Is Satsang (holy congregation) necessary?
In Sikhism, great emphasis is laid on Satsang. Guru Ji says:
ਕਬੀਰ ਸੰਗਤਿ ਕਰੀਐ ਸਾਧ ਕੀ ਅੰਤਿ ਕਰੈ ਨਿਰਬਾਹੁ ||
ਸਾਕਤ ਸੰਗੁ ਨ ਕੀਜੀਐ ਜਾ ਤੇ ਹੋਇ ਬਿਨਾਹੁ ||੯੩||
“Kabeer, associate with the Holy, who will take you to Nirvaana in the end. Do not associate with the faithless cynics ( i.e. Kusang); they would ruin (your spiritual life and peace) ||93||”
ਕਬੀਰ ਮਨੁ ਪੰਖੀ ਭਇਓ ਉਡਿ ਉਡਿ ਦਹ ਦਿਸ ਜਾਇ ॥
ਜੋ ਜੈਸੀ ਸੰਗਤਿ ਮਿਲੈ ਸੋ ਤੈਸੋ ਫਲੁ ਖਾਇ ॥੮੬॥
“Kabeer, the mind has become a bird (i,e. mind’s wanderings, Trishnaa etc.); it soars and flies in the ten directions (desires chasing sense objects). According to the company it keeps, so are the fruits it eats ||86||” (Ang 1369)
By joining congregational prayers and making contact with saints the devotee comes to divine knowledge. The inspiration given by good people leads to the development of the spiritual personality. Holy people preach purity through personal example and kindle the heart with universal love. They warn the individual of the five great vices. Psychologically, the association with holy men helps as a deterrent against evil thoughts and deeds. Just as a tree which grows near a sandalwood tree acquires the fragrance of sandal, just as a metal when touched with the philosopher’s stone is transmuted into gold so in the same way, an ordinary man becomes ennoble and heroic in the company of holy men. In the company of The Truthful, a devotee learns the value of “The Truth”.
Joining the company of saints, is also conductive to the discipline of the mind. One learns how to serve the community and work for the good of humanity. One acquires the technique of “The Name” and so comes to enjoy inner tranquility. According to Guru Nanak,”The company of saints is also the school of the Guru, where one learns Godly attributes.” There evil is purged and destroyed, as if by a divine spark. Guru Arjan says, “The society of saints removes sin; the society of saints brings comforts in this world and the next.”
Again and again, in Guru Granth Sahib Ji, a Sikh is required to seek the company of noble souls. A man is known by the company he keeps. In good company, he becomes good and sheds his evil tendencies. He will learn to be ashamed of doing anything which may bring him reproach.
Man’s actions are so often motivated by the herd instinct. He does certain things as a matter of social convention, if his society becomes an instrument of his progress, he can rise to greater heights. For this reason, the Sikh in his general prayer – the Ardaas – seeks the company of the holy and to contact virtuous men – Saadh Ka sang, Gurmukh da mel.