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Individual sittings, group satsanghs
Attending group sittings (satsangh) at least once per week is obligatory for all abhyasis unless unusual circumstances prevent.
Abhyasi: Master, a practice-related question. I know the answer but some people would like to hear from you is about group meditation. So people say, “Let the group go on, but they want to sit wherever they are at their homes or wherever during that time rather than come to be present with other abhyasis. I don’t think it’s correct, but what would you say to them? Will it work?
Master: Babuji Maharaj said when there is a group meditation – satsangh -- all those who are in it appear before me, like on a television screen. I see them. Those who are not there are beyond my vision. You can say this.
Daily practice, individual sittings, group meditation: Obligatory, not compulsory
Abhyasi: Master, the opposite question has come up in our center recently. Abhyasis who are not doing their sadhana and who are not coming for individual sittings, but who like to show up for the satsangh.
Master: For satsangh? Well, that is the minimum they should do. When I joined the Mission in ’64, Babuji said I do not compel anyone. Because people who have self-interest at heart, they come here and they improve [?] properly. I said what do you mean ‘properly’? He said, Shall I tell you what I really mean? I said, Yes, of course – I have come to hear! He said, it is not compulsory but obligatory.
Abhyasi: Compulsory means forced from without. Obligatory comes from within?
Master: Yes, inside.
Abhyasi: We have two problems now and this is a common issue in the West. People either choose to have attendance in the group satsangh, and they avoid the individual sittings. And there’s another group that will take the individual sittings but are no-shows at the group satsanghs. And this is a serious problem Master because you have on your roster a lot of people but you don’t see them. What do we tell them?
Master: You see spiritual sadhana is like a balanced diet. You need proteins, you need carbohydrates, you need minerals, vitamins, and so on. Similarly, here there must be group satsangh, there must be individual sittings, daily practice.
Preceptors, not the abhyasi, determine when individual sittings are needed
Master (continuing): But Babuji has said one individual sitting in each fortnight (every two weeks) at the beginning, and then the preceptor must call you for an individual sitting. You’re not supposed to decide whether or when you need a sitting. Now there’s a tendency in the West that if they have a headache, the abhyasi will come to a preceptor and say please give me a cleaning. Cleaning is not necessary for headache. So it is for the preceptor to read the condition and say come to me after such-and-such a time. Like a doctor says, you know? ‘Take this medicine for a week and then report to me again.’ But here we don’t do it and they don’t do it also. So people go for an individual sitting every day of the week. It’s a waste. As Babuji said, when the tank is full if you put more water into it, it will over flow. So there’s a discipline in individual sittings and in group sittings. Group sittings obligatory. Weekly. Individual sittings, in response to a call.
Abhyasi: Master, I think this is something that maybe should go out in Sahaj Sandesh. Because though I may have missed many other statements only in one place did I recently find in a preceptor book your clarification that “It is the preceptor who must request the abhyasi to come for a sitting, not the other way around. When the abhyasis ask for a sitting it is almost always wrong.” Yet so many preceptors do not take this initiatory step. We feel abhyasis may be offended, or may not come.
Master: If you are going to think of their being offended, you are a poor preceptor. It’s like a doctor saying I can’t give the medicine because it is bitter medicine and they may not like it. So you make them sweets. You are not true to your own calling.
Abhyasi: But you are saying clearly that it is the preceptor who makes the call, though at times an abhyasi can request if the preceptor, to ask if the preceptor feels a sitting is indicated? The mistake was made in thinking that the abhyasis should ask for the sitting, and never the preceptor –
Master: The preceptor is the one who should always determine.
Abhyasi: So it this was clarified from the very top –
Master: Yes. Put it in Sandesh.
Abhyasi: Also that in the beginning, everywhere fortnight.
Abhyasi: But Master, it has been my experience that often the preceptor doesn’t know. Sometimes I really feel like that. I ask him, and he always says, ‘Oh, come later.’
Master: We also have all said God doesn’t know his work. Because he has favored the crooked, the mafia, you know, making them richer. And the poor man working honestly as a railway clerk gets Rs –30 a month. So we say God is blind.
Abhyasi: Master, is Sunday essential? Some cannot come on Sunday. So Wednesday?
Master: Okay. One group satsangh every week they must attend. Either this or that. Both, if they can. Babuji Maharaj said, ‘Group satsangh is where group effort combines like a tug, like on a rope, in a tug-of-war, you know? All single-minded, all pulling toward the same goal. And brotherhood is created. Individual sitting is mainly for cleaning…
More was said, but this remark by Master can serve to conclude this instalment: Preceptors are supposed to prepare abhyasis so that the Master will lift them up. One sentence to be underlined! And what is this preparation of the abhyasi? Clean, clean, clean!
Gap in Taking Individual Sitting
Certain centres as well as some functionaries have raised queries in recent past regarding time gap in taking of individual sittings before and after attending Group Satsang.
Clarifications on this point were issued from time to time. Rev. Master's instructions are quite specific that the time gap of taking individual sitting before or after Group Satsang is FIVE hours and there should be no individual sittings on Sundays and Wednesdays before Group Satsang. The abhyasis are supposed to come to meditation hall well before hand, sit there in meditative mood and prepare themselves to receive the transmission and whatever spiritual work Rev. Master wants to do on them.
As many abhyasis of distant centres without any preceptor were keen to have individual sittings from visiting preceptors on Wednesdays and Sundays, the instruction regarding time gap of FIVE hours in taking individual sittings before and after Group Satsang on Wednesdays and Sundays was again put up before Rev. Master for his reconsideration.
Rev. Master has re-affirmed that the time gap of taking individual sittings after Group Satsang should certainly be FIVE hours. However, individual sittings can be given before Group Satsangh on Wednesdays and Sundays, but only cleaning need be done in those individual sittings. On the rest of the days of the week, when the Group Satsang is not held, the question of five hours of time gap before Group Satsang does not arise.