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definition - Eckankar

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Eckankar or ECKANKAR is a new religious movement founded in the United States in 1965. It focuses on spiritual exercises claimed to enable practitioners to experience what its followers call "the Light and Sound of God." The personal experience of this spiritual Light and Sound is a primary goal of the teaching. It claims to provide a personal, unique and individual spiritual inner path to understanding of self as soul, and development of higher awareness "consciousness" and God.

According to the Eckankar glossary, the term Eckankar means "Co-Worker with God".[1] "Eckankar" derives from Ekankār or Ik Oankār (Sanskrit Eka Omkāra), a name for God given by Guru Nānak and the very first word of the Mūl Mantra (recited everyday by Sikhs), the Japjī Sahib, and the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh holy scriptures).[2] Since 1985 followers of Eckankar have described it as "The Religion of the Light and Sound of God". Prior to 1985, Eckankar was known as "The Ancient Science of Soul Travel," "The Science of Total Awareness," and "A Way of Life".

ECK is another word for the Holy Spirit, also known as the Audible Life Current, Life Force, or Light and Sound of God.[3]

Eckankar's headquarters are in Chanhassen, Minnesota (southwest of Minneapolis). The Eckankar Temple, an outdoor chapel, an administrative building, and the ECK Spiritual Campus are located at this site.



The leader of Eckankar is known as the Mahanta,[4] the Living ECK Master. According to Eckankar doctrine, the Living ECK Master is respected, but not worshiped, by followers of Eckankar and is seen as a spiritual guide for their own spiritual progress. Paul Twitchell founded Eckankar in 1965 as the Mahanta, the Living ECK Master and led it until his death in 1971. Darwin Gross (spiritual name: Dap Ren) then became the Mahanta serving until 1981. On October 23, 1981, Harold Klemp became the Mahanta and is the current spiritual leader of Eckankar. Klemp expelled Gross from Eckankar in 1983. Some groups, in particular AKATHA [3] acknowledge Paul Twitchell, but claim that Darwin Gross and Harold Klemp where figureheads but not true Masters.[5]


One of the basic tenets is that Soul (the true self) can leave the body in full consciousness and travel freely in other planes of reality.[6] Eckankar emphasizes personal spiritual experiences as the most natural way back to God.[7] These are attained via "Soul Travel", shifting the awareness from the body to the inner planes of existence.[8]

Certain mantras or chants are used to facilitate spiritual growth. One important spiritual exercise of Eckankar is the singing or chanting of HU. The HU has been used in the Sufi and other mystical traditions, and is viewed in Eckankar as a "love song to God". In American English, it is pronounced like the word "hue" in a long, drawn-out breath, and is sung for about 20 minutes.[9] ECKists sing it alone or in groups.[10] ECKists believe this practice allows the student to step back from the overwhelming input of the physical senses and emotions and regain Soul's spiritually higher viewpoint.[11]

Dreams are regarded as important teaching tools, and members often keep dream journals to facilitate study.[12] According to followers of Eckankar, dream travel often serves as the gateway to Soul Travel[13] or the shifting of one's consciousness to ever-higher states of being.

Eckankar teaches that "spiritual liberation" in one's lifetime is available to all and that it is possible to achieve Self-Realization (the realization of oneself as Soul) and God-Realization (the realization of oneself as a spark of God) in one's lifetime.[14] The membership card for Eckankar states: "The aim and purpose of Eckankar has always been to take Soul by Its own path back to Its divine source."

