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!