24 April 2010

Satsang - The Importance of Spiritual Community

The path of spiritual awakening has often been called a solitary affair. And it is. It is only through our own desire and a willingness to act that we can enter the process of human spiritual transformation. Some have claimed that enlightenment is spontaneous, and perhaps for them it seemed to be so. But there can be no doubt that if at some time in the past (perhaps forgotten) an individual effort had not taken place, their would be little chance that nature would do it for us by Herself. That is just how it is in the matter of spiritual awakenings. "The Lord helps those who help themselves."

Even so, no one can become enlightened in a vacuum, though it might seem to be so. After all, in our essential nature we are unbounded awareness, and all that we see in this world is a reflection of energy playing in infinite empty space. That is our infinite empty space. All we must do is realize this through direct perception, and we are free – enlightened!

Easier said than done.

We all need some assistance. With a little help from our friends, the journey from limitation to infinite ecstatic bliss can be accelerated dramatically. In the end, we find it is has not been so far to go. We have only been traveling from here to here. But what a journey it is!

For the necessary assistance we have "satsang," which means, "association with truth." Some have interpreted satsang to mean association with a guru, or an enlightened one. It can't hurt. But does truth have such a limited address? Truth is all around us. It is hard to escape from truth, except by working hard to ignore it, which we all seem to have a knack for doing. We can find truth easily in nature, and in people who long to unfold it within themselves. No one is excluded from that company, for there is not a single person on this earth who does not long to expand in happiness, and this is a quest for truth also, no matter how well disguised. So satsang can also be seen in that broad way of communing with the higher vibrations found in nature and in all human seeking for the divine, whether it is called that or not.

One way or another, we who seek the truth will be drawn to people and places that are in resonance with that. And in doing so, an amplification occurs, an upliftment that affects everyone involved, and also the surrounding environment. So satsang means not only an association with truth, but an automatic expansion of its influence in seen and unseen ways.

As Jesus taught, when several are gathered in the name of truth, then the divine is there also. This captures the meaning of satsang, and the transformational power of spiritual community. It can occur in many ways.

Most who have been in a spiritual gathering, or any gathering committed to a higher purpose, have felt the energy that is created. It is a mystical thing when we feel our inner energies being quicken by our own desire (bhakti), amplified by the effect of an uplifting environment we have placed ourselves in. The increase in spiritual power created is exponential in relation to the size of the gathering. There is strength in numbers.

The energy enlivenment found in spiritual communities is not only mystical. It is practical. In such communities, access to spiritual tools and their effective application can also be increased. The tools of human spiritual transformation are down-to-earth, dealing with enhancing the functioning of our inner neurobiology. Our access to spiritual tools is important for moving forward on our spiritual journey. In the past, gaining access to such tools has not been easy. In fact, finding them could involve a lifetime of searching, and still coming up short.

Historically, satsang has often had little to do with the application of spiritual tools. Association with the wise was considered enough. But times have changed. It is no longer enough. The dimensions of satsang have expanded to include communities devoted to the widespread application of spiritual tools, and to supporting the resulting accelerated unfoldment in many individual practitioners.

The rise of the internet and instant worldwide communications have had a dramatic effect on spiritual seekers everywhere, providing many new avenues for finding spiritual community, and practical tools for furthering progress on the spiritual path. It has been found that distance is not a barrier to spiritual energy and the upliftment it provides. There are many spiritual communities that have formed through the internet that are dramatically affecting the progress of many around the world. This applies both to the energetics of awakening and healing, and to the practical business of making spiritual techniques available, and supporting practitioners in managing causes and effects in daily practice.

The internet is where AYP started, and it has evolved into a large loose-knit global community of practitioners. For most it is an informal association with others of like interest. Satsang is constantly occurring in such a diverse community, providing inspiration for practice, and the fostering of purification and opening on many levels around the world. Aside from the mystical quickening that comes from a spiritual community, there are many practical things that can be done, from the dissemination of spiritual practices and assistance in their effective application to the encouragement and support of programs for ongoing research, structured education, global and local meditation groups, retreats, and so on.

What does it all add up to? While each of us may be a lone practitioner sitting at home on our meditation seat before and after our normal daily activity, we know we have access to a worldwide community of similar practitioners for our mutual benefit and purpose. There is great power in this – the power to uplift life for each other and for everyone on the earth. Spiritual community is important. This does not obligate anyone. Yet, it helps everyone, even those who have never heard of a spiritual community. That is the beauty of it. The awakening of inner silence for one is the awakening of inner silence for all.

So wherever we are and whatever our practices may be, when the energies are dragging and we are feeling a bit stuck, it is a good time to reach out to others of like interest, whether it be in our local community, or through the many pathways that now exist on the internet. And it goes without saying that if we are overflowing with divine love, we can do much to help in any kind of community, spiritual or other, and particularly where we are right now. Spiritual radiance and sharing creates satsang wherever we happen to be. We gain enlightenment by giving it away in each moment.

We live in an age when no one has to be isolated spiritually. Everyone is entitled to choose their path and tread it as they see fit, knowing that ample resources and community support are available as needed. Good things are happening.

The guru is in you.

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