Human beings are social creatures, we evolved to live in large family groups and tribes. In this modern age it can be easy to end up on your own, or connected to groups that don’t feel like home.
There are many different forms of spiritual practice. Many different ways of connecting with something other than our own small minds, many different ways of freeing ourselves from greed, ill will and delusion. With all this variety, and the modern emphasis on customisation and individualisation we can end up in a tradition of one.
When we are on our own in this way, it can be more difficult to maintain practice, and it can feel lonely. Yes —the Buddha prescribed time on our own but this was in the context of already being embedded in community.
In our Buddhist community we have a shared language for spiritual practice, and shared practices. We support each other when times are hard, we inspire each other, and sometimes we are the grit for someone else’s pearl.
I think of an individual practioner like a single smouldering branch or stick. When you bring this together with other smouldering branches – fire! Light and heat!
Community can be hard work sometimes, but living and practicing with others is one of the greatest spiritual teachers.