Sangat (a company of like minded saintly people)

One of the significant aspect of Sikhism is its group consciousness and its belief in the presence of the Guru in Sangat. Literally, Sangat means assembly of people who work or assemble together for social, moral or spiritual well being of the community. It is a company of like minded saintly people which purifies and uplifts the devotees.

Bhai Gurdas writes in Var 13-Pauri 19 that where there is one, he is called Sikh, where there are two, they are called Sadh Sangat and where there are five, God manifests in them.

ਇਕੁ ਸਿਖ ਦੁਇ ਸਾਧ ਸੰਗੁ ਪੰਜੀਂ ਪਰਮੇਸਰੁ ॥
(ਵਾਰ 13.19)
“It is a truthful congregation and companionship where people love God and hold communion with Him.”
ਮਿਲੁ ਸਾਧਸੰਗਤਿ ਭਜੁ ਕੇਵਲ ਨਾਮ ॥

Sat Sangat may be defined as an assembly of truthful living persons where God Himself appears manifest. According to Guru Nanak Dev Ji,

“The holy congregation is a meeting where nothing but the Name of One God is uttered.”
ਸਤਸੰਗਤਿ ਕੈਸੀ ਜਾਣੀਐ ॥
ਜਿਥੈ ਏਕੋ ਨਾਮੁ ਵਖਾਣੀਐ ॥

It is assembly of holymen in the presence of Sri Guru Granth Sahib where nothing but the Name of One God alone is recited. It is an assembly, where there are discourses of truthful people on the name of God. It is the company of saintly people who have an ennobling influence on the human mind. Whenever persons of truthful living assemble, they constitute Sat Sangat. Remembering of Name in the company of saints is given significant place in Sikhism.

Guru Nanak Dev laid foundation of saintly assemblies when he visited different places to propagate Sikh philosophy.

Guru Nanak Dev says,

“Even if a man performs lakhs of deeds of wisdom and lives in loving company of lakhs of people yet without the company of saints there would be no satiation and without the Name of God, there would be pain and suffering.”
ਲਖ ਸਿਆਣਪ ਜੇ ਕਰੀ ਲਖ ਸਿਉ ਪ੍ਰੀਤਿ ਮਿਲਾਪੁ ॥
ਬਿਨੁ ਸੰਗਤਿ ਸਾਧ ਨ ਧ੍ਰਾਪੀਆ ਬਿਨੁ ਨਾਵੈ ਦੂਖ ਸੰਤਾਪੁ ॥

Just as the fire destroys the cold, similarly the company of saints vanishes the sins.

Sat Sangat is considered most important in the Sikh way of life. It is given special status among the Sikhs. Every Sikh is expected to attend Sangat in the Gurdwara where all devotees sit together on the carpeted floor irrespective of their social, political, economical or religious position. This implies equality. They recite or listen to the praises of God. They learn from each other and in good company they shed off their amoral tendencies. It is strongly believed that the Guru is physically present where there is an assembly of five holy persons.

Guru Ram Das says,

“Joining the society of saints, I inquire about the track to God. In the saints congregation, the Lord God abides.”
ਮਿਲਿ ਸਤਸੰਗਤਿ ਖੋਜੁ ਦਸਾਈ ਵਿਚਿ ਸੰਗਤਿ ਹਰਿ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਵਸੈ ਜੀਉ ॥

The Sangat consists of minimum five Sikhs in whose lives the Sikh religion is transfigured. It is said that where there is one Sikh, there is one Sikh. Where there are two Sikhs, there is an assembly of saints. Where there are five Sikhs, there is God.

Bhai Gurdas writes in Var 13-Pauri 19 that where there is one, he is called Sikh, where there are two, they are called Sadh Sangat and where there are five, God manifests in them.

