For a spiritual seeker who is moving on the path from compulsiveness to consciousness, can spending time around those people caught in compulsive behaviors have a negative impact? Sadhguru speaks about the importance of the sangha, or the company one keeps, and about cultivating the right kind of company.

Q: Sadhguru, I share an apartment with other people, and whenever I’m away for longer periods of time, I sublet my room. All kinds of people are staying there – once a girl who turned into a drug addict, and different couples too. I’m wondering to what extent this could affect me. What’s your take on that?

Sadhguru: Do not underestimate the influence of the company that you keep. Even if you do not drink or do drugs, being in the company of people who do impacts you on a completely different level. Gautama the Buddha described the ultimate truth, the one who transmits truth, and the sangha or the kind of company you keep, as equally important. He is socially correct but existentially wrong. Actually, the first priority should be the sangha or the company that you keep, then the Buddha or the one who transmits truth, then the dhamma or the ultimate truth.

Most human beings are – knowingly or unknowingly – shaped by the company that they keep. They may not realize to what extent. It is not only your family and friends who have an impact on you, but your social exposure in general. I would say your social exposure has shaped almost ninety percent of your personality. Choosing your company is not about being discriminatory, but about being discretionary as to where you want to be and with whom you want to be. It is definitely not ideal to be among people who are so compulsive in nature that you can consider them addicts, no matter what they are addicted to.

Moving from Compulsiveness to Consciousness

Your whole effort is to move from compulsiveness to consciousness. Being among people who are very compulsive is not supportive. You have not yet reached a place where you can be among the most compulsive people and still be absolutely conscious and unaffected on the level of your system. You may or may not get addicted yourself. I hope you will not, but it definitely influences you in many ways. If external influences did not have an impact, why would anyone make the effort of building an ashram? It is one big headache to maintain a spiritual place which is like an oasis in a churning ocean. To keep it like an island that remains untouched by what is happening around takes a lot.

On an average, about seven thousand people are visiting the Isha Yoga Center every day. To welcome them, to let them be part of it, and not to become them is a great challenge. We need solid people. Otherwise, everyone tries to bring a bit of their home, their street, their town and make it a part of the ashram. People try to introduce their whims and fancies, their likes and dislikes. Almost everyone who comes tries to exert some influence upon the ashram. Some ask about doing or having things in a certain way – others just do it. To politely or sometimes forcefully refuse their influence is not easy. The idea of an ashram is to maintain a space that is dedicated towards a purpose.

Wherever you live, you need to maintain your space in such a way that it is dedicated to the purpose for which you are living. Your private space should reflect where you want to go, rather than someone else’s compulsive ways of living. This is very important; until you come to a place where, even if you go to hell, you will come out untouched. Right now, you tend to get carried away. Do not overestimate yourself.

Cultivating the Right Kind of Company

Creating the right kind of space – and if necessary moving away from negative influences – is very important for your growth. This is not only about avoiding people with a drug addiction, but with any kind of excessive compulsiveness. People are dedicated to their compulsiveness. If you look at the way many so-called normal families live – “normal” in the sense that the children are not drug addicts, the husband is not an alcoholic, and the wife is not a shopaholic – the way they exist is so anti-consciousness. If you can transform them, that is great. If you cannot transform them, the best thing is to step away. For almost all human beings, the kind of company they keep shapes their lives. To what extent may vary from person to person, but it definitely determines a lot of things.

Maybe right now, what kind of company I keep does not make any difference to me. But the company I kept in earlier times definitely determined who I am today. If I had kept the wrong kind of company then, things would surely be very different for me now. What was relevant for me then is relevant for you now. It is very important for your growth that you either cultivate the right kind of company or make choices not to be in the wrong company.

Editor’s Note: Find more of Sadhguru’s insights in the book “Of Mystics and Mistakes.” Download the preview chapter or purchase the ebook at Isha Downloads.