Reading Tara Singh

The first time I read Tara Singh it was as if a prism had been held to the light. Suddenly, the light was both simpler and more complex. It was both lovelier and deeper. It is hard to write about that moment – even now – without resorting to cliche. The feeling that a gap in my understanding of spiritual matters had been bridged – maybe better to say “could” be bridged – was pervasive. Here at last was the teacher.

A Course in Miracles is a difficult text on many levels. It is extremely abstract. Its origins invite wonder, skepticism and doubt in equal measure. And, at least for me, it is a tricky thing to bring into practice. With the course, it is sometimes easy to “talk the walk.” In fact, I think some very well-meaning people – me included – do just that.

My friends Jim and Judy – who run an ACIM study group in a nearby town – introduced me to Tara Singh by lending me their copy of Nothing Real Can Be Threatened. I read a few sentences – literally no more than a paragraph – and had to put the book down because it was like somebody had just dropped hot coals on my brain. This man understood. He got it. And more than that – he could communicate it.

I believe firmly that our study or practice of the course is always deeply personal. It meets us where we are – spiritually, psychologically, emotionally. This is what makes it sacred. Our true spiritual undertakings are always of the heart – heaven joined to heart, if you will – and it is what is missing in the rigid formalism of most organized religions. Before I read Taraji, my own experience of being a course student often felt at odds with what I read or saw in other students’ experience. It wasn’t that they were wrong or dishonest. It was simply that their experience did not resonate with mine.

In part, that was because my interactions with ACIM quickly moved away from a sort of Christian-centered practice. Initially, I was praying to the same God and having the same idealistic and reverential relationship with Jesus that I had since I was old enough to toddle into Catechism classes. God was a stern taskmaster that I feared and Jesus was the son I could never be. I simultaneously wanted their love and hated them for making me want it and not just giving it.

But after a few months of sincere practice – doing each lesson, reading and re-reading the text, and exploring some of the work of the more popular teachers – there was a shift. In fact, I remember very clearly being out in the fields with the dogs, looking at the stars at about 4 a.m.. It was the spot in our walks where I always stopped to say a prayer. A beautiful quiet place! And I realized as I began to pray that the course was not positing any external intelligent being running the show. God was not separate, judgmental, or bent on revenge. That was my fantasy. It was not what the course was teaching.

I was dizzy because I realized that everything I had been thinking – for my whole life to that point, because I have always been thinking and relating and wondering about God and Jesus and Spirit and all of that – was wrong. Or rather, that the course was gently asking me to consider another possibility. And because I found the course so comforting and practical, I was able to consider that perhaps what it was suggesting was true. Or more helpful.

That is quite a place to be, really. The trusted edifice crumbles, disappears like dust and you find that you are still standing. No lightening bolts from the sky, no cosmic hand to pluck you off the earth and drop you into a fiery abyss . . . How is it possible? And the new space feels . . . familiar. It was simultaneously terrifying and edifying. On the one hand, I felt as if I were betraying some old ideal – that Abrahamic God in the sky. I felt as if I had all this wasted time on my hands, a lifetime, maybe more. And yet . . .

I felt lighter, too. I felt happier, in a natural and serious way. Though I would – and sometimes still do – yo yo around with these things, in that moment I shrugged off a long-standing naivete and assumed a new responsibility for my spiritual condition. I am aware of how arrogant that sounds. All I can say is that it was true and that all its truth really did was show just how far I have to go.

This was also the moment where I realized that I needed a community – not famous writers and their best-selling books, not popular bloggers – but real people. I looked into some local study groups, found the one run by Jim and Judy and maybe fifteen minutes after we started talking, Jim lent me his copy of Nothing Real Can Be Threatened.

Life takes care. We are always being lifted.

*

I want to be careful about what I say regarding Tara Singh. I am not really qualified to talk about the man. And as regards his writing – which has become so important to me – I want only to be respectful. I was devastated when I learned that he had died years earlier, making it impossible to take a workshop with him. Being introduced to Mr. Singh . . . It was one of the few times in my life that I actually felt as if I would drop everything, walk a thousand miles and so forth just to study with this one person. You know that Buddhist story about the young man who cuts his hand off to get the attention of the man he wishes to study with? Only Tara Singh has ever made that story make even the slightest bit of sense. I do not take teachers or guides lightly. But Tara Singh was different right away. Just a few sentences and I knew. He felt that real to me, that essential.

So I have made do, then, with reading his work. There is quite a body of it and you can find it at good used book stores. You can visit the Joseph Plan Foundation, the organization he started which is continued by many of his students. They do periodic retreats, which perhaps I will attend someday. But right now – for the past year or so – it has been his books and sometimes his videos and audio recordings. There are plenty of them and not one has felt dispensable or unnecessary.

