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Congregation
Sikh Missionary Society: Articles: Essays on Sikh Values: Congregation

Sat Sangat - Holy Congregation
The True Congregation
ibnu Bwgw sqsMgu n lBY ibnu sMgiq mYlu BrIjY jIau ]3]
ibnu Bwgw sqsMgu n lBY ibnu sMgiq mYlu BrIjY jIau ]3]
Bin bhagaa satsangu naa labhaae binu sangat.e maaelu bhareejaae jeeo
Without good destiny we can’t have the holy congregation,
and without it we gather filth.
4-95-10

With good luck we get good parents and family, good teachers and guides, good friends, and the company of God-oriented people. These mold our lives to happiness, peace of mind, and success. 

By our misfortunes, we get deprived of good opportunities and our lives get lost - the drug-sharks, aids-alligators, and crime-demons pin us down for our disgrace, suffering, destruction, and lingering painful death. Good company is the keyword to attain happiness. The Gurus - Sikh Prophets, blessed the world with the superior true company - Sat-Sangat: the holy congregation. The Sikh faith lays great stress on Sat-Sangat: the company of ethical, and God fearing people. This is needed to establish the kingdom of happiness and peace in the individual minds and in the world. In the Sikh world, Sangat has great significance. It provides a role model for evolution of the people.

What is Sangat, Sat-Sangat or Sadh-Sangat

Sangat is congregation. Sadh is saint. Sat is true. 

All these mean gathering of God-oriented people. They may get-together for their praying to God in the Gurdwaras - place of Sikh worship, or at homes, or anywhere else. Mostly they gather in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib - the Holy Book. Wherever the people get-together to sing the praise of the Lord, or to talk about Him, is Sat-Sangat - holy gathering. Sangat is any gathering, but within the field of a faith it means a true gathering. According to the Sikh faith, Sangat is the holy get- together, and herein God manifests -

swDsMgiq pRiB kIE invws ]
swDsMgiq pRiB kIAwy invws ]
Saadh:e sangat.e Prabhe keeou nivaas
Holy congregation is the place of the Lord.
5-2-1184
A Sikh is one who embraces the Sikh faith - believes in God only and nothing else, has faith in the ten Sikh Gurus - Prophets, and follows dictates of the Sikh Holy Book called Guru Granth Sahib (Prophet the Holy Book). For the Sikhs, their Holy Book is a living being i.e. the soul (teachings - the Word) of the ten Sikh Prophets. 

The Holy Book is enshrined in a separate room in homes, or in the Gurdwara. Gur is Guru the Prophet, and Dwara is an abode - house, the Guru’s place. In a Gurdwara or anywhere else, the people gather in the presence of the Holy Book, for collective worship of God. This gathering here, is Sangat, Sat-Sangat, or Sadh-Sangat. Guru Nanak - the First Sikh Guru, asks the question and he himself replies -

sqsMgiq kYsI jwxIAY ] 
ijQY eyko nwmu vKwxIAY ]
sqsMgiq kYsI jwxIEY ] 
ijQY eyko nwmu vKwxIEY ] 
Sat.t.-sangat. kaaesee jaan.ee-aae 
Jithaaw eko Naam vakhaan.ee-aae 
What is Satt-Sangat?
A place where only 
the name of God is recited. 
1-72-1
How to Attain Sat-Sangat

The holy congregation is attained (One attends Gurdwara, or goes to the holy gathering) through good deeds, and good destiny i.e. the will of God. One gets the company of saints when the Lord is kind. In this company, a fellow keeps evolving by imbibing virtues, and eliminating the vile traits -

krmu hovY sqsMig imlwey ]
krmu hovY sqsMig imlwE ]
Karam hovaae sat.t.sang milaa-ae
We get true-company with good destiny (God’s mercy).
3-158-11
Sat-Sangat Worships Together

Sikhs gathered in a Gurdwara or anywhere else, say a short Ardas (invocation prayer), and then open the Holy Book, and read at random a Hymn from it. This is called Hukam, His order - edict (inspiration) for the day. Bhai ji (brother: care-taker of the Gurdwara), or anyone from Sangat may recite Jappu ji Sahib (Morning Prayer), may be Sukhmani Sahib (Psalm of Peace) too. Ragis (singers of the Holy Hymns) may sing Asa Dee Vaar (A ballad to sing in the morning), do Kirtan - sing the praise of God, and as well do Naam-Jaap, mostly for an hour. This is followed by full Ardas - invocation (supplication, humble prayer), and Hukam is taken again (As a routine the same Hymn, as recited earlier, is repeated). After this, Karah-Parshad - sanctified pudding is distributed. With this, the prayer-session concludes. A Katha - sermon, or a talk, or the both may be delivered now, or even earlier, before Ardas. The management may share some information with the Sangat. 

