Bad Company – Kusang

The edict (ਫੈਸਲਾ) of the Wisdom of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) is we’re only as good as the company we keep (i.e. association, friends, Sangat, Sang etc.) .

Depending on the company we keep, our mind acquires the same color (i.e., good or bad effect).

The effect or color of the company we keep gradually penetrates in the mind; and with time becomes stubborn, deep and rich. Our mind cannot escape it.

To impart this Wisdom to us, the SGGS has used numerous examples.

  • 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).

If we keep bad company ( i.e. KUSANG ), our mind will get tainted with the evil color ( bad effect) of the KUSANG. It cannot avoid. For example, sticking with KUSANG and hoping to become Gurmukh is just not likely to happen. Here is the Gurbani’s edict (ਫੈਸਲਾ):

  • ਫਰੀਦਾ ਲੋੜੈ ਦਾਖ ਬਿਜਉਰੀਆਂ ਕਿਕਰਿ ਬੀਜੈ ਜਟੁ ॥: O Fareed! The farmer plants acacia trees (ਕਿਕਰਾਂ), and wishes for Bijouree grapes! (sggs 1379).
  • ਮਨਮੁਖ ਸਉ ਕਰਿ ਦੋਸਤੀ ਸੁਖ ਕਿ ਪੁਛਹਿ ਮਿਤ ॥: O friend! (Tell me) if you make friendship with the Manmukhs, how can you ask for Peace (ਆਤਮਕ ਆਨੰਦ)? (sggs 1421).

Mayaic mentality is a source of perplexity for all. These perplexities are like wild forest fire that somehow seems to blaze frenziedly!

Those in Mayaic perplexities are called by different names in the Gurbani. Some of these names include Kusang (evil or bad company), Saakat-Manmukh-Mayadhaaree, Bimukhan etc.

In addition to this external Kusang, we also have internal KUSANG consisting of Bikaar (lust, anger, greed etc.) which is as bad as the external Kusang of evil people.

  • ਸਾਧੋ ਮਨ ਕਾ ਮਾਨੁ ਤਿਆਗਉ ॥ ਕਾਮੁ ਕ੍ਰੋਧੁ ਸੰਗਤਿ ਦੁਰਜਨ ਕੀ ਤਾ ਤੇ ਅਹਿਨਿਸਿ ਭਾਗਉ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥:  O sadhoos! Give up the pride of (your) mind. Lust and anger (i.e. all Bikaar) are (also like) the company of evil human beings, stay away from Bikaar day and night (i.e. at all times). ||1||Pause|| (sggs 219).

When the Gurbani advises to disassociate with the evil or bad human beings, it does not mean to hate or dislike them.

It simply means to shun the evil or bad mentality or thinking — corrupt habits, wicked nature, demerits, vile conduct, immoral character, foul tendencies or inclinations (ਮਨਮੁਖ ਵਿਰਤੀ); Bikaar (lust, anger, greed…), corrupt way of life (‘ਬਾਦਿ ਆਚਾਰੁ’, ‘ਆਚਾਰੀ ਬੁਰੀਆਹ’) etc.

In nutshell, we become good or bad depending on the quality of our mind or our thoughts.

  • 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).
  • ਮਨੂਆ ਡੋਲੈ ਦੂਤ ਸੰਗਤਿ ਮਿਲਿ ਸੋ ਪਾਏ ਜੋ ਕਿਛੁ ਕੀਨਾ ਹੇ ॥੭॥: Keeping company with Bikaar (lust, anger, greed, etc.), the mind wavers; and obtains (the fruit – ਫਲ) of its actions. ||7|| (sggs 1028).
  • ਚਿਟੇ ਜਿਨ ਕੇ ਕਪੜੇ ਮੈਲੇ ਚਿਤ ਕਠੋਰ ਜੀਉ ॥ ਤਿਨ ਮੁਖਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਨ ਊਪਜੈ ਦੂਜੈ ਵਿਆਪੇ ਚੋਰ ਜੀਉ ॥ ਮੂਲੁ ਨ ਬੂਝਹਿ ਆਪਣਾ ਸੇ ਪਸੂਆ ਸੇ ਢੋਰ ਜੀਉ ॥੩॥: Those who are wear beautiful clothes or religious robes for show (i.e. they look religious or Mahatma on the outside only), but minds are hard, false and vicious. In fact, they are not acquiring Naam (i.e. Wisdom: Giaan-ਗਿਆਨ). Their Naam-Simran is only hypocrisy (Pakhand). It is as if they are thieves (of Rabb and people who lead people astray. But they look holy on the outside). They do not Understand their own Mool (Source, True Nature or Jot Saroop…); that is why they are great fools with animal intelligence (ਡੰਗਰ ਬੁਧੀ ਵਾਲੇ ਮਹਾਂ ਮੂਰਖ)! ||3|| (sggs 751).

