Spiritual Community

“Listen! I will tell you the fundamental cause of salvation. Satsang, association with the wise is the root cause of obliterating all suffering.” – the sage, Dattatreya.

  Satsang – meaning, being in the company of the wise – is a gathering together of people for the sake of experiencing their own truth and moving together into powerful states of mind, body and breath.

  For one who does not like joining a team of wearing the uniform, occupying the “we-space” comes with a certain degree of resistance. I have memories of watching a school group torment those outside of it. Later in life, I saw that associations and groups can create their own belief systems, jargon and cultures out of which barriers were erected to keep some in and others out. We are mammals and pack animals but unconsciously we can become a herd with bums pointed out and faces turned in away from others.

  Setting resistance aside, I have known spiritual growth and personal development in groups. Walking the picket lines, chanting Venceremos! while carrying banners in the street on International Women’s Day, were deeply moving moments connecting me with that state of unity and love which arises when we give ourselves fully to explore the highest human possibilities. Egos are set aside and the pain of separateness dissolves and becomes interconnectedness.

  It is obvious that humans are social creatures. The Buddha made the sangam – spiritual community – one of the three cornerstones of his path. Christ said, “When two or more are gathered in my name I am there.” 

  When we are part of a group which sees the intrinsic goodness in each and all, we support our mutual awakening. As Wavy Gravy, a 60’s activist said, we are all bozos on the bus. Coming together creates the conditions for the magic in the middle, where in the midst of discussion, wisdom begins to surface spontaneously. Insights are shared, sentences are finished by each other and common uplift is felt.

  Given that intention, it is best to have elders among the sangam; those who have done enough work to distinguish the group wisdom from group auto-suggestion.

  The group also needs to align itself with “awake” teaching or insights of the truly wise. There are many texts to employ; for example, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the Bhagavad Gita, the teachings of the Buddha and divine poetry such as Kabir or Rumi.

  Do it yourself: a satsang is both a practice and a state. A decision to have spiritual dialogue, some sublime words to spark insight and basic ground rules are enough structure to get you started. You might light a candle representing the Witness or Divine awareness. Meditate for a few minutes. Read a passage aloud; allow wisdom to surface. See that each speaks and all listen carefully. Have a journal close by for your own reflection. Close with a quiet moment or two.

  To contemplate a sacred text, start with a line. Something like St. Francis,

“The one you are looking for is the one who is looking.” 

  Each might be asking:

who or what is the one I am looking for?

what have I read or heard from reliable teachers about this?

how have I conceived the one I am looking for as a person or a state of being or a deity?

  Write everything that comes up.

  Then use a similar approach for the rest of the question:

who or what is the one who is looking?

Then go beyond the words. Do not always expect an answer in words. Tune in to the inner “feeling-space”.

  From that common inner space, the group can begin to exchange and speak the truth of each and the knowing of all. There is some of each of us in all of us. Knowing that from experience brings us out of our lonely separation into the Light of community and belonging.



Kelly Murphy is owner of a yoga studio in Nanaimo.