After the session is over, Guru Granth Sahib is closed, a short prayer of thanks is said, and the Holy Book is taken away from the hall, to the place of its rest. Now, Langar (free community food), may be distributed, or it might already have been distributed all along the session in a separate place. This is the worship-session of the faith. Getting free, it may become a social gathering for a while but not in the prayer hall. 

Sat-Sangat - In the Gurdwara

Sangat is a valuable brotherhood. Everyone, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, and anyone from any other faith or country is most welcome to it.  There is no discrimination of sex, caste, country, color, faith, age, rich or poor etc.  Devoted Hindus, particularly Sehjdhari Sikhs, take part in the activities of the Sikh faith. Many of them regularly attend the Gurdwara. As well, they  recite the prayers (Scriptures) composed by the Sikh Gurus. Jappu ji Sahib and Sukhmani sahib are particularly popular with them. Dedicated Hindus may take part in the Gurdwara management. 

One has to enter the Sangat with clean, bare feet, covered head, and clean hands. At places water and soap are provided for this purpose. Cleaning the hands and feet has to be real and not merely a ritual. None should enter the Sangat carrying or after using drugs, tobacco, or alcohol etc. This is imperative whether Guru Granth Sahib is there or not, open or closed. Everyone has to sit at the same level i.e. on the (carpeted) floor unless one is handicapped, or has a special need.

Particularly in the presence of the Holy Book, no one is supposed to question a speaker in the Sangat, and none can start a discussion. A speaker is presumed not to be interrupted, and is supposed to observe the restriction of the time allowed. Questions may be asked if allowed, or with permission. 

Everyone has to sit calmly and quietly without disturbing others. Patience is also a requirement when getting Parshad - the holy pudding distributed at the end of the prayer-session. The same discipline has to be maintained for eating Langar - community food, sitting on the floor in an organized way - in rows. At some places, a few tables and chairs are provided in or outside the Langar Hall for the needy and the handicapped. Patience, humility, politeness and order has to be observed in the Sangat.

Sangat is the Abode of God 

Sometimes, we get annoyed due to one or the other thing, and avoid attending the Gurdwara i.e. going to the Sangat, without realizing that by this we miss presenting ourselves to the Lord. The Guru says, God is there in the Sangat. 

We go to the Gurdwara for our own selves and not for the Guru or God. We go to the Sangat to obtain His blessings. Even an individual Ardas in the Sangat may be more effective than praying alone at home or elsewhere. When whole of the Sangat joins in and prays for someone, it is said that it becomes much more effective. 

The Purpose Served

Sat-Sangat serves its purpose quietly, imperceptibly.

Role model - Just like parents working as role models at home, the Sangat asserts its influence in the field of faith. If we have sincerity of purpose in attending the Gurdwara, we will seriously attend to all that is going on there. We often observe, children go to the Sikh youth camps, come back with the conviction not to cut their hair, and they put in an effort to do Paath (recitation of prayer) etc. The company there effects them. Environment in the Gurdwara - presence of the Sangat, inculcates eagerness to attend it more frequently, or not to miss it. It encourages them to maintain the external form of the faithful - unshorn hair etc. The Sangat - company, has great influence. If good, it leads to goodness and if bad, it drenches the person in evil, and destroys him or her. The human nature is such that it takes time for the goodness to permeate into it, but the effect of evil is almost instant -

sqsMgiq siqgur ctswl hY ijqu hir gux isKw ] 
sqsMgiq siqgur ctswl hY ijqu hir gux isKw ]
Sat.sangat.e Satgur chatsaal haay jitu Har-e gun. sikhaa
The Guru’s blessed congregation is a school for learning goodness. 
4-1316-7
kwm kroD qrsnw Aiq jrY ] 
swDsMgiq kbhU nhI krY ]
kwm k®oD qrsnw Aiq jrY ] 
swDsMgiq kbhU nhI krY ]
Kaam krodh: t.r;isnaa at.t.e jaraae
Saadh: sangat.e kab-hoo nahee karaae
Sex, anger and desires burn, 
But shuns the congregation. 
Namdeo-1252-13
An occasion for Service - In the Sikh way, “Sewa and Simran” - selfless-service and remembering God, are intricately intertwined. Remembering God has its value only if we selflessly serve others. Selfless service is the mainstay of worship by many saints (Sewa Panthee), and with them they may take some Sangat for this purpose.

