Each of us is on a spiritual journey. Each of us, according to the world religions and yoga, is on a journey back to the Spirit. Each religion and yoga, of course have different names for that Spirit, but we are all on the same journey, different paths.
That journey to the Spirit/God is a solo journey, which is supported and nurtured by our spiritual community. Without that community, called sangha in Sanskrit, our journey would be very challenging and almost impossible. We need a community to support our practice (abhyasa) and our detachment (vairagya) from the obstacles and habits that hinder our journey to the Spirit/God.
In the Yoga Tradition, this journey includes the yamas and niyamas. Each of us practices these restraints and observances alone. The yamas and niyamas free us to sit in meditation and prayer which are essential elements of the spiritual journey. But when we sit, we are alone in our sitting. Mary and I are not on the same meditation seat. Mary is on hers and I am on mine. Mary’s meditation and prayers are hers and my meditation and prayers are mine. Each of us alone must become kind and non-violent. Each of us, individually, learns to tell the truth, learns to not steal, learns to not become excessive in our desire for physical pleasures and learns to be non-possessive of things (the yamas). Individually, we each integrate these practices in our own lives.
We also learn cleanliness and contentment alone. We develop our individual will power and dedicate ourselves to self-study and surrendering to the Divine (the niyamas), alone!
Our spiritual journey is a journey alone.
But our journey need not be lonely because everyone else is on that same individual journey, that same journey alone.
Finding people who are on the same path (because there are many spiritual paths) is absolutely necessary for us to realize that although our journey is alone, it does not need to be lonely. Even though yoga says that each of us at our core is divine, infinite and perfect, and that each of us at that divine-infinite-perfect-consciousness level is united with every other individual consciousness, called Universal Consciousness, we each need the support of a loving group of people. They not only support our practice of the yamas and niyamas, but also help us continue our asana (yoga postures) practice and our daily prayers and meditation.
This loving group of journeyers is called our sangha. We each need a sangha.
Through my life I have learned that there is not just one sangha that has helped me on my journey, but a number of them. I have my Himalayan Institute sangha, my Center and yoga teaching sangha, my Catholic-Christian sangha, and my family sangha. Each has helped me along on my “alone-journey”. Each sangha has helped me know that although my spiritual journey is alone, I don’t feel lonely.
Thank you, O Divine Mother, for all the sanghas in my life!
May you also know and find your sangha and be nurtured on your spiritual journey. Namaste’