The emphasis has shifted away from out-of-body experiences to expansion of awareness through experiencing God's love in everyday matters. The final spiritual goal of all ECKists is to become conscious "Co-workers" with God.[15][16]

The Shariyat-Ki-Sugmad, which means "Way of the Eternal", is the holy scripture of Eckankar. The Shariyat,[17] as ECKists call it, is a set of two books that tell of spiritual meaning and purpose as written by the Mahanta, the current head of Eckankar.[18] Some of the key beliefs taught in the Shariyat-Ki-Sugmad include Soul Travel, karma, reincarnation, love, Light and Sound, and many other spiritual topics. ECKists believe Sugmad is the endless source from which all forms were created, and that the ECK, the Sound Current, flows out of Sugmad and into lower dimensions.[19]

The Shariyat-Ki-Sugmad is a set of two books and may now be considered scripture of Eckankar, however there are also a series of Satsang writings, that are available with yearly membership in Eckankar. There are Satsang classes available to study discourses with others, as well as individually.[20]

ECKist corporate claims to exclusive rights to Sanskrit and Hindi religio-cultual terms, such as ek, Ekankar, mahanta, Satsang, vairagi, among others, are not taken seriously in the academe and scholarly milieus.

  Spiritual leader

  Harold Klemp

Sri Harold Klemp is currently the Mahanta, the Living ECK Master. His spiritual name is Wah Z. Eckankar always has a living master. Harold Klemp has authored numerous books, articles and discourses about the teachings of ECK. Audio and video recordings are available of his talks. He grew up on a Wisconsin farm, attended divinity school, and was a member of the Rosicrucian Order. In the 1960s he began studying the teachings of ECK. After years of rigorous spiritual training he became the Mahanta, the Living ECK Master in 1981.[21] "He has the ability to act as both the Inner and Outer Master for students of Eckankar."[22] Many students of Eckankar report uplifting and life changing encounters with the inner Master, Wah Z, through dreams, spiritual exercises, soul travel experiences, and other means.[23] "His teachings lift people and help them understand their own experiences in the Light and Sound of God.".[24] His teachings have helped people around the world find greater spiritual freedom and love.[who?] "As the Living ECK Master, Harold Klemp is responsible for the continued evolution of the Eckankar teachings."[25]


Although Twitchell founded Eckankar in 1965, ECKists claim that the basis for the Eckankar teachings dates back to the beginning of human life.[26]

According to Doug Marman, Twitchell sourced many modern and ancient religious teachings in his creation of the Eckankar teaching, but possible sources appear to be Sufism (Jalaluddin Rumi) and a little-known teaching in India called "The Parent Faith"[clarification needed].[27][28]

Eckankar's headquarters was originally in Las Vegas, Nevada. Under the leadership of Darwin Gross, the organization was moved to Menlo Park, California in 1975. In 1986, Harold Klemp moved the base of operations to Minnesota, where it remains today.[29]

Eckankar was founded as a business; however, the Panel of Administrators urged Twitchell to conform to usual standards, and the teaching was later registered as a non-profit religious organization and U.S. federal trademark. Eighteen years later, in 1983, Harold Klemp changed it to a recognized religious institution. Currently, Eckankar is accepted as a religion by the U.S. Army.[30]


Primary to the teaching is the belief that soul can leave the body. Also, the concepts of karma and reincarnation help to explain situations in life.[31]

The beliefs that individuals are responsible for their own destiny and that their decisions determine their future are important concepts to Eckankar. Eckankar students meet in open public services and classes to discuss personal experiences, topics, books and discourses.[32]

According to the U.S. Department of State (International Religious Freedom Report for Côte d'Ivoire 2008), the current Nigerian branch of Eckankar describes its beliefs as "a syncretistic religion founded in 1965 in Nigeria that sees human passion as an obstacle to uniting a person's divine qualities".[33]

  Current status

Eckankar's 50,000-square-foot (4,600 m2) main "Temple of ECK"[34] was dedicated in Chanhassen, Minnesota on October 22, 1990. As of late 2007, the largest capacity Eckankar Temple was in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria, with a total capacity of 10,000.

The Eckankar "EK" symbol appears on the list of Available Emblems of Belief for Placement on Government Headstones and Markers by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.[35]

  Ceremonies and rites

There are few personal requirements to be an ECKist; however, certain spiritual practices are recommended. Chief among these is daily practice of the "Spiritual Exercises of ECK" for 15–20 minutes.[36] The most basic ECK spiritual exercise is singing the word "HU",[37] an ancient name for God, for upliftment and spiritual experiences. A wide variety of spiritual exercises are offered, and members are encouraged to create their own. There are no dietary requirements, taboos, or enforced ascetic practices. Eckankar does not require potential members to leave their current faith to join.

