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Harih Om Tat Sat. Harih Om Tat Sat. Jai Guru. Jai Guru.
Today I shall speak about the nature, quality and benefit of satsanga. It is for satsanga that all of you are here and those of you who have come, have come here. But many people do not know what this satsanga is, and should be and how it acts on those who participate in it. Like in any other field in life, knowledge and evaluation are very very rare, and more often than not it is lacking.
Srimad Bhagavatam is the latest written scripture in our land. I say it is latest written because after Srimad Bhagavatam I don’t think any scripture is written or is available. The Srimad Bhagavatam deals with the subject of devotion and therefore the focus of devotion namely God, then the focus of devotion as well as God namely the human being. It discusses a number of subjects. Srimad Bhagavata is a śāstra. A śāstra means a scientific, rational treatise. Treatise on what? On whatever subject it deals with. According to the people who deal with language, depending upon the language, how much time has passed when a particular writing took place etc. Srimad Bhagavata was written in the sixth century, i.e. more than 1500 years back. After that, we don’t have anything worthy of being called a scripture. Our scriptures are always penned by great poets who were called Maharishis. The first scripture was written by Valmiki Maharishi. Much before that were our Vedas. We don’t know about the authorship of Vedas. But in the content, you will find X spoke to Y, H enquired about from G, and G answered etc. But who wrote it - That we cannot say.
We know that Ramayana was written by Valmiki Maharishi. It is called an epic. So it is a historic writing, a writing that the author did while the events were taking place before him, and in which he also played a part. This is a very rare historic composition. Similarly we have Mahabharata. There is a great distance of time between Ramayana and Mahabharata. We say Ramayana was written in Treta-yuga and Mahabharata was written in Dwapara-yuga end. So it is a lot of time. Then we have Srimad Bhagavatam.
Bhagavatam itself says janmādyasya yato'nvayāditaratah. We are speaking about wherefrom the entire creation has taken place and what is the power or process which sustains the creation and how and when there will be a dissolution if at all of what is present now. You tell me now, what is Srimad Bhagavatam? It is a scientific treatise discussing about the creation, preservation and destruction of the world we see around us of which we are a part. Except a scientific śāstra, the subject cannot be discussed, because the world was evolved long, long back. None of us was there. It is preserved by someone or something. We cannot go all around the universe to find out who preserves all this, and at the time of dissolution none of us could be there. Then, how to discuss and deal with this subject? That is the mystery and paramountcy of Srimad Bhagavatam.
In the second verse, Srimad Bhagavata says we are only discussing vāstava - The Supreme Truth here. Why? Because the vāstava alone has got the capacity to relieve the threefold sufferings that everyone undergoes, ādhyātmik, ādidaivik and ādibhautik sufferings. Now these are the statements made in the beginning. So you can judge what this Srimad Bhagavatam is. But people don’t take it to be such a truthful exposition.
Why I said all this? Only as a preliminary presentation to tell you what is this satsang. Satsang is an occasion, is a gathering in which an exponent speaks about all these matters. He speaks about life, he speaks about the nature of life, the interactions of life, the interactional impacts or outcomes, he speaks about the human individual from where all the experiences start. Even the world is experienced by the individual.
Srimad Bhagavata speaks about the constitution of the world. It speaks about character, behavior, interaction, the qualities which will enrich the mind, enrich the intelligence, qualities which will make man independent, full, abundant. It discusses in the process Bhakti also. Though Bhakti is related to God, Srimad Bhagavata says Bhakti sprouts in the heart of man. So who is the source of Bhakti? Man’s own heart produces it, and man’s own heart has to develop it and complete it. The responsibility is purely of the devotee. Now in that process it also speaks about satsanga.
Satsanga is a corollary of all scriptural compositions. Whenever there is a scriptural writing, it has to be read, thought about, understood by somebody who is gifted to explain it when necessary. So the śāstras will make meaning and relevance only when explained by somebody. That discussion and exposition of śāstras is what we call satsang. You will not get it at home. You will not get it in the academic centers. You can get it only in front of the Knowers of Truth. Whatever the knowers say constitute satsanga. So what is this? Satsanga is the presence of the Sat, sajjanas, wise people, knowledgeable people, Knowers of Truth and further, it is a speech or an exposition from them.
Srimad Bhagavata speaks quite a lot about Satsanga and the wise people who give. Srimad Bhagavata has got twelve Skandhas. The tenth Skandha is totally devoted to the birth, growth, exploits and excellences of Sri Krishna, the main character of Srimad Bhagavata. When you go into the eleventh, it is totally Satsanga, primarily in the hands of Navayogis and the King Nimi. Navayogis speaking one after the other to King Nimi and his question was that “What is the Bhagavata Dharma?” What is the way of life, the characteristics, the value pattern, the conduct and behavior of a lofty devotee who has realized the goal of his life? And Veda Vyasa presents nine great people who happened to visit Nimi Chakravarthy when he was performing a great sacrifice, Yāga. When these nine Yogis happened to visit him quite unannounced, when they arrived, with his royal intelligence he could understand who came and what they meant. So his holy sacrifice was stopped abruptly and the Yajamāna, the performer of the sacrifice received the nine yogis, washed their feet, gave them seats of honour, maybe he gave them something to drink, and then he sat in their front. All the priests also sat behind him, because the yāga could not be continued.
I want you to understand that even a holy sacrifice, ritual like yāga was completely suspended when the nine yogis visited the spot and the Yajamāna of the sacrifice sat before them after honouring them, and he preferred to enquire from them what he wanted to know. Obviously this was something that the sacrifice or the sacrificial altar could not give him. The so-many deities to whom the offerings are made, none of them could speak, only human beings could speak. So he took it as an opportunity to have some satsang for him.
