Bhaja Govindam 10: Satsang with holy saints paves way to liberation (Verse 9)

Satsangatve nissamgatvaṃ nissamgatve nirmohatvam |

Nirmohatve niścalatattvaṃ niścalatattve jīvanmuktiḥ || 9 ||

Meaning – Association/ friendship with great Mahatmas (satsang) prevents the mind from associating with materialistic world (nissangatva). This in turn ensures that the mind is rendered free from illusion (nirmoha). When illusion is driven away the person acquires Supreme Knowledge which is permanent. With this he will attain liberation when alive (jeevanmukti).

Almost every scripture extols the greatness of satsang! In addition there are many stories that emphasize the importance of maintaining satsang in life.

Maharishi Nārada once wanted to know who exactly could be addressed as a satpurusha (great being), the importance of satsang, and the influence that satsang could have upon a person. Immediately he approached Mahavishnu and put forth his doubts. In response, Maha Vishnu replied, “O Nārada! On earth, in the city called Mahishmatipuram, a sow (female pig) has just delivered. Please go and visit her”.

Maharishi Nārada was utterly confused, yet out of respect towards the Lord he visited the sow. The sow glanced at Nārada and immediately breathed its last. Perplexed Nārada returned back and reported the matter to Vishnu. Vishnu said, “Don’t worry, Narada. Now in that very city, a bird has perched itself upon a tree. Please go and visit it”.

No sooner had the bird seen Narada approaching it, than it gave up its life. Unmindful of this Vishnu asked Narada to pay a visit to a cow in that same city. Narada was trembling as he approached the cow. Just as he feared, the cow died as soon as its eyes rested upon the sage. Wailing that he was responsible for a go-hatya (sin accrued due to killing of a cow), Narada returned back to Vaikunṭha. Lord Vishnu was unperturbed by this and instead asked Narada to visit the newborn prince at Mahismatipuram. This time Narada stubbornly objected to making such trips. Vishnu however convinced Narada and sent him to Mahismatipuram.

Seeing the sage approaching him, the little infant was all smiles. Narada was astonished at this. More than this he was thankful that the infant was still alive even after seeing him. Happily he returned to Vaikunṭha and addressed the Lord and said, “O Lord, I had asked you a question about great souls (sat purushas) and the influence cast by them. In response to this, you are making me travel across different planes and meet some beings in each trip. Even after all these trips, my question remains unresolved”.

Maha Vishnu laughingly responded, “O Narada, have you not understood even now? People like you who eternally recite the names of the Lord and whose mind is eternally pure and free from any form of wavering are the true satpurushas. Due to association with a satpurusha of your cadre, the pig was able to evolve higher and be born as bird, a cow and thereafter as a prince. It could get the human birth. What can be a better proof than this to your question about satsang?”

The benefit of such satsang is acquiring nissangatvam which means ‘not having association with anything’. Nissangatva rewards the person with the ability to live by himself (ekanta vaasa), remain silent (mouna), obtain control over the senses (indriya nigraha) and achieve mental peace.  Due to these abilities, the state of nirmohatva i.e. ‘absence of moha/ infatuation’ arises in him.

In turn, this blesses the person with the discriminative ability to distinguish between permanent and impermanent objects in this world. In other words, the illusion is totally wiped away and the person properly understands the truth. Such a state is known as ‘vāsana kshayam’. To state differently, the person who has reached this state of ‘nirmohatvam’ is able to understand the real essence ‘nishchala tattvam’ easily. He who endlessly floats in the bliss (ananda) that is acquired due to the supreme experience, becomes a jeevanmukta (liberated even while living).

Shankara Bhagawad-pādāchārya has explained such profound essence in such a simple stanza and in a manner that is easy to understand.

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