There are a number of ceremonies an ECKist can experience as part of the teaching:

  • ECK Consecration Ceremony : Celebrating the entrance of the young and infant into Eckankar, and new life in the Light and Sound of God.
  • ECK Rite of Passage : Celebrating the passage from youth into adulthood, usually around thirteen.
  • ECK Wedding Ceremony : Celebrating the marriage bond as two ECKists commit their lives to one another before God.
  • ECK Memorial Service : Honors the journey of Soul and welcomes It into the worlds beyond the physical.[38]

In Eckankar's original form, the Consecration Ceremony, Rite of Passage, and Memorial Service did not exist. Sri Harold Klemp, the Living ECK Master, added them later.

ECKists celebrate a spiritual new year on October 22. There is no organizational celebration of personal anniversaries, such as birthdays of the leaders.

  ECK Masters

ECKists believe contact with Divine Spirit, which they call the ECK,[39] can be made via the spiritual exercises of ECK and the guidance of the living ECK Master. It is held that the ECK Masters are here to serve all life irrespective of religious belief. The main Eckankar website offers this list of Masters: Official Eckankar Masters List[40]

  1. Gopal Das
  2. Fubbi Quantz
  3. Kata Daki
  4. Lai Tsi
  5. Paul Twitchell
  6. Rami Nuri
  7. Rebazar Tarzs
  8. Towart Managi
  9. Yaubl Sacabi

  Related groups

Several groups claimed to carry on the original teachings of Paul Twitchell and Eckankar. Sri Darwin Gross (now deceased) used the name Ancient Teaching of the Masters (ATOM), after being precluded from using the Eck terminology, Sri Paul Marché claims to carry on for his Master, Sri Darwin Gross using the name Dhunami [4], after being precluded from using the ATOM terminology. Other claimants include AKATHA [5] -- and Timothy Arnold / Sri Kahtifji (The Mahaji) respectively.[41] John-Roger's Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness appears to have split from the main body of Eckankar, though Gross and Marché claim to be preserving the originality of the teachings. Sri Kahtifji[42]. John-Roger / Roger Delano Hinkins (2nd initiate) denies any connection to Eckankar beyond having once been a student of Paul Twitchell.[citation needed] More recently, former ECKist Ford Johnson formed a spiritual organization based on the idea that one does not need a master or spiritual guru to achieve spiritual enlightenment.[43][44] Other former ECKists and their groups, like Sri Michael Owens's "The Way of Truth: Path to God Realization"; Sri Michael Turner's "Yahoo group";[45] Sri Gary Olsen's "MasterPath";[46] ex-6th initiate Jerry "Sur Toma" Mulvin's THE DIVINE SCIENCE OF LIGHT AND SOUND; and Evan Pritchard (author, From the Temple Within) could be seen as individuals and organizations that maintain Eckankar-like cosmogonies.[47] All these groups along with Eckankar were founded in the United States in the twentieth century.

David C. Lane, a philosophy professor, discusses the phenomenon of those American teachers.[48] Lane suggests these might be seen more traditionally as an organic continuum or an historical school of "American Shabd" teachings, rather than a "splintering" of any movement. Lane is already distinguished in this particular subject[citation needed] for his research from the late 1990s concerning perceptions of distortions, plagiarism and concealment involving author Paul Twitchell during the first three decades of Eckankar's existence.

The current leader of Eckankar has stated that members should feel free to leave Eckankar unbounded by guilt or fear.[citation needed]

  Claims of Plagiarism

After Twitchell's death in 1971, David C. Lane published a book[49] that claimed some of Twitchell's Eckankar books contained passages from other authors' books without proper citation. Lane claims Twitchell's The Far Country contains plagiarism (of With a Great Master in India[50] and The Path of the Masters by Julian Johnson of the Radha Soami Satsang Beas).

