Chapter 37: Satsanga
Janie: It seems, from the way I understood it, that you were speaking about, ideally – that it was an ideal situation to be able to be happy, and be on your own.
SWAMIJI: I don't remember what I said. Can you repeat it?
Janie: I don't remember your words exactly, but it was something to do with being on your own.
SWAMIJI: You mean to be alone, to be alone to yourself. Yes. What I said was, the more you feel happy when you are alone to yourself, the nearer you may be considered to be to your Self. The nearer you are to your Self, the more you will feel the need to be alone to yourself, because the Self has no friends. It has no contact with anything external. It is Universal Existence. It is present inside you, and so the more you move toward the universality that is inside you, the more you feel the need, and the more you feel happy to be alone. This is what I said. And what is your question now?
Janie: Well my question is, in the experience that we are having with our teacher is the growth of a sangha...
SWAMIJI: Sangha? Sangha means a group.
Janie: A group, but of people who are sharing the same experience of the Self, and who are standing alone with the Self, but out of that there is a celebration and a joy in being together. And it is not in the way of being social friends, it is being together in the Self.
SWAMIJI: This is one stage of consciousness. There are degrees of the ascent of consciousness. You don't jump into something at once. Gradually, you move from the lesser, or the more external, to the higher, and the more internal. From the external, you move to the internal; from the internal, you move to the Universal. These are the three stages of spiritual ascent.
In the beginning, the consciousness is involved in externals. Now, when I am speaking to you, or when you are speaking to me, it is moving in an externalised atmosphere, but it is also aware that it is so moving. So there are two types of movement. Consciousness moving in an externalised atmosphere, not knowing that it is actually moving in that manner, is binding activity of the ordinary people in the world. They are externally impelled towards satisfaction of sense organs, by means of contact with objects outside. That is one way of the movement of consciousness.
The other way is the way in which it moves just now, for instance. You are not involved in me, and I am not involved in you. Yet, the consciousness moves in an externalised fashion in the sense that I am aware that you are sitting outside me, and you are aware that I am sitting here outside you. This is the second stage. The first stage is movement without knowing that there is a movement. It is the life of desire, passion, anger, conflict, etc., the ordinary life of the world. The first one is social life with involvement and bondage; the second one is involvement in society without attachment and without bondage. That latter is what is called satsanga, spiritual group, common meditation, etc., as you are mentioning, but this is not the highest stage. This is a better stage than the involved stage. The consciousness of Universality is the final aim, and you are aware of that.
When you are conscious of the Universal, what do you see around you? Can you imagine that condition? You will feel in the third stage – I am mentioning to you the different stages – in the third stage you will feel that all the people around you, all the things around you like hills and dales, and forests, and mountains, and rivers, and what not, are the limbs of your Universal Body. Do you see them, as you are seeing your own fingers and hands? You see objects – you see, this is an object. When I can see it, it is an object, but, yet it is not an object, it is part of my organism itself.
So, consciousness of an object as totally different is the first stage. Consciousness of an object as a part and parcel of a congregation spiritually is the second. Consciousness of an object as organically connected with one's own cosmic existence is the third. In the higher stage, the limbs also will not be there, because the consciousness of the limb arises on account of space and time being between the two. If space and time are not there, you will not see the hand, also. You are projecting a limb, and being conscious of it, on account of space-time delusion, and that which you call God or Universal is beyond space and time. We have been mentioning something about it in the morning. It is timeless being, as I said to one of your friends. "What happens afterwards?" he asked, and I said, "There is no "after" or "afterwards"." There is no "after" because the question of "after" arises because you introduce time there. There, you will find no satsanga. God has no satsanga, – just Being as such.
So what you are mentioning is one important stage. It is a higher stage than ordinary involvement, but there is still a higher stage. The scriptures tell us that there are seven stages of ascent. I am not referring to Patanjali's Yoga System. It is some other thing called seven stages of knowledge. In the highest seventh stage, you will not know what will happen to you, because mortals, people thinking in terms of body and social diversity, cannot imagine at this moment what it would be like when the mortal becomes immortal, or that which is in space-time enters into the spaceless and the timeless Eternal. We can only imagine something in a figurative, symbolic way; actually, we cannot know what it is. We cannot know what is ahead of us. We can know by memory what has been behind us, or what is the past. We can know only one step in front of us; a hundred steps ahead we cannot know. The mind is limited in its capacity in knowledge.
What I mean to say, finally, is that this particular stage that you are mentioning, satsanga, is a happy thing, because it is higher than the stage of involvement in ordinary society, but still there are higher stages than this, where you will be alone in a different sense. By aloneness I do not mean that physically you are alone; it is a consciousness-aloneness. It is Universality feeling aloneness by Itself. It is the vast sea of cosmos feeling that It alone is. That kind of aloneness is what is referred to, and not a physical aloneness of someone sitting inside a room. That is not what I mean. Do you understand the point?
Janie: In my experience, it is the more the people who are involved in the sangha stand alone, the more I stand alone...
SWAMIJI: In Buddhist philosophy, there are three things called Buddha, dharma and sangha. Sangha is the first, dharma is the next, Buddha is the highest. In the beginning, it is sangha, – a congregation of devotees, brothers, sisters, etc. It is a necessary one. It is an institution, and it is called institutional life. Higher than that is pure dharma – only law is there before you, not in terms of persons and things as when you are in congregation or sangha, but pure law. The universe is nothing but law operating, ultimately. It is abstract law, though it looks like a solid object before us. The universe is not made of hard substances. That is only a perception of the sense organs. It will melt into a pure abstract law, when you go higher up – operative, interconnected law. Higher than that is Buddha, which is Pure Being.
So, in every religious parlance, these stages are recognised, only people call them by different names.