Satsang or Meditating Solo?
Jesus said: When two or more gather there I am. For those who can practice by themselves, that is all well and good. There is a lot of virtue in doing one’s spiritual practice away from the eyes of the world and then surreptitiously going out and doing one’s work. It is like a lover who enjoys his beloved in the privacy of his chambers and keeps his secret to himself, sharing it only by remembering the bliss of that Union throughout the day.
However, (to use another metaphor) when devotees and aspirants get together, instead of eating alone, such as in solitary meditation, the gathering can be more like a feast.
Just as geese flying together can fly farther, so too can devotees fly higher when coming together. This is especially true for those who have a hard time being disciplined by themselves, who become distracted by the many lures of the world, or who are constantly surrounded by people who have interests in the grosser materialistic side of life. For such people, to find themselves in the company of others who are abiding in or aspiring to realize God, satsangs, or going to church or any sacred gathering, are like bridges or refuges. Good company is extremely valuable as it raises one’s own vibrations, just as stringed instruments in a music store will vibrate as an instrument is played.
Nevertheless, this does not mean that one will experience just bliss at such a gathering—the opposite may be the case. I remember going to kirtans (devotional call-and response songs) awhile back, and as soon as I sat down my mind would shout out a load of incriminations about everyone in the room, that they were spiritual fakes and that only I was the real devotee! Of course, having such thoughts were not in alignment with the humbleness that one needs to acquire upon the path, so my mind would be whispering amongst its screaming that I was just a fake and I might as well go home. Fortunately, I had learned to watch my thoughts, so I continued to sing and witness, and eventually the mind would shut up and I could then just be in the bliss of chanting.
Satsangs, kirtans, etc. all offer a chance to purge very strongly; and, hopefully, a space is created to allow for people to do so. People's stuff will come out; it needs to. It is important to have compassion for them and for yours when it happens.
Emerson stated that if one wanted to be great, then one must associate with great men. The same is true for writers, or artists, or athletes, or with any profession; if one wants to excel in one’s chosen field, it helps immensely to hang out with the best in the field of interest. If one can find a true Master to sit with--all the better. If not, then being with other aspirants is the next best thing; and besides, who is to say that the Master is not there anyway. Ramana Maharshi constantly reminded his disciples that he was not limited to the location of his body, for, after all, was he not the unlimited Self.
Just as with all things, too much of one thing may be unhealthy. This holds for satsangs as well, when they become a crutch. I remember rushing (or should I say attempting to rush) in LA to get to one of these kirtans in time. And I was getting all stressed out because I was going to be late and miss that bliss. Then I stopped myself. Why not experience that peace now instead of waiting? So I relaxed and allowed myself to be on divine timing and felt at peace The peace that awaits one at church or in the synagogue or in the mosque can be found everywhere, for God is not confined by time and space. There exist satsang junkies who find their peace "out there," and they flit here and there from satsang to satsang or from teacher to teacher.
Eventually one must be happy without any externals at all.
So which one is better? Going to satsang and meditating and singing with others? Or practicing your meditation technique in the privacy of your home or out in nature? Both are great and needed for a balanced walk upon the spiritual path.
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