The kind of Sangat (company…) we will do, the same color (i.e., good or bad effect, depending on the Sangat) has to stick on our mind. The effect or color of the company we keep gradually penetrates in the mind; and with time becomes deep and rich. Our mind cannot escape it.
- ਰੰਗ ਲਾਗਤ ਲਾਗਤ ਲਾਗਤ ਹੈ । ਭਰਮ ਭਾਗਤ ਭਾਗਤ ਭਾਗਤ ਹੈ । : Gradually, one gets stained with a color (of Sangat, spirituality, etc.). And with time, doubts get stamped out.
Not only animals and insects, the Gurbani also uses the examples of birds, trees and plants!
For example, if a bird goes and sits on a mango tree, it can’t expect to eat apples! similarly, Our mind will get tainted with the color (effect) of the Sangat we keep. It cannot escape.
- ਕਬੀਰ ਮਨੁ ਪੰਖੀ ਭਇਓ ਉਡਿ ਉਡਿ ਦਹ ਦਿਸ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਜੋ ਜੈਸੀ ਸੰਗਤਿ ਮਿਲੈ ਸੋ ਤੈਸੋ ਫਲੁ ਖਾਇ ॥੮੬॥: O Kabeer! The mind becomes like a bird (as bird flies in different directions in search for food, etc., similarly) the mind soars and flies in ten directions (i.e., wanders around chasing mirage, desires, sense objects, Maya, etc.). According to the company (a man) keeps, gets the similar reward (i.e., acquires similar thinking or Soch, qualities…) ||86|| (sggs 1369).
The Gurbani time and again describes the pathetic condition of our doubt-ridden minds caught in the vertex of these perplexities. The good news is that the Gurbani tells us how to get free from such a perplexed mind.
Let’s pause here for a moment before going any further. Please note that the Gurbani’s fundamental Teaching is that all human beings, at the soul-level (Aatmic level), are equal. The Gurbani asks, then ‘who is good, and who is bad?’.
- ਏਕ ਨੂਰ ਤੇ ਸਭੁ ਜਗੁ ਉਪਜਿਆ ਕਉਨ ਭਲੇ ਕੋ ਮੰਦੇ ॥੧॥: The entire universe has taken place from One ‘Noor‘ (One Universal Energy, Hukam, System or Law of Nature, ਕੁਦਰਤ ਦਾ ਨਿਯਮ). So who is good, and who is bad? ||1|| (sggs 1349).
Simply put: Gurmat (Giaan, Wisdom, Upadesh or Way of the SGGS…) teaches that there is but One, Universal Energy. This One Reality is the substratum (support or ‘Aadhaar‘) of all. It is this Reality, the Homogeneous Oneness, which runs in and through all beings.
Than what does it mean by disassociating, avoiding, or staying away from bad association (Kusang)?
It simply means to shun the Manmukh-Saakat-Mayadhaaree mentality or thinking, habits, nature, qualities, conduct, character, tendencies (ਮਨਮੁਖ ਵਿਰਤੀ), inclinations, Bikaar (lust, anger, greed…), negativity — the useless way of life (‘ਬਾਦਿ ਆਚਾਰੁ’, ‘ਆਚਾਰੀ ਬੁਰੀਆਹ’), etc.
Therefore, when the Gurbani advises not to associate with the Manmukh-Saakat-Mayadhaaree, etc., it does not mean to hate or dislike a person.
Accordingly, the Gurbani’s instructions regarding associating or disassociating are at the level of the mind.
- ਤੇ ਸਾਕਤ ਚੋਰ ਜਿਨਾ ਨਾਮੁ ਵਿਸਾਰਿਆ ਮਨ ਤਿਨ ਕੈ ਨਿਕਟਿ ਨ ਭਿਟੀਐ ॥੪॥: Saakat who have forgotten the Naam are thieves. O (my) mind! Do not draw near them ||4|| (sggs 170).
- ਏ ਮਨ ਮੇਰਿਆ ਛਡਿ ਅਵਗਣ ਗੁਣੀ ਸਮਾਣਿਆ ਰਾਮ ॥: O my mind! Give up (your) demerits, and be absorbed in Raam (Mool, Truth, Virtues, Wisdom…). (sggs 1112).
- ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਤਬ ਹੀ ਮਨ ਛੁਟੀਐ ਜਉ ਸਗਲੇ ਅਉਗਨ ਮੇਟਿ ਧਰਹਾ ॥: Says Nanak – O mind! (You will be) emancipated (from Maya…) only when (you) eradicate all (your) demerits from within. ||4||4|| (sggs 1203).
Thus, the Gurbani simply urges our minds NOT to associate, take, or identify with the Manmukh-Saakat-Mayadhaaree mentality or thinking, and so on. Instead, the Gurbani urges to keep company of Gurmukhs.
- ਦੀਨੁ ਬਿਸਾਰਿਓ ਰੇ ਦਿਵਾਨੇ ਦੀਨੁ ਬਿਸਾਰਿਓ ਰੇ ॥ ਪੇਟੁ ਭਰਿਓ ਪਸੂਆ ਜਿਉ ਸੋਇਓ ਮਨੁਖੁ ਜਨਮੁ ਹੈ ਹਾਰਿਓ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਸਾਧਸੰਗਤਿ ਕਬਹੂ ਨਹੀ ਕੀਨੀ ਰਚਿਓ ਧੰਧੈ ਝੂਠ ॥ ਸੁਆਨ ਸੂਕਰ ਬਾਇਸ ਜਿਵੈ ਭਟਕਤੁ ਚਾਲਿਓ ਊਠਿ ॥੧॥: O madman! You have forgotten your Dharma (of Virtues, Sach or Truth, Duty of life-ਫਰਜ…); you have forgotten your Dharma. Like animals, you fill your belly and sleep; you have wasted and lost this human life. ||1||Pause|| You never join ‘Saadhsangati’ (Gur-Giaan-Wisdom, Truth…). You are engrossed in false pursuits (of mind’s Bikaar: lust, anger, greed, etc.). Wandering like a dog, a pig, a crow you will depart (from this world). ||1|| (sggs 1105).
