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This paper was written in November 1997. It was presented at a public meeting, but I cannot recall the date. The inspiration for this talk was a beautiful statement that I found in the oldest of the Upanishads, which are part of the Vedic scriptures from ancient India. There is a light that shines beyond all things on earth, beyond us all, beyond the heavens, the very highest heavens. That is the light that shines in our heart. (Chandogya Upanishad) Sahaj Marg provides us, as individuals, with a unique method of developing our inner spiritual lives. Nevertheless, as our Master has stressed many times, it is the abhyasi’s responsibility to develop character and to mould external behaviour, which is essential if we are not to fall back, creating new samskaras through reactivating our old habits and behaviours. This aspect has been dealt with ad nauseam by Master and we should all be sufficiently familiar with the concept, even though we fail to live up to it most of the time. But there is another dimension about which I feel there is not sufficient awareness among abhyasis. This relates to the problems which arise when we come together in groups and even more so in large gatherings. In the late twentieth century, particularly in the west, most of us have a fairly clear awareness of who we are as individuals. However, we are much less aware of the roles we take on as part of a group, of the way in which group energy can make us behave. Our earliest experience in this embodied existence is not that of a separate individual, but rather as an intimate part of a group, i.e. the family. The individual personality only emerges later as we develop into adult life. 464 34. All in One My point is that a group is not simply a multiple of individuals but forms a separate living system, a different organism with a life of its own. As part of our early development in the family and as a result of the karmic tendencies we carry into this life, each of us tends to have a predisposition for a role which we enact repeatedly in later life when we become part of various groups. Typically we are quite unaware of this and think we are just the same as our experience of ourselves as individuals. However, when we become part of a group we are surprised to find ourselves behaving, thinking and feeling quite differently. In these circumstances we usually convince ourselves that we have simply changed our view in the light of discussion, although we typically feel confused and have an uneasy feeling in regard to what is happening. For example, most of us, I think, will recognize the situation where we agreed a policy with someone, and a direction to be followed, before going into a meeting. Then, to our amazement, not only did our colleague not support the view we had agreed but actually spoke against it and voted for the opposite point of view. It is important to understand such occurrences not as disloyalty or dishonesty but as an instance of the person taking on a role given them by the group. Once away from the influence of the group, they would often like to reverse their position but feel committed by what they have already done. There are many situations in life where we see this kind of process at work. Of course, there are big individual differences in how likely we are to be colluded in this way, depending on the strength of one’s personality and ability to manage one’s individual boundary. This is where, I believe, living systems theory can be of some help to us. What is a living system? A cell, a human being, a dog or a cat, a beehive, or a group of human beings, all these are living systems. The following definition, derived from the work of a number of creative scientists in recent years such as the Chilean biologists Maturuna and Varela, the Chemist Ilya Prigogine, Fritjof Capra and others, can be applied to all these levels. 465 All in One DEFINITION OF A LIVING SYSTEM 1. A living system contains a number of elements. 2. These elements are involved in a dynamic process of interaction and interelationship. The next matter for consideration is that there are things within things, bodies within other bodies, one system within another. The essential...


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