What is Satsang?

by | Feb 16, 2021 | Essays on Awakening

Interview with Connections Magazine for May, 2001 issue

What is satsang?

Satsang is sitting with a fully realized teacher who transmits silence and realization. Anyone can speak the words of satsang. My teacher, Papaji used to say you can teach a parrot to speak the words of satsang. And since the words are so powerful they will have an affect. But the words are only pointing to what is beyond the words.

The true teacher is satsang not the words that are spoken. I have been with very powerful teachers who had very strong shakti (spiritual power), but they were not transmitting freedom. When I met my teacher his living presence was the emanation of silence. His words were used to cut through the false identification of mind. So both the transmission of silence and the intelligent insight into the condition of the human mind are the two sides of satsang.

Hui Neng, the 8th Zen Patriarch said you must have both samadhi and prajna. Samadhi means the bliss of diving into your Self and prajna is the discriminating wisdom to see the finest most subtle distinction. The great trap of the egoic mind is to believe that awakening means that everything blends together into a mush of oneness, that a fog obliterates distinction. This foggy thinking is the avoidance of true insight.

In the clarity of insight what is revealed is the truth that is prior to time and space. The distinctions of time and space do not blend together, in fact the distinctions become more sharp and clear. Only after the phenomenal world is completely left behind through intelligent inquiry can it then be seen from the other side for what it really is.

Who you are is already immortal intelligence. To realize it directly is the goal of life. In the past it has been the rarest event that was reserved for saints and holy souls purified through lifetimes. This rare event was celebrated and remembered for generations. Now it is possible for everyone to wake up. Merely having a human incarnation is enough.

When you wake up your life may not appear like a saint. It may continue to appear as a completely ordinary life except that you will know the truth and radiate silence to all you meet. In this way you will be a secret agent of truth and silence. My teacher said that the bird of freedom fly’s with two wings: Love and Intelligence. So take flight. The time is now.

How to be silent in the midst of noise and turmoil?

Papaji used to take us for walks in the Indian marketplace, filled with noise, dirt, pollution, crowds and animals, to demonstrate that silence is untouched by any activity. When you know yourself and stay true to yourself then you fully engage with whatever arises without taking it personally.

If you get hooked or your buttons get pushed, this is your teacher pointing back to your identification as a somebody trying to do something. Then it is not about ignoring it or justifying it or saying it doesn’t matter, or “just dropping it.” If you just drop it you miss the lesson of insight into your present condition. So everything is useful. Everyting either reveals your true nature as intelligent empty love or it reveals your identification with ego. Either way everything is useful if you are willing to investigate it.

How to live in a relationship with wisdom (many think relationship is an attachment
and incompatible with freedom/moksha)

Many people have asked my wife, Gangaji, and myself, about our relationship. We met when I was 28, in 1975. Those were very wild days of sexual acting out. What kept us together was our commitment to truth. If it meant the end of the relationship, truth came first. Her integrity in this was so rare to me that I was willing to stick it out. She felt the same way. There were many times when it seemed easier to leave. Whenever one of us was ready to go, the other would not budge from truth until it was clear. In this, our commitment to truth and being willing to never leave has kept us together through all the madness we both went through.

When we met I was her teacher. At a certain point she became my teacher. At first I made the money and supported us. Later, she made the money and supported us. All of our roles changed, everything that was a prop was knocked out so our only support was truth and love.

In this our relationship supported freedom. It was what made it possible to meet our final teacher. But I did not seek a relationship and did not expect a relationship to fulfill me. It appeared. If it appears it is useful. If it does not appear this is also useful. So a relationship is neither necessary nor a hindrance.

If you are chasing a relationship you are missing the point. If you are running from a relationship you are also missing the point. Stop where you are and this is the perfect moment and the perfect environment to realize freedom.

How can the discriminating intelligence of the enneagram help to understand oneself and become free?

My teacher said the first requirement for a seeker of truth is discriminating wisdom. The clarity of pure intelligence is necessary to uncover the false identification and to tell the real from the unreal. Without this requirement final realization is not possible. Without discriminating intelligence you can have great experiences of bliss and great highs but they will not last. The bliss will be shallow and narrow in duration. Without true insight, nothing is possible.

Everyone is already pure consciousness and therefore intelligence itself. However, intelligence becomes clouded by mind waves of desire and fear. When the mind is still, when it is not chasing anything and not avoiding anything, this stillness reveals clarity and wisdom.

In our time, the enneagram has arisen as a wisdom mirror for seeing the subtle subconscious latent identifications. It increases intelligence by giving insight into the deep structure of ego.

People tend to live on the surface of things. Events and people are woven into a fabric of experiences to support the belief that you and your environment are real. The enneagram gives the underpinnings, the deep structure that is actually running the show.

For example, someone does something that you perceive as betrayal. All the evidence supports the story that they betrayed you. In fact they may have betrayed you. But what is unexamined is the prior belief about who you are, what betrayal really is, and your own self-betrayal.

With the insight of the enneagram, the experience of betrayal, instead of triggering the egoic response of either vengeance or flight, submission or false independence, can be the thread leading into the deep recesses of sub-conscious identification to cut the egoic identity with the one who feels betrayed. In this way the egoic fixation becomes the vehicle for intelligent inquiry and the ending of egoic identification.

The great gift of the enneagram is that it clearly shows that what you thought was completely original and unique and “you” is merely a pattern of stimulus response triggers that are predictable, mechanical and common. Who you are is pristine silent awareness. Who you subconsciously identify yourself to be is a pattern of mental, emotional and physical waves arising from the sea of emptiness. When the waves are identified as such they loose their magical hold.

When you see your patterns of attachment and are wiling to end suffering you are willing to stop grasping and rejecting. When these movements of mind stop, the stillness reveals your true nature. You can not make realization happen, but you can stop the attachment to the waves of confusion, desire and fear.

When you are willing to stop everything, the enneagram is a gift for seeing the more subtle waves just beneath the surface. When even these waves stop, your true heart, which is calling you home, will come and take you down to the depths to realize your true nature. When you have cut free of egoic identity and have been taken to the other side, you realize the truth of who you are and what is truly real. Then your life will be a fresh unkown expression of love and silence in the service of love and silence.


“When you can recognize who you are not, then there is a possibility to wake up and discover who you really are.”