What resonates in particular for me is Taraji’s insistence on bringing A Course in Miracles to application – that is, rescuing it from the inclination to talk it to death, to render it merely an idea. That is a big risk for me, as I am a skilled talker and prone to using that gift defensively. There is no real compromise on this point in his work – nor is there, really, in the course. You cannot see both worlds and so must choose one. Period. Decide! Knowing that, embodying that, Tara Singh’s work is largely free of the contemporary softness and reassurance that characterizes a lot of new age and self help writers of our day. I don’t know what he was like in person, but in his writing he is deeply focused and precise. A sense of urgency and possibility is present in every word. He perceives the transformational power of the course and wants to share it, extend it.

He is also able to readily step beyond the Christian mythology that serves as framework on which the essential ideas of the course are settled. This was so important to me – having the ideas in the course translated or clarified in a way that released them from dependency on old ideas. I say that carefully – the Christian mythology matters to me because I know it and am familiar with it – but too big an investment in that language, in those symbols becomes a limitation. As the course points beyond itself, I was being asked to grow or evolve beyond myself, but until I read Tara Singh it was not altogether clear to me how I was going to do that. There is a liberating quality to his teaching that is both grounded in the course and yet reaches far beyond it. It is rare and electric.

I do not think Tara Singh is for everyone – nor does he need to be. Nor, probably, would he have wanted to be! I am committed to this idea that there are many trains running to the station of Truth and we need only ride one, and no one is better or superior to another. Pick the one thing that will teach you you need no thing! For me, Taraji has been a challenging and comforting – and above all, useful – guide to ending our Separation from God, coming to stillness, seeing the Kingdom, and finding Peace.

What more can we ask from a teacher?

*

Over the years, I have come back to this post – tweaking it a little here, taking something out there. One’s opinion changes – one’s intellect sees things this way and then that. But what is eternal never changes.

My devotion to Tara Singh as a teacher – as an temporal embodiment of the grace inherent in A Course in Miracles and, by extension, all of us, has never wavered. It is of that which is eternal. I have come to appreciate the rigor of his dialogues, the tenacity with which he refused to succumb to the comforting – yet dysfunctional – patterns of thinking that were always old, always of the past.

When one reads Taraji closely, one is led to Krishnamurti, and through their combined insights to the great Indian saints – Sri Aurobindo, Sri Maharshi, Sri Anandamayi Ma . What a gift. It is like a flower that continues to grow, smaller shoots emerging around it, a veritable garden of wisdom and delight. One realizes that they are always being led, that the wisdom of God is never not active, and sees at last the truth of “I need do nothing.” It is given. It is always given.

Thank you for reading, friend, and for sharing the way with me a little while. I am grateful for your companionship, as I am grateful for Taraji’s, all of us together remembering the wholeness that we never left.

{ 18 comments… add one }
  • Gina December 8, 2011, 4:10 pm

    Dear Sean,

    During prayer-meditation time today, I asked for some direction to the path/role God intends for me. Minutes later, I get connected to your site: I am a student of ACIM and I have been writing since I was a small child. How intriguing to find the two subjects together.

    I have never made a single attempt to publish one thing. That will change…when I change my mind. 🙂

    I keep reading your making mention of the text being a hard read – Of course, you’re not the only one making that declaration – But I wonder if you have experienced what I have: I did find the text to be frustrating and arduous at times, but not since doing the workbook. Now it’s much more like reading a letter from an old friend. Has this at all been your experience?

    I enjoy your site,
    Godspeed,
    Gina

    • Sean December 8, 2011, 5:28 pm

      Hi Gina,

      Thank you for reading – and writing. Writing about ACIM and related spiritual stuff has been helpful to me – often clearing cobwebs, clarifying certain ideas, seeing the evolution of one’s thinking . . . it is mostly helpful in terms of making contact with fellow students, even just briefly. I am very grateful for that.

      Well, my experience of reading the text of A Course in Miracles seems to evolve and shift. At times it’s like another language, at times it’s like what you so aptly call “a letter from an old friend.” Lately, I have been enjoying my reading but finding it as if I am seeing it – or understanding it – for the first time. Very strange. But it is a dynamic text and I think we “get” what we need and hopefully come back for more. It is a process – both the reading and study and the awakening that flows from it.

      I find the workbook lessons essential – I can’t imagine approaching the text without them. But, again, sometimes they shed light and sometimes they merely seem to add to the fog. Certainly without them the text would be too abstract for application (this is what I think Tara Singh understood so well). I was talking with a friend recently about this – this growth, this slow understanding of the text, this sense that you get it only to learn that there’s another layer to “get . . . ” And it can be frustrating, but then if we just accept that process without judging it (or ourselves, as in “I’m a good ACIM student” or “I’m a bad ACIM student”) then it seems to pass quicker.

      Thanks again for reading & dropping a line. The line between writing publicly and writing privately is an important one to honor. I have been very public at times – and with certain projects – and deeply private with others. I truly believe that we are guided in this – led to place the writing where it is most needed. But, like forgiveness, we are always writing for ourselves. Thank you!

