Asees Singh: “Bhaine, we discussed yesterday about the Sangat of people. Today, I’ll elaborate on it further and include the association of holy people i.e. Sadh Sangat, which is emphasized greatly in Gurbani.
Bhaine, sometimes, we befriend people, who are into bad habits, with the intention that we’ll change them. Now, of course, everyone has one bad habit or the other. Here, I am specifically talking about serious bad habits such as drinking, smoking, taking drugs, illicit sexual relationships etc. Now, even though our intention is not bad in befriending them, it is very probable that instead of changing them, we may adopt their bad habits. Mahatma Gandhi has shared a similar experience of his in his autobiography. Gandhi ji didn’t use to drink or eat meat, but he befriended who used to do these things, with an intention to change him. However, after some time, Gandhi ji started eating meat, and if I remember correctly, started drinking also. Gandhi ji has written in his book that he later realized that a very personal relation of a friendship is not suitable for changing a person for the better. In such a relationship, it is easier to pick up the lower habits of a person than to improve the other person. He says that a slight degree of respect and impersonalisation is necessary for a positive change to happen, and it is not possible in a friendship.
Bhaine, water always flows down naturally. If we want to raise the water to a height, an effort is required. Similarly, if you want to raise or improve another person, a diligent effort is required on behalf of the person. Besides, the other person needs to respect your guidance. Both of these things are difficult to exist in a friendship, given the nature of the relationship. So, it is highly recommended that you choose your friends wisely. They are going to have tremendous impact in your life.
“So, let’s now talk about Sadh Sangat, which means the company or association of holy people in English. You know that Gurbani is filled with lines extolling the importance, power and necessity of Sadh Sangat in life. Frankly, Sadh Sangat is one of the pillars of Sikhism. Without Sadh Sangat, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to do well on the path of Sikhism. Gurbani is very clear in its emphasis on Sadh Sangat.
So, there needs to be no doubt about the importance of Sadh Sangat in the life of a Sikh. Rather, I believe that Sadh Sangat or association of spiritually oriented people is essential for any spiritual aspirant. I believe that the entire purpose of organizing religions is that people with similar orientation can come together and make progress on their path. It is very difficult to traverse a path alone, especially one that is new to you. Similar is the case with spiritual path. One goes through several ups and downs in life, comes across doubts that cannot be resolved by himself, Sadh Sangat really comes in handy in those times. However, the importance and the role of Sadh Sangat in an aspirant’s life is much more than that.
Yesterday, we discussed that every person has an energy field around him that is a reflection of his current state of mind. Now, in Sadh Sangat, we have people with different states of mind, but we also have people who have high positive energy around them. People who are filled with Nanak love or the love of God have tremendous positive energy that can overpower all the negative energies of the world. These people are called Saints or “Sant” in Gurbani. They have the power to change anyone’s life and fill it with the love of God. However, they cannot be changed by anyone since they have already risen beyond this world. So, in Sadh Sangat, we can have these people and other people filled with positive energy who may not have become ‘Sant’ but are highly evolved nonetheless. Another point is that in Sadh Sangat, everyone comes for one reason: to evolve or grow their soul or in other words, to increase the love of God in their lives.
Now, if you think about it, in this environment where there are people with tremendous positive energy, and everyone is focused towards the positive aspect of growing their souls, the energy in the environment would be highly positive and would have the power to lift the people out of their normal energy levels into elevated energy levels. The environment is conducive and able enough to provide spiritual glimpses to people in a matter of hours, which would otherwise takes years of spiritual practice. The ability to sustain such spiritual experiences then depends on the person – how he carries out his life outside the Sadh Sangat. However, even when such spiritual experiences do not sustain, they can act as great motivators for an aspirant to continue on the path of spirituality. Besides, such spiritual experiences can also make an aspirant understand that religion is not about rituals, practices, rules, and customs, it is about experiencing the ecstasies of love and joy. Rituals and practices are helpful only to the extent that they help an aspirant on the path of spirituality. They are not ends in themselves as most people of today seem to think.