- ਵਡਭਾਗੀ ਸੰਗਤਿ ਮਿਲੇ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਸਵਾਰੀ ॥: The fortunate human beings meet in the Sangat (company) of those who have become the Gurmukhs. (sggs 651).
Simply put: what’s bad is the ‘Soch’ (thinking, habit, nature, ਆਦਤ, ਸਭਾ, ਵਿਰਤੀ…), not the person (ਆਦਮੀ, ਬੰਦਾ)!
Unfortunately, totally contrary to the Gurmat Wisdom of the SGGS, all organized and institutionalized religions of the world are bent on pitting man against his fellow man!
- ਮਨਮੁਖ ਸੇਤੀ ਸੰਗੁ ਕਰੇ ਮੁਹਿ ਕਾਲਖ ਦਾਗੁ ਲਗਾਇ ॥: Whoever associates with Manmukhs (i.e., Kusang), will have his face blackened (stigma, ਬਦਨਾਮੀ, he will lose his Giaan and Bibek-Budhi…). (sggs 1417).
- ਕੁਸੰਗਤਿ ਬਹਹਿ ਸਦਾ ਦੁਖੁ ਪਾਵਹਿ ਦੁਖੋ ਦੁਖੁ ਕਮਾਇਆ ॥੧੧॥: Kusangat bahe… (sggs 1068).
At the time of birth, an infant’s mind is intact, innocent, free of the feeling of ‘I-me-mine-you’, etc.
But, with the passage of time, it loses all that on account of all sorts of conditioning. Just as a rain drop which does not have any impurity of its own, but when it comes in contact with the ground or dirt, it becomes contaminated. Also, just as a piece of paper does not have any smell of its own, but when the same paper is used to wrap fish or fragrant flowers, gets the smell of the object it is associated with. Similarly, one’s mind is affected by the association of qualities it keeps.
To make us recognize Kusang and beware of it, we are provided with its numerous attributes throughout the Gurbani.
Please note all verses cannot be given here from a space point of view. Therefore just a few verses are quoted here:
- ਸਾਕਤ ਸਚੁ ਨ ਭਾਵਈ ਕੂੜੈ ਕੂੜੀ ਪਾਂਇ ॥: The Saakat do not like the Truth; false is the footing of the false (sggs 22).
- ਮਨਮੁਖਿ ਮੈਲਾ ਸਬਦੁ ਨ ਪਛਾਣੈ ॥: The Manmukh’s (mind) remains filthy (with Bikaar); (he) does not understand the Shabad (sggs 415).
We can use the insight of the Gurbani as a tool for self-analysis — to determine as to what degree ‘Kusang’, ‘Saakat’ or ‘Manmukh’ qualities are present in each one of us! That self-analysis will help the mind turn away from Kusang (bad association).
Accordingly, the Gurbani time and again reminds us to share in the Divine Virtues only. Because, the Gurbani tells us that Bhagti (“ਭਗਤਿ”) is not even possible without acquiring the Divine Virtues!
- ਸਾਝ ਕਰੀਜੈ ਗੁਣਹ ਕੇਰੀ ਛੋਡਿ ਅਵਗਣ ਚਲੀਐ ॥: Share Virtues; (in this way, one can) walk (on the Path of Spiritual Life by) abandoning faults (from within himself). (sggs 766).
In short, the smell of sandalwood is so sublime, whatever plant comes in its contact gets uplifted. Similarly, the Gurbani urges us to seek the company of the divine-oriented, virtuous and wise people. In their contact, one gets spiritually uplifted, transformed, and changed from within.
- ਜਿਉ ਚੰਦਨ ਨਿਕਟਿ ਵਸੈ ਹਿਰਡੁ ਬਪੁੜਾ ਤਿਉ ਸਤਸੰਗਤਿ ਮਿਲਿ ਪਤਿਤ ਪਰਵਾਣੁ ॥੩॥: The poor castor oil plant, growing near the sandalwood tree, becomes fragrant; in the same way, the fallen or corrupt becomes approved (if willing to change, becomes truthful, Wise…) by associating with Truth (Sat). ||3|| (861).
To the contrary, consider a thorny bush, the thorns of which ripen the banana leaf growing in its company!
- ਕਬੀਰ ਮਾਰੀ ਮਰਉ ਕੁਸੰਗ ਕੀ ਕੇਲੇ ਨਿਕਟਿ ਜੁ ਬੇਰਿ ॥ ਉਹ ਝੂਲੈ ਉਹ ਚੀਰੀਐ ਸਾਕਤ ਸੰਗੁ ਨ ਹੇਰਿ ॥੮੮॥: O Kabeer! I have been ruined and destroyed by bad company (Kusang), like the banana plant near the thorn bush. The thorn bush waves in the wind, and pierces the banana plant; see this, and do not associate with the Saakat (those separated from the Divine). ||88|| (sggs 1369).