, published under Sawan Singh's name. In the year 1939, he was asked by his Master to initiate 250 persons at the regular monthly initiation - an unprecedented honor for any of Sawan Singh's disciples, and one of the traditional ways by which a Master indicates - his successor. All through the thirties and forties, he held Satsang regularly at Lahore and Amritsar , and often gave discourses with his Master sitting by his side; as he used to say, "I talked to my Master and the people enjoyed !" In fact, he was holding Satsang on April 2 , 1948, at the Dera Baba Jaimal Singh - his Guru's ashram at Beas - when the news came that Baba Sawan Singh had died. Just the day before he had received the transfer of spiritual power through the eyes, which verifies and makes possible the continuance of the power from one human pole to another; he had previously, on October I 2, 1 947, been told by his Master that he would succeed him. At that time, he had begged him to stay on in the physical form and just give orders as he willed; but that prayer was not answered and now he was gone. Heavy of heart, he left for Rishikesh in the Himalaya Mountains with three close disciples (one of whom was Bibi Hardevi) and spent the next five months in almost continuous samadhi or absorption in God.
During this period, he adopted the traditional way of life of a sadhu or renunciate, removing his turban and letting his hair (uncut since birth, as is the Sikh custom) hang loose, and wearing a simple white dhoti. It was at this time that he met the Maharishi Raghuvacharya, then in his early nineties, who became his close friend and disciple. The Maharishi, who had penetrated into the astral plane by means of strenuous Ashtang Yoga practices involving pranayam, etc., at once recognized that here was a great soul indeed, and got up from the circle of disciples where he was sitting and bowed down before Kirpal Singh - thus demonstrating the greatness of both of them. Kirpal Singh in his turn always treated Raghuvacharya with respect and deference, even though the latter freely told everyone that Kirpal Singh was his Guru. Raghuvacharya died in 1971 at the age of 115; he was a pundit or Sanskrit scholar as well as a great yogi, and to see those two giants together was the sight of a lifetime.
Finally, having drained the cup of spiritual ecstacy and become one with his Father, he received the orders from within: "GO back into the world and bring My children back to Me." Returning to a newly independent India , still reeling from the shock of the secession of Pakistan and the unbelievable suffering that that entailed, he went straight to Delhi , the center to which the Punjabi refugees were pouring, and began his work there. By 1951, he had established Sawan Ashram on the outskirts of the city, and the satsangs were being attended by five thousand or more souls. His work continued to grow, with one expansion after another: in 1955, he made his first foreign tour, spending several months in the United States and Europe . This was the first time that a Saint of his stature had visited the West, and the first time that the Surat Shabd Yoga had been explained there by an authentic Master of the system. Four of the talks given by him during this tour are included in this volume, and they show the complete simplicity and clarity with which he presented these very profound concepts to an audience almost totally unfamiliar with Eastern thought; for in 1955, the recognition of the depth and relevance of Oriental ideas and spiritual practices that is now so all-pervading over here had barely begun. As a result of this tour, hundreds of Westerners took the initiation and began the practice of Surat Shabd Yoga; representatives were authorized to give the initiation instructions while the Master was physically absent (after prior sanction from him) so that the work could continue and grow; and small centers of disciples sprang up in most of the major cities of America and Europe. These disciples in turn influenced others, and the number of initiates began to grow steadily.
In India the work continued to grow at a headlong pace as the Master's reputation as a holy man who actually lived up to what he preached, and to what the scriptures said, grew more and more widespread. In 1957 he was elected President of the infant World Fellowship of Religions, an office he was to keep for fifteen years and four World Religions Conferences; finally resigning in 1971 after it became evident that nothing more could be accomplished in that direction. In I 962 he was awarded the Order of St. John of Jerusalem , Knights of Malta , for his spiritual and humanitarian work; the first non-Christian in history to receive this honor. On this occasion, Prime Minister Nehru sent for him to offer his personal congratulations; they had a long talk, and the Master's unofficial but intimate connection with the Prime Ministers of India began. (He advised both Prime Ministers Shastri and Indira Gandhi on several occasions, and they reciprocated by addressing the various Conferences presided over by him.)
