The Importance of Year-End Sangha

I remember once when I was in my 20’s, I told a friend that someday I might just “check out,” meaning I might disappear into a cave somewhere and meditate.

Of course, it never happened –I had educational, professional, and financial obligations to fulfill. If I was born in India, where withdrawing from society to go meditate isn’t such a weird thing, it might have been different. But in this incarnation, I’m born in the West, where the focus is external (material things, accomplishments, experiences) rather than internal (meditation, contemplation, inner peace).

I did, however, pursue my spirituality in a variety of ways—meditation, yoga, visits to India, seva, study, fellowship, and Kirtan. It wasn’t until over 10 years later, as I worked to integrate my spirituality into my everyday life, that I realized the power of the Group.

“Where two or more are gathered. . . “ as the saying goes. Any kind of group, no matter how small, supports and amplifies spiritual energy. In addition, a sustaining, supportive, like-minded community —  or sangha – is essential to one’s personal spiritual development.

My guru, Swami Kaleshwar regularly put us in groups to do important spiritual processes, knowing that the collective energy would help smooth out the “bumpiness” — and even bring up interpersonal issues/blocks we needed to work through. “I like to work in groups,” he would say, slyly.

Humans regularly and organically find themselves in groups that support their personal and spiritual development. Your family? Yep. Church? Most definitely. Yoga class or a Kirtan event? Of course. Any Twelve-Step meeting, by design, is a healing group where a Higher Power is present.

Yes, meditation, contemplation, retreat, withdrawal is a key aspect of our spiritual practice. It’s important to regularly withdraw from the senses and the external world and enter into the Divine Reality. But it is not an escape from our day-to-day lives, our relationships, the groups, families, and communities that need us. Even Jesus returned from his 40 days in the desert to administer to his Flock.

During the Holy-Days, human beings have for centuries come together to celebrate, love, and support each other. Hooray!! We made it through another year! We’ve stockpiled enough crops to make it through the winter!! We’re gonna get through these dark days of winter together!! Hallelujah!!. 

As one year ends and another begins, let us continually and consciously stay connected and grateful. After all, we’re all in this together.

Much love,
Neil