Eckankar states that Twitchell's role was that of "master compiler", saying;

Master Compiler [6]

The high teachings of ECK had been scattered to the four corners of the world. The different masters each had parts and pieces of it, but they attached little requirements, or strings, to it: You must be a vegetarian, or you have to meditate so many hours a day if you want to really be a true follower on the path to God. And this was wrong for our day and age. It was geared for another culture.

Paul gathered up the whole teaching and took the best. Though it may be a strange thing to say, in this sense I see him as a master compiler. He gathered the golden teachings that were scattered around the world and made them readily available to us. So now we don't have to feel that we must spend ten or fifteen years in an ashram in India, sitting around in the dust with the flies, or locked in a walled-up little cell to keep our attention from the outside world, in order to live the spiritual life.

In 2007, Doug Marman, an Eckankar High Initiate, published The Whole Truth, a biography of Paul Twitchell, refuting these claims made by Lane.[51] The information is highly detailed and examines the criticisms point by point through verifiable historical references. Marman also examines the rarity of respectful dialog in an age of criticism.[52] In relation to this book, Twitchell's widow, Gail Twitchell, has written "...finally, someone got the whole thing right ... Paul's work [put in] in the proper perspective."[53][unreliable source?] Twitchell biographer and paranormal researcher Brad Steiger[54] has also written and commended this work as the most researched and authoritative to date on Paul Twitchell.[unreliable source?][55]

Lane has published commentary on Marman's book, reaffirming his view that Twitchell tried to cover up his past associations and plagiarized several authors.[56]


Internet communities of disgruntled ex-members and critics, such as the Usenet newsgroup alt.religion.eckankar, include criticisms dating back more than ten years. Eckankar has been labeled a cult by some, including both former members and Christian writers.[57] ECK Masters are given respect but not worshiped by members of Eckankar.[58]