      Love,
      Sean

  • sean mc geary September 1, 2012, 1:27 pm

    sean you have given me a new way of seeing.
    iwas still seeing through and using my old christian teaching to measure this course.Iwould love to attend a workshop given by you
    just as you would have liked you to have done with Tara Singh.anyway i have your web sight.I am grateful for your vision .
    you articulated my dumb feelings and validated them Iknow you know what imtryingto say sean

    • Sean Reagan September 1, 2012, 1:56 pm

      Thank you Sean! I appreciate the kind words very much. It has been a real process for me to let go of – in a loving way – the Christian imagery and mythology that underlies so much of the course. I am still finding my way with it. Tara Singh continues to be an inspiring teacher to me – the one course writer that I return to over and over and whose words move me in my own practice.

      As i said in the post, I think this is a deeply personal path – the course meets us where we are and delivers what we need. I don’t mean that in a light way at all. It has been my experience and continues to be. All we really need to do is be attentive and honest and continually deepen our relationship with the teacher of stillness.

      Thanks again, Sean – your comment was truly a bright spot this morning!

  • Carol November 25, 2012, 10:10 pm

    Hi Sean – just wanted to let you know I very much relate. Though I stay very close to KW’s teachings (like to keep my life simple the older I get ;), also resonate with Singh as well. I still have some cassettes purchased in 1997 or thereabouts – still as powerful now as they were when I first encountered them. Best wishes!

    • Sean Reagan November 26, 2012, 2:03 pm

      Hi Carol – thanks for reading! It’s always nice to hear from someone for whom Tara Singh has been a gift and blessing.

      And yes, keeping life simple . . . a good thing indeed, if easier said than done!

      Sean

  • debbie simpsom December 10, 2012, 2:38 pm

    i love tara singh book a gift for all mankind. it is just wonderfuf. is there a on line reading group of his material?

    • Sean Reagan December 12, 2012, 5:33 am

      Hi Debbie,

      Yes! That is a wonderful book – so simple and so inspiring all at once. I have ready my copy to shreds. It is held together by a rubber band now. Great book.
      I am unaware of any online reading groups for Taraji’s work. His students – or readers maybe – are somewhat dispersed, not only in terms of geography but just generally. He seems to demand some interior attention that doesn’t always translate to a lot of online activity or even presence. I have always felt sad that he died before I began to study him. I would have loved to attend a workshop.
      I can say that the people at the Joseph Plan do workshops a couple times a year – I think once in Florida and once outside New York City. I have not gone for many reasons but I think one can make contact with a lot of students of Taraji there.
      Thanks for reading and writing!

  • val green December 28, 2012, 12:58 am

    I met Tara Singh on two separate occasions. Both week long retreats held at Asilomar in Pacific Grove California. All I can say is that his presence was penetrating. He shared the gift of silence that broke through the barriers of thought! He would sit for 40 days in silence to prepare for the retreats.

    • Sean Reagan January 1, 2013, 11:43 am

      Hi Val,

      Thank you for sharing that. I am always grateful to hear from people who studied with Tara Singh. What a gift! His devotion and attention come through his writing in such a strong way, I can only imagine how it must have felt in person.

      Thank you again!

      Sean

  • Haley March 24, 2013, 4:36 am

    Sean,I have something from Taraji that will be of interest to you. Please email me and I will try send it to you.

    • Sean Reagan March 24, 2013, 4:17 pm

      Thanks for reading Haley . . . sent you an email . . . Sean

  • Xavier Nathan August 1, 2013, 9:49 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I have ordered the book, Nothing Real Can be Threatened by Tara Singh, today. I am looking forward to immersing myself in it.

    • Sean Reagan August 1, 2013, 9:59 am

      You’re welcome, Xavier. Reading Singh entirely changed my perception & application of ACIM. I know he is not for everybody – and that is as it should be – but still. He was a truly gifted & beautiful teacher.

      Thanks, as always, for reading!

      Sean

  • Silvanus Slaughter September 23, 2013, 9:28 pm

    Thanks, Sean. I have been re-visiting Singh’s “DIALOGUES ON..” for the past two weeks. He makes it much easier for me to at least approach “application”, versus my typical intellectual wanderings on the horizontal place. Peace, brother.

    • Sean Reagan September 24, 2013, 3:58 am

      Yeah, he has a clarity that radiates . . . thank you for being here –

      Sean

  • Reed Harrel September 5, 2014, 7:57 pm

    Sean: I was able to sit with Taraji on only one occasion. It was one of his week long retreats in the Catskills. For me, he was as gentle as a warm breese. So gentle you’re not aware of that breese moving you in the direction of quiet and peace. To be in his presence is something I will never forget. There was no compromise in him, but, at the same time, his compassion would flow over you like warm water washing away your concerns and “knowings”. He often spoke of being an “authentic human being” To this day, I am still learning the depth of that phrase.
    I will always consider him my teacher although I don’t think I was worthy to be his student.

    • Sean Reagan September 16, 2014, 11:13 am

      Thank you, Reed, for sharing this. He was a remarkable man – even though I encounter him largely in writing, his presence remains powerful and healing. I am very grateful to have been blessed with him as a teacher, even at a distance. Thank you so much for reaching – I am always touched by those who share my devotion to Tara Singh.

      Love,
      Sean

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