Satsang has been praised in many scriptures. The following quotations are from the Rarna-yana, one of the most popular scriptures in India: “Without satsang there is no discrimination. Satsang only comes with the grace of Rama.” (Balakand) The faculty of discrimination can only be sharpened by satsang; this is absolutely necessary for progress in yoga. Normally one’s thoughts revolve and revolve in the ‘wheels of the mind’ without being able to escape from built-in misconceptions. Only satsang can break up the grooves of the mind. Yet the chance to attend satsang only comes with the grace of Rama; that is when you are ready to listen.
Here is another quotation from the same chapter: “Wise people take bath in the holy water of satsang. In this way they clean and purify their inner being.” Liquid water cleans the body; the ‘water’ of satsang cleans the mind.
“Satsang is like the philosopher’s stone. Even the most wicked people have been transformed by the power of satsang, in the same way that the philosopher’s stone changes iron into gold.”
The writer of the Ramayana, Valmiki, is a good example of this transformation. He was a robber for many years. Then he met his guru Narada Muni and attended satsang. He was a pessimist and he did not believe in saints and yogis. Yet in time his whole life was transformed. He became a great yogi and was eventually inspired to write the Ramayana to help others. If you attend satsang, this same change may occur in you, perhaps even against your will.
How does one know if another person is wise or not, whether he is a saint or a charlatan? You must find out for yourself. Don’t listen to what others tell you. They can only tell you their own personal preferences and prejudices, likes and dislikes. Feel from your own experience. If you feel really good in contact with a certain sage then this is a good indication that you are on the right path. If you feel some peace then this is also a good sign. If there is a feeling of negativity this does not mean that you are not with a great sage, but that he or she is probably not destined to be part of your path towards self-knowledge. You must go to satsang and test for yourself. There is no other method.
What should one do during satsang? Do whatever comes naturally. If you want to ask questions, and the opportunity arises, then ask. But do not feel obliged. The most meaningful answers are communicated at deeper, more subtle levels. If you want only to sit, then sit; there is no need to do anything else.
Satsang is the essence of yogic life. Wre suggest that you contact sages, though they are rare and not always easy to find. Some are world famous, others are unknown. But if you start to seek, then you will find. And contact, whether regular or occasional, will help to bring order and sense into your life. You will start to commune with the deeper layers of being, to tune in with that whicb underlies all things. With good reason it is said that spiritual life or rebirth begins with satsang.
At first, satsang means being in the actual company of sages, yogis, saints, your gum. But eventually there is no need for this face to face confrontation. The satsang will occur even during physical separation. It will be with the particular sage you have tuned in with; it will mean continuous satsang with consciousness. You will commune with the deepest and central core of your being. Everything becomes satsang . . . communion.