QA150 QUESTION: Some friends of mine are trying to step out in the direction of living in a form of a community, such as the Shakers. What you could say about community life regarding self-development and what advice could you give to make it successful?
ANSWER: There is nothing wrong as such with community life, provided that the community life does not in itself become a shield that prevents the individual from looking at his own inner self and inner problem – where the community life is not the goal. For community life can never be the goal.
The goal must be the individual himself – the inner life – that alone can make him capable of living successfully in a community. And I would say to anyone who is involved in such a venture and who is cognizant at the same time of self-realization – of its possibility and who is desirous of making this possibility come true – to be very careful not to put the effort at the other end, not to put the cart before the horse, as it were.
But to concentrate, to ask in meditation for the adequate help that is necessary in order to help each individual find his problems, his misconceptions, his conflict, his fears, and the areas in which he is separated from his real self. By that process, aspects of the community life can then be used in order to see the correlation between them. That would be the way. But otherwise it is often a venture that may have its beautiful aspects but it also has its undesirable aspect.
The relationship between the beautiful and the undesirable aspect is not even the point. For even if the beautiful aspects outweigh or seem to outweigh the unpleasant ones, if the community life itself is made the goal – and not each individual in it – it is a failure.
Each individual self requires a tremendous amount of energy, of willpower, of overcoming resistance, of requesting the proper help – for no one can do it by himself – so that things can begin to develop that everyone can get what they need in the area where it really counts.