His enquiry was who are the lofty devotees like? What is lofty devotion? When will one have it? What is to be done for getting lofty devotion? All these questions have got a human focus. He was not referring to any God at all! He was only referring only to devotees, men and women who was having devotion. So the devotee was the subject of his discussion. The nine yogis started speaking one after the other from their own individual points of view and you have a full array of the subject and discussion. The whole thing was a satsang. And whenever we read it, we also get the same benefit as King Nimi got. And it is much beyond what you can think of in the way of a devotional worship or a ritualistic sacrifice. Understand the value of Satsanga.
Then Srimad Bhagavata takes us to Dwaraka where Krishna was living after having completed his life’s mission and he was contemplating upon leaving the earth and going back. Knowing that he was prepared to go back, Uddhava goes to him and submits that Krishna should take Uddhava also with him. Just see the manner in which that satsang goes. Krishna felt that nobody can take another man when one drops his body. So he said, “Before I go, my dear Uddhava, you yourself leave me and go so that you have no problem.” “I cannot live without you even for half a second”, said Uddhava. “Therefore you should take me along with you.” This is not possible.
So Krishna decided to initiate Uddhava into a state of inner fullness, abundance and fulfillment that he will not have any problem at all. So he said, “Leave me, leave Dwaraka, leave your own blood and matrimonial relations and go singularly alone to Badarikashrama. There you live thinking of me, seeing me everywhere, taking bath in Alakananda and getting purified by the Himalayan breeze.” Suddenly Uddhava was struck with wonder. He wanted to accompany Krishna. Now Krishna says, “You leave me and go. Don’t wait for my departure. My departure will create a pang of separation in your mind. But when I am asking you to leave, you are only obeying me and you should be happy about it.”
Uddhava said, “Whenever you say something, I should rush to do it. But I am unable to because so much of delusion, attachment, clinging are in my mind. Now I want you to instruct me in a manner that I shall be able to shun all these obstacles from my heart and simply do what you want me to do.”
Just see what is satsang. Satsang deals with the problems of the mind, the problems of the intelligence as a result of which the recipient, the receiver of the satsang will feel clear, light and full in his mind. And such a satsang can be provided only by a human who can speak like you, eat like you, sleep like you, talk like you, interact with you. So satsang is always from and around the wise and knowledgeable people, Knowers of Truth. So Krishna started speaking. This Krishna during the course of his satsang has revealed many things.
Srimad Bhagavata speaks about satsanga in a very very touching and elevating manner. I will recite one verse.
Na hy-am-mayāni tīrthāni. Don’t think that the tirthas are water-maya. You say tirtha and go to a place where there is a river, a lake or something similar where you can have a bath. What is this bath? You bathe only your body. Are you able to bathe your mind? No. What will touch the mind and give it a bath? Only knowledge, only words of wisdom. Krishna was bathing the mind of Uddhava as he was bathing the mind of Arjuna in the battlefield. So he says whatever is in the nature of water is not tirtha. They cannot purify the mind.
Na devā mṛc-chilā-mayāḥ. Whatever is made of clay, stone, tree etc. are not the Gods and Goddesses you refer to. They are only products of matter. But whenever you refer to God, it is not a material product; it is a spiritual presence. So how can these idols made of clay, stone, tree, timber, how can they be Gods?
Te punanty-uru-kālena. Like a mirror you buy and keep at home, look into it, you see your face. In the same manner, to worship God these things help you. These things help, but what matters is the worship which springs from your heart. Na devā mṛc-chilā-mayāḥ. Is there any idol which knows that you have gone and worshipped it? Will it ever talk to you as Krishna did to Uddhava and Arjuna as I am doing now?
Suppose you live near a tirtha, and every day you take your bath and do your austerity, it is your austerity that gives some result, not the water of the tirtha, lake. They are insentient, jada and they cannot do anything. The idol never knows that you have gone there. It never hears what you are uttering. Te punanty-uru-kālena. But because you do a lot of austerity over a long period, remaining there you have your purity. The purity is had from your own performance and pursuit. Suppose in the idol you worship, there is God, He can purify you by his looks, He is all powerful and all knowing. Darśanād-eva sādhavaḥ.
Sādhavaḥ, the people who give you satsang, they by your seeing them, they will purify you because they know that you have come. I asked you “Wherefrom are you?” All the four from Kannur. See, a Swami looks at you and identifies your presence newly here. So he enquires and he feels happy that you have come, he has blessings and fondness to give. Such a thing never takes place with an idol or a tirtha. Te punanty-uru-kālena darśanād-eva sādhavaḥ. The noble and great people purify you by their graceful look which you will miss from the idols and tirthas. Tell me now what is satsang and how effective it is. Satsang is what the knowledgeable people, the spiritually wise and enlightened people give you and they will expose the ‘Sat’. They will not expose the asat. You already are in the knowledge of the asat.
Te punanty-uru-kālena darśanād-eva sādhavaḥ. Merely by vision they purify, the sajjanas. This shloka is repeated three times in Srimad Bhagavatam. I think you should read Srimad Bhagavatam and try to understand what all things Bhagavata speaks about whenever you find anything interesting and relevant to your life, mark it and reread it. The whole of Bhagavata you need not read. Select the portions you like, but read them, absorb them, reflect upon them, realize them and embody them in your life and interactions.
Harih Om Tat Sat. Jai Guru. Jai Guru.