Satsang Circle - The New
In '98, Satyam Nadeen came to London
to give a week-end workshop. A workshop ressembling a week-end
long satsang, but with one major difference there was no teacher.
In 'From Onions To Pearls' one of Nadeen's basic ideas
is that about 1% of the world's population is in the throes of
what he calls 'The Shift.' This is an abrupt and dramatic acceleration
of evolution as more and more people start to wake up. It's violent,
and can be frightening. Everything we took ourselves to be is
For Nadeen the traditional master/disciple approach has been
outflanked by the sheer size of this crisis and so what he did
in his workshop was simply to subtract any fixed teacher from
the satsang. Everyone in succession could take the chair and
talk about their personal experience of this 'Shift.'
It was fascinating and often deeply touching stuff and at the
end of the workshop several of us decided to start, as Nadeen
clearly desired, our own 'satsang circle.' We invited all our
friends to come to an ongoing weekly group. There was to be no
fixed agenda. Anyone could speak about whatever they most wanted
to speak about; all we did was use the talking-stick thing so
we didn't interrupt one another. Sessions lasted one and a half
to two hours; numbers were anywhere between six and twelve, though
sometimes a good few more; and we always ended with a small party.
The group really took off, and after two years it's still going
strong Essentially I'd say its stamina has come from the fusion
of two things. Firstly from its being a 'group' in the old sannyas
sense, a 'therapy' group, with people moving out of their comfort
zone and taking a few risks; and secondly from its being a 'meditation'
group, almost like a talking vipassana. It's been about both
telling the truth and listening to it. For when people
have said all they have to say, then the silence which has risen
among us has had a real resonance, a real ring of truth to it.
Repeatedly we seemed to become one entity.
One thing we did was play a game where we drew lots for who was
to be 'the guru.' Whoever drew the short straw was in the hot
seat for the whole session, fielding questions as any normal
teacher would. Despite initial misgivings people came out with
some amazing stuff. Shrinking violets who had never spoken 'in
public' suddenly flowered. In their own way everyone was as articulate
as the stars of the satsang gravy train.
You could see how easy it would be to become a guru. After the
first few times you're away;- and how addictive it must become.
For there's a sparkling rush of energy from speaking to a whole
group of people. Tiredness vanishes, your head clears for me
at my more fanciful the group was an insight into 'Pentecost'
: the time when the first Christians, scattered and freaked by
the murder of Christ, finally learnt to speak, and to
speak to everyone. I saw satsang circles spreading underground
like the spores of a new religion.
Could such circles be the agent of widespread change?
If you feel that some sort of community is essential to any real
transformation, then yes. Satsang circles could prove the basic
building blocks of a new commune providing a cell-like
structure on the grassroots level, strong enough to resist any
tendency to hierarchisation. hey could prove a breakthrough in
the actual mechanics of democracy.
Do they have fixed size and shape? Nadeen seems to stick to the
ABC of group dynamics, that groups to be effective should remain
small. But is this so? The Quaker experience, surely a parallel,
would indicate otherwise Personally, after some eighteen months
I began to feel I was looking for something more subversive than
our weekly group, something with more edge to it a sort
of Mystery School which has made the creation of something
the dynamo of its own meditation but perhaps that was just my
own two cents' worth.
Essentially I feel the satsang circle is a response to a society
which is edging everyone further and further into isolation.
It's a last-ditch attempt to reinvent friendship. As such it
could develop in all sorts of ways. Towards some new kind of
group therapy (with a good bit to learn from twelve-step programmes)
or towards a new kind of group meditation (with a good bit to
learn from the Quakers). Or perhaps towards a qualitatively new
kind of group of friends, with little to learn from anyone except
Nadeen's two books; ' From Onions To Pearls' and the more
recent 'From Seekers To Finders',
are both warmly recommended to anyone wishing to start their
own satsang circle.