“Satsang (company of wise, holy and enlightened persons) is yet another gatekeeper to liberation. It enlarges one’s intelligence, destroys one’s ignorance and one’s psychological distress… For, it alone is one’s light on the path of life. Satsang is indeed superior to all other forms of religious practices like charity, austerity, pilgrimage and the performance of religious rites”
From “Yoga Vasistha”, translated by Swami Venkatesananda
The Essence of Satsang – an encounter with your true self
Some might wrongly think that Satsang is an activity similar to a lecture or to a meeting with some highly charismatic and unusual person. They are either intellectually interested in learning about the concept of spiritual enlightenment, or driven by the thrill of encountering an “enlightened being” and enjoying his or her silent presence.
However, such motivations greatly limit the purpose and power of Satsang. Charismatic speakers are everywhere, and eloquent explainers of spiritual enlightenment can also be easily found. But when it comes to spending time in the presence of an enlightened one, this opportunity must not be wasted on a short-lived external satisfaction.
When we think of Satsang as a meeting with someone who possesses a certain powerful field and teaches the path to enlightenment, we are heading in the wrong direction. Making the teacher an object on which we focus only makes things worse. Since n reality, Satsang is a meeting with yourself – truly, a rare chance to meet your self.
There is no significant intellectual learning in Satsang. You don’t attend to be intellectually stimulated or to add new ideas to your already-overloaded mind. When you come to Satsang, you remove the clothes of the intellect, emotion and sensation which artificially cover your bare, pure being. It is a direct, unmediated meeting with yourself.
When you come to Satsang, you remove the clothes of the intellect, emotion and sensation which artificially cover your bare, pure being.
That is why focusing on the teacher would be such a waste: a real Satsang is when you experience that it is your very own self speaking to you in its very own words, reminding you of something you already know. You only needed to learn how to look into yourself; how to pass through the thicket of culture, self-image, conditioned thought, emotional habit and bodily identification.
When we perceive the role of Satsang in such a depth, it is easy to understand why the great ancient scripture “Yoga Vasishtha” declares that “Satsang is indeed superior to all other forms of religious practices”. Satsang is the ultimate spiritual practice, far more significant that any meditation. It essentially replaces the temples and cathedrals of the past, as it signifies the shift from external temples to the internal temple; a new human understanding that the eternal is not to be worshipped but to be silently known within oneself.
Satsang is the ultimate spiritual practice, far more significant that any meditation.
We need to learn how to meet ourselves. That is the service offered to us by enlightened beings. They became enlightened because they had been trained by others to meet themselves. Now they are here to function as a transparent gate through which we can pass to know our true self.
The greatest advantage of the enlightened teacher over us is that they have in them a great fire of the eternal truth while we might have within us a smaller flame. We cultivate this flame through our ongoing practice and self-study, but it tends to diminish or even die out because of daily concerns and pressures. The role of Satsang is to inflame our inner fire even more; to train us how to carry more and more intensely this fire that in reality, never dies.
Only when we dare to take a direct look at that divine part in us that could never be destroyed, our soul’s deepest thirst can be finally quenched.
The enlightened being is always wakeful. He or she has achieved an uninterrupted, fully active and burning awareness which persists throughout the entire waking state – while we often struggle to rise above the gravitational forces of mundane consciousness.
During Satsang we have the opportunity to be carried away by, and absorbed into the effortlessness of such a heightened consciousness. In this atmosphere, we find it utterly and wonderfully easy to tap into our true self as well as to awake to the inherent longing to make that into our only reality. We become aligned with the enlightened field to such a degree that we can feel, think and know as our enlightened self. This opens for us a totally new and exhilarating vision of a life in which we are fully steeped in this blessed self-knowing.
Our story as a person – our little and fleeting history as one speck of personality – is unreal. The eternal fire of Satsang consumes this story until it only leaves that which was before our birth and that which will remain after our death. Purified by this fire, we effortlessly realize that in this self-knowledge alone can there be meaning and happiness and the sense of the end of all human search. Only when we dare to take a direct look at that divine part in us that could never be destroyed, our soul’s deepest thirst can be finally quenched.