Chocolate Doughnuts & Good Company
The great Indian Saint, Adi Shankaracharya, says:
निस्सङ्गत्वे निर्मोहत्वम् ।
निश्चलतत्त्वे जीवन्मुक्तिः ॥ ९॥
From Satsanga (company of good people) comes non-attachment, from non-attachment comes freedom from delusion, which leads to (knowledge of) the changeless truth. From the changeless comes Jivan mukti.(9) – (from Bhaja Govindam)
The importance of keeping the company of good people (Satsang) is emphasised in this verse. ‘Good’ (the ‘sat’ in ‘satsangah’)’ here means ‘Sat-purusha’ or ‘dhArmika-purusha’ = a person who lives a life of Dharma = a person who lives a life dedicated to the truth/sat = a person who only thinks of only Ishvara(Sat).
Seekers of the truth are actively encouraged to seek the company of good and honest people wherever possible, and avoid bad company. Having decent and honest friends is very important. Spending time in the presence of Saints and spiritual practitioners’ makes will make a huge difference in our lives. This is simply because the company we keep has a big influence on our thinking. And it is our thinking that is the cause of our suffering (bandha) or happiness (mukti) in life. How so? The verse explains the chain of cause-effect: The company of dharmic people naturally leads to non-attachment to material possessions, assuming those people are not hugely materialistic. This non-attachment leads to freedom from delusion, in the sense that we no longer give more value to a particular thing that it really has. This process is called ‘superimposition’ and is all in the mind.
For example – imagine you are addicted to chocolate doughnuts. If you spend a lot of time (seek Satsang) with health food enthusiasts, you will slowly start to lose that attachment to doughnuts through the influence of your new friends. Then the false value you superimposed upon the chocolate doughnut (i.e. that “chocolate doughnut = pure happiness”) slowly starts go on its own. A wisdom arises that the chocolate doughnut is not pure happiness because I actually see that the longer term result of the chocolate doughnut is that I now have 3 fillings and a costly dental bill. Plus I am diabetic and overweight due to eating 2 doughnuts for dessert every evening for the last few months. This wisdom (AKA mental non-superimposition of false value upon the doughnut which it does not inherently have, called adhyAropa/adhyAsa), allows the mind the space (nishchalatattvam) to focus on higher thoughts other than doughnuts, such as a Cucumber Salads. So now my mind is no longer busy thinking of doughnuts as it has developed the mental calmness to think of better things. It is that same mind which is now ready to gain a higher wisdom.
So do you see how what began as having a bad eating habit but keeping the company of those with good eating habits, naturally ended up as developing into a habit for healthy eating? This is the power of Satsang! Similarly Shankara says in this verse that by keeping the company of good, spiritual, saintly people (satsang)…it will eventually lead us to enlightenment and lasting peace.
May we all have the opportunities to gain and understand the importance of Satsang in our lives.
Om Tat Sat.