The power of Good company

In spiritual traditions we often hear the term “Satsang” being used. It is considered highly needed for seekers in the spiritual path. If we find a group of fellow travelers, on this road to Liberation, the path will become more beautiful, more loving and less fraught with difficulties.

Now one might be given to ask “Why is that so, if all is the Self/Awareness, then why is it there so much emphasis given to satsang?”

The reasons are two-fold, in my humble opinion.

While it is given that every one is verily the Self and none else, the manifestation due to the creative power of that Self (Pure Awareness) results in the appearance of separateness and many individuals. These individuals live and die and then are re-born to repeat this cycle with certain natural laws that also have manifested. This process of rising and falling of creation is called Samsara. So long as the true nature of the Self is hidden due to the influence of this creative power (Maya), there is seeking, and there is a need for the individual “self” to realize the “Self”.  This article is written from the perspective of that individual “self” who seeks to realize the “Non-dual Self”.

The individual self is governed by the rules of samsara, wherein, from Pure Awareness, a bubble seems to rise, and with it the sense of being – I am. This sense of being results in the appearance of boundaries, contained between two poles. The poles being that of reception and of transmission, or yin and yang, or prakriti and purusha. Between these two poles arises a field that appears as manifestation, or the universe. Why are these two poles created? Because without polarity, motion cannot exist. And the universe as we perceive it, is in constant motion.

The process of this manifestation is explained by Ramana Maharshi in the diagram shown below.

To make this short, the five koshas/sheaths, along with the five tattvas and the three gunas are what make up the individual self, and are what produce the world as it is perceived and known. As these many individual selves live and exist in the world, they interact with each other. And this interaction results more causality, therefore more motion, and therefore solidifying further samsara and binding us thus to objects that rise and fall in it.

Along with the rising and falling of objects, the selves bounce from object to object, looking to satisfy their unquenchable thirst to seek meaning to their existence. They cling to some objects and shirk others. They seem to gain pleasure from some objects and pain from others, or pain from losing the objects that cause them pain.

So where does satsang fall in this story? Here’s where —

When an individual turns back to the source (The Self), to find where he/she comes from, a purification happens, and the two gunas – rajas and tamas, that affected the “ego”, start transforming into sattva. This results in a field of purity/presence manifesting around that individual. When more such individuals gather together, the field grows, and in my experience, with sufficient number of people in the group, the field grows exponentially in size as well as power. What the individual would find hard to do in terms of turning back and staying focused on the Self, would get accelerated and amplified in a group. So, without any other activity of the mind or intellect, just being in such a group is greatly beneficial to the seekers. It is not unnatural to just sit silently in such a group and get purified further (this is called Antahkaranashuddhi, or the purification of the inner senses).

Furthermore, there is not even a need to be physically present in the same location. Just making the intention simultaneously to be in satsang is sufficient. Open the hearts, abide in the source and connect with each other. Presence can be shared with “others” too. That is what a Guru does with his disciples. He/She shares presence – expands the field mentioned above, so that even the least advanced member of the group gets uplifted. When one knows that there is no separation between these apparently separate entities, limitations of space and time are irrelevant. But that is a topic for another time.

The other benefit of a satsang is the support of others in the path. If the chosen path is that of Advaita Vedanta, the process of Shravana, Manana and Nidhidhyasana will be greatly helpful in such a purified atmosphere  as well. Individuals will support each other lovingly, and help each other remember to stay focused on the goal.

Additional benefits of satsang is the practice to develop the ability to practice selfless service for other members of the group, before being able to take it to the rest of the world.

While it is true that there is only the Self, so long as the samsara seems real, a satsang is greatly beneficial.

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4 Replies to “The power of Good company”

  1. Dear Pradip,
    You have appropriately summed your justification of Satsang even for advaitis in a key sentence at the very end, saying, "While it is true that there is only the Self, so long as the samsara seems real, a satsang is greatly beneficial." Adi Shankara felt that Satsang amounted to no sang at all and can therefore lead to mukti for a realized person, while apparently living in Samsara. Jivanneva mukto bhavati.

    Satsang is also what Vishishtadvaitis are advised to seek by approachinging the feet of an Acharya and listening to him on the merit of surrendering totally to the Infinite. Two samskaras, one called samaashrayana(where the Acharya may place mudras of Bhagavan's shankha and chakra on your bhujas and the second where the promise of mukti by Hari in Ramavatara and Krishnavatara is explained in detail to you who is asked to surrender all the weight of his karma at the Lord's feet by the Acharya, are the ritualistic components of this satsang. The second samskara referred to as prapatti or bharanyaasa is said to assure the devotee of mukti at the end of his present life.

  2. How beautifully Pradip and Dwai have been able to absorb my comment while ignoring my slip up in getting the authorship of this well written article wrong! What a nice illustration of resonance when Satsang is in operation! Doforgive my error, dear friends.

  3. This article by Dwai beautifully illustrates the importance of satsangh.
    On a more mundane level,we as social animals need and thrive on inspiration from our fellow humans.
    For example, even to stay on yoga practice or some diet related “tapas“ 🙂 people need a partner or buddy so to speak,to help them stay on course.One can progress well in a chosen field when one is in good company.
    Our design is such that we seek company .Atleast until we reach a stage we learn to celebrate being alone with ourselves.
    The company we keep can affect us physically and in ways that we cannot fathom or measure…
    I agree with the idea that even physical presence is not necessary to be benefitted by satsangh. I am one of those who benefitted and I agree with this point completely.
    A Guru,by his smarana can give diksha to a deserving student just by thinking of him /her, just as a mother tortoise nourishes her young hatchlings on the beach while she herself is still away in the ocean. The young ones find their way to her ,guided/goaded on by smarana diksha.
    “Remote “ satsangh must work in the same way .
    Warm regards

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