In 1963, he made his second world tour, this time, as President of the World Fellowship of Religions, meeting national and religious leaders on their own terms and applying the healing gospel of love to the very thorny world of practical politics. He met Pope Paul VI, the Patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Churches , and man) European royalty and Government figures on all levels; and to them all he presented the idea of the unity of man. Side by side with his work on this level, he continued initiating seekers into the Surat Shabd Yoga and showing them the way Home.
As the work increased in the West and more and more seekers after truth were led to Kirpal Singh, many of them developed a strong yearning to study with him in India over an extended period of time, and to get to know him in a personal way. The first Western disciple to stay at Sawan Ashram was Ruse1 Jaque, an American writer, who spent six months with him in 1959. His poetic, sensitive report of his stay (Gurudev: The Lord of Compassion, published in 1 960, now out of print) did a great deal to encourage others to come and see for themselves what was there. And they did - a trickle at first, then more, until by the early '70's there were almost always forty or fifty Westerners in residence at the Ashram for periods ranging from three weeks to six months. During his last year, this number skyrocketed upward, as he, knowing he was leaving, threw open the gates and issued a general invitation to all his non-Indian disciples. Throughout the winter and spring of 1974 there were from two- to four-hundred disciples from countries outside of India consistently at his feet, in addition to the thousands of Indian followers who flocked to his door.
The final facet of his many-sided mission was born on February 6, 1970, when the concept of "Manav Kendra" was presented to the public. Manav Kendra means " Man Center " and as Kirpal Singh often explained, it was an ashram but more than an ashram. Dedicated to man-making, man service, and land service, the plan was to establish five of these centers throughout India - one each in the north, south, east, west, and center. Each center was to be eventually self-supporting and would serve as an agricultural example for the farmers in the area - combining traditional Indian methods with scientific know-how. Each center was also to include a free hospital, a free elementary school, a home for the aged, facilities for studying languages, and a library of comparative religion and mysticism, in addition to the esoteric instruction and "man-making" program that was to be the core. Two of the five centers were set up and functioning when Kirpal Singh left the physical body; the original Manav Kendra at Dehra Dun in the Himalayas where, during the years 1970 and 1971, he personally labored twelve hours a day to get it off the ground, was joined in 1973 by the second center at Baroda , near Bombay . Whether or not the other centers are established, and how well the existing centers function, is now up to his disciples.
On August 26, 1972, the Master left on his third and final world tour. This time he was greeted by huge crowds and followed everywhere he went by approximately a thousand disciples, most of them young people who had been initiated in the last few years. Although his body was finally showing signs of deterioration and his extraordinary vigor and staying power was at last diminishing, he nevertheless put in fourteen- or fifteen-hour days throughout the tour, gave countless talks, saw thousands of people in private interviews, and initiated more than two thousand new disciples before the tour ended on December 31 in Rome .
The outward climax of his mission was the calling of the great World Conference on Unity of Man in February 1974, seven months before his death. With invitations to spiritual and government leaders in India and throughout the world, the Conference was attended by two thousand delegates and approximately fifty thousand non-delegates; among the distinguished visitors who responded to the Master's call were the Venerable Nichidatsu Fuji of Japan, Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan of the International Sufi Order, Yogi Bhajan, Acharya Sri Tulsi Ji, Archbishop Angelo Fernandes of Delhi, and the Prime Minister (Mrs. Indira Gandhi), Vice President, Defense Minister, and Foreign Minister of India, along with many others. This great Conference, an extension of the idea of Manav Kendra, had an electrifying effect on all those who took part in it; again, it is up to his disciples and those in whom he planted the basic idea of unity to carry on this work.
His last major effort on behalf of unity took place at the Kumbha Mela in Hardwar , where, on April 12 , 1974, he organized a large number of sadhus and holy men into the National Unity Conference, pledged to work together for the elimination of religious strife and the economic uplift of the poor people of India . This was the first time in the known religious history of India that anyone had been able to persuade the traditionally independent sadhus to join together for a common good; as he later said, "It was very difficult to bring them to sit together."
At the great Bhandara in honor of his Master (Sawan Singh), at the end of July 1974, Sant Kirpal Singh gave his last Initiation, giving NAAM to 1,067 souls who had been accepted by him for the inner experiences of Light and Sound. A few days later, on August 1, he addressed a session of the Indian Parliament at the request of its members - the first time in history that a spiritual leader was invited to address the Parliament. Three weeks later, on August 21, his assigned work on earth completed, he departed to join his Master.