Week 19 – Community

We start to go deeper. The objective is to experience another aspect of our spiritual nature, that of being part of a spiritual community. We have already worked on our spiritual connection and our creative ability, and now look at our relationship with others from the perspective of our spiritual being.

There are three aspects of this spiritual community that we will explore: the personal relationships that we have and how to develop these into holy relationships, the people with whom we share our spiritual journey and who support and inspire us, and the true nature of spiritual being, understanding the oneness of all beings and what that means for us.

There are special relationships in our life, which are based on mutual agreements to support each other’s view of the world. These relationships defend us against our sense of lack and our fears. Yet as we grow and develop our sense of perfection, these relationships seem to no longer be appropriate. We can transform these relationships with love, love of the heart not of the mind. We move from co-dependency, to co-existence and learn to see the ultimate truth in these relationships. We already have everything we need for our spiritual growth, we are already perfect, and in that respect we do not need anybody else. Yet we cannot see that perfection without others. Without being able to see that perfection in others we cannot see it in ourselves. We cannot complete without others.

As we develop on the spiritual path we find others who walk the same route and we come together for a while. These are our supporters and we grow together. These are people with whom we can learn to remove barriers and with whom we can rest in peace. Our connection with these supporters is based on a deeper experience, beyond judgement, beyond physicality and beyond the mind. In Chi Kung and Meditation we sense a deeper level of communication.

We are all one. All human beings are part of a whole. When we become at-one with the universe and experience our connection to earth and to heaven, we recognise that we are part of a greater whole and in that recognition we know that it is the same for every other human being. At a spiritual level we are not separate, we are joined. Yet sometimes the significance of this evades us. Whatever we do, we do to everyone. Any negativity directed at others, is also directed at us. Any growth we achieve is growth for all.

In our understanding of this we start to extend our growth to include the healing of others and healing on a planetary basis and in doing so we heal ourselves. Finally we recognise that there is no completion without the completion of the whole. We cannot complete alone, if we are all joined there is no meaning in completion unless all parts are complete. As we grow in love, we grow not for our individual self but for all mankind.

Fellow Travellers
All the people on the planet can be split into two groups, those who are consciously seeking their own self realisation and those who are not. Among those groups the understanding of this truth is as wide and varying as the number of people, but fundamentally there are conscious and unconscious spiritual seekers. Conscious spiritual seekers are those who devote time to their spiritual growth. Unconscious spiritual seekers are completely unaware that they want spiritual growth and do not consciously devote any time to the development of their spirit.

The transition from unconscious to conscious, the awareness of the need to do something spiritual, that there must be some greater purpose to life is often a painful one. The experience of most people who are on their spiritual path, who are seeking some spiritual truth, is that they have gone through some significant event in their life that has caused great pain. In this pain and suffering they have often realised that there is something more valuable to be gained from their life, that their values and goals they held previously are meaningless and they seek something more fulfilling. Thus they set out on their spiritual journey.

Becoming a conscious seeker saves us time. Conscious seekers are more effective in achieving spiritual truth even though they may find it difficult at times. The very determination and desire that conscious seeking brings speeds up the process. The more devoted and dedicated we are to our goal the faster the journey.

Spiritual Community
Adapted from Human Enlightenment by Sangharakshita

Who are the members of the spiritual community?
In brief, we may say that the members of the spiritual community are individuals who have gone for refuge. They are individuals who have committed themselves to what are known as the ‘three jewels’. In consisting of individuals, the spiritual community consists of people who have made an individual choice and an individual decision. They have accepted responsibility for their own lives, and have decided that they want to grow. The spiritual community is a voluntary association of free individuals who have come together on account of a common commitment to a common ideal: a commitment to what we call the three jewels.

The three jewels are the ideal of human enlightenment, the path of the higher evolution from self consciousness to absolute consciousness and the spiritual community itself. The spiritual community consists of those who, with the object of obtaining enlightenment, are devoting themselves to the development of skilful, rather than unskilful, mental states. In the highest sense, the third jewel is what we call the transcendental community: it is that part of the spiritual community which has not only gone for refuge, not only developed skilful mental states – not only become absorbed – but which has developed Insight: which sees, at least for a moment, reality – face to face.

What do the Spiritual Community do for each other?
Firstly what do they do for themselves? Clearly, they carry on with their individual spiritual practice. The continue to study, they meditate, they practise right livelihood, they observe the precepts, and so on. But this is rather general. To explain what members of the spiritual community do for themselves as members of the spiritual community, is very difficult, since it means describing, to some extent at least, what it is like to be a member of the spiritual community. It is possible to say one thing, however, a member of the spiritual community puts themself, in a position of being able to relate to others on a purely spiritual basis, or at least on a predominately spiritual basis: on the basis of a common spiritual ideal, a common spiritual commitment.

