In Sanskrit sangha means “association,” “assembly,” “company,” or “community.” There are communities in neighborhoods, social communities, virtual ones, work or artistic communities, and even the community of ideas. The first community starts under the same roof and it’s called family. In life we usually join other ‘families’ that are not tied by blood, but by other bonds.
The most fundamental commonality is that we are human beings living on and sharing the Earth, who have the very same needs and drives. We have symbiotic relationships with each other and the Earth.
In the quest for meaning and the discovery of how we connect to the whole and how the whole connects to us, a lot of people commit to a search of greater depth and broader significance. This truly becomes a quest, and we begin to keep the company of truth.
In Sanskrit satsang is a gathering of those interested in the core truth or reality of existence. This truth within itself becomes a community, the company we keep, and it informs and changes us. Then there’s the company of similar minds and hearts, the people who are on a convergent path as ourselves.
Satsang is derived from sat, meaning truth or reality, and sangha (“sang” is an abbreviated form of the word sangha), meaning a gathering or community united by a common understanding, values and purpose.
While we’re working with terminology, sat in Sanskrit means truth, reality and/or ‘what is.’ Often it helps to understand when the opposite is known: Asat — opposite of sat: non-being, impermanent, false, unreal.
Sat — being, good, virtuous, chaste, the third word of the famous three words: om tat sat, refers to what is truly real, eternal and permanent, used to mean God or the soul.
Power is inherent in these words. There’s even more power in what they point to.
The word “community” has the meaning of “fellowship” in its origins. In this case, a fellowship of truth. Truth is strengthening and purifying. It clears the dross of living in a carbon-based form. Whether in solo practice, or a group setting when we sit, pray, meditate, intend, and share truth is multiplied.
Community derives its power from the conjoining of its seekers’ minds and hearts with truth, and each other. More multiplication at work.
A fellowship of practitioners. A sharing of truths common to life, nature and the cosmos.
In Buddhism, there are three “gems” that a Buddhist shows the greatest respect: the Buddha, the Dharma (the Buddha’s teaching), and the Sangha (the Buddha’s community). The Buddha knew that without community, the individual practitioner would face the hazards of the path unsupported and may not be able to continue, or fully develop.
Group practice creates a natural coherence. Meditation has been show to sync the two hemispheres of the brain, and also have the social and emotional benefit of feeling less isolated and separate. Whether it’s meditation or other spiritual practices, there’s an increase in compassion and understanding. Concentration and creativity improve. Meditation lowers blood pressure and reduces stress.
Meditating together increases the degree of Self-realization of each member of the group by the law of invisible vibratory exchange of group magnetism.
— Paramahansa Yogananda
While the brains of a group practicing together improve and change, let’s also remember heart energy. This previous post details the heart’s amazing capacities. Essentially, the heart is the most powerful generator of electromagnetic energy in the body, far exceeding the brain. The heart’s electromagnetic field also envelops every cell of the body, and extends out in all directions into the space around us.
The Greeks had a word for the heart’s ability to perceive meaning from the world: aisthesis… Aisthesis denotes the moment in which a flow life force, imbued with communications moves from one living organism to another. The word literally means “to breathe in.”
— Stephen Harrod Buhner
In community we breathe each other in. This begins by breathing ourselves in. We come to group practice from the foundation of solo practice. Group practice is an intensifier of solo practice. There we reflect and validate truth for each other. The truth is within us already. As we connect with it more and more and give it room to express in the world, we have to both protect and refine it. We have to broaden it and increase its reach.
Today, community is taking on added meaning and power in direct proportion to the escalation of our collective challenges in the world. The world has become literally smaller, not just in the way technology is erasing distance, but in the depletion of resources to sustain life. Thich Nhat Hanh has a penetrating and prescient take on our global status:
The next Buddha will not take the form of an individual. The next Buddha may take the form of a community; a community practicing understanding and loving kindness, a community practicing mindful living. This may be the most important thing we can do for the survival of the Earth.
The whole of humanity as an enlightened being, living and making choices in enlightened ways!
The scale of our crises is such that we have a lot of ground to recover fast, and simultaneously stop exacerbating and/or creating new ones. Community is a powerful way to come together in shared purpose and intention for the greater good. Small groups of people have historically been agents of change, and this is needed now too.
The greater possibility of spiritual community is its intrinsic ability to mainstream the very idea of spiritual living, its values, vision, and special way of externalizing truth.
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