What is a satsang?


In just a few short weeks, I’ll be flying with a beloved friend to her new home of India; in particular, Kullu: the Valley of the Gods and the International Meditation Institute there. Since the practice of meditation will be at the center of my journey’s purpose there, I participated in my first official ‘Satsang’ this Saturday morning; which took the form of an online video conference.

Waking up in preparation for the early morning Satsang, my mind started asking questions. Namely, what is a Satsang, anyway? Does it involve some kind of yoga? Do I need to wear comfortable clothes? With there be praying? Singing? Chanting? Silence?

So in preparation for this special experience, I did a little research.

So… what is it?

According to Asian American Religious Cultures Volume One (1) the word Satsang originates in ancient Hindu philosophy, and refers to ‘being in association with truth’.

According to my dear friend Sinja, who has spent the last years traveling back and forth between Europe and India to deepen her meditation practice, ‘Sat’ means ‘truth’ while ‘Sang’ company. So a Satsang is to be in the company of truth.

I also found this short, 2 minute, video explanation of what Satsang is about, which added a little more clarity:

However, I still didn’t know what I could really expect from this meeting, which seemed to come unexpectedly into my life from one day to the other. On Friday, I awoke with the intention to go to work; then to a party of a good friend in the evening. Due to this anticipated long day/late night, I didn’t know if the Satsang would even be possible. In actuality, I would end up taking some time off work to recover from an injury from earlier in the week, listen to my body’s call for rest in the evening and miss the party, entirely. Suddenly, here I was awake at 7 am on a Saturday morning and getting ready for a Satsang.

In the beginning

When it began, my first ‘official’ Satsang consisted of a talk (approximately 30 minutes) on notes which were taken from the book, ‘Meet your True Self through Meditation‘.

The guide, or rather teacher, leader, or speaker… (not sure what the best word is to describe the wise being who led us through the session) discussed with us some ideas from the Swami Shyam on space, attention, and unity.

Some of the most beautiful points of the Satsang that I can remember are the metaphors which so perfectly enlist nature to describe deeper concepts of life that can be hard to wrap our heads around. They include:

∗ The ocean metaphor: our thoughts are merely waves in the ocean of our consciousness; wavering, sometimes seemingly violently, yet all the while, their fluctuations have no impact on the essence, the intrinsic being of the ocean, that which is unchanging.

 

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Thoughts are like ripples on the surface of our consciousness.

 

∗ Thoughts are always in opposition with each other. If you think about it this is so true. I can have two thoughts simultaneously, which completely conflict and oppose each other. For example; ‘It is raining’ and ‘It is not raining’; ‘I am beautiful’ and ‘I am ugly’. Who is to say, which of these are true? Can we really trust our thoughts to tell us the truth?

∗ In meditation, there is no possible way to ‘do it wrong’ – in meditation you cannot fail. Think of it instead as planting a fruit tree. You do not uproot the tree two weeks later, to check to see if it is rooting. You simply wait, water it, and watch as fruit become manifest.

We ended with the following thought, which led us into meditation:

“Focus your attention on space, knowing that the very power of attention and the space are one.”

Sitting in Meditation

At the beginning of our 15-minute silent meditation, we were instructed to focus our awareness on the oneness of our attention and space itself.

During this time I had many thoughts, some about the Satsang itself; others completely unrelated. For a brief moment, I felt the experience of having no physical body; of feeling no border between myself and space, and imagined what that immaterial world must be like. Tripping out a bit too much, I brought myself back into my mind where I continued to observe my thoughts until the guide brought our attention back to the small group.

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The end

There were six of us; some who had met before, in person, in India; others who had no prior experience of each other. But we met for a brief period, passed the time by reflecting on the Swami’s teachings and meditating in our separate-but-togetherness. The session ended with each person being asked how they felt during meditation, or if they had any thoughts or experiences to share with the group.

In total, the Satsang left me feeling like I had done something really good for me, like I had started my weekend in the best way possible. I felt refreshed, renewed, conscious.

More than anything, I felt in the presence of compassion – cradled by an unconditional, loving and accepting energy that made me feel like I was okay, worthy, deep down in my very soul.

Luckily the beautiful soul that hosted this Satsang offers them weekly, for anyone who would like to participate (from anywhere in the world)! You can visit Rebecca’s site here for more information on the online Satsang and how to participate.

Below you can find a sample audio clip from Rebecca’s Satsang leading to the Amaram Hum Madhuram Hum mantra meditation:

Let us know what you think in the comments below. Have you ever experienced a Satsang?

Contact

Sources

(1) Lee, Jonathan H. X., Fumitaka Matsuoka, Edmond Yee, and Ronald Y. Nakasone. “Satsang.” Asian American Religious Cultures. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, An Imprint of ABC-CLIO, LLC, 2015. 758-61. Print.

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