Many years ago, a story was told of a man who once wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper and complained that he did not see how it helped him to attend spiritual lectures every Sunday. “I’ve gone for thirty years now,” he wrote, “and in that time I have heard something like 3,000 lectures. But for the life of me, I can’t remember a single one of them. So, I think I’m wasting my time and the preachers are wasting theirs by giving them.”
This is the opinion of a person who is merely expressing his views on the value of spiritual discourses. It is possible that we have shared the same view at some point in our lives. We too may have asked ourselves, “Why do we go to satsang when most of the time our mind runs out thinking of other things? Why go to satsang when we end up falling asleep? What is the benefit of satsang when, before we even leave the hall, we have already forgotten what we heard? Are we also wasting our time?”
Life is all about routine, and in the performance of our daily routine, our mind is continually active, and our body is in constant motion, resting only when we go to sleep at night.
Once or twice a week, our routines are punctuated with satsang -forty-five minutes of sitting quietly and comfortably in a peaceful atmosphere where we are asked to leave the outside world and pay attention to a spiritual discourse.
Karo ri koi satsang aaj banaa’e is a beautiful poem which appeals to us like an invitation from Soami Ji Maharaj, in which he writes: “How good it would be if someone had the company of the truth …”
In this poem, Soami Ji is encouraging us to seek the company of the truth – in other words, to find a true Master. He is the embodiment of truth and imparts the teachings that will lead us to an awareness of spiritual Truth. The word satsang comprises of sat, which means truth, and sang, which means company. Sat-sang, therefore, means to be in the company of truth.
The saints tell us that nothing we see in this world has existed on its own. There is a Creator, and he is the one Lord, the one God of us all. We remember him with love and devotion by thousands of names. He is the supreme reason for our search and spiritual yearning. Our soul is the essence of the Lord and we are a drop of the vast ocean of his divine love.
In satsang, our mind is required to focus and listen to discourses about the Lord. Satsang is a refresher course meant to inspire and energize our daily routine of sitting in meditation with love, devotion and concentration.
As Maharaj Charan Singh explained, to sit in meditation for a couple of hours in a closed room is a very difficult thing. However, he also asserts that all these meetings, all these satsangs and question-and-answer sessions, are meant to help us do our best in our spiritual practice. The purpose of satsang is to strengthen our meditation. It dissolves and resolves the doubts, questions and obstacles in our mind.
It does not matter what stage of our spiritual journey we are at; as a seeker and as an initiate, satsang is crucial.
If you don’t attend the satsang meeting, you might be rushing to some other social gathering, and God knows what you might collect there. If the stone doesn’t dissolve in the water, at least it saves itself from the heat of the sun. That’s the example Great Master used to give us. If people in the satsang don’t attend to meditation, at least they are saving themselves from the vices of the world to a great extent.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III
The Masters explain that if we are inconsistent with our meditation, satsang serves to remind us about the benefits of meditation and the bounty of God’s grace. When we are away from the atmosphere of satsang, the mind becomes active again – it makes us dance to its tune and pulls us towards the senses. However, all that hammering is sure to make a dent one day, and eventually, we will love to sit for meditation.
Even those who attend to their meditation regularly need the atmosphere of satsang. The saints say if we have a good crop, we need a good fence as well, lest somebody destroy it. Satsang works as a strong fence around the crop of our meditation.
Let’s go back to the story of the man who wrote a letter to the editor complaining that he did not see how it helped him to attend spiritual lectures every Sunday. His letter started a big controversy in the ‘Letters to the Editor’ column, much to the delight of the editor.
The discussion went on for weeks until someone wrote: “I’ve been married for thirty years now. In that time my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals. But, for the life of me, I cannot recall the entire menu for a single one of them. But I do know this: they all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work. If my wife had not given me these meals, I would be physically dead today. Likewise, if I had not gone to those lectures for nourishment, I would be spiritually dead today!”
Maharaj Sawan Singh explains:
If the waters of rivers and rivulets, on joining the Ganges, lose their own identity; if the knife of the butcher turns into gold on touching the philosopher’s stone; if a margosa tree growing near a sandalwood tree imbibes its fragrance; if it is true that whatever is kept in a salt mine becomes salt; then there need be no doubt that whoever goes to satsang is dyed in its colour. You may be good or bad. There is nothing to worry about. You should gain the company of a saint and listen to his satsang. The fresh air of his invigorating spirituality will bestow upon you spiritual health and freshness, and in a short time you will become good yourself.
Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. I
Satsang is, therefore, the means to an end – a crucial aspect of our spiritual journey. It gives us the inspiration and energy to sit for meditation every day, and provides us with the spiritual health to allow the love and devotion for our Satguru to bloom within us.
The mere hearing of discourses and attendance at satsang is not sufficient. You should also ponder over and mentally accept what you have heard so that you might move on to the next step of practice. If you do not let it sink in your heart, you remain as you were.
Soami Ji Maharaj, Sar Bachan