SUMMARY: Bhaja Govindam Class 19 - 21/05/23
Chinmaya UK Study Class, Śaṅkarācārya, Swami Chinmayananda (Sw. C.)
satsaṅgatvē nissaṅgatvaṃ niḥsaṅgatvē nirmōhatvam |
nirmōhatvē niścalatattvaṃ 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: satsaṅgaḥ - GOOD Company
We defined satsaṅgaḥ as "the company of truth" or "the good"; sat = truth, saṅga = company. That is to say to keep company with those revelling in Truth, devotees of the Lord, or those on a path seeking the highest, who seek to be the best possible versions of themselves and to understand the purpose of this life and live accordingly; Or if these kinds of individuals/groups are not available to us, to read good books, listen to high vibrational music, or watch inspiring/uplifting content.
My yoga teacher has a saying he has repeated to us over the years: It is better to read a good book than to be around not-so-great company!
However, when we enter into satsangha, it is important to make sure these don't become tools in spiritual bypass, i.e., being around people/reading/listening/consuming things that make us feel good - but not actually going deep enough to do any kind of transformational work.
Live satsangh is valuable because teachers and fellow aspirants can see and tell us, from a place of love and care, if we are growing or not.
Within such an assembly, there is a feild created that is more powerful than the individual and that keeps us safe against the temptations and maya that the world outside sometimes induces in our minds, such that we don't see things as they are.
How exactly does this work?
Satsaṅga provides a field for our minds to develop a capacity to withdraw from the sensuous fields of attraction. All of a sudden we find ourselves in places, having discussions, listening to things that open our hearts in a way that more sensuous or competative things can't, or if they do, are fleeting and not very deep.
When we are in the thick of everyday life we put so much importance and become so attached to the mind-built stories we condition ourselves to believe through repetition. We make our jobs/roles/identities so very important when, in all honesty, the world will still continue perfectly well without us.
Once we withdraw from such material, competitive, sensuous, fast, unsustainable [fill in the blank] fields, and give ourselves the space to reflect, to contemplate or just to be very naturally ourselves, the mind discovers in itself the secret of detachment (nissaṅgatvaṃ).
When we make space to think and reflect about such questions as; 'the meaning of life', 'who we are', 'what our purpose is', ‘what's real and what is temporary', 'what do we really, truly want’ etc, the answers to these questions start to reveal themselves, or rather, through the process of questioning reflection and contemplation, we begin to become less and less attached to things, people and situations.
Think about something that’s weighing you down at the moment—either you have a desire or aversion for it or it is blocking you from getting something you want. Reflect deeply on it - where did this desire come from? How long will you be happy when you get it? What does it actually involve? What will happen if you don’t get it/get it? Is it something worth holding on to - is it serving your growth? Will it make a difference to society, your family and you if you do it/ don't do it - is that a positive, insignificant or negative differnce? Is it inline with us? In short as Joseph Campbell asks: IS IT FOLLOWING OUR BLISS?
The more honest we become with ourselves, the more we realise that half the things we think we want are societal conditionings or parental/family conditionings passed down through unquestioned lineages. This includes civilizational, societal, religious, generational, and familial trauma.
When the sense of attachment is sponged away from our hearts, the delusion surrounding them and all the delusory false values that we give to the world can no longer stand tall (nirmōhatvam). We realise that none of those things (objects/people/experiences) are the cause or source of our happiness/sense of Self, and that we may have them but the need/drive/greed to possess them as part of our identities and then cringingly hold on to them is gone.
We realise that it is our mind that puts a value on the objects of the world.
If this were not true, then the same object/person/experience would hold the same value for everyone, in all periods of time.
In our own lives we can see clearly that this is not the case. Do you like/want/run away from the same things as your sister/brother/best friend/colleague? No. We all value things differently according to our individual vāsanās (past impressions).
Moreover, in a previous verse, we saw how this changes and is not constant over time - in our childhood, we value and are attached to play and games (for some it may have been gaming, for others playdough, for others dolls etc.; each attributes value to what their minds find delight in). Then, in youth, to passion and lust (not everyone desires the same people; beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as the poet put it). Then we attach ourselves to worry and anxiety in old age. People worry about different things; one person may worry about their health, another about the lack of time to leave a legacy. The value of our worry depends on the mind.
Once we realise that the meaning and value of things lie in the mind, the inert objects of the world become incapable of enchanting us to that extent. As we have seen through sādhanās, yogas (jñāna, bhakti, raja, karma etc) and techniques such as pratipaksha bhavana we can change, purify, and calm our minds.
The result of this?
We become fine with, fine without. FOMO becomes JOMO. Through the realisation that every single object, person, and experience is a self-addressed envelope that we posted to ourselves through previous action, and that our purpose is to exhaust this karma and transcend our likes and dislikes so that we can realise within us that satchitananda (existence-consciousness-bliss) that pervades everything, we meet each day with openness and a sense of wonder and adventure to what is in front of us rather than wishing for it to be different. We start to become present to what IS.
Once our minds have redeemed themselves from their own vāsanā encrustations, it starts seeing things as they are, and according to Sw. C's commentary, the Immutable Reality is glimpsed by the mind.
As we become more and more established (niścalatattvaṃ) in the experience of One, we became jīvanmukta 'liberated-in-life’. Happy days!!**
**lol - remember our happiness/sense of Self doesn’t lie in the external world and despite the ups and downs and challenges and grace of the external happenings - people/situations/frustrations/excitements etc, we remain rooted in That sense of Self regardless of external conditions.
Satsaṅga made simple:
So, in the company of Truth or 'the good', our attachments loosen; when our attachments loosen we are not so deluded by things, as we begin to see things as they are, we see the one in all...and when we are established in this Truth, we are free in this very life!
The power of satsaṅga cannot be overestimated. It is the "ladder of the upward climb" as opposed to the "ladder of fall" that we more often than not experience throughout our lives.
More next week....