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What is Satsang?

Kirtan Crowd
July 19 2007

Attending satsang–a talk or a discussion led by a spiritual teacher–is considered to be one of the fundamental practices within many Indian traditions. Satsang was the primary way in which teachers interacted with groups of people before Westerners invented “the workshop.” During satsang, the teacher talks informally on some topic and answers questions.

Satsang is spontaneous and free-flowing. Just like life. You never know what might happen in a satsang. During satsang, people ask questions, laugh, talk, cry, get angry, relax and, in the best situation, experience wonder and relief.

By listening repeatedly to discussions and discourses on [spiritual] topics, the path to first-hand knowledge of what has been heard gradually opens out. You know, it is as when water uninterruptedly dripping on a stone finally makes a hole in it, and then a flood may suddenly surge through. –Sri Anandamayi MA

Satsang is usually translated as “in the company of the wise.” I prefer to translate it as “being in Reality together.” Any time we are in the presence of a true teacher, Reality is a little more available to us. The teacher’s state of being is a gateway to a freer, more present form of life. So, we spend some time together participating in life with more openness. This is satsang.

Sat-sanga means association with Sat or Reality. One who knows or has realized Sat is also regarded as Sat. Such association with Sat or with one who knows Sat is absolutely necessary for all. Sankara has said that in all the three worlds there is no boat like Sat-sanga to carry one safely across the ocean of births and deaths…. Sat is only the Self. Since the Self is not now understood to be Sat, the company of the sage who has thus understood it is sought. –Ramana Maharshi

Satsang is like taking a gentle, or sometimes not so gentle, bath in an enlarged experience of your own essence nature. Satsang is transmission. This is why Anandamayi Ma says that the path to first-hand knowledge of what is being said can open out as a result of attending satsang. For a time, people are relieved of maintaining a defensive posture toward life. Even when satsang is over, we retain some of this experience, and slowly, slowly, the rock of our defensiveness is worn into sand.


Playing Kirtan at Matrika House satsang, Portland, Maine