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Satsang without a Master?!

from Parmartha

According to web-sites like 'Wide Open Windows", which is a laudable attempt by Chinmayo to list and describe satsang givers of all types, there are 893 people known to him "giving satsang" at the moment. (Aug, 2000) Satsang is best described, to use a modern jargon, as 'making a space through which God can pass, and which can be shared'. Such satsang traditions have almost all used the teacher/disciple paradigm, and in it the teacher acts as the channel, and the disciple receives. Arguably this narrows the portals to God somewhat, however with the exception of the Quakers, and a few others, this paradigm has had almost complete dominance unto the present time. The Quaker paradigm is somewhat more democratic to say the least, for there, in their congregations, anyone can act as the channel for God.

The advantage of the first paradigm is that if you trust the teacher totally then you can be on-line to God with some certainty and immediacy – and in the process become infected with the teacher's mastery of the worm-hole to God. However Satyam Nadeen (usually known as Nadeen, latest book 'From Seekers to Finders', available through his web-site) originally attempts a reload of the Quaker tradition in a modern form. His adoption of this model stems from the urgency he feels (alongside Osho) to create 10,000 Buddhas. The rationale, for both Osho and Nadeen, behind this "rush" is that such a number of Buddhas is needed to create the new man, and without such a new man, the world as such is doomed! Perhaps a dubious logic, but not to be examined here. Hence in Nadeen's favour he does not disparage the old tradition, which he could easily do, on the grounds that it leads to corruption or dependency, and at the very least disempowerment. No, for him, it is a strategic thing, and a way to address the urgency of the situation as he sees it. His modern Quakerism rests in the "satsang circle", which is both democratic and subject to a revolving leadership. Such circles have took off, more or less, wherever he has been.

I belong to one in London. Simply speaking hosting of the satsang is rotated each week, and usually the facilitator for that week prepares some kind of satsang music and stimulus as Nadeen calls it ( some spiritual text or poem). After the stimulus, and adopting the old Red Indian democratic technique of the talking stick, individuals voice the truth that comes through them interspersed with silence.

I myself am interested really in the "unintended" consequences of Nadeen's work. He leads his workshops in an unusual way. Basically you're only welcome once, and the implication is that he doesn't want you back – he wants you to take off where he has left off, and start your own, or join a, satsang circle. Through this brush-fire approach he wants to turn the whole world on to satsang. The major disadvantage of this second paradigm was evident in the workshop I attended. People are encouraged to get up and 'give satsang', but sometimes produce drivel or personal stories which have nothing to do with anything, and could be delivered in the coffee-shop. Nadeen, mistakenly in my view, adopts an "advaitan" approach to this, which leads him to welcome the most trivial utterance as if it were Rumi speaking his verses or Lao Tzu finally called from silence. He simple allows this as satsang. This is the main weakness of his approach.

However this departure that Nadeen has encouraged does bear fruit. At the same time, nonetheless, the circle to which I belong, whilst based on his model, is at its best when it trades up a gear from Nadeen's advaitan approach. I feel it owes its survival to a certain maturity that filters out the rubbish and is aware at some level that not "everything is satsang". Not everyone can give satsang, or if they can, wants to. Not everyone universally should be encouraged to give it. But there are moments when many seekers. perhaps briefly, become finders and God passes through them as surely as the torrent of a mountain stream after a thunderstorm. The art of recognizing such moments needs much wider encouragement, and this Nadeen, inadvertently, does. If such a model is adopted, even for the wong reasons, it really may have the power, to presently begin, the second wheel of the dharma.