I cannot live without satsanga. This is how important it is for me. The Sanskrit dictionary says that satsanga is the company or society of the good. It is association with the good. Sat means truth and sanga is the association.
In Atma Joann Levitt's book Pilgrim of Love, Bapuji says: "The meaning of the word sat is God. The word sanga means 'having an attachment to, or a liking for.' You maybe have noticed how unmistakable love is when we chant and talk about God in our gatherings. If you don't feel love for God, you're missing satsanga; and as long as you're not in love with God, you haven't really begun the journey."
In our satsangas at Power of Love Temple we mostly chant and we have very little socialization. Normally, I don't lecture. In each of the chants that we sing, we are singing the names of God or Goddesses. The vibrations from these names and combinations of syllables are the keys to unlocking the power of the divine energies they invoke. They have been handed down from sages and yogis over thousands of years as formulas. We almost always sing in Sanskrit as these were the energies that have proven to contain the divinity which we strive for. Also Sanskrit activates so many subtle and healing energies within each of us. Bhajans (devotional songs) are sung in English so that we understand their message on an intellectual level and a heart level.
We normally don't do Christian chants or any chants from other religions. This is because there are already many outlets in America for this activity. It is such a joyous venture when we get together in a group and chant these various mantras. Personally, I find it very uplifting and it is the memory of these times which keeps me going on a daily level. I also love teaching them to all levels from beginners up.
As a rule, I don't lecture for a couple of reasons which I will share with you. Lectures are mostly opinion. Opinion comes from personal experience and may be personal truth, but it isn't always universal truth. Each of our experiences are different, so if I say one thing and your experience is another, then this can undermine your faith in other things such as the value of chanting mantras. However, this isn't the main reason that I don't lecture. I find that when we chant we usually enter an altered state. In this altered state we can loose our ability for
discrimination. In this state, we can take one person's opinion as our truth. This may or may not be in tune with what is right for us. I can see this as a means' to manipulate people. For instance, some 'guru' might say "I love you. No one has loved you like I love you. Not your family or your friends. Because of this you should disassociate yourself with your friends and family." Truth is, you just chanted the names of God, and you probably entered a place where it is a new kind of love and acceptance and you are vulnerable and open to suggestions which appear to be true.
East Indian gurus often rag on American culture. They bombard us with the negatives such as high divorce and decay of family values and then expound on how much better their way is. You can see that if you had just gone through a family disagreement how this may appear to be truth. Perhaps they aren't doing this intentionally, but if they don't recognize it then I would question their exalted status.
Usually our satsangas are 80-90% chanting. Occasionally we will have a ritual such as the giving of a Sanskrit name. The photo on this page is of one such ritual. The rituals are creative and full of joy, laughter and fun.
Without Satsanga we lose the ease of companionship with like minded friends, which helps to keep us thinking of what is good, not just for ourselves but for humanity and the planet. It also helps us to keep various disciplines as there is strength in numbers. I don't look at satsangas or yoga classes as a time for socialization with each other. When this happens it pollutes the divine energy that we are trying to build in the temple and inhibits our ability to go within. There are benches outside the temple and other activities such as picnics which allow for socialization.
What makes satsanga so special for me? I love to sing, it feeds my soul. I love to have that heavenly stillness around me. I love the feeling that I'm not alone and that I'm accepted and helping others feel this way also. I love that a group can come together with a higher purpose. I love that it is a safe, non-manipulative atmosphere. A smile forms in my mind when I remember how happy I feel when I share something that I love doing and when I share the beautiful space in the womb - our temple.
- Leela Bruner