Most of us are conditioned that we can only say we spent quality time with others when we spent the whole time talking to them. Talking can be therapeutic but, in most cases, is a useless activity.
As I have meditated and reflected upon life, I realized that most of my conversations fell into three categories.
- Conversations focused on how smart, intelligent, kind, and generous I was.
- Discussions focused on how wonderful they were in anticipation of them saying good things about me.
- Conversations about other people criticizing them – primarily political and celebrity bashing
I could rationalize the first two points as human nature, but the third formed the most significant chunk of conversations and was utterly pointless. I realized that even when you are with good people, the content of your discussion determines if it’s Satsang or not.
The Value of Satsang
I understood the value of Satsang while reading Old Path White Clouds. Thai goes into great detail to describe how Tathagat set up his monastery order to ensure people focused on spiritual practices. There was a full day of activities from morning to late night. The primary purpose was to focus on mindfully performing your duty and focusing on the present moment. Here is a short article you can read about the value of the Sangha.
I had been meditating on this thought for almost a year now when Sri Devi Ma’s post provided me with a satori moment. We can categorize Satsang into two areas:
- Consciously spending time with other people
- Consciously spending time with yourself
Satsang with Others
I am deliberately not going to focus on time spent with relatives and family. If they don’t walk the path, it’s impossible to have any Satsang. One can simply smile and mentally chant while they gossip away. When they ask you for an opinion, offer a token opinion, and keep chanting. First, they tell you that you have changed, then tease you, and finally, they give up on you.
The most beautiful examples of Satsang I see are sessions conducted by the Mind and Life Institute. The Dalai Lama meets different experts from the world, and together they discuss a chosen subject in great detail. The result of one such Satsang was a book can Destructive Emotions, and it changed my life because it taught me to look beyond western psychology when thinking about consciousness and self.
A few other examples are Mattieu Richard’s conversations with his friends documented in the book “In Search of Wisdom” or his conversations with his father documented in “The Monk and the Philosopher.”
Satsang with Self
While Satsang with others is important, Satsang with one’s own mind is critical. As you meditate, one thing you definitely realize is YOU are meditating, and your mind is chattering. You can clearly witness it chattering, so it’s definitely not you. Managing this relationship with your mind is the objective of every spiritual teaching.
You can make your mind your best friend by giving it something worthwhile to ponder over. I now either read, chant, listen to Swami’s books on Audible, or enjoy the silence when I am not working. Since I listen to Shivpreet’s bhajans a lot these days, my mind is often simply singing “Tek Ek Raghunath‘.
Consciously determining the quality and volume of information you consume helps determine the quality of your Satsang.
Disclaimer: I watch 30 minutes of Seinfeld a day to keep laughing and check What's App much more than needed.
I consciously participate in some family conversations, but I try to minimize social chatter. The journey has just begun, but by God, it's beautiful.