Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sewa. & Satsang... An Amazing Concept....

Mankind throughout the ages has helped one another to go through problems and difficulties without accepting anything in return. It is one of the reasons we are here today.

What is sewa? It is the selfless service of others without expecting anything in return and to put the needs of others before yourself. Our Guru’s have made it one of the fundamental basis of Sikhi.

Sewa and Satsang – Like a banyan tree form the vital mainstay of Sikhi... Both are an important aspect of the purpose of human and spiritual existence.

For me being  a Sikh ....doing sewa and satsang are intrinsically linked to each other....And Sangat  and its composition is divine interpolation.

 Sewa, or voluntary selfless service, emanates from Naam Simran....It prevents one from developing haumaai, e.g. ego. In true terms one should not hear a person as saying, “I am doing sewa.” What should be heard in humility, is: “Grace of God is giving me the opportunity to do such sewa.” There is vast difference in both the responses. While one reeks of ME ’ness-in self and ego, the latter emits the fragrance of humility and the notion of God’s hand in every deed,he is making us do, basically..... that makes us the divine instrument.

One comes across the word sewa countless times in the Guru Granth Sahib, often as a phrase ‘Gur ki sewa’.                   
 Had the Guru been in physical form, then it would be very easy to comprehend as to how to be in sewa. But for Sikhs the physical body is no longer the paramount symbol of Guru.... do we integrate this SEWA in our way of life...How do we do the sewa ?
If we step  back in time to 500 years and try to create in our mind  the times of our Gurus.
And if we imagine our self sitting in the congregation of Guru Nanak, with Mardana’s fingers smoothly playing the notes on rabab, .......Guru Nanak’s melodious, hypnotic voice and words   wafting through the ambient  settings...

, “Gur ki sewa sabd bichaar, haumaai maarey karni saar” …. [SGGS: p 223].
Guru ji is telling us, you contemplate on the words, which I am singing,....This is the sewa I want from all of you present in the sangat.
So that means the words of Guru’s, which are relayed as ‘dhur ki baani’, is  greater  than even the physical embodiment of Guru who espouses the words .
 Mere reading without understanding becomes a ritual. If one does not mull over and reflect on the depth of the words and the message that lies therein.

 Sewa is always of two types –
One is physical, involving the bodily movements, and the other is mental ......The meditation – involving the mind and the spirit     
 It is purely a mental exercise in which our focus and concentration, is totally turned inwards towards the shabad ....   The word.....its  essence whereby our mind’s hunger is satiated.
“Munn peevaai sunn sabd bichara….” [SGGS: p102, M-5].

Is ‘Satgur ki sewa’ easy ?
 No....Indeed No !!! It is very difficult. Had it been easy then there would not been 1430 pages of the Guru Granth...Mantras in Geeta.....and Testaments of Bible and teachings of Koran all bring back to life century after century the significance of Word...The Baani...

Guru Amardas ji says,....
 “Satgur ki sewa gaakhree, sirr deejaai aap gavaaey”…[SGGS: p 27].
Gakhree literally  means difficult. It is not easy because it involves surrendering of the mind to the Guru which consequently leads to submission of the ego. Ego arises only when one listens to one’s own  physical mind....The munnmatt....In contradiction to our superior sub conscious....The Gurmatt.

Sattsang and Gur ki sewa can liberate a person from the clutches of the five Dreadful vices – kaam, krodh, lobh, moh and ahankaar.
Guru Amardas ji  says....,
Sabdeh mileh ta hari milaai, sewa pavaai sabh thaaee. Paaras parseeaai paaras hoe joti jot samaaey
Sabdeh mileh.... implies that being in association with the Word ...The truth...... Only then complete merging of our thoughts, speech and action with that of the Param Atma...The waheguru is achieved  .
This is often referred as ‘experiencing God’.

Guru Nanak Dev ji says, ...
Gur bheytei paaras bhaey , joti jot milaey ….[SGGS: p 421].

Even Guru Ramdas ji says,
 ....Gur paaras hum loh… [SGGS: p-1114].

The metaphor of paaras and iron metal is used to convey the essence. Merging with the Guru’s Words transforms us into paaras. Once we become paaras then the very same properties of thePaaras....which turns iron into gold..... and is imbibed by us, thereby creating a human chain whereby whosoever comes into contact will also be dramatically transformed.

