Shri Adi Shankara Bhagavath Pada aptly puts in his Baja Govindam –
“Satsangatve Nissangatvam, Nissangatve Nirmohatvam
Nirmohatve Nischalatatvam, Nischalatatve Jeevan Muktih.”
By being in a satsang, which is a divine communion with great Mahans, one develops dispassion [vairagya]. He doesn’t like to be in the company of people who coexist with him in this mundane world. When he is dispassionate and detached from the worldly life, his mind is free of all worldly possessions and infatuations [Nirmohatvam]. When one is free of all worldly passion, he reaches the exalted state of absolute stillness of mind and becomes one pointed. Just by reminiscing on the holy feet of the lord, he attains liberation or mukthi. Such is the greatness of satsang.
In Narada Bhakti Sutra composed by sage Narada, the significance of satsang is again stressed. It says –
“Kastharathi Kastharthi Mayam”
Who can overcome Maya, which is verily the web cast by the lord himself?
“Ya sangam thyajathi yo Mahanu bhavo sevathae nirmamo bhavathi”
When he who abandons evil company and associates himself with large hearted men and is free from the concept of ‘mine’ [ego] is sure to attain liberation.
“Maha sangatso durlabho agamyo amogascha “
It is indeed very rare to be in the divine communion with great mahans and saints. So how do we get into a satsang? Sage Narada says it is verily possible only by sheer grace of the Lord.
“Labyate api thatra krupaiva “
Our Guru Maharaj very lucidly says that one is bound to be fooled if he goes in search of a guru. If he instead goes in search of the Lord, by benign grace of the Lord, he will be directed to an Uttama Guru.
Once Vishwamitra Rishi and Vashista had a dispute. Vishwamitra Rishi was a great tapsvi. He had created a third world for thrisanku with his penance. They were in an embroilment and pondering as to which of the two, namely penance and satsang was indeed the most powerful. They decided to sort this out with Lord Brahma. When he was approached, he was in the midst of creating the universe and he asked them to seek advice from Lord Shiva and he even redirected them to Lord Sri Hari and he was finally pointed to Adisesha who was incessantly chanting the Divine Names of the Lord with all his thousand heads. Lord SriHari told them that he was indeed the right person to clear their doubts. Lord Adisesha after hearing their concern replied that he was taking all the burden and sins of the people since he is constantly chanting the Divine Names of the Lord. He told them that he was very tired and burdened. He said, “ If either one of the two namely the penance or satsang could alleviate the burden from me, then that will itself show which is the most potent of the two”. The two great sages readily agreed. Sage Vishwamitra gave thousand years of his penance and even more but could not lessen the burden from Adisesha. When it was Sage Vasista’s turn, he only gave half a second of his invaluable satsang and the entire burden was relieved from Adisesha.
This lucidly shows the significance and prowess of satsangs.
It was then followed by a short round of introductions. Then Sri Arvindji from Orlando gave a wonderful satsang talk.
The last sloka of Srimad Bhagavatham says –
“Nama Sankirtanam Yasya Sarva Paapa vinashanam”
“Pranamo Dukka Shamanaha tham namami harim param”
The Path of Nama Sankirtan is one of the easiest paths to liberation. Is also signifies the prowess of divine name chanting of the lord. A great azhwar, Sri Thondarpadi Azhwar composed divine hymns called Tirumalai. In those hymns, he lucidly explains the story of a warrior [kshatriya] who committed several sins which were not supposed to be done by a warrior. So the villagers decided to outcast the warrior and he was exiled from that village akin to how Ajamila was banished from the town even though he was born as a Brahmin. He hence relocated to a nearby forest and in order to earn a living, he started to attack all the travelers in transit through the forest. He also attacked the Rishis. One day he accidentally helped a great saint and the sage out of sheer compassion in turn blessed him with the divine name “Govinda”. The warrior then started to incessantly chant the divine name Govinda and by mere chanting attained the holy feet of the lord. There is also another story about the dacoit Ratnakar who by continuous chanting of the divine names became a great saint called Valmiki. Since Ratnakar had accrued lot of sins,he was not even chanting the Divine Names correctly. Instead of chanting “Rama Rama” he rendered “Mara Mara”. The power of the divine names transformed Ratnakar into a great sage Valmiki.
Our Thondaradi Podiazhwar says, “Kathira bandhu paraangathi kandukondan”
Where ‘paraangathi’ stands for liberation [moksha].
