SUMMARY: Bhaja Govindam Class 18 - 14/05/23
Chinmaya UK Study Class, Śaṅkarācārya, Swami Chinmayananda (Sw. C.)
satsaṅgatvē nissaṅgatvaṃ niḥsaṅgatvē nirmōhatvam |
nirmōhatvē niścalatattvaṃm niścalatattvē jīvanmuktiḥ || 9 ||
Through the company of the good, there arises non-attachment;
through non-attachment there arises freedom from delusion;
when there is freedom from delusion, there is the Immutable Reality;
on experiencing Immutable Reality, there comes the state of 'liberated-in-life'
Verse 9: GOOD Company
Hmmmm...There ain't nothing like GOOD Company!!
In the verses so far we have unpacked and unpicked very 'real' themes that most of us spend our entire lives blindly pursuing; recognition/fame/acknowledgement, wealth, lusty passions, overly physical and mental body identification, unhealthy attachments to family etc.
Living in the world, merely earning-saving-hoarding-lusting do not in themselves provide any real profit. If this is how we are spending our lives, eventually, there will come a point when we ask is this all there is? Is this really what this rare, unique incredible life is about?
After such deep and honest reflection, Śaṅkarācārya asks us to, rather than spend all our time and energy in this incredibley breif life, anxiously, impatiently, unthinkingly running after such impermanent things, drop the greed for and unhealthy attachment to them and seek Govinda!
Living in attachment is an ill-rewarding programme of existence.
We know, we know...
Even though we may appreciate and respect the arguments put forth, the fact remains that in every moment of our lives, we are surrounded by temptation. Each moment provides either the path of shreyas (good) or the path of preyas (pleasure). Society is not stacked in our favour and is constantly enchanting us with every sort of sensory pleasure.
Thus, we may artificially build up an intellectual barrier against our passion and lust, however, the objects of fascination are so much and their enchantments so powerful that the pull and sorcery of the sensuous material world is too strong and too irresistible for the individual seeker to fight against.
Think!! How many times have we made up our mind to do something good: sleep/get up earlier, eat healthier, meditate, seek [...fill in the blank] and how many times have we breached it because of some sort of temptation/compulsion/pull stopped us: be it, we slept too late because of over working or because we were so exhausted we stayed up watching mind-numbing tv, or ate too much sugar or didn't have enough time to meditate because we were googling the latest new phone/beauty product/food [fill in the blank] etc etc.
Reflect - examine where we are actually putting our time and energy.
When we see ourselves being taken by habit, consciously do the opposite.
In the yoga texts this is called pratipaksa bhāvanā (see class 8 for a more complete explanation). Here, we begin to flip our senseless thoughts exchanging them for more positive ones and withdraw from these unconscious activities and divert this energy to seeking and serving Gōvinda (remember the definition of Gōvinda from earlier classes).
Understanding the logic of the philosophy is not really the difficult part, it is putting it into practice and living it as a "way-of-life" that causes baby sādhakās problems. The Acharya (teacher) realises this and provides us with methods to help us walk this path.
In this verse, Śaṅkarācārya provides a "ladder-of-progress" in which we can climb and comfortably arrive at the highest reaches of perfection.
In the beginning, to reinforce our efforts and to gain more strength and courage, Śaṅkarācārya advises us to spend plenty of time in satsaṅgaḥ - the "company of the good"
Pratipaksha bhavana means that we are holding good thoughts within ourselves that protect us from our own rising waves of passions, but the "every-day-world" provides us with hordes of temptations from which we need to consciously and actively shield ourselves. This fortress is drawn from our association with the good.
Satsaṅgaḥ can be in the form of living teachers, learned pandits, cultured people and sincere seekers, good books, uplifting music or film.
Importance of satsaṅgaḥ
The company we keep is hugely important. There is a now popular saying that we become the sum of the five people we hang around with most.
Think about who you are keeping the company of and how their thoughts and behaviour affect you. Are they inspiring, uplifting, and make you better? Or do they pull you into a worse version of yourself?
Think about a book/film/song you listened to...how did it affect your mind? Was it inspiring or lust-full? Much of the time we consume company/media and don't even realise what it does to our minds. How many times have we danced to a song and caught the lyrics of what we were dancing to...and realised the filth of it, and stopped in embarrassment? 😏
Even more so with people who can have a very real influence on us. This is not to say we abandon lifelong family and friends - but it does mean we start to see things for what they are and set some boundaries!
When we don't consciously choose our friends and associations we carelessly and unconsciously take on indiscriminate thoughts and blind passions of those around us.
Satsang - or keeping the company of the good is to be with those who are seeekers of something higher, nobler, more inspiring etc. Disciples (those practicing disciplines) and devotees (those worshipping and surrendering) of the Self / Lord are seeking the greatest truths or trying to understand the highest possible ways of being or trying to fullfill their fullest potential.
Within such an assembly, there is a power created which is more powerful than the individual, that keeps us safe against the temptations and maya of the purely sensuouse world.
Exactly how this works, we will see in our next class...!