 Bhai Lehna when he came into communion with Guru Nanak became a paaras  to become ...Guru Angad: and likewise Baba Amar Das when he came into contact with Guru Angad became a paaras and so on.

Our Holy Granth, being the Shabad Guru, is a paaras and whosoever comes into holy communion with it is bound to be transformed.
After all spirituality is not simple....It is not our morning cup of tea....that can be taken by  all  at whim and fancy.

Guru Ram Das ji says, ....Gobind satsangati melaaey.....[SGGS: p 164].
Satsang with an ‘attained one’ opens the doors of our closed minds, thereby creating a
mirror before us whereby one sees the false persona that we have created around our true self.
The real self remains hidden under this personality mask. Satsang facilitates in uncovering this mask and realizing the true potential of ‘Gobind milan’.
Guru Nanak  saids, ....
Satsangat kaisee janeeaai, jithaai eko naam vakhaniey [SGGS: p 72].
A natural consequence to Gur ki sewa is jann ki sewa.
 Guru Ram Das ji says, ..
Jann ki sewa uttam kaama, jo har kee har  katha sunaavaai, so jann hamrey munn chitt bhaavai. Jannpag raen vadbhaagee paavai, sant jana siou preet bann aaee” … [SGGS: p 164].
Why does this urge arise?
 Because one begins to see the Divine Light in each and every being irrespective of caste, creed, religion, race or color.
Awal allah noor upaiah, kudrat key sabh bandey”…. [SGGS: p 1349].
In due course of time one also forgets to differentiate whether the beneficiary is a Sikh or a non-Sikh.
The humane voluntary sewa is thus a natural outcome of doing ...Gur ki sewa and Jann ki sewa.... When a voice arises from within ...stirring us  on to do whatsoever  we can and attain realization of the true purpose of human birth –
 ‘Avarey kaaj tayerai kittey na kaam, mil saadh sangati bhaj kewal naam’… [SGGS, p 378* & 12*, M-5].

Satsang without community sewa or, wand chhakna, becomes meaningless.

What does satsang really mean?
Satsang is a Sanskrit word combining "satya" meaning "truth" and "sangha" meaning "group. " It describes a gathering of people for the purpose of spiritual truth. Satsang is often used when referring to a meeting with a guru or a spiritual mentor. During Satsang, participants read inspiring words, discuss its teachings, meditate, and find ways to bring this awareness into daily life. 

While attending services or spiritual study groups can be thought of as participating in Satsangs, this practice can also apply to any group of people that are gathered to inspire one another and express the truth free from judgment. A Satsang can be a group of people that are gathered to sing, play, or listen to music. All that needs to be there is the intention to inspire one another and tell the truth. 
So SATSANG is the company of truth.
 Being in the presence of truth.
 Satsang is the company of the SATGURU.
The Satguru is one who has REALIZED the truth and not someone who gives out theory.
If the Satguru is not realized then there is no satsang - it is a mere gathering of people to listen to an intellectual talk.

Everyone has THEORIES. Sri Ramakrishna was sitting when a disciple passed by carrying a book. Ramakrishna called him over. "What is this book you are carrying?" he asked. "It is a book about water, it is a complete study of water." replied the disciple. "Then squeeze the pages of the book and let us see how many drops of water ooze out." Said Ramakrishna. If you squeeze the pages of the book there will not be a single drop of water because the book is about theory. It is not the water itself. In the same way talking ABOUT God is not the same as REALIZING God. You can know lots of theory but it will not help you. You need to drop all your so-called knowledge and be in the company of a realized being.
That is satsang.

The MIND is a barrier to truth.
Because it is full of concepts and concepts are not the truth. All concepts are barriers to truth. The mind wants to know - it is hungry for knowledge - it wants to gather all the theories and understand God or Truth. This cannot happen because there is nothing to understand. God, Truth or Enlightenment is not a theory that you can understand. It requires you to drop all your thinking and stop trying to be "right."

You have to be OPEN and RECEPTIVE if you want to experience Truth.
Your mind must stop struggling to be right. You simply let go and surrender in the company of an Enlightened Master. That is the way. It does not matter what the Master does - it is all satsang. He can be silent or he can speak - He can sing, dance, shout, pull faces at you or anything else. You simply accept what is happening. This can only happen if you are in love. If you are not - then it will not happen for you because you will be too busy judging and you will not be open. Why is love essential? Because only in love will you surrender automatically.
In short, satsang refers to an environment which is conducive for experiencing the presence of God

The real meaning of Satsang is the company of the Satguru. Anything else is not satsang - but just a theoretical talk. In order to realise truth you need to drop all your knowledge and in a theoretical satsang you will go on collecting more knowledge. You will become a scholar of sant mat. You will be able to give great talks and guide others. However, you yourself will remain in darkness and your guidance will actually be mis-guidance because unless you realize the truth for yourself - you will only mis-lead others.