ਇਕੁ ਸਿਖ ਦੁਇ ਸਾਧ ਸੰਗੁ ਪੰਜੀਂ ਪਰਮੇਸਰੁ ॥
(ਵਾਰ 13.19)

Sangat is the training school where the devotees practice discipline of the Guru and acquire virtuous qualities. ( Var Kanra M-4, 1316 ) In addition to the ripening of the spiritual thought, Sangat creates social and organizational awareness also. Sangat helps in harmonizing the people who live in disunity and have diversity of faith. It serves as a link between common people and the Guru.

The decision of Sangat is considered to be as the decision of the Guru. It is worth mentioning here that the assembly of perverse or evil people is never a Sangat. Assembly of immoral or irreligious people would lead a person to disaster and sinful life. (See Bhai Gurdas)

“Since I attended the company of saints, all my illwill for others vanished. No one is my enemy nor any one is stranger to me. Now every body is my friend.”
ਬਿਸਰਿ ਗਈ ਸਭ ਤਾਤਿ ਪਰਾਈ ॥
ਜਬ ਤੇ ਸਾਧਸੰਗਤਿ ਮੋਹਿ ਪਾਈ ॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
ਨਾ ਕੋ ਬੈਰੀ ਨਹੀ ਬਿਗਾਨਾ ਸਗਲ ਸੰਗਿ ਹਮ ਕਉ ਬਨਿ ਆਈ ॥
“O’ my friends, hear the glory of the company of saints. The dirt is washed away, millions of sins are banished and the soul becomes pure.”
ਮਹਿਮਾ ਸਾਧੂ ਸੰਗ ਕੀ ਸੁਨਹੁ ਮੇਰੇ ਮੀਤਾ ॥
ਮੈਲੁ ਖੋਈ ਕੋਟਿ ਅਘ ਹਰੇ ਨਿਰਮਲ ਭਏ ਚੀਤਾ ॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥

Normally the congregation takes place at Gurdwara ( Sikh Temple ) in the presence of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. The devotees sing hymns from Guru Granth Sahib, recite Name of God and pray for universal peace and prosperity. The singing of Gurbani is called Kirtan. By listening and devotedly reciting the holy hymns one is inspired to put the precious teachings of Bani into actual practice in life. In the company of such saints, one realizes Truth. His sins are washed away and he wins the grace of God ( 809 ).

Guru Nanak Dev started the concept of Sangat in Sikhism. Wherever he went during his travels, he asked the people to establish Dharmsala or a place of Sikh worship. He nominated devout Sikhs as Sangatias who used to officiate in the Sangat in place of the Guru. This system was followed by Manjis and Masands. The succeeding Gurus followed suit. Hari Ram Gupta writes at page 424 of History of the Sikhs, “Guru Hargobind introduced congregational prayers.” Mohsin Fani writes in his memoirs that when a Sikh desired for something, he would request the Sangat to pray for him. (Dabistan, Persian-239)

How one can get company of Sangat ?

Guru Ram Das says,

“Without good fortune the guild of the righteous is not found. Without such an association, one is soiled with the filth of sins.”
ਬਿਨੁ ਭਾਗਾ ਸਤਸੰਗੁ ਨ ਲਭੈ ਬਿਨੁ ਸੰਗਤਿ ਮੈਲੁ ਭਰੀਜੈ ਜੀਉ ॥

Merits of good company

Man is known by the company he keeps. Man is the result of environment. Company is a great force and it plays a big role in shaping a person. Those who live in the company of thieves, robbers and evil persons, acquire evil ways of life. Those who keep the company of saintly persons are shaped in the saintly mold.

Guru Arjan Dev says,

“Very fortunate are they who get the society of saints.”
ਸਾਧਸੰਗੁ ਜਿਨ ਪਾਇਆ ਸੇਈ ਵਡਭਾਗੇ ॥

Bhagat Kabir says,

“By the company one keeps, one gets due reward.”
ਜੋ ਜੈਸੀ ਸੰਗਤਿ ਮਿਲੈ ਸੋ ਤੈਸੋ ਫਲੁ ਖਾਇ ॥

There may be people who live near good and saintly persons but they are so much over involved in their ego that they do not think of becoming good people.

