What is Sath Sangh?

Sath Sangh is part of any Hindu prayer service. It is usually in the form of group singing of prayer songs (Bhajan) , discourse or any social gathering with religious focus. But, we can also think of Sath Sangh as a time for self-reflection to search for the truth. This meaning and purpose of Sath Sangh is outlined in a famous treatise titled “Rambles in Vedanta” by an eminent scholar Rajam Iyer. We explore this theme of Sath Sangh in the following:

First question:  Why Sath Sangh at the end of the Puja Service?

All Pujas or Hindu Prayer services follow the Vedas and the procedures contained in them.  All Vedas have four parts:

Samhitha    — contains the Vedic chants and prayers used during the Puja.

Aranyaka – describes the details on how the Puja service should be organized and performed.

Bhahmana – describes the rules and regulations

Upanishad – goes into the Philosophy or analytical reasoning behind all prayer services and indeed guidelines for any aspect of life. 

Sath Sangh is the part of the Puja Service, where we reflect on the Vedic Philosophy.

Now our second question: What does the phrase “Sath Sangh” really mean?

To answer this question, and for further discussion let us use one more prayer song. 

This is the prayer for Goddess Annapurneshwari. As some of you may know, Goddess Parvathi is in the form of Annapurneshwari at the holy city of Benares, India.  Lord Shiva is in the form of Kashi Visveshwara at Benares.

अन्नपूर्णे सदापूर्णे शंकर प्राणवल्लभे । ज्ञान वैराग्य सिध्यर्थं भिक्षां देहिच पार्वति ॥

annapūrṇe sadāpūrṇe śaṃkara prāṇavallabhe . jñāna vairāgya sidhyarthaṃ bhikṣāṃ dehica pārvati 

O Goddess Parvati, One who provides all our nourishment, one who is complete and perfect at all times, one who is dear to the heart beat of Lord Shankara. We pray for your blessings for the  relentless search for knowledge and the resulting excellence and bliss.

Saint Sankara is not seeking the blessings for food, health or material comforts. All these will come to one who has the requisite knowledge and perfection in its use. In fact the word “Siddha” means excellence in the chosen endeavor; perfection in that field. Hence Jnana Vairagya Siddhi really means Perfection in the relentless search for knowledge and the excellence achieved through that.

This Jnana Vairagya Siddhi is explained by the famous poet Kalidasa (from the classic Sanskrit literature) as follows;

वागर्थाविव सम्प्रुक्तौ वागर्थप्रतिपत्तये जगतः पितरौ वन्दे पार्वतीपरमेश्वरौ

vāgarthāviva sampruktau vāgarthapratipattaye  jagataḥ pitarau vande pārvatīparameśvarau

I worship and pray to Goddess Parvati and Lord Parameshwara, the parents of the world for better understanding of words and their meaning. They are inseparable, like the word and its meaning. 

When we say “I love you” to our son, wife/husband, our friend, to God the word “love” and its meaning should be clear in every case. Everyone of us should think about this connection between the word we use and its meaning. It is a reflection of our knowledge and the excellence through such knowledge  – Jnana Vairagya Siddhi.

To better understand this Jnana Vairagya Siddhi, let us now look at our Phrase: Sath-Sangh

What does Sath- Sangh really mean? Bhajan, prayers, association with good people, …That is the general meaning commonly known.But let us practice Jnana Vairagya for a few minutes. 

Following is a verse from Bhaja Govindam, a prayer song composed by Adi Sankaracharya

सत्सङ्गत्वे निस्सङ्गत्वं निस्सङ्गत्वे निर्मोहत्वम् |  निर्मोहत्वे निश्चलतत्त्वं निश्चलतत्त्वे जीवन्मुक्तिः ‖ 9 ‖

satsaṅgatve nissaṅgatvaṃ nissaṅgatve nirmohatvam | nirmohatve niśchalatattvaṃ niśchalatattve jīvanmuktiḥ ‖ 9 ‖

Company of good people (scholars and saints) gives rise to non-attachment (Nissangatvam); from non-attachment comes freedom from delusion, desire or passion (Nirmohatvam), which leads to a calm and contemplative mind (Nischala Tatvam) ; This tranquility of our mind leads to sustained inner peace and contentment, which is the liberation of the soul (jīvan-mukti), while we are still alive and active.

We also know that “Sath” means Truth. “Sangh” means association. “Sath- Sangh” could also have a meaning of “Association with truth”. In other words we should relentlessly search for the truth and the meaning behind every word we think of, feel or speak. Sath Sangh can also be a form of disciplining our mind to think and speak only what we truly mean. Then speaking the truth always becomes natural. Reflecting on what we are thinking, what we are feeling or what we are speaking and arriving at the truth is also Yoga. This focus and reflecting on what we are saying and what it means all the time is a Divine quality. It is God’s blessing for everyone of us.

During Sath Sangh, we sing songs in the praise of the Lord. We listen to lectures and discourse by learned scholars and swamijis. At the same time Sath Sangh should also be an opportunity to reflect and internalize the words we use and their meaning. Let us pray to Lord Shiva that we are all blessed for that Jnana Vairagya Siddhi:  Excellence achieved through relentless search for truth, knowledge and its use. When we do that we become truly liberated. This is a form of “Moksha” right in this life, while we are alive! This liberation gives tranquility, peace of mind, inner harmony and contentment, which is priceless. It should be experienced by everyone. It can not be described adequately by others! 

This liberation, a limitless freedom is also explained by adi Sankaracharya as follows:

माता च पार्वती देवी पिता देवो महेश्वरः / बान्धवाः शिवभक्ताश्च  स्वदेशो भुवनत्रयम् //

mātā ca pārvatī devī ‘ pitā devo maheśvaraḥ / bāndhavāḥ śiva-bhaktāś ca ‘ sva-deśo bhuvana-trayam //

My mother is goddess Parvathi, My father Lord Shiva, Devotees of Shiva are all my friends and I am at home everywhere (in all the three worlds).

At the end of any SathSang everyone should feel free in their heart and in their mind. That is liberation (Jeevan Mukthi). Along with this freedom comes a commitment to seek the truth in every thing, including every word we use. That is Jnana Vairagya Siddhi. When we are free in our mind and in our thinking, we can be truly committed to the search for truth. We are genuinely liberated. We are not attached to anything or beholden to anyone. This freedom also makes us happy to see everyone as our friend. We feel at home at every place. That is the meaning, purpose and outcome of Sath Sangh prescribed in our traditions and in our vedic Philosophy. Let us pray to the Lord for such blessings for all of us.

ॐ पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदं पूर्णात् पूर्णमुदच्यते | पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते ||
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः | हरि:  ॐ |

Om pūrņamadaḥ pūrņamidam pūrņāt pūrņamudacyate |
Pürṇasya pūrņamādāya pūrņamevāvašisyate ||
Om śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ | Hariḥ Om |

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