Path of the Masters: Sant Mat - Santmat, Radhasoami - Radha Soami, Satsang, Inner Light and Sound Meditation: Surat Shabd Yoga, Audible Life Stream, Quan Yin Method, Spiritual Science, Spirituality, Kabir, Maharshi Mehi, Kirpal Singh, Gnosticism, Third Eye, Out Of Body Experiences, Near-Death Experiences, Inner Space, the Kingdom of the Heavens Within, Mystic Poetry, Vegetarian Vegan, Ahimsa, Love, and God. The term "Sant Mat" was coined by Sant Tulsi Sahib of Hathras during the 19th Century.
"The place where people are always talking about the glory of the Lord and of the way to increase love and devotion in the Holy Feet of the True Lord, and about the secrets of the path of Surat Shabd Yoga, is true Satsang." (Exalted Precepts/Guru Updesh, Huzur Maharaj, Agra, India)
Below is from the book, The Harmony of All Religions, Chapter Seven: Sant Mat:
The word satsang is comprised of two words: sat and sang. What is sat?
Sat is that which can never be destroyed and is ever-existent. It is the essential element, indestructible and beyond the limitations of time. And it is Truth or Being. Sang means association or contact. Thus, the word satsang refers to association or coming into contact with Sat (Truth).
In the Bhagavad Gita Lord Krishna states:
"Whatever is Truth always exists and is never non-existent. That which is non Truth has no existence whatsoever." (2:16)
Satsang can be stratified in to following categories:
The Three Levels of Satsang
Level One: The First Kind of Satsang (Association with God):
What then is this element which is indestructible, has always been constant and will forever remain as such? This principle is the Supreme Being of the universe. Association with this Being, in reality, is association with Truth (satsang). But, what is it that could associate with this Supreme Being? Is it the body or the senses? The answer is that it is neither of these two. It is only apart from the body and senses that we will be able to associate with the Supreme Being. This is because it is only our soul that is an inseparable part of the Divine. It is only we (our soul) that are capable of merging with the Divine. Our individual soul is truth, and also, the Supreme Being is Truth. True satsang is the unity of the soul with the Supreme Truth. This is the highest kind of satsang. However, this highest kind of satsang, unity with the Divine, does not occur suddenly. This category of satsang requires many lifetimes of good actions samskaras (spiritual imprints and tendencies).
Level Two: The Second Kind of Satsang (Association with the Saints):
Sant Tulsidas Ji emphasizes the association with the saints for the realization of the Divine:
"The association of the saints brings association with the Divine, and alliance with people who are engrossed in the world leads the way back to this world again and again."
To attain Ultimate Liberation it is essential to have association with the saints. Saints, those who have realized the true form of God, become that True Form. The accomplished great beings who have attained unity with the Divine, and who have experienced the Supreme Being even while living in this body, have become the Supreme Being [meaning they have become one with their true Divine Form]. Association with these saints is this second category of satsang. However, finding such a saint is not an easy task. A true saint is rare and difficult to find.
Sant Tulsidas explains in the Ramacharitmanas:
"Without accumulation of many good deeds one will be unable to gain the association of a great saint."
When our good karmas permit, we are able to come to experience the association of these sentient beings. A more important point is that even if we have a direct encounter with such a saint, we often do not have the wisdom to be able to recognize a genuine sage.
A great Sant Tulsi Sahab states the difficulty in recognizing a saint:
"If someone says, 'I have recognized a saint,' then I put my hands on my ears in astonishment." [It is not an easy task.]
If it were possible for ordinary people to recognize saints, then why, since antiquity, have so many great saints, sages, and prophets have been tortured, maimed and killed? Many saints throughout the ages have had to face horrible atrocities. This simply would not have happened if people were able to recognize the genuine great saints.
Level Three: The Third Kind of Satsang (Association with the Words and Writings of Ancient Sages and Saints):
In daily life we need the guidance of a great sage or saint. Even though we might hear about or encounter many so called mahatmas or sadhus, the task of finding and identifying an accomplished guide is difficult. A truly great sage is a rarity. So, in consideration of this, how would satsang (association with a true saint) be possible? The answer is that we can study the teachings of the great saints of the past, because in their teaching, we will find the elaboration of the Truth. This then is the third category of satsang. Generally, when we speak of satsang, it is this third category that is meant. This kind of satsang includes the study of scriptures and the words and writings of the saints and prophets of the past.
As we continue diligently in this third type of satsang, we accumulate the meritorious karmas which will lead to the meeting with a true saint. Then we will be able to do the second category of satsang and will have a good fortune of listening to the words of realized beings who presently reside among us. As we continue in association with a great saint, and with the saint's blessings, we will gradually begin to meditate and undertake the prescribed spiritual disciplines. By diligently practicing these disciplines, we will one day, experience the first category of satsang -- the association with the Supreme. When we have thus accomplished the highest category of satsang, our life's ultimate purpose will be fulfilled.
We will now examine some of the scriptures and the sayings of saints in this regard:
In the Yajur Veda, satsang is known as the Buddhi yoga (dhiyam). This is the yoga of intellectually discerning the truth. The Yajur Veda elaborates on the significance of the Buddhi yoga:
"O Dear Aspirants! In order to realize the essential form of the Supreme Being, first practice the Buddhi yoga (satsang), then Manas yoga (practice mantra and focus on the Divine form), and the Yoga of Light (Dristi yoga). By these practices you will establish the ground for the realization of Divine Union."
In the Maha Upanishad, satsang is considered essential for Liberation:
"On the gate of liberation are found four gate keepers endowed with wisdom. These four are: discipline, thoughtfulness (reflection), contentment and association with saints."
Sant Tulsidas Ji sings in the praise of satsang:
"Without the association of great saints, there is neither discourse of the Divine nor the understanding of the scriptures. Without these two, selfish attachment does not loosen its grip. And without dispelling attachment to the world one cannot attain the realm of the Divine and the true devotion that is essential to realize the Divine."
Further, he says:
"Wisdom, fame, supreme salvation, attainment of all powers and kindliness are all realized by the power of satsang. No other means are prescribed in the Vedas to attain these."
Sant Kabir Sahab elaborates on the purpose of satsang:
"Discord and delusion can be removed by the power of the association of saints. For those who associate with saints, suffering dissolves and they will remain immersed in joy. Joy arises from noble company and pain arises from association with the wicked, says Kabir, go to a place where saints dwell and their association is possible."
A great woman saint, Sahjo Bai, has also said:
"Whoever comes to satsang is released from the confinements of individual caste, status and color. Even the flow of dirty water, upon reaching the holy River Ganga, becomes Ganga (loses its impurity and comes to be known as the holy river)."
Sant Sundar Das Ji says:
"All people have a mother and father as well as relatives and friends. It is easy to obtain sons and wives, but it is very difficult to find true satsang (association of true saints)."
Sant Tulsi Sahab says:
"O Aspirant! Perform satsang by subduing the mind and taking refuge in saints. Keep in your heart a ceaseless burning desire to be at the feet (tutelage) of saints."
Maharishi Mehi Paramahans Ji asks his aspirants to perform both kinds of satsang:
"Dear Aspirants! Each day strive to do both kinds of satsang: inner and outer. Outer satsang is listening to the teachings of great saints and studying the sacred texts. Inner satsang is the practice of one-pointed meditation."
Yogi Panchanan Bhattacharya Ji says:
"By association with a pure soul the mind becomes pure and the darkness of attachment is dispelled. In attending to these quotes from different saints it becomes clear that satsang is vital and very necessary for any serious spiritual seeker."
--- Swami Sant Sevi Ji Paramahansa, The Harmony of All Religions