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Sadh Sangat - The Holy Congregation

In the Sadh Sangat one does not find fault with another but every one joins in praising and listening to the praises of ...

An article by Rawel Singh

All humanity created by the One Creator is one brotherhood. All human beings are therefore equal in the eyes of God and all differences based on economic status, religion, caste or creed do not have Divine sanction.This is the underlying principle in Sikh practice of Sangat (company or congregation) and Pangat (eating together). The two go together. When we go by what God desires us to do, we become holy. When we get together to be reminded of His commands, reflect on His virtues, identify the brotherhood under the fatherhood of the Creator and be of use (service) to one another, we form a holy congregation, Sadh Sangat or Sat Sangat. Sadh means a holy person and Sangat means company or gathering. Sadh Sangat is therefore holy congregation. It is also called Sat Sangat, Sat meaning truth. Sadh Sangat or Sat Sangat is therefore holy congregation in search of truth.In the Sadh Sangat one does not find fault with another but every one joins in praising and listening to the praises of the Creator. We are therefore advised

Do not slander any one in any way; all are created by the same Creator; this is understood by one who is blessed to remember God in holy congregation, Sadh Sangat (p 611).

Holy congregation has two aspects, 'Simran' or remembrance of God's virtues and 'Seva' or service. Service may be physical, intellectual or monetary. Simran and Seva form the bedrock of a true spiritual life, which is 'spirituality with social responsibility'.

Remembrance is done both individually and in a congregation. Both these aspects are part of spiritual advancement and have been described in Japu Ji. In the third Pauri (stanza) we learn how an individual starts praising God for which the term Gaavai (praising) is used. Pauris eight through eleven advocate Suniai( listening), which is what we do in a congregation. This leads to happiness (Sadaa Vigaas) and keeping away from vice (Dookh Paap Ka Naas). We can remember someone or something that we knew but may have forgotten. This is the case with Divine commands; forgetting the commands is forgetting the Creator and remebering Him is remebering the commands.

Every one is born to fulfill God's purpose and that purpose is made known to the soul by Divine commands before birth. The family and faith we are born into, the friends we make, the profession we adopt and so on are predestined. It is the duty of the soul to perform his functions in the given environment well. Man is required to earn to ensure his economic well being. However he is not a robot; he has emotions and desires that must be fulfilled by having a family, earning wealth and enjoyment. In this context there are likely to be distractions from the primary function of duty and if he succumbs to these, he forgets God's commands. The distractions mentioned above are strong and inebriating:

The eyes are inebriated looking viciously at others’ wealth and beauty; the ears by listening to slander and thinking about it; the tongue overindulges in tasty food; the mind thus sleeps in the grip of transitory pleasures (p 182).

The mind needs to be kept awake and this is done by Simran, i.e. reminder. Participants in a congregation do that by praising and reflecting on the Name or Naam i.e. the virtues of God. A holy congregation emphasizes only on God's Name and does not believe in praising gods, goddesses or people:

How is the holy congregation known? It is where the only subject of discourse is the Holy Name; this is the command of the true Guru (SGGS, p 72).

Some people say "God is within me, my mind is clean; I have no need to go to a congregation or meditate". Such a person may be well meaning but it is also true that when at cross-roads for a decision, he will always take one that suits him, that may be detrimental to others, and not necessarily ethical. We can look at this in another way. Man makes many resolutions at different times, sticks to them for a while and then forgets mostly because of reasons that are self-serving. Recounting God's virtues in meditation and going to congregations i.e. Sadh Sangat refreshes his mind and he is reminded of them. The need for the holy congregation in this regard may be understood by a metaphor:

The clouds drop rain on the earth. Isn't' water already there in the earth? The water from the earth travels as clouds and showers rain (SGGS, p 162),The earth has water under and on it.

But this cannot ensure that plants and crops bloom; they will wither if the land they grow on is not irrigated. This is achieved by rain water which either directly or through canals irrigates the land. This is exactly what happens to the mind. It withers if it is not refreshed by the Naam through the rain of ambrosial discourses and singing in congregations. Simran or meditation is similar to the water being pumped from under the earth. The way underground water gets depleted unless it is replenished by rains, individual meditation must be supplemented by attending congregations That is because confining only to oneself one develops a sense of being good and this self importance or Haumaibecomes a liability. Simran both as individual meditation and congregational is therefore necessary. Going to the congregation helps in developing humility because it inculcates the spirit of service, listening rather than telling, and participation instead of just being oneself:

The withered mind becomes fresh again when Naam is remembered; this comes by good fortune and one merges into the Lord (SGGS, p 538).

In the holy congregation one experiences the nectar of Naam being showered; this rids one of feelings of pain or pleasure, of births and deaths (SGGS, p 739).

We are all subject to the effects of evil thoughts and deeds. Holy company keeps them at bay. They are indeed fortunate who join the holy congregation:

Those who are fortunate get to join holy congregation; the unfortunate go through painful wanderings. One does not find holy congregation without good fortune and without it remains under the influence of evil (SGGS, p 95).

In the holy congregation we see people listening with devotion and serving with humility. They listen attentively, serve food, gather used plates and look after shoes of the Sangat. Such examples are not lost on the participants and act as motivation. They relish the Divine presence thus seen within; they are truly fortunate:

Those with good fortune get to join the true Guru's holy congregation; glory to such holy company of God's servants in which the mind is illumined and we relish Divine presence within (SGGS, p 10)

One then gets to a state when evil thoughts leave the mind. Meditation then becomes part of one's nature. This leads the soul on the path to merger with the Creator, thus avoiding reincarnation, which is the aim of human birth. This is achieved through Sadh Sangat:

Evil flees when participating in Sadh Sangat; one is imbued with the love of God and is not subjected to reincarnation (SGGS, p 811).

Seva done voluntarily in congregation also imbibes that quality in life. One then engages in work for the good of humanity particularly the less fortunate. Service can be done in many ways and may include education for the poor; singing in congregations; discourses; participation in study circles and such other intellectual work; organizing relief like in natural disasters; supervisory work and providing resources. They also include work like conducting community awareness programs on issues like health or other issues affecting the society. Service has three components, namely physical, mind and resources :

We can do service in many ways; the servant offers his mind , soul, resources and does physical service; he offers himself for any sacrifice (SGGS, p 391).

Voluntary service is a virtue and is appreciated by all. However one should not serve to earn acclaim or any other benefits. It should also not impart a sense of pride:

One cannot serve if one calculates the benefits; if done, it is not accepted as service; also one cannot enjoy the Shabad, Guru's word, and love for the Truth does not develop. (SGGS, p 1246).

Man should therefore make service part of his nature, a part of life. One engaged in service should not even feel that he is doing anything special; just the way he eats food or drinks water. This is possible if one does not think that he is doing anything; rather he is doing as God guides him. This way he obliterates his egoistic self and serves with God in mind.

This is the ideal because Simran and Seva seem to become part of life:

One who has not let pride, attachment, greed and vicious thoughts affect his mind; receives the jewel of Naam and Divine virtues and takes them with him to the hereafter. Such a servant has the everlasting love for the Master, he serves the Master while living and, remembers Him when departing from this world (SGGS, p 1000).

The importance of Sadh Sangat, the holy congregation for a spiritually meaningful and socially useful life cannot be overemphasized.

Rawel Singh



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