Kusang & Satsang the Body Electric: A Brief Investigation of Social Impact on Individual Happiness

After another wonderful weekend intensive class reviewing FICAM material on emotional intelligence and practicing therapeutic protocols I left feeling elated, electrified and exhausted at the same time. Seeing others make powerful shifts in their perception as a result of the work, feeling it myself and reviewing it all on a cognitive level I’d say it’s impossible not to be so touched! As I shared some of my experiences with friends and acquaintances, I heard the same response repeatedly: “I would love to be involved with something like that!”

As I thought more about these comments, being the hypermensiac that I am, a number of associations came to mind. For one, their stated desires reflected something that recent psychological research also attests to. People are able to achieve a happier, more fulfilling life by making less small talk about mundane things. Those that instead have substantive conversations about the issues of the day, deeply analyze their own or other’s motivations, problems and values all allow people to really examine our place in the world and give it meaning. This creation of significance on an individual and social basis not only gives meaning to our lives and world in some abstract manner, but provides a tangible manner in which individuals can engage to better themselves.

As the initial situation that obtained such responses from people expressing desire related specifically to my experience in an intentional community of people seeking similar abilities and knowledge this additionally made me think of the concepts of kusang and satsang found in Eastern philosophy that I was first introduced to while studying with Swami Shyam at the International Meditation Institute in Kullu, India. I highly recommend this article’s exegesis on the concepts from a Sikh perspective as it delineates the various manners by which doing so brings about personal and social unhappiness and goes into more depth than I will here. In brief, kusang (false association) is the categorization of attributes that indicate a fixation upon and devotion to small talk and the social values implicit within it. It’s opposite, satang (truth-filled company), was of course what my weekend at FICAM was all about.

The general tendency of American settlement patterns to develop Bourgeois Utopias that inculcates social isolation and class-based segregation has also assisted in it’s turn away from once vibrant religious communities. This has had numerous effects on the so called “Habits of the Heart” and not for the better. Whatever one’s position on organized religion, it has generally fulfilled the inherent need for individuals to unite into a group for identification with others based upon the discussions and dissemination of literary material that addresses to some degree the everyday experiences which cause people anxiety, desire, fear and hope.

How then to develop this if you can’t be involved like I am in FICAM? Simple! Extend and enact your will to achieve greater happiness and feeling of being present in the world through action. Make an effort to speak with others about the issues that concern you, form conversational groups or book clubs that will allow you to tap into this source of personal fulfillment. Secondly, try to avoid conversations or cultural products that don’t evoke spiritually or intellectually ennobling features. After all, you can’t touch garlic without getting its stink upon you for a period of time afterwards and by focusing on the ennobling you take it into you almost as if by osmosis.