The importance of sangha

The importance of sangha in the Vajrasati School of Yoga: its role in expanding the boundaries and awareness of the yoga community.

Sangha is central to Vajrasati as it has been to many practitioners and aspirants of a life that feels less tight, more connected and more expansive. It helps us on this quest by aspiring to take us beyond our own self interest to consider the interest of others, so that we can share in their lives and thus widen our horizons and move into contact and harmony with the truth of interdependence.

And specifically regarding this truth in terms of what we may like to call our ‘own’ ideas, feelings, volitions, etc. It should be seen not just a pleasant afterthought or merely a way of gaining some sort of easy comfort through a sense of belonging, but an active, powerful even essential tool to the serious yogin.

None of us are self-sufficient in the ways that we like to think we are, as we depend to some extent on our conditions, as well as the people around us. The people around us are a sounding board for our ideas and stimulate and inspire new areas of reflection to.

Being a yoga teacher is an incredible position where we are privileged enough to be working honestly and intimately with our fellow humans. It is also a position of huge responsibility and all of us at some point will feel the strength of that responsibility pressing us to do at least our very best for those who have honoured us with their trust. To help us do our best by these people, we need each other to both support and mentor. For this to work, we need to know our motives and only feedback to each other where we know that we are motivated by a genuine desire to do right by each other and by yoga.

We all have our take on life, our focus and our blind spots. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, but when there are many of us genuinely, purely and creatively searching through direct investigation (in practice) then there will be a more rounded view available for us all. Certain questions that we may not have asked ourselves will be asked and answered; doubts allayed and fears understood. All things can be more easily put into perspective.

We have all had many different experiences and these lend themselves to different ways to use language, which we can then all draw from, creating almost a dictionary of vocabulary that is increasingly clear direct and expressive.

The Sangha gives an opportunity to rejoice with others in their joy, as well as a network of support from people who are likely to at least to have some understanding of some of the struggles and uncertainties that a yogin may go through whilst trying to follow this yogic path, in what sometimes may appear to be challenging situations.

There are practical areas where we can be of help for each other in terms of class cover and passing on classes that we either are giving up or that we have been offered but cannot do. Other areas where we might be of practical aid to one another may be in reading recommendations, practice, support, company or space. The loan of equipment, hall hire recommendation, communal fund raising, co-operative business, even in terms of living with people who will have certain compatible needs, i.e. practice space, vegetarian cooking, non smoking or whatever.

And let’s not forget just how good it is to have friend’s people to laugh and cry with, people to dance with and people to hug.

Being with others can purify insular views. And the sincere wish to care for our brethren can loosen the chains of fixed self view that keep us confused on the surface of life’s pool. Believing in the ripples instead of immersing ourselves into its depths is to be refreshed and revived in every moment.

PRACTICAL STEPS TO STRENGTHEN AND PROTECT THE SANGHA, TO DEEPEN TRUST AND PROMOTE GOOD FEELING AND HARMONY

  1. Warmth, closeness and intimacy can only come naturally through spending time with one another. In this way, we learn to see the high and lows and what that person returns to. This of course can only be done through time together, unforced and natural. We can organise days out either on mass or in smaller groups or one to one. Simple things like going for a walk, meeting for lunch or taking in a movie or a show at the theatre (As yogins, dance is always a good one) or how about swimming together in a river, whatever let’s let the good times role so we can share beautiful or meaningful memories (or both). In this regard, as Vajrasati grows, I will be able to organise residential weekends, holidays and exchange of learning days some of these you will be required to attend to maintain your teaching certificate and listing on our members list but others I hope you’ll come on to deepen your understanding and to spend some time together.
  2. We need to be supportive regarding each other’s classes. This can be done in a variety of ways: we can help with each others advertising by physically distributing it with our own or through word of mouth say at the end of our classes especially where it concerns specific events, those with the skills and equipment could even help with aspects of design and so on.
    Consideration can be taken to in term of our choice of where and when we might teach our classes and through communicating with one another not going into direct competition with one another in areas from drop-ins to yoga days. Established classes should be given priority and in this way no one will be put in a situation that will necessarily be difficult (don’t forget where many of us are just treading water in terms of making our living from yoga, money can be a very difficult issue even between close friends). I feel sure that there these kinds of situations are easily avoidable with just a little consideration, without being stifling for anyone who sincerely and rightly wants to make their living from something we all love. Further to this, I think we all realise that Vajrasati is quite different from many other forms of yoga and so it is less likely to cause such competition when held at a similar time to another form of yoga. Finally I think it’s worth pointing out that in at least one school of yoga where greed and selfishness seem to be taking precedence over real yogic principles of kindness and non-violence, starting a yoga class very near an established one is used as a kind of punishment.
  3. There are a great many ways in which we can be supportive to one another and we can offer as much or as little as our current responsibilities allow.
  4. Finally, we must guard ourselves so that we do no harm to each other, by watching when the finger starts to point outwards at others. Then we need to firstly point that finger back at ourselves and ask am I acting from the five yamas (all of them) and is the way I’m acting worthy of my work as a yogin. In other words am I acting from a spirit of generosity and expansiveness? Am I acting from the perspective and insight of interconnectedness (to support others is to support ourselves) and are my motives empty of violence? Then we might be clear and our actions, thoughts and words can be truthful, compassionate and conducive to the support and harmony and personal peace of one and all.

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Quotes

on asteya (one of the five yamas)…
‘Any selfish act is acting without asteya, it is taking somehow, maybe taking someone else’s choice or freedom or opinion. It is about being aware not just of myself but of others, how do I interact with others (for instance not jumping in during a conversation, which I do too often).
There is an enormous aspect of letting go, especially for me, letting go of a need to control. It is basically trust.’

— Khadine Morcom