KABIR says: mein Kaita hu ankei dekhei tu kaitha hu kagaz ki likeh
I speak what I have seen with my own eyes - you speak what is written in scriptures.--

Without good fortune, the Satsang ,is not came upon; without this
Sangat, people are stained with the filth (of Bikaars or negative )
(sggs 95).

Satsang is the first step in spiritual life.
But, seemingly, it sounds paradoxical that without ....good fortune one cannot come across the Satsang, and, as a consequent of this, one ends up collecting nothing but inner  debris and flotsam in life, and mind remains stained with Bikaars!
Furthermore, Baabaa Nanak in the following verse indicates that it's only the good deeds (Karma) of the past that bestows Naam (the Lord's Name) upon one.
  • ਬਿਨੁ ਭਾਗਾ ਸਤਸੰਗੁ ਪਾਈਐ ਕਰਮਿ ਮਿਲੈ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਹਰੀ :
Bin bhaagaa satasang na paaeeai karam milai har naam haree:
Without good fortune, the Satsangat is not obtained. By one's (good) Karma, the Lord's Name is received (sggs 1171).
With regard to the Satsangat, Guru Nanak in a verse of Sri Raaga specifies strict condition for it, in which he defines as to what the real Satsangat is. Although congregational worship is important, but as indicated in the following verse, not every congregation can necessarily be called Satsangat.
  • ਸਤਸੰਗਤਿ ਕੈਸੀ ਜਾਣੀਐ ਜਿਥੈ ਏਕੋ ਨਾਮੁ ਵਖਾਣੀਐ ਏਕੋ ਨਾਮੁ ਹੁਕਮੁ ਹੈ ਨਾਨਕ ਸਤਿਗੁਰਿ: Satsangati kaisee jaaneeyai. Jithai eko naam vakhaaneeyai. Eko naam hukam hai Nanak satgur deeaa bujhaai jeeou:
How is the Satsangat to be known? There, God's One Name is chanted. The One Name is the Hukam  The Will of God; O Nanak, the True Guru has given me this understanding (sggs 71).
  • ਖਿ ਸਜਣੁ ਜੇ ਮਿਲੈ ਮੈ ਦਸੇ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਗੁਣਤਾਸੁ :
Koee gurmukh sajan je milai mai dasse prabh gunataas:
 If I meet the Gurmukh, my spiritual Friend, he will show me God, the Treasure of Excellence (sggs 40).
  • ਕਾਮੁ ਕ੍ਰੋਧੁ ਲੋਭੁ ਮੋਹੁ ਜਣ ਜਣ ਸਿਉ ਛਾਡੁ ਧੋਹੁ ਹਉਮੈ ਕਾ ਫੰਧੁ ਕਾਟੁ ਸਾਧਸੰਗਿ ਰਤਿ ਜੀਉ :
Kaam krodh lobh mohu jan jan siou shaad dhohu houmai kaa fandh kaat saadhasa(n)g rati jeeou:
Renounce lust, anger, greed and attachment (i.e. all evil passions); give up your games of deception. Snap the noose of egotism, and let yourself be at home in the Saadh Sangat, the Company of the Holy (sggs 1403).
  • ਸਾਧਸੰਗਤਿ ਸਚੁ ਖੰਡ ਹੈ ਵਾਸਾ ਨਿਰੰਕਾਰੇ :
Saadhasangat sach khand hai vaasaa nirankaare:
aadh Sangat is the abode of Truth, the formless Lord abides there (Vaar Bhai Gurdaas Jee, 34).

All of see the same picture....we hear the same words.....But each of us will understand  only as much as the capacity of our wisdom will allow.
Let me narrate a story to you.....

What did  Big Bird Say
Once five people were going through the forest. One was a Moslem, one a Hindu, one a Christian, one a politician and one a peasant farmer. This marvellous combination of people travelled for some time together. As they went through the forest they came across an enormous bird, which suddenly called out.