Bhagat Kabir says,

“Do not follow the example of Bamboo which is drowned in its ego.
Bamboo dwells near the Sandal tree but it does not become fragrant like the Sandal.”
ਕਬੀਰ ਬਾਂਸੁ ਬਡਾਈ ਬੂਡਿਆ ਇਉ ਮਤ ਡੂਬਹੁ ਕੋਇ ॥
ਚੰਦਨ ਕੈ ਨਿਕਟੇ ਬਸੈ ਬਾਂਸੁ ਸੁਗੰਧੁ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥

Bhagat Kabir says,

“The Sandal tree is virtuous. It is surrounded by Dhak and Plas trees. Those which dwell near the Sandal tree become themselves Chandan (Sandal ) and they spread fragrance.”
ਕਬੀਰ ਚੰਦਨ ਕਾ ਬਿਰਵਾ ਭਲਾ ਬੇੜ੍ਹ੍ਹਿਓ ਢਾਕ ਪਲਾਸ ॥
ਓਇ ਭੀ ਚੰਦਨੁ ਹੋਇ ਰਹੇ ਬਸੇ ਜੁ ਚੰਦਨ ਪਾਸਿ ॥
(1365)( Shalok Kabir )

Guru Arjan Dev says,

“O’ my revered Lord of mammon ! he who participates in Sangat (Holy society) is saved.”
ਮੇਰੇ ਮਾਧਉ ਜੀ ਸਤਸੰਗਤਿ ਮਿਲੇ ਸੁ ਤਰਿਆ ॥
“The filth of ego of many births sticks to me and it is by meeting with the saints society that this filth can be washed off.”
ਜਨਮ ਜਨਮ ਕੀ ਹਉਮੈ ਮਲੁ ਲਾਗੀ ਮਿਲਿ ਸੰਗਤਿ ਮਲੁ ਲਹਿ ਜਾਵੈਗੋ ॥

Guru Arjan Dev says,

“By meeting saints society, acute wisdom is attained.”
ਸਾਧਸੰਗਤਿ ਮਿਲਿ ਬੁਧਿ ਬਿਬੇਕ ॥

Effects of Bad Company

Guru Nanak Dev says,

“Thieves, adulterers, prostitutes and pimps keep company together, just like the irreligious who eat and drink out of the same bowl. They do not know the worth of God�s praises and Satan ever abides in them.”
ਚੋਰਾ ਜਾਰਾ ਰੰਡੀਆ ਕੁਟਣੀਆ ਦੀਬਾਣੁ ॥
ਵੇਦੀਨਾ ਕੀ ਦੋਸਤੀ ਵੇਦੀਨਾ ਕਾ ਖਾਣੁ ॥
ਸਿਫਤੀ ਸਾਰ ਨ ਜਾਣਨੀ ਸਦਾ ਵਸੈ ਸੈਤਾਨੁ ॥
“He who associates himself with the evil-doers, is ruined. Being fed on poison, his life goes to waste.”
ਦੁਸਟੀ ਸਭਾ ਵਿਗੁਚੀਐ ਬਿਖੁ ਵਾਤੀ ਜੀਵਣ ਬਾਦਿ ॥
“Bad company effects just as a thorny Ber-tree near a banana tree. The one dangles about and the other is torn. Do not live in the company of bad persons.”
ਕਬੀਰ ਮਾਰੀ ਮਰਉ ਕੁਸੰਗ ਕੀ ਕੇਲੇ ਨਿਕਟਿ ਜੁ ਬੇਰਿ ॥
ਉਹ ਝੂਲੈ ਉਹ ਚੀਰੀਐ ਸਾਕਤ ਸੰਗੁ ਨ ਹੇਰਿ ॥
(1369) ( Salok Kabir )

According to Bible,

“Quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother that is a fornicator or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man....... 'Remove the wicked man from among yourselves'.”

