Q and A: How important is satsangha for one who desires to know the Truth?

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We are what we accu­mu­late: at the lev­el of body and mind

When we say Sat­sang­ha, sang­ha means basi­cal­ly we are pick­ing things up from the envi­ron­ment and then inte­grat­ing it. But here, Truth means we wish to have a direct vision of real­i­ty, of what is. Not some­thing imag­ined. So how does this work? We would see that even this body is an accu­mu­la­tion of the food that we have eat­en, the air that we have breathed in, the water that we have drunk, so that is how this body is an accu­mu­la­tion. So the qual­i­ty of the input deter­mines to a cer­tain extent how the body is com­posed, because it is an accu­mu­la­tion. Sim­i­lar­ly you would see the mind, the inner instru­ments, the antahkarana, is an accu­mu­la­tion. You live with cer­tain kinds of peo­ple, let’s say you are in school, you will think a cer­tain way, then your gang shifts, your friends’ cir­cle shifts while you are in col­lege, and you will start think­ing and behav­ing every­thing dif­fer­ent­ly. Then you go to office, you grad­u­ate out of col­lege, you have a new set of friends and it impacts your per­son­al­i­ty. So what you hear, what you see, what you take in in terms of food for thought, deter­mines your per­son­al­i­ty. How you think, how you act, how you see the world, you know, that is the word, how you see real­i­ty, how do you see the world, even phys­i­cal­ly we under­stand, each per­son­’s view­point is unique. You look at it from your angle, the angle of inci­dence of light is com­plete­ly unique and hence the per­son, even next to you, is not see­ing the same real­i­ty, same world, phys­i­cal­ly. Then imag­ine how much more com­plex it would be in the inner real­i­ty, because it is so much more flu­id, and vaster. There are var­i­ous shades to the same thing. And hence we look at the envi­ron­ment giv­ing us a cer­tain view­point, a cer­tain view­ing angle. Now, hav­ing under­stood this, this is a very prac­ti­cal thing, you know, you are not insu­lat­ed from the envi­ron­ment, from the peo­ple that you live with, from who you inter­act with, you can­not be insu­lat­ed. You might think, “I am just this body, and hence it is insu­lat­ed.” But no, if you look deep­er, you would clear­ly see, it is not insu­lat­ed. There is inter­ac­tion going on all the time. And hence Sat­sang­ha becomes a very prac­ti­cal neces­si­ty.

Bhajagovindam सत्संगत्वे निस्संगत्वं, निस्संगत्वे निर्मोहत्वं।
निर्मोहत्वे निश्चलतत्त्वं, निश्चलतत्त्वे जीवन्मुक्तिः ॥९॥
Satsangatve nissangatvam nissangatve nirmohatvam,
nirmohatve niscalatattvam niscalatattve jivanmuktiH

Through the company of the good people, there arises non-attachment; from non-attachment comes freedom from delusion; where there is freedom from delusion, there is unchanging reality, which leads to freedom while alive.

Sup­port from the Envi­ron­ment

If you need to be able to gain a direct vision of the Truth, then you need to asso­ciate with peo­ple and you need to live in an envi­ron­ment that pro­vides you with a…you know some­thing like an advan­tage. It def­i­nite­ly does pro­vide you with an advan­tage. Because how else do you nav­i­gate to the point where you can have a direct vision of the Truth? It is sub­tle nav­i­ga­tion. Your con­di­tion­ings need to become flu­id, free from rigid­i­ty, so that you can use it only func­tion­al­ly, and then, through all that maze you clear it off so that you can direct­ly view the truth. That is where sat­sang­ha plays a very impor­tant role. Because Sat­sang­ha means you are in the com­pa­ny, in the envi­ron­ment that will give you a direct vision of Truth — Sat. The Mahavakya tat tvam asi says you are that! But the envi­ron­ment and the peo­ple around you def­i­nite­ly make a dif­fer­ence, because that is the prac­ti­cal way by which we can sus­tain it, we can also arrive at a direct vision of Truth. So in that sense, Sat­sang­ha is very use­ful. It is tac­ti­cal­ly very use­ful for one who desires to know the Truth. With­out that, self-nav­i­ga­tion is very tedious process.

