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 curriculum 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 thrown a handful of hot coals into my brain. Tara Singh 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 journeys are always of the heart – heaven joined to heart, if you will – and it is this that is missing in the rigid formalism of most organized religions. Before I read Taraji, my own experience of being an ACIM 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 away freely.
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 A Course in Miracles 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 and walk a thousand miles barefoot 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 you 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 A Course in Miracles 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.
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,
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!
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
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!
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!
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!
i love tara singh book a gift for all mankind. it is just wonderfuf. is there a on line reading group of his material?
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!
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.
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,I have something from Taraji that will be of interest to you. Please email me and I will try send it to you.
Thanks for reading Haley . . . sent you an email . . . Sean
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.
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!
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.
Yeah, he has a clarity that radiates . . . thank you for being here –
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.
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.
I just wanted to say hi and share how much I love Tara Singh too! I just discovered his books and have been having the same feelings as you about how profound he and his message are. I enjoyed your post.
Thanks for reading & sharing, Amy. Yes, Tara Singh was a clear and deep thinker and teacher. I feel very grateful that my path intersected with his. He provided a helpful context for thinking about – and living with – A Course in Miracles at a time when I really needed it. He was a complex man, of course, and my thinking with respect to him has shifted over the years, but my gratitude remains strong.
Thanks again for reading & sharing!
I share your profound gratitude for experiencing Taraji and his teachings.
I have been studying his readings, and then ACIM directly since the late 70’s or very early 80’s. I think I first encountered his writing in a monthly publication put out by The foundation of Inner Peace. I had so hoped to attend the one year non – commercialized retreat but lived clear across the country and was expecting my 3rd child the month it began.
All these years later, I truly believe , like ACIM, he was a GIFT to us all.
I say a prayer of his each morning:
God bless all who breathe and walk this earth and share God’s creation with me.
I would like to share something with you if you want to e-mail me directly.
Thank you so much for sharing, Gerry. I am always grateful to meet folks whose lives have been touched by Tara Singh. He was truly a gift and one that continues to give in many ways.
I’ve been “studying” ACIM for a couple of years, and I’m really struggling with it. I find it difficult to discuss with its “followers” because most of them are like fundamentalist Christians insisting that the Bible or, in this case, the “Course” is the unquestionable, and errant word of God. I wish I could find someone who would have an intellectually honest conversation about it.
Thanks for sharing Francis. What does it mean to you to be “intellectually honest?” How do you know when somebody is being that kind of honest with you vs. another kind? And how do you know when you are? Why do you trust your judgment in any case – at least on issues like these?
I think those are good questions that have helped me understand, integrate and also not get hung up on A Course in Miracles which, it turns out, is kind of a helpful way to approach it. If it’s fun and interesting and generally works then go for it. If not, there’s always another method/tradition/ritual/guru/etc. And apparently we can shake the dust off our sandals for lifetimes before we get tired of the distractions, brave Golgotha, face down the crucifixion and go down on the resurrection. Messy stuff! Complex stuff!
And only sometimes amenable to intellectual discourse . . .
Yes, the devotion of many course students can feel fundamentalist, and that energy can be off-putting. I feel it; I’ve done my share of it. But also, sometimes, that’s just how the Holy Spirit reminds us – symbolizes for us – that it’s okay to give in, say yes, surrender to the sacred welter, et cetera. I mean don’t if you don’t want to, but also . . . if you’ve been studying for years and it hasn’t worked and you still haven’t quit then maybe a) the course does have something to offer and b) you need to enter a really uncomfortable place in order to start making sense of what it’s offering and how to accept it . . .
I think Ken’s approach the course qualifies as intellectual and thoughtful, and a lot of his followers more or less hold to that standard. Ken was a bit provincial and stiff for my taste but I admired him and read everything he wrote at least once. I know what it’s like to think you’re the smartest guy in the room while simultaneously knowing that thinking you’re the smartest guy in the room is basically the whole problem in a nutshell. Ken thought long and hard about the course, changed his mind a lot (without being sufficiently transparent about those shifts in thinking), and produced and shared a library’s worth of reflective material, which I think on balance is mostly helpful. I mean, Ken is maddening in a lot of ways but then who among us isn’t? Or wouldn’t be, given the chance?
I don’t think of Tara Singh as being especially intellectual or academic, though saying so probably reflects a lot of my own biases and inclinations. His course-based teaching changed my life, which is a thing that happens, and is nice when it happens, but still. It’s not like he was a Supreme Enlightened Being. And his followers seem a little less focused than he was. Tara Singh was just helpful at a specific juncture in my learning – his insights matched up to my potential at the time and so a fructive classroom was born and I tried to be a good student in it. I found Singh helpful – in a deep structural psychological way – in terms of surrendering my stranglehold on intellect, letting go of treasured beliefs, saying yes to stuff that was scary, putting my body into my practice, and being good-humored about the parts that didn’t make sense and which I seemed doomed to be confused about forever. He was fond of quoting Helen Schucman who emphasized to him that the course was meant to be lived, not studied. And more than any other teacher, it was Tara Singh who blessed A Course in Miracles with arms and legs. His whole practice was grounded in this passage from the Gospel of Matthew:
Other writers/thinkers that have helped my think more critically about the course and course principles: David Bohm (Thought as a System, On Dialogue), Humberto Maturana (“Biology of Love”), anything by Eriugena, which I only pretend to understand (or mostly only pretend) . . . some of Frances Vaughan’s and Roger Walsh’s work. There are others probably but they’re slipping my mind at the moment.
Thanks again for sharing and letting me think through – and read through – this issue again. It haunted me for a long time, and doesn’t so much anymore. Keep in touch, Francis, as time and inclination allow.