Satsang - The "Company Of Truth"
Prem Rawat defined satsang:
What is satsang? Satsang means the company of Truth, and Truth is something you cannot see, but you can realize. Satsang is also something you cannot see, but you can feel. This feeling, when it is expressed outwardly, is satsang. I have realized the Truth, and when I tell you the feelings I have got inside me, when I express my experience in words, then that is what is called satsang, for my experience has come from Truth. "Talking" is not the point. Verbally explaining something is not the point. Oh yeah, maybe somebody who is higher educated can do a better job of doing that. And yet, the experience is what we are pursuing. Experience is what we have to really come to. And that comes by our own elevation of service and meditation. And yet, to inspire, to be able to come to the point of being able to do service and meditation, we have to come to the point of actually being open to satsang.
On a more mundane level satsangs were organised nightly meetings held whereever there was an ashram or enough committed premies to arrange a place and time. These were one of the main reasons for the success of Divine Light Mission. Anyone with any interest could easily attend and listen to ordinary members talk about their involvement. Much like an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting there were positive, personal heartfelt retellings of their bliss and devotion to the guru and often tales of their unhappiness at their inability to dedicate themselves wholeheartedly and not be able to attain the experience their guru had promised them.
(Premie doctor, Dr Edward) Hanzelik said, "and there have been some emotional problems." He said the problems occurred "mostly in people who want to get closer to the perfect knowledge. When they are not close to the knowledge, they get depressed and unhappy," he said. - Los Angeles Times, Nov. 27, 1972
It was expected that a person "giving" satsang would sit or stand at the front of the room, if necessary on a raised platform, where they could be seen by members of the audience and that the premies listening would listen and concentrate. The atmosphere in the room could get very intense. There were distractions as Lucy Dupertius recalls in her Ph.D. thesis:
For an active premie the premie community - a family-like, semi-closed group of people who see or hear about each other daily - often constitutes nearly his entire social life. Many community members live together in ashrams or "premie houses;" further, they move around so much between these houses that after awhile it seems everyone has lived with everyone else. As the same people work, argue, relax, play, and practice "Knowledge" together, very intense and complex relationships develop. When a premie arrives at "satsang" after a day apart he wants to see his friends, shun his non-friends, deliver messages, discuss organizational matters. But he also wants to experience "satsang," which requires ignoring everyone and saving his eyes only for the Guru's invisible "vibration presence. Others help him by keeping their gaze riveted on the speaker, greeting him if at all with a quick grin, refusing to socialize. He settles himself unobtrusively amongst the listeners, perhaps bowing his head to the floor in the direction of the altar, and waits for that human communication which will come only when he watches for that spark in the speaker which will unite him, through the speaker's inner presence, to everyone there. A premie may, however, find someone willing to "space out" - whisper and exchange glances, never trying to concentrate. But "spacing out" in "satsang" not only prevents the "experience;" it is bad form. Others notice and one's reputation suffers (unless one takes part in a faction which tries to make its point by challenging authority and piety in "satsang.") Prestigious opportunities, responsibilites and friendships will elude one's reach. One may meditate all one likes, but only proper attendance at "satsang" will publicize one's devotional stance. And "good premies" require this stance of one another. The lures of prestige and reputation, then, tempt a premie to make sure he appears to be listening properly. He will deliberately refuse to turn his head when someone coughs, snickers, or leaves the room. He might wear a glowing half-smile, even letting loose an overly devoted sigh or muttering "Oh Maharaj Ji" every so often. Perhaps he secretly peeks around to make sure others are paying proper attention and to make sure they notice his proper attention.
I actually don't remember it being this complicated but then I was a family man and I didn't live in Denver, which was the largest community of premies in the "West". Some people were uninhibited, others found speaking in public terribly difficult, some people were interesting, others remarkably boring.
In 1975 DLM produced a booklet Life With Knowledge: A Premie Guidebook which contained a short chapter: ATTENDING TO SATSANG which gave a more restrained, sensible outlook on satsang.
In 1982/83 Prem Rawat dropped the title of Guru Maharaj Ji keeping the shorter version Maharaji which he translates as the Ultimate Ruler and ordered his followers to stop having nightly satsang meetings.
Following the dissolution of Guru Maharaj Ji's Divine Light Mission in the West, Élan Vital was set up in the 1980s as a nonprofit organization aiming to promote Guru Maharaj Ji and his teachings. Élan Vital insists that it is not a religion: Maharaji is not regarded as a god; DLM's ashrams no longer exist; members are no longer referred to as "premies" (devotees); and satsang (discourses given by a master or a follower) is no longer central, but is now generally maintained through listening to Maharaji rather than nightly talks by followers. - The A to Z of New Religious Movements, George D. Chryssides
He also ordered his followers (Agya) not to talk about Knowledge to other people and not to answer any questions about him and the Knowledge. At first he told them to refer people to "initiators" or as they were later titled: "instructors." Later (there often were no inistructors) to refer them to videos of his speeches.