Given the world environment we are living in where people have completely forgotten about their souls and God, it is extremely important for us to associate with people who are God-conscious and focused on growing spiritually. Otherwise, as we understood yesterday, we become like people whom we accompany. If we live in this world, which is filled with people with no soul-consciousness, without Sadh Sangat, we’ll eventually lose track of our spiritual path and get on to the rat race that everyone else is part of.
Besides, there is also another very significant benefit of Sadh Sangat. It is that you are able to meet spiritually evolved people. Let’s take an example here. These days, everybody goes to school and works hard at scoring well. Parents are very concerned that their children do well. Why is it so? Why is everyone very concerned about getting educated?
The reason is quite simple: everyone knows the benefits of getting educated. They know if they do well in education, they will get good jobs and have good social status. They can see the benefits of education from the people around them. What if there were no success stories? What if there was no surety of jobs? What if the social status didn’t depend on the level of education? Would people still be very motivated to pursue education for themselves or for their children?
Most probably not.
The reason is that whichever endeavor you are pursuing, it is very motivating to have success stories in your sight so that you can see what is the benefit of the struggle. And you know, many times, incorporating spiritual principles in life is a struggle. To have the motivation to undergo such struggles, you need to have success stories i.e. people who have evolved spiritually. Here, let me share my personal experience. When I was working in my first job, I used to think what would I become in 5-10 years. When I used to think that way, I used to look up at my bosses, super bosses and so on. I would become one of them if I continue to work hard in the job. However, realizing that I would become one of them didn’t give me any motivation to work hard or even continue in the job. Why? Because they were also going through the same struggles in life that I was going through; probably they were going through greater struggles. They were stressed, anxious, fearful all the time, blaming and criticizing others. They used to shout, get angry, talk lasciviously, and backbite others. In essence, their life reflected the same negativities I had in life, probably in greater proportions. The only way they were better was a bigger bank balance. A bigger bank balance without any peace of mind or joy in life wasn’t very motivating for me.
On the other hand, I saw people in Sangat (Sadh Sangat) whose faces reflected peace and joy. These people always talked lovingly with others and were always willing to serve and care for others. These people motivated me. I knew clearly that their lives were worth pursuing for. They had attained things that I would want to attain in my life. What had they done to reach where they stood? They had followed the path of Gurbani.
I am not saying everyone in the Sangat motivated me. But not everyone who studies does well. The point is that I could see success stories. I could see what one can achieve if one follows the path of Gurbani. Now, these success stories are not covered in the media. So, you can’t get to see them unless you come to Sadh Sangat. Besides, these people haven’t achieve materialistic things, which can be shown off. What these people have achieved is inner peace, joy, and love. How do you know if they have these inner qualities? By seeing them, talking to them, and knowing about their lives. Unless you have a personal experience with these people, how will you be sure that they possess these qualities? That is why Sadh Sangat is really required. It is very easy to get motivated to pursue hollow materialistic goals since the benefits of materialistic possessions is extolled everywhere in the world. However, to have and sustain motivation to pursue goals of inner happiness, peace, and love, we need to have the company of people who have these qualities in them.
Frankly, a lot of times when I feel down or feel confusion between materialistic or spiritual goals, I remember these people. Remembering my personal experience with these people encourages me like nothing does to continue on my spiritual path. It is good to read books on spirituality or on the lives of evolved souls, but I think it makes your belief much more stronger once you have the personal company of these evolved souls.
Sant Sujan Singh ji and many other saints have emphasized that we should go to Sadh Sangat twice daily – once in the morning, and once in the afternoon. Even from my personal experience, I have found this to be really beneficial. Besides, on weekends or when there are holidays, we should try to spend as much time in Sangat as possible. The spiritual growth is for our own benefit, not for anyone else’s. If we do Sadh Sangat and grow spiritually, it is us who will have more peace, and joy in our lives. Besides, to develop love for Guru Sahib, it is essential that we do as much Sadh Sangat as possible.
However, we need to understand what true Sadh Sangat is, how can we find one, and what to do till we find one. We will look at these questions tomorrow. We’ll also look at the current state of Sangat in Gurudwaras.”