What does this mean? We meet people all the time, whether at home, at a club, in a coffee bar, or wherever, and we relate to these people that we meet in a number of different ways. Usually we relate on the basis of our own need – although the need may, of course, be mutual. Sometimes it is a sexual need, sometimes it is an economic need or a social need but it is a need, and the relationship is therefore very often exploitive, even mutually exploitive. Of course we do not usually care to admit this, sometimes we do not even fully and consciously know what we are really looking for ourselves. This means that only too often our relationships are dishonest or, at best, confused.

Within the spiritual community we do not relate to others in this kind of way. Within the spiritual community the situation is all that we all want to develop spiritually. After all, we have gone for refuge! We therefore relate on the basis of our common commitment and our common ideal – on the basis of our highest common interest, our highest common concern. If moreover, we relate to others on this basis, then we experience others in a way which we do not normally experience them. We experience them as spiritual beings. And because we experience others as spiritual beings we experience ourselves as spiritual beings too. In this way the pace of spiritual development is accelerated. We experience ourselves more and more truly, more and more intensely. Within the spiritual community, then, we can be ourselves as we are at our best and at our highest. Very often, when we speak of ‘being ourselves’, we mean being ourselves at our worst, letting out that part of ourselves that we do not usually like to acknowledge. But there is another way in which we can be ourselves, for, very often, it is the best in us, rather than the worst, that has no opportunity to express itself. So within the context of the spiritual community, we can be ourselves at our best. If necessary, we can be ourselves at our ‘worst’ occasionally, but the important thing is that we can be ourselves fully, wholly and perfectly.

To be ourselves in this way is rarely possible within the context of ordinary life, even with our ‘nearest and dearest’, whether parents, husbands or wives, or our closest friends. Only too often, on certain occasions, or in connection with certain topics, we cannot be fully ourselves – not even with one person. Indeed, quite a few people go through their lives without being able to be themselves completely and continuously with anyone. They consequently find I very difficult even to experience themselves as they are, even to experience themselves at their best.

Within the spiritual community, on the other hand we can be ourselves, and not just with one person, but even with two or three people – even with many people. This sort of experience is, perhaps, unprecedented in the lives of the majority of people. Just imagine, for a moment, wat it would be like if you were to have five or six – or even fifty or sixty – people present, but all of you being yourselves. This should be quite possible within the spiritual community, because here we are relating on the basis of the shared spiritual commitment, the shared spiritual ideal – relating on the basis of what is best and highest in each and every one of us. We therefore experience, within the spiritual community, a great relief and a great joy. There is no need to put up any psychological defences, no need to pretend, no need to guard against misunderstanding. With complete transparency we can be ourselves with others who are also being themselves. In a situation like this, we naturally develop more rapidly than would otherwise be possible.

Further Meditation

Prepare and open yourself in the usual way.

Meditation
Imagine yourself sitting on a lotus flower. This establishes your connection to Earth energy. Do this a few times, say 3 or 6, gradually tuning in and relaxing.

Bring your mind to the Tan Tien and breathe in and out through the chakra. You can visualise a candle flame in the hands and breathe in the warmth and light into the Tan Tien and then filling the body. For guidance this should be at least 9 breaths at every centre.

Repeat the above process at the Solar Plexus. The visualisation is a Golden Sun filling the Solar Plexus and then expanding around you.

Repeat again at the Heart. Once you have breathed in at the heart nine times then raise your hands to the heart level, palms upwards and the arms open (as though holding a large bowl). Here give thanks to Spirit, for guidance, support and love.

After opening the heart move up to the throat centre. If you want to use a visualisation, imagine a multifaceted jewel in the throat. Imagine filling the jewel with light and the light shining from the facets in all directions.

Come up to the third eye, breathe to that centre. If you want you can visualise a vertical third eye, in the centre of the forehead., remember that the centre is in the middle of the head, and breathe into that area.

Breathe to the crown centre. You can use a visualisation of a flower opening at the top of the head.

Return back to the heart. Just sit and be still. Focussing on the experience, in the heart and the other centres. Try not to think of anything, concentrate on the experience.

Closing
When ready return you mind to the Tan Tien and start to breathe more deeply. Try to hold onto the positive feeling and bring it back with you as you come back from your meditation.
Form a triangle and then raise the hands up to the crown. Breathing out and repeating the opening process but this time with the intent of closing. At the heart, bow to give thanks.

Uses of the Meditation
After you have sat in the experience for a while you can use the meditative state for sharing and healing.
– Group Sharing, imagine the group sitting in a circle, imagine a beam of light from your heart to the centre of the circle. Imagine the same light from everybody else’s heart. Do not try to beam out the energy. Feel the connection and be open to share, giving and receiving.
– Healing, either in the group (as above) or individually imagine someone who needs or has asked for healing, in front of you or in the centre of the group. See them in the light from the hearts