Likes and Dis­likes

Sat­sang­ha also works in terms of, pro­vid­ing us with a clear mir­ror as to how our inner real­i­ty is so that it can be sim­pli­fied and worked upon. Oth­er­wise, we clear­ly see that the atti­tudes we hold, the con­di­tion­ings that we hold in our lives, deter­mine the kind of a life we lead and expe­ri­ence we go through in life. If you have very strong con­di­tion­ings, in terms of “I hate this”,”I don’t like this” “I love this” and as a con­se­quence of that, you devel­op strong expec­ta­tions, then, you would see your expe­ri­ences are bound to be very strong. Expe­ri­ences would be either up, high, very high­ly excit­ed, or low, down in the dumps and dull. You might be imag­in­ing that your expe­ri­ences are caused by the envi­ron­ment, while actu­al­ly the envi­ron­ment pro­vides only a basis or a mir­ror for your own con­di­tion­ing. Gen­er­al­ly the envi­ron­ment absorbs a lot of this, and it is very easy to blame the envi­ron­ment for what we are going through, because our con­di­tion­ings are not vis­i­ble. We cel­e­brate our con­di­tion­ings. Hence we need to live in an envi­ron­ment that actu­al­ly mir­rors our con­di­tion­ings and shows us how our con­di­tion­ings play a role in our view­points and our lim­i­ta­tions. You clear­ly see the role of con­di­tion­ings, lead­ing to expe­ri­ences that bind you. Then you see, you auto­mat­i­cal­ly unbind your­selves so that you can look deep­er. You can look at things in a fresh per­spec­tive, and start see­ing the inter­con­nec­tions between var­i­ous things. That is the role of Sat­san­ga.

It provides you with a clear mirror, not a distorted or a contorted mirror, through which your limitations become visible and the experiences that you undergo as a consequence of your own conditionings, your own limitations, that becomes visible. That gives you a practical handle to work with yourselves.

It pro­vides you with a clear mir­ror, not a dis­tort­ed or a con­tort­ed mir­ror, through which your lim­i­ta­tions become vis­i­ble and the expe­ri­ences that you under­go as a con­se­quence of your own con­di­tion­ings, your own lim­i­ta­tions, that becomes vis­i­ble. That gives you a prac­ti­cal han­dle to work with yourselves.Otherwise there is no prac­ti­cal han­dle. It will be only blame game, end­ing nowhere. Just as the right envi­ron­ment is need­ed for the seed to ger­mi­nate, the right peo­ple are need­ed around you so that the right things sprout.

Sto­ry of Nara­da and Vish­nu

Nara­da Mahar­ishi had a doubt. He asked Bha­ga­van Vish­nu, “What is the ben­e­fit of asso­ci­at­ing with good peo­ple?” Vish­nu is like the many teach­ers we see. No direct answers! Find it for your­self! Vish­nu told Nara­da to ask a par­rot perched on a tree. Nara­da saw the par­rot and asked the ques­tion. The par­rot imme­di­ate­ly dropped dead! Nara­da was shocked. He ran back to Vish­nu and asked him about the inci­dent. Vish­nu said, “There is a calf out there. Please put your ques­tion to him”. Nara­da then asked the calf and the calf too fell dead! Nara­da was real­ly wor­ried. He won­dered if he had com­mit­ted a sin by ask­ing such a ques­tion. He ran back to Vish­nu total­ly shocked and Vish­nu with his usu­al calm smile said, “There is a prince out there. Go and ask him”. Now Nara­da would­n’t go. Nara­da said,“Prabhu! Once bit­ten twice shy! I don’t want the prince to die”. Vish­nu assured him that noth­ing would hap­pen. Nara­da went to the Prince. Nara­da swal­lowed hard for every word he said, fear­ing that the Prince might die upon com­plet­ing the sen­tence. Once Nara­da com­plet­ed the ques­tion, the Prince laughed. Nara­da was relieved that the prince did­n’t die after all. The prince said “Lord! How is it pos­si­ble that you ask this ques­tion to me while you are always in the com­pa­ny of Narayana? I was a par­rot and the moment I asso­ci­at­ed with you, I died and came back as an evolved cow. The moment the cow asso­ci­at­ed with you, it died and now it is a prince. Now, the moment I saw you I am enlight­ened. Such is the pow­er of asso­ci­a­tion.”. Nara­da was speech­less!