2 things are becoming increasingly important for us humans; and I could argue almost critical: how we treat animals and moving more to a “we” consciousness. Perhaps another time I’ll write about animals. Today it’s “we”.
I had a dream once where I ‘woke’ to find a big soft web about a foot above my face. I touched it and understood that it extended everywhere, connecting all of us. It was most real. We are all connected but we lose sight of this. I’ve always liked the word ‘collective’. I once belonged to an artist collective, a small group of us with similar vision. And this is what we do, we seek out others that support and reinforce our world view and we try to commune, to keep them close.
Here’s what I think though, after spending the past few years of my life mostly living in ashrams…I don’t believe that ‘community’ works. Perhaps initially, the energy of intention is high. As Amma says, there is a web of love connecting all of the members. In time, however I think communities corrupt. The same structures and hierarchies develop, and the initial purpose and ideals become diluted. I’ve come to believe that the idea of ‘community’ is very seductive to us, but I think it is an illusion, especially on the path of yoga.
Swami Sivananda would say, “Never start an ashram”. In the early days in Rishikesh, India, there was an area called “Swarg Ashram” (it’s still called that today). Here various sadhus and swamis could be close to the Ganga and have a small hut in which to sleep and to conduct their meditation etc. They would take their food at alms houses, but basically remained in solitude and quite independent. Swami Sivananda with his desire to serve often took care of these sadhus, and even started a charitable dispensary to better service the sick. As disciples found him and sought to remain close to him, it became necessary to have a place in which to do this, so he moved across the Ganges to where the Divine Life Society ashram stands today. However he spent a great deal of time trying to avoid the attention. A life of solitude and sadhana appealed to him most, but his service of others in the end became his focus.
In a way it’s ironic that I’m talking about the importance of community, however stating that it’s an illusion, especially when the ‘sovereign’ vibration has probably not permeated my consciousness as deeply as it has at present.
So, if we can’t physically manage ‘community’, then how can we encourage ‘we’ consciousness? Good question. What I observed is that those who stay in a community for a long time often get caught in the structures. The people with love and energy to offer others are often the new members, coming in fresh. Those progressing spiritually are doing so only due to personal sadhana (spiritual practice), and not through any real connection to community. The irony? Community allows you to live off the grid; your focus can move beyond paying the rent. But, and it’s a big but, you find the same hierarchies, structures that you find outside in the community. Outside I can make a choice to avoid them. In the community, I often cannot.
‘Satsangha’ is the idea upon which the community is founded. It means “company of the wise” or likewise seeking. In my experience it became an opportunity for manipulation of members in the name of spiritual principles; to control behaviour. We could sit in silence together and chant together, but the moment we opened our mouths it failed.
At the end of the day we need to serve others, truly be good to them, treating them like brother, sister, mother, child but to know that we do not grow spiritually by living in community, but only by doing sadhana.
So the Kielburgers are on to something important. Take teachers when they’re needed, but do the work alone, one step at a time.