Eckankar is a religious and spiritual
path, sometimes called the Religion of the Light and Sound of God. Its
name can be translated " co-worker with God". Eckankar members
are called ECKists or ECK chelas. ("Chelas" means
According to Eck teachings, they believe
they have ancient roots.
Unfortunately much knowledge was lost to history until Paul Twitchell (Paulji)
"rediscovered it." He founded Eckankar in 1965. Eckankar
followers believe that he studied under two Eck Masters: Sudar Singh in Paris
and India, and a elderly monk Rebazar Tarzs in Tibet. They believe that he
received the title of the 971st Eck Master from Tarzs in 1965, thus becoming the
latest in a series of Masters which began before recorded history. Some of the
past Masters are known historical figures; most have been solitary practitioners
or have taught small groups. Paul Twitchell apparently gained additional
knowledge from Kirpal Singh, an Eastern Guru, founder of the Ruhani Satsang
After Paul Twitchell's death in 1971,
Darwin Gross, the 972nd Eck Master became the Mahanta of Eckankar. (A Mahanta is
the spiritual leader of Eckankar, a "living manifestation of God").
Subsequently, Sri Harold Klemp (1942-) became the 973rd Eck Master in 1981; he
now heads the movement as its Mahanta.
Eckankar does not attempt to evangelize
the world by aggressively converting individuals to their religion. They do not
actively proselytize. However, they do advertise their presence and distribute
literature to interested persons.
Members generally sing or chant a
mantra for 20 to 30 minutes each day. HU (pronounced "hue") is a
common mantra; it is an ancient name for God, and is considered a love song to
Various spiritual exercises are
promoted by the organization: chanting, contemplation, meditation, singing,
trance work and visualization techniques are used to achieve soul travel. Travel
during dreams is an area of growing importance in the movement. Dreams are
regarded as an important teaching tool; a "look into the heavenly worlds".
Members are urged to keep a dream journal to facilitate study.
Worship Services consist of a readings,
singing "HU", silent contemplation and an open discussion. It "may
also include music, group singing and talks".
Initiations mark an individual's
spiritual progress within Eckankar. At the Second Initiation, one makes a
personal commitment. At the fifth initiation, one becomes a Mahdis (High
Initiate) and a member of the ECK clergy.
Members who have reached the Second
Initiation are urged to conduct a partial or full fast each Friday.
Eckankar considers abortion, divorce,
sexual orientation, and a decision to terminate life to be personal matters.
They discourage the use of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs. Many followers are
active in a community service.
They believe that Sugmad is a sacred name of God; God
is perceived as neither male nor female.
They believe an ECK Current connects every person
with the Heart of Sugmad. It flows from the Creator to the lower levels of
existence and then returns to God. It is often called the holy spirit.
ECK manifests itself in two forms:
an "Inner Sound",
the "Voice of god calling us home". The Sound may be
present as a sound of nature or as music.
an "Inner Light which is
a beacon to light our way". During spiritual exercises, the
light sometimes materializes as "brightness or colors on your
inner visual screen".
Eckankar believes in the duality of
the soul and body. The soul is the inner, most sacred part of an individual.
It is eternal, without beginning or end. It lives only in the present. One's
soul can exist and travel separately from the body and even from the mind.
A person is capable of exploring
other planes of existence, through Soul Travel. Unlike "Astral
Projection" which is taught by other spiritual traditions, Soul Travel
is not limited to the Astral Plane; it allows you to go further and explore
any of the god worlds.
Eckankar has a concept of Karma
which is somewhat similar to that found in Hinduism.
Through attachment to the five passions (anger, greed, lust, undue
attachment to the physical world and vanity) one's bad karma accumulates.
This requires a person to be reincarnated at death, in order have an
opportunity to work off the debt of karma in their next life. The goal of
Eckists is to pay off all of this accumulated debt and achieve
Self-Realization in their present life. Once this state is reached, at death
one need not return and spend another lifetime on earth. One is freed from
the endless cycles of reincarnation.
Eckankar is regarded by its
followers as the best (but not the only) path to God-realization.
Christianity is recognized as an alternate path that can aid a follower to
achieve a degree of enlightenment. Christians, and others, may join Eckankar
without renouncing their existing religion.