The Sangat itself provides the occasion for doing service. Wherever there is no facility of electricity, people fan Sangat. They  serve water or tea to the Sangat and people. Many serve at water-stands. When Sangat is resting, some Gurmukhs - God-oriented persons - may press their legs and feet. Another way of serving is cleaning and may be polishing as well the shoes of the Sangat. Mostly the Sangat gets together to wash and clean the Gurdwara, its floor. The people yearn to clean the floors of the sanctum sanctorum of Sri Harimandir Sahib at Amritsar. Many serve disabled and the sick. 

Sangat and Pangat

Sangat and Pangat is another discipline of Sewa - selfless service.  Sangat, after completing the worship-session, sits down in rows on the floor at the same level, and takes food together without any discrimination of class, color, sex, or faith etc. 

Some, serve by cooking food. Cleaning the used utensils is a cherished Sewa. The people individually or together, may distribute food, clothes, or other articles to the needy. In Sangat one learns humility, indiscrimination (not to discriminate), and equality.

Another important Sewa - service, is landscaping of the Gurdwara and yard work: maintaining the yard. Usually, the yard is big, and it needs collective effort. One should participate in it eagerly  with no hesitation, without anyone asking  for it.

Bhagat Pooran Singh started serving by taking care of one handicapped child. He became a living example of Sewa - selfless service, and established Pingalwara - home for the handicapped, at Amritsar. He died as a well-known Bhagat - a saint. 

Three Pillars

The Sikh faith has Three-Pillars - honest earning, sharing with the needy, and remembering God. Sangat shows the way for this discipline, and as well provides an occasion for these.

Spiritual Evolution

Presence of Guru Granth Sahib, Gurbani, Kirtan, and subtle (magnetic) effect of the Sangat gives peace. The environment of  Gurdwara calms the mind, and makes it sensitive to receive the Guru’s Word - his teachings, essential to realize God.  Every particle of the Gurdwara has the spiritual field to emanate His bliss due to the presence of the Guru, Kirtan, and Gurbani. 

Kirtan - Devotional singing relaxes the mind, and is an effective tool to deeply influence it for its evolution. In Kirtan, Gurbani (Hymns - what the Guru says) is sung, and the voice, its inflections, and meter take the Bani (Hymns) and the Name of God deep into the mind. This becomes a medium to mold the man, and he or she becomes more and more ethical. Lust, anger, greed, attachment, and ego - causes of all human ills and misery start losing their grips. Kirtan is the means to effortlessly take the mind to the higher spiritual levels -

hir kIriq swDsMgiq hY isir krmn kY krmw ]
hir kIriq swDsMgiq hY isir krmn kY krmw ]
Har-e keerat.e saadh: sangat.e haae sir karmann kae karmaa
Singing God’s praise in the congregation is a great deed! 
5-642-7
swDsMig durmiq mlu ihirAw ]
swDsMig durmiq mlu ihirAw ]
Saadh: sange d.urmat.e mallu hiriaa
Company of the holy person destroys evil in the mind. 
5-266-14
Going to the holy congregation is great -
pwrsu Byit kMcnu Dwqu hoeI sqsMgiq kI vifAweI ] 
pwrsu Byit kMcnu Dwqu hoe sqsMgiq kI vifAwe ] 
Paras bhaete kanchanu dh:aat.u hoee sat.t.sangat.e kee vadeaa-ee 
The effect of Sangat is like philosopher’s stone, touching a metal it turns it into gold! 
1-505-7
A place for Ardas: supplication - It is not a plain belief, but is a fact that the Guru and God hear a collective Ardas by the Sangat. Everyday, we come across such incidences. Many saints and even Gurus instructed the Sangat to pray together for another person - 
krau bynqI swDsMgiq hir Bgiq vCl suix AwieE ]
krau bynqI swDsMgiq hir Bgiq vCl suix AwEAo ]
Karou baenat.ee sadh:sangat.e Har-e bhagat.e vachhal sun.e  aa-aeo 
On hearing the collective prayer of the congregation, 
the “Lover of Saints” (God) comes for help. 
5-712-10
Humility - Humility is total eradication of ego. When Kaam - lust; Krodh - anger; Lobh - greed; Moh - attachment; and Hankaar - ego, die away, the man is left with humility. We learn it in the Sangat - congregation, and Pangat (Langar) by sitting at the same level on the floor, and without any discrimination of any sort. Except for the handicapped, no one is given a special seat. By this we learn that all the human beings are equal - one and the same.  Place to Recite the Name of God

