Association with the good leads to non-attachment, non-attachment heralds freedom from delusion, freedom from delusion brings steadfastness, from steadfastness comes jivanmukti (liberation in life).
From what we have heard so far in the Bhaja Govindam, it is clear that engaging ourselves in material pursuit and attachments does not give us lasting happiness. In this verse, Shankara tells us how we can extricate ourselves from the quicksand of worldly entanglements and focus on the Divine Self within.
For the spiritual initiate, keeping satsang, the company of the good, is most important. This is because we are ultimately functions of the stimuli we receive.
Our interaction with the world comprises three functions. Perception, reaction and response. We perceive the world through our sense organs. Stimuli from various objects and beings enter us through the organs of perception – eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin. These are our windows to the world. The stimuli are then transmitted to their respective sense in the mind. Then, the mind interprets them. It reacts to them depending on the quality of desires in the mind. Lastly, we respond to the stimuli through the organs of action.
Thus, at the beginning of our spiritual search, it is important to regulate the stimuli we are exposed to. Satsang doesn’t merely mean keeping the company of saints. It applies at all three levels – physical, emotional and intellectual. We also need to keep the company of positive emotions and thoughts. It is for this reason that we do not expose young children to videos that depict violence and bloodshed. Similarly, in our spiritual childhood, we too must avoid environments that promote indulgence and create negative emotions and thoughts. It is an ennobled mind that responds in a refined manner.
Satsang heralds non-attachment. We cannot get detached from the lower unless there is an affiliation to something higher. In fact, once we get attached to the higher, more satisfying aspect, the lower automatically drops. This is the way a newborn infant grows to a full-grown adult. When an infant playing with a rattle is fascinated by a toy car, the rattle fades into insignificance. Then he finds the joy of balancing on a bicycle and the toy falls away. Until he is caught up with adult toys – wealth, power, fame, cars, homes, private jets etc. From this stage of spiritual infancy one has to stretch the mind to higher joys for the attachments to lose their hold over us. In the light of emotional joys, like the thrill of parenthood, material pleasures are found wanting. When a student is inspired with the desire to pursue a doctorate he willingly foregoes both material comforts as well as emotional pampering. Go a step further. When we open our minds to the lure of the Infinite, we will become detached from all that the world offers.
Once we become detached, we become free of the delusion that the world has the power to confer happiness. We understand worldly pleasures for what they are and no longer have an exaggerated value for them.
We become consistent in the pursuit of Realisation. Nothing in the world distracts us from the goal. This steady pursuit culminates in Enlightenment while we are still living.
Thus, Vedanta does not promise any post-mortem heaven. That state of liberation is achievable here and now. So go for it. It is our birthright.
Where do we begin? With satsang. When our mind maintains a positive outlook in life, negative thoughts cannot flourish. If we are careless and entertain negative feelings, our minds become fertile ground for all kinds of enervating thoughts.
It may not always be possible to weed out the negatives. We must look for the positives in the existing situation. Recognize the good in others. The worst among us has some stunningly good qualities. We should focus on them. This will bring out the best in us too. Emerson said, “Every man I meet is in some way my superior”. What a fine thought! Thus you convert a negative into a positive. And are well on the way to Self unfoldment.