  See also


  1. ^ A Glossary of ECK Terms
  2. ^ The word ek or ik is the number one in Hindī, Urdu, and Pañjabī (from the Sanskrit eka). "Ekankar", when written in the Gurmukhī alphabet, is one of the two symbols of the Sikh faith (the other being the khanda) and can be found written or drawn on Sikh items, motor vehicles, and in all Sikh edifices and Gurdwāra (temple).
  3. ^ Klemp, Cosmic Sea of Words, 55
  4. ^ a word from the Prakrit languages of South Asia; mahant in modern Hindi. Mahanta is also a common surname in the state of Assam in India. Several public figures had this name, including Heerak Jyoti Mahanta, Nani Mahanta, and most notably, Prafulla Kumar Mahanta.
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ "Each and every man, when properly trained, is able to detach himself from the physical body while still living in that body in perfect health, and then travel to all parts of the outlying universe. Everyone has this ability whether he is conscious of it or not." -- Johnson, 1939, Path of the Masters, page 343 (1985 pagination). Cited by Twitchell, Far Country chapter 5 page 117, Tiger's Fang ch 8 p 118, Spiritual Notebook pb ch 11 p 182
  7. ^ Eckankar: Spiritual Exercise of the Week
  8. ^ Klemp, Harold. A Cosmic Sea of Words. Eckankar, 2009, p.187.
  9. ^ In Arabic, it is pronounced like the English word who.
  10. ^ Klemp, Harold. A Cosmic Sea of Words. Eckankar, 2009, p.59.
  11. ^ Klemp, Harold. A Cosmic Sea of Words. Eckankar, 2009, p.59.
  12. ^ Dreams: A Source of Inner Truth
  13. ^ Soul Travel
  14. ^ In Indian philosophy, liberation during one's physical existence is called jivan mukti. A major work on this theme is Fort & Mumme, eds, 1996, Living Liberation in Hindu Thought, Albany: SUNY Press.
  15. ^ Shariyat-Ki-Sugmad, Books One and Two, 65
  16. ^ Klemp, Harold. A Cosmic Sea of Words. Eckankar, 2009, p.59.
  17. ^ The word shariyat or shariat, used mostly in South Asia, is a derivative of the Arabic Sharia.
  18. ^ Klemp, Harold. A Cosmic Sea of Words. Eckankar, 2009, p.59.
  19. ^ Klemp, Harold. A Cosmic Sea of Words. Eckankar, 2009, p.59 & p.187 & p.194.
  20. ^ Klemp, Harold. A Cosmic Sea of Words. Eckankar, 2009, p.177.
  21. ^ Harold Bio Info
  22. ^ Klemp, A Modern Prophet, xii
  23. ^ Harold Stories
  24. ^ Klemp, A Modern Prophet, xii
  25. ^ International Who's Who of Intellectuals
  26. ^ Klemp, Harold. A Cosmic Sea of Words. Eckankar, 2009, p. 59.
  27. ^ Marman, Doug. The Whole Truth.
  28. ^ A huge corpus of works on the Light and Sound Path has been authored by Indian scholars, and also by Indian Light and Sound Masters Shivdayāl Singh (author of the Sar Bachan, Twitchell's "bible"), Sāwan Singh, Kirpal Singh (who initiated Twitchell into Surat Shabd Yoga in 1955), Charan Singh, Darshan Singh, and Rajinder Singh. Charan Singh's Thus Saith the Master (Beas: RSSB) mentions Paul Twitchell. In this book, a disciple queries the author how come an American named Paul Twitchell was giving out teachings from the Path of Sound and Light but did not call it Sant Mat. (Out-of-print; used copies available by online sales.) The publications of the Radha Soami Satsang Beas and Sawan Kirpal Ruhani Mission are readable and easily available. For in-depth and extensive academic discussions on the source of the Sound and Light Teaching, see: Barthwal, Nirguna School of Hindi Poetry (1936). Puri, Mysticism (1964). Schomer & McLeod, eds, The Sants (1987). Gold, The Lord as Guru (1987). Ināyat Khān, Mysticism of Music, Sound and Word. Davidson, Gospel of Jesus (1995). A handy browsers' introduction for beginners in this field of study is A Treasury of Mystic Terms by the Science of the Soul Research Centre, New Delhi. The Holy Siri Guru Granth Sāhibji is also a treasury of references to Sat Nām (True Name), the Sat Shabd (True Sound), the Sat Guru (True Master), and Sat Sang (True Company). Well-known historical mystics who were Living Masters of Sant Mat / Shabd Marg (Sound Path) include Kabir (d 1518), Guru Nānak (1469-1539), Ravidās (1414?-1540?), Dādū (d c1603), Dariyā (c1674-1789), Paltū (1710?-1780?), Sant Tulsī (c1760-c1843), Shivdayāl Singh (1818-1878), etc.
  29. ^ "'Soul Travelers' Move," San Jose Mercury News, 24 August 1986.
  30. ^ US Military approved gravestone markers
  31. ^ Klemp, Harold. A Cosmic Sea of Words. Eckankar, 2009, pp.186-187.
  32. ^ Klemp, Harold. A Cosmic Sea of Words. Eckankar, 2009, p.59.
  33. ^ Highlighted Google page mentioning Eckankar / US Department of State 2008
  34. ^ Eckankar: The Temple of ECK in Chanhassen, Minnesota, USA
  35. ^ Available Emblems of Belief for Placement on Government Headstones and Markers – Burial & Memorials
  36. ^ Klemp, Harold. A Cosmic Sea of Words. Eckankar, 2009, p.189.
  37. ^ "...sound Hu is the beginning and the end of all sounds... The Supreme Being has been called by various names in different languages, but the mystics have known him as Hu, the natural name not man-made, the only name of the Nameless, which all nature constantly proclaims. The sound Hu is most sacred... The word Hu is the spirit of all sounds and of all worlds, and is hidden under them all..." --Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan, quoted with proper attribution by Julian Johnson, The Path of the Masters, chapter 11, subchapter 5, page 381 (1985 pagination). Cited in Paul Twitchell's The Flute of God, chapter 6, page 75.
  38. ^ Klemp, Harold. A Cosmic Sea of Words. Eckankar, 2009, p.186.
  39. ^ A Glossary of ECK Terms
  40. ^ From a disinterested and scholarly view, however, it's important to understand that, excepting Twitchell, none of these masters are historical figures. Like Blavatsky's ascended masters of the Great White Brotherhood, there is no evidence from human history in any field of study to independently corroborate the historical existence of the ECK masters, other than the writings of Twitchell and his followers. "Gopal Dās" ("Servant of Gopal," i.e. Krsna), a common name in Vaisnavism, was the name of the first person initiated by Twitchell's guru Sant Kirpal Singh into the Sound and Light Path, but he was not a master.
  41. ^ Living Cosmos Santmat
  42. ^ Paul Twitchell Truth.com
  43. ^ The Truth Seeker
  44. ^ Higher Consciousness Society
  45. ^ Spiritual Freedom Satsang
  46. ^ MasterPath: Light and Sound is the Cutting Edge of Spirituality
  47. ^ Klemp, Harold. A Cosmic Sea of Words. Eckankar, 2009, p.59.
  48. ^ Introduction
  49. ^ [2]
  50. ^ Johnson, Julian. Beās: Radha Soami Satsang Beas, 1934, 1982, 1988, 1994. ISBN 81-8256-036-5
  51. ^ http://www.littleknownpubs.com spiritualdialogues.com
  52. ^ Marman, The Whole Truth
  53. ^ Spiritual Dialogs
  54. ^ Steiger is the official author of In My Soul I Am Free, Twitchell's authorised biography. However, the bulk of the book, maybe 90%, was written by Twitchell himself.
  55. ^ Spiritual Dialogs
  56. ^ master index
  57. ^ Internet Church of Christ – List of Cults and Religions N-Z
  58. ^ Meet Harold Klemp


