By Jugat Guru Singh Khalsa and Saraswati Kaur Khalsa, Miri Piri Academy.
“Recognize that the other person is you”
This is one of Yogi Bhajan’s most widely known teachings. To be community-minded is to understand the inextricable connection between ourselves and the people around us.
Individual consciousness has to go into a group consciousness to find the universal consciousness. It’s simple law of consciousness.
~Yogi Bhajan, UCLA Advanced Class – American Way of Life, October 12, 1972, Los Angeles, CA
When I first started my work at Miri Piri Academy, I was tasked with supporting the graduating students in making plans for their future life. Being in their teenage years, most were anxious to go out, become independent, and explore their identity within the wider world. I always asked them to remember the concept of “Sangat.” In the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, we are constantly reminded to be in the company of the “Sadh Sangat”, the congregation of disciplined ones. Why?
“Why do we meet here constantly? Just to practice group consciousness, share the knowledge, go through it, practice it, feel it, and experience it. Why is it better than individual consciousness? We help each other, and we support each other. Our very existence together is helpful. Aristotle, the father of political science, said one thing, ‘Man is by nature a social animal.’ His higher nature will only come up when the social impact of his personality is fulfilled.”
~Yogi Bhajan, Los Angeles Lecture, May 2, 1972, Los Angeles, CA
As the strings on an instrument will vibrate sympathetically to the notes being played around them, so we human beings vibrate with the same consciousness as the people around us. No matter how much we believe something, how much we want something, or how strongly we feel about something, we are social beings and we are deeply affected by the community around us. As parents and teachers, it is important that we understand this and make sure that our children recognize the power of group consciousness as they make important decisions in their lives. If we value discipline, awareness, and spiritual consciousness, then our choice of congregation must take that into account. Choosing a community of love is an act of wisdom.
Group consciousness is not just being aware of how the people around us are influencing us, but also about how we are influencing them. What can we do to serve? What can we do to elevate? What can we say to inspire, bring a smile, and motivate each other? Being community-minded is both an awareness of the impact others have on us as well as the impact we have on them.
So, the question is, how do we ingrain this community consciousness into our children? How do we teach them to recognize how the people around them are influencing them, and in turn, how their own words, thoughts, choices, and actions can have an impact on everyone else in their community? Many young children show compassion and empathy very early, but we often model the very opposite as parents. Though they struggle to balance their own needs and desires with this natural instinct towards kindness, they learn from us where and when to prioritize individual needs above those of the group. With this in mind, give yourself a deep introspection. Where do you balance the needs of self with the needs of others? How do you prioritize your time, energy, money, and attention between family, your community, and others you don’t know? Do you participate in the community and involve yourself where you are needed? Your example is the first and most important teacher of community consciousness to your children.
A powerful way to guide them in discovering their identity in relationship to community is to put them into an environment where their success or failure depends on a group. Let them experience situations where selfish needs and desires have to be constantly balanced against the needs of others. Be available to counsel them how to navigate this rough terrain, but let them try to work things out themselves. Whether its teamwork, dorm living, or the power of music and chanting together, give them a visceral experience of the power of a group working together. Above all, give them the experience of teaching and leading others, so that they understand through experience how their attitude and example influence everyone around them.
Last year one of our 11th grade students at Miri Piri Academy was doing his KRI Level One Teacher Training practicum and taught a Kundalini Yoga class for the first time. When we asked him what he had learned, he told us that he finally understood how challenging it is to teach when students in the class are spacing out, tired, or distracted and that he would make a better effort to participate fully when he was in a class from here forward. Often, it is only when our children have the opportunity to lead and to teach that they begin to understand how much impact their own attitude has on everyone around them. This is the seed of community consciousness.
Saraswati Kaur Khalsa is the Assistant Principal of Miri Piri Academy and has been serving there since 2007. She has been a student of Yogi Bhajan since birth and completed her Level One Kundalini Yoga Teacher training under his guidance. Saraswati holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work and has been working with children and schools since 1998. Her daughter also attends Miri Piri Academy as a student.
Jugat Guru Singh Khalsa is the Principal of Miri Piri Academy in Amritsar, India and a KRI Certified Lead Teacher Trainer. From his childhood, he was guided by Yogi Bhajan and has dedicated his life to serving the mission of Yogi Bhajan by helping to shape the next generation into leaders and teachers of this amazing technology. Jugat Guru Singh is a member of the Chardi Kala Jetha, which travels around the world teaching and performing Gurbani Kirtan, including local performances at the Golden Temple.