We have all seen in Srimad Bhagavatham that Lord Sri Krishna established a great kingdom in Prabasha kshetra near Dwaraka. Lord Sri Krishna brought the entire Yadava clan to Dwaraka. People were leading a very happy life in Dwaraka.
“Govinda Buja Guptaya” The arm of the lord is protecting the entire Dwaraka from any calamity that is bound to strike Dwaraka. The Yadava clan started to slowly forget the lord and satsangs and started in indulge in all nasty dealings like mocking at people and engaging in corrupt manners. The son of Lord Krishna and Jambhavati, Samban on the day of Janmastami went around feigning as a pregnant woman. Being Janmashtami day, the city of Dwaraka was flooded with great saints and mahans who had come to get the darshan of Lord Sri Krishna. Samban not only went around the Yadava clan in disguise as a pregnant woman but also in front of the great saints. The saints who were great mahans and who could perceive the present, past and the future [Musalam kula nasanam] cursed Samban that only an iron rod would be born and not a human being. This scared Samban and the entire Yadava clan and yes an iron rod did come out from Samban’s body. Instead of going to Lord Krishna for help, they went to Ugrasena. Per his advice, they crushed the iron rod into fine powder and threw it in the ocean. The tides in the ocean slowly brought the iron powder to the shore and more iron rods started to arise in the shore. The yadava clan was once enjoying a grand party and fiesta on the shore and consumed alcohol as well. After some time, they started to bicker over some thing. Soon it became a big quarrel and they started to hit each other with the iron rods that were in the shore and the entire Yadava clan’s end came soon.
Sage Narada also had a curse. His curse was that he would be a “thriloka sanchari”, which means he cannot stay in a place for more than few days. Being a nomad, he started to spread the glory of the lord wherever he went. He however stayed in Dwaraka for many months than usual. It was verily because he was chanting the divine names of the lord continuously and that took care of his curse, while the lord’s arm could not protect the Yadava clan’s destruction. This story again signifies the prowess of chanting the Divine Names of the Lord.
It is also said that Rama Krishna Paramahamsa in Dakshineshwar was incessantly chanting the Divine Names of the Lord. He used to walk across the banks of the Ganges river with arms lifted and pointed towards the sky and with tears rolling down and his eyes and with horripilation chanted the Divine Names of the Lord. Once he was spotted in this state of ecstasy by his Guru Sri Thotatrji. He was pulled aside and he advised him that the chanting of the Divine Names would not yield liberation and that meditating on the lord will only yield liberation. Days passed by and one day Sri Thotatriji was wriggling in severe stomach pain and he tried every possible panacea but alas in vain. When he was losing hope, Pramahamsa requested him to chant the Divine Names of the lord for eleven times. And yes, the pain went away instantly upon chanting.
Thirunangoor is blessed with twelve Divya desams. Thirumangai azhwar has sung great hymns on the lord by travelling extensively around India in a horse.
Kulam Tharum Selvam Thandhidum
Adiyaar Paduthuyar Aayinavellaam
Nilandharam Seyyum Neel Visumbarulum
Arulodu Perinilam Alikkum
Valam tharum mattrum thandhidum Petra
Thaayinum Aayina Seyyum
Nalam Tharum Sollai Naan
Kandukondaen Narayana Ennum Naamam
In the above hymns, he says that the Divine Name of the Lord will bestow one with a good and loving family, absolves all the sorrows and more than anything it will take care of oneself more than what a mother herself can do.
One of the twelve Divya Desams was Thiru Ariyameya Vinnagaram. The main deity was Kudamaadum Koothan and the Utsavar was Chaturbhuja Gopalan. The consort of the main deity was AmritaKaatavalli. In those days, great saints visited Thirunangoor to have the darshan of the Lord. However, no due respect was rendered to them. This greatly angered the poets and they cursed the lord that no Samprokshanam will ever happen in Thirunangoor. After so many decades, under the auspices of His Holiness Sri Sri Muralidhara Swamiji, some devotees were sent to chant the Divine Names of the Lord in Thirunangoor and yes, the samprokshanam for all the temples did happen and was organized in a grand manner.
So we first started off with the warrior who had committed grave sins and he attained liberation through Nama sankirtan. Sage Narada who is a very close to the Lord and he who is a celestial being and an epitome of bhakti and one who composed the bhakti sutra was cured off his curse by chanting the Divine Name. Saint Thotatriji who had attained liberation, couldn’t bear the pain and chanting the Divine Names very much cured his severe pain. Lastly, even for the Lord, the only salvation was Nama sankirtan in this age of Kaliyuga.
The satsang ended with prayers and Nama Sankirtan.