By James Bean
The term "Satsang" is used by various spiritual paths from India including Sant Mat: The Way of the Saints — Path of the Masters of the East. It literally means "Association" (Sang) with the "Eternal Truth" or God (Sat, Haq, Anami, Great Invisible Spirit). It is used to refer to spiritual gatherings, but it goes much deeper then that. It is more than about attending meetings. One is encouraged to ponder, ruminate upon, and internalise the teachings one hears during satsang or reads in the writings of Sants one contemplates during one’s own private satsang-time at home just before going into meditation practice. Satsang is an influence in one’s life, a series of opportunities for spirituality to not only be taught, but caught.
Satsang is not Maya’s Place
Satsangs are a time and place where the Mysteries of the Beyond are disclosed openly, where the Secrets are spoken freely. If a satsang is facilitated according to the principals of the genuine Sant tradition, one will only hear teachings of scriptures and Sants (Saints, Masters, Sant Satgurus) during such a meeting. Done correctly, there are no lost teachings, forgotten saints or censored writings. One may hear chanted, recited or quoted, verses from the Bijak or Anurag Sagar of Guru Kabir, Adi Granth, Banis and Bhajans of: Dariya Sahib, Mirabai, Dadu, Param Sant Tulsi Sahib, Sant Radhaswami Sahib, countless other Sant mystic-poets, or more recent Sants. The true "template" of satsang consists of the words of past, and present or living, Sant Satgurus. The teaching of all Sants IS the template of satsang, and may consist of readings from the writings of any past or present Sant, along with commentary in contemporary language. Better still if we have the great fortune to attend a talk directly given by a living Master in person, or a recording of such a talk.
Satsang is not run like a board meeting of a multinational cooperation or like other approaches to meetings. Satsang also never digresses into discussions about lower levels of the supernatural or astral plane, politics, or other matters of mind and matter that are off-topic. Satsangs do not even consist of warm-fuzzy talks or cute stories, as harmless as those appear to be. Rather, satsang discourses are dedicated to guiding souls into the Timeless Eternal Truth, are focused on how we as souls, as spiritual beings, may experience/associate ourselves with/become one with that Eternal Truth (Sat) for ourselves during our own spiritual practice. Satsang discourses also inspire us to develop, more and more with each passing day, thoughts, words, and deeds in harmony with that Eternal Formless Reality, the Ocean of Love.
"Where two or three gather in My Name, I Am in their midst." There is a wonderful group energy that is an indispensable helping factor on the spiritual journey. When a group of seekers-after-Truth meditates together, one can notice significant improvements, an acceleration in inner progress, more experiences of inner Vision, Lights and inner Sounds. This, in turn, will help deepen one’s own regular daily meditation practice at home.
Below is from a spiritual discourse by Swami Sant Sevi Ji Paramahansa from the book, The Harmony of All Religions, from Chapter Seven titled, Santmat. This is a new book translated into English that has recently become available in the West. It serves as one of the best introductions to Sant Mat mysticism you could ever hope to find, exploring several meditation techniques as well as many important guiding principals on the journey back to God. It is also a great book about comparative religion and comparative mysticism, pointing out the universal truths and common threads present in the esoteric traditions of the major world religions: Hinduism, the Essene-Judaeo-Christian tradition, Jainism, Buddhism, Islam, and Sikh.
The Blessings of Satsang, by Swami Sant Sevi Ji Paramahansa
Param Sant Tulsidas Ji says: "Without the association of great saints, there is neither discourse of the Divine nor the understanding of the scriptures. Without these two, selfish attachment does not loosen its grip. And without dispelling attachment to the world one cannot attain the realm of the Divine and the true devotion that is essential to realize the Divine."
Guru Kabir Sahib says: "Discord and delusion can be removed by the power of the association of saints [satsang]. For those who associate with saints, suffering dissolves and they will remain immersed in joy. Joy arises from noble company and pain arises from association with the wicked", says Kabir, "go to a place where saints dwell and their association is possible."
On the Three Levels of Satsang, by Swami Sant Sevi Ji Paramahansa
The word satsang is comprised of two words: ‘sat’ and ‘sang’. What is sat?
Sat is that which can never be destroyed. It is the essential element which is indestructible and beyond the limitations of time. And it is Truth. Sang means association or contact. Thus association or coming in contact with Sat or Truth is satsang.
In the Bhagavad Gita Lord Krishna says:
"Whatever is Truth always exists and is never non-existent. That which is non-Truth has no existence whatsoever."
* The First Kind of Satsang (Association with God)
What is this element which is indestructible, has always been constant and will forever remain as such? That element is the Supreme Being of the universe. Association with this Being, in reality, is association with Truth (satsang). But, what is it that would associate with this Supreme Being? Is it the body or the senses? The answer is that it is neither of these two. It is only apart from the body and senses that we will be able to associate with the Supreme Being. This is because it is only our soul that is an inseparable part of the Divine. It is only we (our soul) that is capable of merging with the Divine. Our individual soul is truth, and also, the Supreme is Truth. True satsang is the unity of the soul with the Supreme Truth. This is the highest kind of sat-sang. However, this highest kind of satsang, unity with the Divine, does not occur all of a sudden. This category of satsang requires many lifetimes of good actions and spiritual imprints (samskaras).
* The Second Kind of Sat-sang (Association with the Saints)
Sant Tulsidas says:
"The association of the saints brings association with the Divine, and alliance with people who are engrossed in the world leads the way back to this world again and again."
To attain Ultimate Liberation it is essential to have association with the saints. Saints, having realized the true form of God, become that True Form. The accomplished great beings who have attained unity with the Divine, and who have experienced the Supreme Being even while living in this body, have become the Supreme Being [They become one with their true Divine Form]. Association with these saints is this second category of satsang. However, finding such a saint is not an easy task. A true saint is rare and difficult to find.
Sant Tulsidas says:
"Without accumulation of many good deeds one will be unable to gain the association of a great saint."
When our good karmas permit, we are able to come to experience the association of these sentient beings. A more important point is that even if we have a direct encounter with such a saint, we often do not have the wisdom to be able to recognize a genuine sage.
A great Sant, Tulsidas, says:
"If someone says ‘I have recognized a saint,’ then I put my hands on my ears in astonishment. [It is not an easy task.]"
If ordinary people could recognize saints, then why, since antiquity, have so many great saints, sages, and prophets been tortured, maimed and killed? Many saints have had to face horrible atrocities. This simply would not have happened if we were able to recognize the genuine great saints.
* The Third Kind of Satsang (Association with the Writings of Saints: Sant Satgurus)
In daily life we need the guidance of a great sage or saint. Even though we might encounter many so called mahatmas or sadhus, the task of finding and identifying an accomplished guide is difficult. So, in consideration of this, how would satsang (association with a true saint) be possible? The answer is that we can study the teachings of the great saints of the past, because in their teaching we will find the elaboration of the Truth. This then is the third category of sat-sang. Generally, when we speak of satsang, it is this third category that is meant. This kind of satsang includes the study of scriptures and the words and writings of the saints and prophets of the past.
As we continue diligently in this third type of satsang we accumulate the meritorious karmas which will lead to the meeting with a true saint. Then we will be able to do the second category of satsang. As we continue in association with a great saint, and with the saint’s blessings, we will gradually begin to meditate and undertake the prescribed spiritual disciplines. By diligently practicing these disciplines, we will one day, experience the first category of sat-sang — the association with the Supreme. When we have thus accomplished the highest category of satsang, our life’s purpose will be fulfilled.
— Swami Sant Sevi Ji Paramahansa