Saturday, 13 January 2007

'Giving satsanga'

A friend recently wrote to me asking, "Do you give satsang?" In my reply I wrote as follows:

No, I do not "give satsang", because my understanding of this term is quite different to the sense in which it is commonly used nowadays. The word sat means 'being' or 'reality', and sanga means 'association', so the compound word satsanga means 'association with being'. Therefore, as Sri Ramana often explained, true satsanga is only the practice of self-attentiveness, which is the state in which we associate with our own real being.

By extension the word satsanga is also used to mean association with a jnani, someone who has attained true self-knowledge and who therefore abides just as being or sat. However true association with a jnani does not merely mean being in his or her physical presence, but means studying, reflecting upon and practising his or her teachings, since those teachings are what direct us towards the state of true being or sat.

I do not mean to say that there is no benefit in being in the physical presence of a jnani, but I believe that many people attach too much importance to such physical presence, because Sri Ramana taught us that a jnani is not the physical body that he or she appears to be, but is our own real self, our essential being or sat. Therefore, rather than just being in the physical presence of a jnani but with our mind thinking thoughts of many other things, to be far from such a presence but with our mind dwelling upon and trying to practise the teachings of such a jnani is a far more efficacious form of satsanga.

Moreover, like everything else in our external life, whether we are or are not in the physical presence of a jnani is determined by our destiny, which is ordained by God for our own spiritual benefit. Therefore if it is good for us to be in such a presence, God will have ordained our destiny accordingly, and if he has not done so, it is not what is really good for us. All the external help that we require in our spiritual path will surely be provided for us by God, who has manifested for us in the form of our sadguru, Bhagavan Sri Ramana. Therefore we should leave all concern about our external life in his perfectly capable hands.

Furthermore, since the true guru or jnani is not the physical body that he or she appears to us to be, but is our own real self, which is the ever-present reality or sat, his or her presence is not limited to the vicinity or the lifetime of the physical body in which he or she appeared. Therefore the true presence of the guru or jnani is here and now, in the innermost core of our being.

Hence we should look for true satsanga within ourself and not anywhere outside. Then only will we be truly following the teaching of our sadguru, Sri Ramana.

Regarding the question that I was asked about whether I "give satsanga", I do not do so because I cannot do so. Like everyone who is reading this, I am an aspirant on this spiritual path, and though I can share with friends my understanding of Sri Ramana's teachings, I cannot pretend that I can enable anyone to associate with sat, the absolute reality. Only our sadguru, Sri Ramana, can truly enable each of us to know and to be that reality, which is our own true self.

Please refer also to two of my recent posts, Is a 'human guru' really necessary? and Where can we find the clarity of true self-knowledge?, in which I discussed this same question of satsanga, and the related subject of the physical presence of the guru, from a slightly different angle.

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2 comments:

Ganesan said...

You say, "Moreover, like everything else in our external life, whether we are or are not in the physical presence of a jnani is determined by our destiny, which is ordained by God for our own spiritual benefit. Therefore if it is good for us to be in such a presence, God will have ordained our destiny accordingly, and if he has not done so, it is not what is really good for us." This is hundred percent correct.In the context of Bhaghavan's teachings identifying the guru only with the transcendental presence, many of the statements of some self-imposed teachers that one should have a guru seem to be very glib. They give even talks on the teachings of Bhaghavan, at the same time saying they would initiate many people.

Anonymous said...

In your answer about giving satsang you state in the end that you are an aspirant yourself. Thank you for stating this truthfully!

There are so many — too many — pseudo-jnanis today who delude others. Soon one hears all kinds of stories about them.

So if one is teaching this, truthfulness is absolutely necessary, and again: thank you!

To give satsang: this you actually do already and you are serving Bhagavan in a sincere way. If you prefer to use the internet that is your choice. But you do remind all devotees of Bhagavan of the necessity of turning within and you point out to surrender towards Him - that I would call connecting with Sat.

More can no public satsanga do, the rest is to follow the Beingness faithfully and also be ready to work and struggle the 'Royal Battle' if necessary. This is missing with many 'satsangis'. Many enjoy the atmosphere and take it easy and thus become dependend consumers.

This reminds me of an answer Bhagavan gave, when such a consumer asked if through the tapas that happened in the early years of His stay at Arunachala the path were not easier now for others. The reply, as you will remember, was that each has to work by himself and in Talk 398: 'the successful few owe their success to their perseverance.'

Arunachalam,
Erwin