"We're here to talk about something very exciting and important: how to be able to talk about Knowledge to other people. We enjoy the experience we have, and it's only natural that we want to communicate it to people interested in what's happening to us. Basically, the instructors are trained to handle the situation. If you turn the ball over to them, it works a lot better. I know you want to talk about it. I don't blame you. But there is a right way to do it, an almost-right way to do it, and there's the wrong way to do it …"
If one person in the United States is having a better success rate introducing people to Knowledge because this person does their homework by watching the videos that are available, familiarizing themselves with the videos, then depending who that that person is talking to hands them that video and achieves a much better success rate. I think somebody is trying to tell us something. Am I mistaken there? You mean I think that's staring you in the face and saying if we come together, right? do our homework, we can actually change a lot of these outcomes."
Guru Maharaj Ji's satsang about satsang was published in the book "The Sayings of Guru Maharaj Ji":
The Ramayana says that it Is only through great good fortune that satsang can be attained. Satsang destroys all our sufferings effortlessly. Satsang cannot be purchased with rupees, for it is priceless. You may be able to afford a diamond worth thousands of rupees, but you can never buy satsang. Satsang is beyond comparison with diamonds.
Spreading this Knowledge is the most, most holy and spiritual thing that one can ever do in this life.
If this Knowledge belongs to God and if it is really God's Knowledge and it is true Knowledge, then there is nothing in the world that can stop it reaching the people. So do satsang. Give them open-hearted satsang. Give them this feeling that what you want to tell them is not a new religion, is not a new way, not a new thing.
When a man comes to us, he is confused, he's looking for Knowledge. He's confused and unsatisfied, so we give him the introduction to this Knowledge. We tell him what he really wants. And as he understands it more and more, that is the fertilising and driving the tractor. And when he understands completely and perfectly that "Yes, this is it", then we can go ahead and sow those seeds. Really drop the message into their hearts.
Satsang is the only way, the only method, by which we can realise and be introduced to this Knowledge. So realise how important it is. More and more satsang, more and more realisation. You have realisation through Knowledge but realisation through satsang is just as important. So, by getting satsang you are being fed, not by food but by satsang, by what is really spiritual.
In 1976 he told a story about satsang and the thief from which we learn that just hearing a snatch of satsang can save your life
So premies, really understand. What I am saying, what I am advising you, is not ill-advice. It is not meant to harm you, but to benefit you. It won't harm you at all, and really, the many ways that satsang can benefit you are incredible. I don't want to drag this out too long, but I'll give you just this one story, how one word of satsang can make such a difference in a person's life.
Once there was a thief who had a son, and when he started dying, he called his son over to him and said, "Look. In a little while I am going to be dead. But the whole last generation of our family has been thieves, so I don't want you to do something else. I want you to steal; I want you to be a thief. These are a few words of advice that you should understand. Take them into your heart, practise them, and you will become a perfect thief: never listen to satsang, because it might encourage you to give up this work. So, never listen to satsang" He gave him some other advice, too: "Never admit that you have stolen anything - even if they kill you. Always be a great devotee of Kali, the goddess of thieves."
His father died, so the son took care of the body, and then started stealing and he got good at it. First he stole a pen, a dollar, and he just kept on going, kept on going, until one day he was a pro, a genius. He decided, "What can I steal that'll certify me as a thief? What great theft can I do?" He finally said, "Okay. I'll go and steal the queen's necklace."
He started off to the palace, and on the way, something got stuck in his foot. While he was limping and taking it out, Guru Maharaj Ji was giving satsang nearby. The thief just happened to hear a few words from an example: "Goddesses never blink their eyes, and they don't cast shadows." The thief saw Guru Maharaj Ji sitting with his premies, so he took the thorn out, put his fingers in his ears, and ran away, because his father had told him never to listen to satsang. He went to the palace, stole the queen's necklace, then came back and buried it. The queen came out later and found her necklace missing. It had a sentimental value for her and was very, very expensive, so she just freaked out. Soon she even stopped eating and said, "Until I get my necklace back I will not eat." The king was concerned, so he told his general, "If you don't bring me that necklace by tomorrow morning I'll kill you." The general didn't have any choice, so he got a hold of every suspicious looking character around and started beating them up and beating them up. He also caught the thief, and took him to jail and started beating him up, too.
According to his father's instructions, the thief was not supposed to admit that he had stolen, so he didn't. He was really young, and when the queen saw him being beaten up, she was very sympathetic. That night she said to herself, "What can I do to find out if he is innocent or guilty?" She thought, "I have a trick. I know all thieves respect Kali. So I'll dress up like Kali, go down and ask him." So she dressed up like Kali, she went down that night and when the thief saw this Kali goddess, he immediately got up and did pranam. He said, "How gracious of you to come and give me darshan in prison. I am just helpless and … " Kali (the queen) said, "Yes, yes, I know. This is really terrible, so I have come here to liberate you from this hell, this prison. Just tell me where you have hidden the necklace."
He thought to himself, "Wait a minute. What does she want with the necklace?" So he looked at her eyes and they were blinking, and he looked on the ground and there was a shadow. He remembered the words he had heard when Guru Maharaj Ji was giving satsang, that goddesses do not blink their eyes or cast shadows. He was a very smart kid, so he said, "Okay goddess, you are the goddess, you are omniscient, you know everything. If I have stolen it, then tell me where it is." That sent the queen for such a whiz that she said, "Wow, this man hasn't stolen anything. If he would have, then he would definitely have told it to me." So, because of satsang, his whole life was saved.
Just a few words of satsang, taken to heart and practised, might save your life. I don't know if you are a thief or not, but it's really important that we listen to satsang and realise this Knowledge.