  • Diem, Andrea Grace. The Guru in America. A survey of offshoots of Sant Mat and Twitchell’s religion in the USA, by a religious scholar.
  • Johnson, Ford. Confessions of a God Seeker: a journey to higher consciousness, ONE Publishing.
  • Johnson, Julian. The Path of the Masters: The Science of Surat Shabd Yoga: The Yoga of the Audible Life Stream, France, 1939; USA, 1957; Beās, East Puñjab: Radha Soami Satsang Beas, 1972, 1985, 1993. ISBN 81-8256-019-5 (Old copies of early editions available on Amazon.)
  • Klemp, Harold. A Cosmic Sea of Words, The Eckankar Lexicon. Minneapolis: Eckankar,1998. ISBN 978-1-57043-307-8
  • Klemp, Harold. A Cosmic Sea of Words, The ECKANKAR Lexicon. Minneapolis: Eckankar, 2009. ISBN 978-1-57043-286-6
  • Klemp, Harold. A Modern Prophet Answers Your Key Questions about Life. Minneapolis: Eckankar, 2010. ISBN 1-57043-142-6.
  • Klemp, Harold (1989). The Secret Teachings, Crystal, Minnesota: IWP. Mentions Kirpal Singh. ISBN 0-88155-082-5
  • Lane, David Christopher, The Making of a Spiritual Movement: The Untold Story of Paul Twitchell and Eckankar, Del Mar, California: Del Mar Press, 1990. ISBN 0-9611124-0-9 (Soft copies free online at David Lane's website. See http://web.archive.org/web/20091026233847/http://geocities.com/eckcult/)
  • Marman, Doug (2007) The Whole Truth, The Spiritual Legacy of Paul Twitchell, Ridgefield, Washington: Spiritual Dialogs Project. ISBN 978-0-9793260-0-4
  • Twitchell, Paul (1971). The Far Country, Menlo Park: IWP; Minneapolis: Eckankar. ISBN 0-914766-91-0
  • Twitchell, Paul (1988). The Shariyat-Ki-Sugmad, Books One and Two, Menlo Park: IWP; Minneapolis: Eckankar.

  External links

  Plagiarism discussion



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