Sikhism lays emphasis on leaving the bad company, as it ruins the mortal.

“In the company of saintly people, mind becomes pure.”
ਛਾਡਿ ਮਨ ਹਰਿ ਬਿਮੁਖਨ ਕੋ ਸੰਗੁ ॥

Guru Arjan Dev says,

“All jealousies have vanished in the company of the saints. All are my friends now, there being no enemy or stranger.”
Sagal Purkh mein Purkh Pardhan, Sadh sang jaka mitte Abhiman.

Effects of Good company

Bhagat Kabir says,

“Kabir, the divine discourse with the saints, even for a Ghari, half a Ghari, or half of that even; whatever is done, that is the net gain.”
ਕਬੀਰ ਏਕ ਘੜੀ ਆਧੀ ਘਰੀ ਆਧੀ ਹੂੰ ਤੇ ਆਧ ॥
ਭਗਤਨ ਸੇਤੀ ਗੋਸਟੇ ਜੋ ਕੀਨੇ ਸੋ ਲਾਭ ॥

According to Kabir,

“When the mind becomes pure like the water of Ganges river, the Lord is attracted towards it and follow it.”
ਕਬੀਰ ਮਨੁ ਨਿਰਮਲੁ ਭਇਆ ਜੈਸਾ ਗੰਗਾ ਨੀਰੁ ॥
ਪਾਛੈ ਲਾਗੋ ਹਰਿ ਫਿਰੈ ਕਹਤ ਕਬੀਰ ਕਬੀਰ ॥

In all the Gurdwaras, there is almost daily assembly where people gather, meditate and sing hymns in praise of God. Their sins are washed and they follow the path of truth.

Guru Arjan says,

“By continuing in the Society of saints, the filth of mind is removed.”
ਮਨ ਕੀ ਕਟੀਐ ਮੈਲੁ ਸਾਧਸੰਗਿ ਵੁਠਿਆ ॥

The Sikhs present a good example of selfless service and sacrifice in all the Sikh Gurdwaras. They volunteer their time in Community kitchen. They acquire humility, contentment, detachment from the worldly illusions, temperance and true faith in God.

The Sikh Gurus laid great emphasis on attending the holy assembly. The congregation influences the personality and character of the devotees. Sat Sangat produces visual Divine harmony and internal bliss. It helps in the attainment of Truth but it becomes available with the blessing of God. The society of the truthful is not available without good fortune and His Grace.

“Without the society of the saintly persons, man lives in dirt.”
(Guru Ram Das- Majh)

Sandal tree has fragrance. It distributes its fragrance to those who are near it, irrespective of their growth..The Simal tree becomes fragrant in the neighborhood of the Sandal tree. A devotee who remains in the company of holy persons and attends Sangat, relishes the fragrance of Gurbani and Kirtan without knowing the change. Guru is present in the company of the holy persons.

Guru is ever present in the holy congregations in Gurdwaras and other private and public assemblies where Guru Granth Sahib is present. Attending the Sadh Sangat is regarded as coming in to the presence of the Guru. According to Bhai Gurdas, a Sikh who remains in the association of the Guru is blessed and benefited.

Awar kaaj tere kite nah kaam, mil sadh sang bhaj kewal naam.“
ਅਵਰਿ ਕਾਜ ਤੇਰੈ ਕਿਤੈ ਨ ਕਾਮ ॥
ਮਿਲੁ ਸਾਧਸੰਗਤਿ ਭਜੁ ਕੇਵਲ ਨਾਮ ॥

Light which manifested in the ten Gurus continues to manifest in the Sangat and the Khalsa.

The Society of the good or Sadh Sangat gives birth to modesty, patience, tolerance, service, righteousness, simplicity, conscienceness, truth, love, justice, friendliness, mercy and contentment. Bhai Gurdas declared that the spiritual goal could be achieved through Sangat and Nam simran.

For more reading,

  • Sri Guru Granth Sahib pages 271-72.