The Eckankar religion is a new faith which originated in the United States in 1965. It focuses on spiritual exercises that enable adherents to experience “the Light and Sound of God”.
The personal experience of this spiritual Light and Sound is a primary goal of the teaching. It provides a personal, unique and individual spiritual inner path to understanding of self as soul,and development of higher awareness "consciousness" and God.
The term “Eckankar” is probably drawn from the Sikh term Ik Onkar.
Before 1985 the Eckankar Religion was described as “The Ancient Science of Soul Travel”. After 1985 it is known as “ The Religion of the Light and Sound of God”.
Paul Twitchell founded Eckankar in 1965.
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.
Eckankar claims an active membership base in more than 100 countries throughout the world, including the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia and Africa. 26,000 American Eckists were estimated in 2001 and 36,700 in 2004. Estimates from varying authors varies from 500,000, in 1972 to 50,000 or less in more recent years. Eckankar does not publish membership figures.
The faith teaches that the Soul can leave the body in full consciousness and travel freely in other planes of reality. Eckankar emphasized personal spiritual experiences as the most natural way back to God. These are attained via "soul travel", shifting the awareness from the body to the inner planes of existence.
Certain mantras 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 traditions, and is viewed as a "love song to God".
It is pronounced like the word "hue" in a long, drawn-out breath, and is sung for about 20 minutes, or until one passes-out. Eckists sing it alone or in groups. Eckists believe this practice allows the student to step back from the overwhelming input of the physical senses and emotions and regain Soul's spiritual higher viewpoint.
Dreams are regarded as important teaching tools, and members often keep dream journals to facilitate study. According to followers of Eckankar, dream travel often serves as the gateway to soul travel or the shifting of one's consciousness to ever-higher states of being.
The Shariyat-Ki-Sugmad, which means "Way of the Eternal", is the holy scripture of Eckankar. The Shariyat, 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.
Some of the key beliefs of the Eckankar Religion 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 world from which all forms were created, and that the ECK, the sound current, flows out of Sugmad and into lower dimensions.
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