In the Gurdwara, the Sangat conducts its worship, and as well it holds its Naam-Jaap sessions (sessions of reciting the Name of God). We may do so by participating in Kirtan (holy singing), collectively,  by loudly repeating Waheguru, Waheguru (O God, my Lord. Waheguru is the Name of God for the Sikhs), or silently. It is said that the magnetic waves (vibrations) emitted by the each practitioner of the Naam, influence the others to take them deep into the name of God - Naam. Sangat is the place for recitation of His name -

iqqu jwey bhhu sqsMgqI ijQY hir kw hir nwmu ibloeIAY]
iqqu jwE bhhu sqsMgqI ijQY hir kw hir nwmu ibloeEY ]
T.it.u jaa-ae bahuhu sat.sangat.e jithae Har-e kaa naamu biloee-aae
Go to the place of true congregation, 
where the Name of God is recited. 
4-587-8
Sitting together imparts incentive to do the Naam-Jaap (recitation of the God’s-Name), encourages to keep sitting for a longer time, helps to enhance concentration, and does not permit boredom to come into the mind.
Loud singing of the Naam is a quick and an easy way to make the mind to soar high, and leave the mundane (worldly things) behind. It may not achieve a very deep attachment to the Naam, as it is by remembering the Lord silently i.e. with the mind tuned to the Naam.

Bhai Harbans Singh from Jagadhri, often told that Sant Nand Singh used to say, “How much recitation of the Name of God you can do sitting alone? In the Sangat, the value of your recitation will become equal to this multiplied by the number of people in the gathering.” It seems to be true - more the Sangat, more the mutual magnetic influence, deeper the concentration, and greater the outcome of reciting the Naam-Jaap. Evidently, the right place for the recitation of His Name is Sat-Sangat., although every place is fit for this virtuous purpose.

Sat-Sangat is the Source of Happiness

Sat-Sangat. is a valuable moral and spiritual support to the Naam-Abheaasee (one who recites the Naam), and to everyone else, too. It keeps evolving the people by virtue of the Naam-Jaap and by promoting goodness. It helps to achieve the ultimate - liberation. On the earth, such a person passes his or her life successfully - 

pwrbRhmu ijsu ikrpw krY ] 
swDsMig so Bvjlu qrY ]3]
pwrbRhmu ijsu ikrpw krY ] 
swDsMig so Bvjlu qrY ]3]
Paarbr;ahmu jisu kirpaa karaae |
Saadh:sange so bhavjalu t.araae 
When God is kind by virtue of the saint’s company, 
The man successfully crosses this fearful world-ocean. 
5-899-18
God-oriented fellow becomes detached from the worldly bindings, unconditionally surrenders to God, and thus becomes Jiwan-Mukat - liberated while still alive. According to the Sikh philosophy, in the end - after death, the soul of such an elevated person totally bereft of evils and filled with virtues, unites with the Super-Soul - God, and his transmigration as well as reincarnation stops -
Bju swDsMgy imly rMgy bhuiV join n DweIAY]
Bju swDsMgy imly rMgy bhuiV join n DweEY ]
Bhaju saadh:sange milae rangae 
bahur.e jon-e naa dh:aaee-aae 
Attain the love of God by reciting His Name in the saint’s company, and then your transmigration will stop.
5-547-3
swDsMig jnm mrx invwrI ]
swDsMig jnm mrx invwrI ]
Saadh;sange janam maran. nivaaree
Saintly company destroys cycle of the birth and death. 
5-740-17
khu nwnk jau swDsMgu pwieE qau iPir jnim n Awvau ]
khu nwnk jau swDsMgu pwEAo qau iPir jnim n Awva ]
Kahu Nanak jaou saadh:sangu paa-aeou t.ou Phir-e janam-e naa aavou 
Says Nanak, by the grace of the saint’s 
company, one no more gets born again. 
5-401-11

 


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