“Satsang”, by definition, means truthful association and is a concept central to the spiritual development of man. The Shri Ramacharitmanas is rife with references to satsang and the power of this holy act. In Aaranya Kaand, Shri Raam expounded to Sabari Mata, the nine steps in building devotion. He postulated a “bhakti” taxonomy or protocol with various nomenclature or terminologies given to the svarious practices. First and foremost amongst the various practices is Satsang. He quotes as follows “Prathama Bhakti Santana Kara Sangaa”.
What is the benefit of satsang and why is this such a powerful practice? Satsang has the ability to transform our lives from one of negativity to one of positivity and to further elevate us when we are on the spiritual path. Whether we are now seeking a breakthrough into the world of spirituality or we are spiritual veterans, satsang remains the practice of choice and the basis of development.
Transformation is defined as a marked change in form, nature or appearance. The greatest testimony to the power of satsang is the transformation of Valmiki from a “paapi” or sinner to Adi Kavi or the foremost amongst poets. Through the power of satsang, his life was permanently changed as his nature and appearance was converted to one of spirituality. Valmiki was trying to perpetrate a crime against a group of saints but, through simple dialogue, the saints were able to bring about this change in the mind of Valmiki.
In the case of the spiritually elevated, satsang remains a tool of choice in maintaining connection to divinity and spirituality. This is evident in Shri Ramacharitmanas where Shri Raam always kept the company of the sages and engaged in positive discourse for self development. Shri Raam stated in Uttar Kaand that satsang is necessary for the attainment of bhakti.
What is the mechanics behind satsang? During satsang, the “gyaan indriyas” (senses of perception) are engaged in positive activity. For example, when we attend yagya, our gyaan indriyas are bombarded by only positive experiences as detailed in the table below:
|Gyaan Indriya||Interacting Experience|
|Sight||Gazing upon the Murtis, bedi and pundit.|
|Hearing||Listening to bhajan, mantras and uplifting discourse|
|Smell||Inhalation of havan smoke and incense|
|Touch||Bowing at the feet of Murtis and pundits; accepting aarti|
|Taste||Consumption of prasad and bhojan|
The question is asked, if satsang is such a powerful tool and we have an abundance of yagya in the country, why are we still seeing such deterioration in the morality of our citizens? The answer may be simply that the satsang environment, while existing in form, does not exist in substance. For example, it is not enough to have a pundit present, but really a pundit of substance and depth who is filled with spirituality. The environment must be clean and the people must be of clean mind. The prasad offered and bhojan prepared must be done in a clean way where the persons preparing must maintain cleanliness of body, mind and speech. Such substance is needed to accompany the physical form of Satsang to bring about transformation. Therefore when Satsang exists in form and substance, it remains the greatest instrument in the bhakti toolbox. Jai Swaha Mata!
By Pt Jaidath Maharaj