Saturday, 1 August 2015

Satsang As The Means To Freedom

The question-answer format is a great way to teach and learn. Satsang is a diligent involvement on the part of the students in their quest for knowledge and an equally diligent involvement of the teacher who guides the search. So, we see Nachiketas pressing for answers from Yama in Katha Upanishad. We see the untiring Uddalaka repeating to Svetaketu about the nature of the Self. Uddalaka gives nine illustrations to show the equation between jiva and Brahmn which testifies to the kindness of vedantic teachers towards their students. Briefly then, it is this meaningful involvement on the part of the teacher and the taught that is called satsang.

In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Yagnavalkya expounds to Maitreyi the concept of satsang as the means to freedom. He says listening is the first step which effortlessly leads one to reflection, which, through a purified mind, resolves in the experience of oneself as the reality. Sravanam or listening, is given repeated emphasis for the reason that the mind is completely new to the way of self-contemplation and has no aptitude for such processes. It can be made contemplative through constant exposure to the teaching which involves listening.

Know reality through constant questioning and by service to the teacher who `knows' the Self. Here service implies getting involved in finding answers for all questions pertaining to the Self. It also implies remaining exposed to the teacher's benign teaching. To live the life indicated by the rishis is the greatest seva that an imperfect mortal could offer to the man-of-perfection. The word `perfection' used by Krishna implies repeated inquiry through seeking answers to questions.

By addressing one's doubts to the teacher we are opening the box of `knowledge' locked up in the master's bosom. A perfect guru immediately detects from the questions asked the false line of thinking of the students. While removing doubts the guru imperceptibly orders and reorganises the pattern of thinking of the student. It has thus been an age-old tradition among Hindus to encourage open dialogues between teacher and taught and which is rightly called satsang.

Association with the wise leads to detachment from sense-pleasures. That in turn leads to freedom from the delusion that the world is real. When the false sense of reality goes, the mind abides in the Self. This abiding state with one's Self is freedom. Satsang thus paves the path to freedom.

An Upanishad is even named Prasna Upanishad, meaning questions and answers as a means to freedom. Six great students approach the teacher Pippalada, wanting to get some doubts cleared. The teacher frees them from all inhibitions in asking questions by saying, `Ask questions as you like'. Encouraging questions is the only way to involve the students' thinking. The first question deals with the problem of creation of the pluralistic world, the second and third discuss methods of worship and the initial sadhana necessary for perfect integration of the seeker's mind and intellect before he steps on to the path of meditation in vedanta. The fourth and fifth questions are an exhaustive enquiry undertaken to study dream and sleep. In the sixth question the main problem is taken up: How to indicate by finite words the seat of the Self, in all is infinite glory and eternality?

This unique method adopted in our scriptures makes them non-dogmatic. The freedom to approach the teacher in person and freely ask questions is the right atmosphere in which the human mind grows and rises to heights of freedom.

~ Swami Chinmayananda
(362nd Geeta Gyana Vagna. Courtesy: Chinmaya Mission, Delhi.)

No comments:

Post a Comment