Of Sat, Sang and Satsang…

सत्संगत्वे निस्संगत्वं, निस्संगत्वे निर्मोहत्वं। 
निर्मोहत्वे निश्चलतत्त्वं, निश्चलतत्त्वे जीवन्मुक्तिः ॥९॥

Satsagatve nissagatva, niḥsagatve nīrmohatvam 

nirmohatve niścalitatvam, niścalitatve jīvanmuktiḥ

from Bhaja Gōvindam, written by Jagadguru Adi Śaṅkarācārya

Through good company arises non-attachment; from non-attachment comes freedom from delusion; when there is freedom from delusion, the mind becomes steady and unwavering, from a steady mind comes liberation. 

This śloka is another gem from the Bhaja Gōvindam, a a short composition by Ādi Śaṅkarācārya. It is said that this was a spontaneous reaction when he saw an old man studying the grammar rules of Pānini, and wondered why the man was still engaged in mere intellectual pursuits at an age when he would be better off trying to seek the Self through devotion and self-introspection.

Sat – is the unwavering, unchanging truth. Satsang means being with satA man is known by the company he keeps, they say. Satsang – is good company, the company of the wise, the learned. A human being is a product of the environment that he is brought up in – our ideas, values and outlook towards life is largely shaped by our family and friends. Spending quality time with people who are more wise than us helps us grow spiritually. By wise – I do not mean educated. Wisdom is a product of experience and good thinking, and not a count of the degrees that one has achieved.

He who knows not, and knows not that he knows not, is a fool… shun him. He who knows not, and knows that he knows not, is willing… teach him. He who knows, and knows not that he knows, is asleep… awaken him. He who knows, and knows that he knows, is wise… follow him.

Satsang leads to us opening our own perceptions about life. We get to see things more clearly – and this helps us detach from being possessed by our possessions, rather than the other way around.

I read a small story of a merchant (Balbir Singh Balsa) whose shop was burning down – he came running to the scene, and started wailing unconsolably, in front of the crowd gathered there. His friend, who rushed up there, whispered to him – Balbir – don’t cry…your son sold this shop just a couple of days back…Balbir turned to the crowd, wiped his tears, and became a philosopher on the spot – “what have we come with? what will we go with? It’s All in God’s hands – nothing is permanent.

Just then, his son came by and started crying. “Why are you crying?” asked Balbir. ” you had the presence of mind to sell this, thankfully in time!”. Balbir’s son turned to him and said” yes father, I had nearly completed the transaction. But it was to be signed tomorrow!…hearing this, Balbir started wailing even louder…

Our possessions are temporary, we loan them from the world, and leave them here when we leave. In Satsang, we learn from the words and actions of the wise. We observe how they conduct themselves, how they relate to people and situations, and how they are able to remain free from unnecessary reactions and keep their composure in various situations. This is how we also slowly develop composure of our own mind and move towards freedom from rāgā (attraction) and dveśa (repulsion).

Being in Satsang helps us realise this simple truth, and leads to nissaṅgatvaṃ – non-attachment. From this sense of non-attachment comes freedom from the false notion of belonging, liking and disliking situations, and seeing them as it is. Moving towards nīrmohatvam requires a clear mind – practising non-attachment helps clear the muddied waters of the mind.

Non-attachment does not mean walking away from the world – on the contrary, the world is meant to be enjoyed.

Non-attachment means enjoyment without dependence or demand. You are fine when you have scrumptious food – you enjoy those moments, and you are fine in bad times when all you get is simple rice and lentils, or even lesser. An iPhone and an entry-level Nokia mean the same – you don’t have to avoid the iPhone, but if the situation presents itself, you are fine with the Nokia as well!

Once the mind is calmed down – nirmohatve niścalitatvam – it is now in a state to contemplate the greater meaning of life, and to look inwards – to seek the true Self hidden behind all the layers of our own ego. Discovering this Self, leads to liberation – or jīvanmukti , while being part of this world. Not in a forest, not in a secluded cave – but in your own home, while you are very much a part of society.