One of the most powerful ways to find God is to have satsang with other seekers.
The company of other people who long for God is a very great aid to our own spiritual progress.
As Paramhansa Yogananda used to say, “Environment is stronger than will power.” I was a very proud eighteen years old when I came across that statement. I said, “Environment is not stronger than my will power!”
I was convinced that we must seek God on our own. The last thing I wanted was to get tangled up with the messiness of other people’s lives.
In the first years after Swami Kriyananda started Ananda Village, we fancied ourselves a community of hermits. We agreed to live together – very reluctantly! The unspoken rule was that no home should be within sight or hearing of another.
But we were wrong. And the Divine Mother gave us a big lesson, when She sent a forest fire that destroyed 22 of our 23 homes. A month later, a big tree fell on the last home, crushing it.
When we re-built the community, we approached it very differently. We built attractive little clusters of houses, some with shared facilities, so that we could really start to be a community.
When we enter the spiritual path, we need to be careful of the company we keep. The saints are so strong in their spiritual magnetism that they can change people, spiritual or unspiritual, high-minded or low-minded, by their mere presence. But most of us need to be much more careful of the type of people we spend time with. The people we allow into our lives powerfully influences our consciousness.
In the early years at Ananda, there was a man who decided he didn’t want to be around people anymore. For weeks, he avoided all spiritual gatherings. Then, more or less by accident, he ended up with a group at Swami Kriyananda’s home.
Afterward, he said to me: “I thought I was doing fine. I thought I could know what it feels like to be in tune. But now that I’m in touch with real spiritual energy again, I see how far I was drifting away.”
When we lose the consciousness of Spirit, we may quickly forget what it feels like. There is no way we can advance spiritually without putting forth our own effort. But without satsang, we often end up just keeping the company of the ego.
One of the most helpful things you can do is to meditate together with others. In that atmosphere, you can generate more devotion than you can on your own.
Meditating together also teaches us to love in a higher way. You go to a place inside where you are one with everyone. And the memory of that inner unity makes you feel closer.
I am sure that I could not get anywhere spiritually without my friends. Although the power of God comes from the Guru, my spiritual friends serve as a check of my attunement.
When I came to Ananda Village, I chose a handful of people as my “tuning forks.” I would check how I felt around them. I would say, “This is what I think,” and they would correct me. But, mostly, I would feel their attunement and try to attune myself to that “ray.”
If I felt a disharmony with the people I admired, I would remind myself: “If I’m not in harmony with those who are in tune with Spirit, I’ve must adjust myself until I am.”
God lives in us, but we must learn to live in God. We can do this with the help of loving friendships, by caring for others, and by being responsible for one another. In the 45 years that I’ve lived in the Ananda communities, I’ve seen that satsang is a very powerful force to help us grow spiritually.