I heard the word “Satsang” yesterday and it reminded me of a journey I started a half a lifetime ago when I had hit rock bottom and sought answers to the meaning of life.
Satsang is a Sanskrit word that means “gathering together for the truth” or, more simply, “being with the truth.” According to sources from India, Truth is what is real, what truly exists.
All there is, is Truth. That’s Truth with a capital “T.” Whenever something increases your experience of the Truth, it opens your heart and quiets your mind, the wise ones tell us. Conversely, when something, such as a thought, fear, or judgment, limits or narrows your experience of the Truth, the heart contracts and the mind gets busier.
Fortunately, we are all equally endowed with this capacity to discriminate the Truth. Thus, the true teacher is within you, and Satsang, or being with the Truth, is endless.
The word was spoken at my weekly guided meditation at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church where we meet each Wednesday morning for meditation and brief discussions. It is sponsored by the Center for Contemporary Mysticism which has helped open my eyes to many mysterious in life.
The speaker this time was Ram Dass. He is the guru who once served as a psychologist at Harvard University and joined Timothy Leary — the LSD enthusiast — to teach us how we can obtain a higher level of consciousness. I followed the maxim of “turn on, tune in and drop out” and experimented shortly after leaving high school and read “The Tibetan Book of the Dead.” Years later I found myself studying Buddhism with a Tibetan lama in Philadelphia and seeking liberation through meditation and meritorious works.
“Satsang” first came to my attention as a young man when visiting an ashram in West Philadelphia where people of all ages spoke of and read the teachings of a 15-year-old guru from India. I tried to learn meditation but didn’t pick it up even though I might have benefitted for a brief moment and felt the greatest charge of energy I ever experienced after closing my eyes and sitting alone on the floor of a room in my house.
I went to the ashram because of a girl. Well, she was a 30-year-old woman who worked for the Philadelphia electric company and was unfazed by the protestors at Limerick Nuclear Power plant near Pottstown, PA. I worked as a newspaper reporter and was drawn in by the smiles and loving aura this woman provided despite the negativity and outright disdain protesters showed her company.
I wanted what the woman had. She said she got it from sitting in “Satsang” and she invited me to the ashram house.
I had recently gone through a divorce after eight years of marriage and was emotionally distraught back then. My job was the only thing that mattered to me and I couldn’t find a relationship with anyone I came into contact with.
Why did a red-blooded American, a Vietnam veteran who was raised Catholic go to an ashram? I believe I was in search of some sort of love somewhere “out there” and ended up finding it within myself. That’s what ‘Satsang’ offered me. I met with devotees of the young guru and resonated with their message of “loving awareness.”
It provided the opening I’d find years later with other spiritual groups and I am thankful to have been exposed to it through the heart-felt messages of persons spreading good-will and a message of unity.