Since they were idle they stopped to argue about what the bird had told them. You can guess that they all had completely different interpretations about what kind of natural ‘signs’ are given to people through the voice of that big bird.The Hindu spoke first: “The bird said we should believe in Rama, Lakshman and Dasharat. You heard him say clearly, ‘Ram Lakshman Dasharat.’”
“You don’t know anything!” the Moslem said angrily. “First you must understand the language of animals if you want to interpret their speech. This bird said loud and clear, ‘Allah, Mohammed, Hadjarat…’ ”
“No, of course not!” he was contradicted by the Christian. “We are on Christian land and this bird knows nothing of Islam or Hinduism. The bird said clearly, ‘Father, Son and Holy Spirit.’”
“You are all religious fanatics and only hear what you like!” said the politician, crossing his arms and smiling arrogantly. “You must begin to use your minds. Didn’t you hear the bird eloquently say, ‘Replace the government now! Replace the government now!’”
“You people all live in the city and have no idea what nature is,” said the farmer. “The bird told me that the carrots are ripe and then it said that it’s past time for me to harvest them because the rabbits are going to eat them all.”
We do not know what the bird said, but there were as many ideas about it as there were brains. And even we, here at this satsang, we have the same situation: I am here, one in front of you, and there are hundreds of you watching me with your eyes and understanding me in a variety of ways. And each of you will understand me only as much as the capacity of your wisdom will allow.
However you understand me though, I’ll tell you this: when you fulfil your dharma, your duty to others, you will successfully pass through the delusion as well.

Inspired by an article by spired Dimpy Gurvinder Singh@Associate Editor, The Sikh Review. Email: /


  1. Trilochan Singh
    There just cannot be a better example of Gursikhi as prescribed in this shabad by Bhai Sahib Gurdas jee. Water flows downward & makes others cool & clean, mixes with various colours & assumes those colours but itself is colourless common to all. Whether hot or cold, its purpose is always other's good. Though itself wamr, it extinugishes d fire & takes no time to get cold again;

    “Dharti paira haith hai,dharti heth vasanda paani;
    Pani chale niwan no,nirmal sital sudh parani;
    Bahu rangi eik rang hai sabhan andar eko jaani;
    Tatat hove dhup vich chhave thanda virti haani.”

    ਧਰਤੀ ਪੈਰਾਂ ਹੇਠਿ ਹੈ ਧਰਤੀ ਹੇਠਿ ਵਸੰਦਾ ਪਾਣੀ॥
    ਪਾਣੀ ਚਲੈ ਨੀਵਾਣ ਨੋ ਨਿਰਮਲੁ ਸੀਤਲੁ ਸੁਧੁ ਪਰਾਣੀ॥
    ਬਹੁ ਰੰਗੀ ਇਕ ਰੰਗੁ ਹੈ ਸਭਨਾਂ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਇਕੋ ਜਾਣੀ॥
    ਤਤਾ ਹੋਵੈ ਧੁਪ ਵਿਚਿ ਛਾਵੈ ਠੰਢਾ ਵਿਰਤੀ ਹਾਣੀ॥
    ਤਪਦਾ ਪਰਉਪਕਾਰ ਨੋ ਠੰਢੇ ਪਰਉਪਕਾਰ ਵਿਹਾਣੀ॥
    ਅਗਨਿ ਬੁਝਾਏ ਤਪਤਿ ਵਿਚਿ ਠੰਢਾ ਹੋਵੈ ਬਿਲਮੁ ਨ ਆਣੀ॥
    ਗੁਰੁ ਸਿਖੀ ਦੀ ਏਹੁ ਨੀਸਾਣੀ ॥੧੩॥

  2. Prabhjot Singh
    The 10 Sikh Gurus

    The foundation of Sikhism was laid down by Guru Nanak. Guru Nanak infused his own consciousn ess into a disciple, who then became Guru, subsequent ly passing the light on to the next, and so on. The word"Guru"is derived from the root words"Gu", which means darkness or ignorance, and"Ru", which means light or knowledge The Guru is the experience of Truth (God).

    Each one of the ten Gurus represents a divine attribute:
    Guru Nanak - Humility
    Guru Angad - Obedience
    Guru Amar Das — Equality
    Guru Ram Das - Service
    Guru Arjan - Self-Sacri fice
    Guru Hargobind - Justice
    Guru Har Rai - Mercy
    Guru Harkrishan - Purity
    Guru Tegh Bahadur - Tranquilit y
    Guru Gobind Singh - Royal Courage

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