Thus, the Gurbani simply urges our minds NOT to associate or identify with the evil mentality or thinking.

Simply put: Bad is the ‘Soch‘ (thinking, habit, nature, ਆਦਤ, ਸਭਾ, ਵਿਰਤੀ…), not the person (ਆਦਮੀ)!

Unfortunately, totally contrary to the Gurmat Wisdom of the SGGS, all organized religions (Mazhab-ਮਜ਼ਹਬ) of the world are bent on pitting man against his fellow man!

The Gurbani asserts that the influence of bad company (Kusang) is such that one loses all his / her Wisdom (Giaan) and discerning intellect (Bibek-Budhi), and suffer in life!

  • 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॥: (Corrupt minded people) always sit in bad company and suffer. They always do the same deeds from which only sorrow comes out. (sggs 1068).
  • ਕਬੀਰ ਚਾਵਲ ਕਾਰਣੇ ਤੁਖ ਕਉ ਮੁਹਲੀ ਲਾਇ ॥ ਸੰਗਿ ਕੁਸੰਗੀ ਬੈਸਤੇ ਤਬ ਪੂਛੇ ਧਰਮ ਰਾਇ ॥੨॥: O Kabir! For the sake of (separating) the rice (from husks), husks get beaten and threshed. In the same way when a person who sits with bad company or ‘Kusang‘ (he gets affected by the ‘Kusang‘ or ‘Bikaar’ and commits vices), hence he has to suffer the consequences of his transgressions according to the divine Hukam: System-Rule-Law of Nature (Dharam Raai or Raaj = divine Hukam). ||2|| (sggs 965).

At the time of birth, an infant’s mind is intact, undivided, innocent, free of the feeling of ‘I-me-mine-you’ etc.

But, with the passage of time, it loses that purity on account of all sorts of conditionings. 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 aware of KUSANG, we are provided with its numerous attributes throughout the Gurbani.

  • ਮਨਮੁਖਿ ਮੈਲਾ ਸਬਦੁ ਨ ਪਛਾਣੈ ॥: The Manmukh’s (mind) remains filthy (with Bikaar); (he) does not understand the Shabad (sggs 415).
  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਕੂੜੁ ਨ ਭਾਵਈ ਸਚਿ ਰਤੇ ਸਚ ਭਾਇ ॥ ਸਾਕਤ ਸਚੁ ਨ ਭਾਵਈ ਕੂੜੈ ਕੂੜੀ ਪਾਂਇ ॥: (Those who have) become the Gurmukhs do not like falsehood. They remain absorbed in Truth, (and remain united in the) Love of Truth (Sach). (But) Saakat does not like the Truth. False is any attainment of the false (fleeting, temporary etc.). (sggs 22).
  • 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).

We can use the insight of the Gurbani as a tool for self-analysis — to determine as to what degree ‘Kusang’ or ‘Saakat-Manmukh-Mayadhaaree qualities are present in each one of us! That self-analysis will help the mind turn away from Kusang (bad association).

The Gurbani urges us to turn away from KUSANG (bad Company), both within and without.

Instead we are urged to turn towards the GOOD or TRUE COMPANY (Satsang), both within and without.

The good news is that the Gurbani provides us with an essential Wisdom to mend our perplexed minds, provided we are willing to take and live (ਅਮਲ) that Wisdom.

For example, the Gurbani time and again asks to replace the external KUSANG with Gurmukhs — seek and keep the Company of those who have become the Gurmukhs.

  • ਵਡਭਾਗੀ ਸੰਗਤਿ ਮਿਲੇ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਸਵਾਰੀ ॥: The fortunate (happy, blessed…) human beings meet in the Sangat (Company) of those who have become the Gurmukhs. (sggs 651).
  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖ ਸਉ ਕਰਿ ਦੋਸਤੀ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਸਉ ਲਾਇ ਚਿਤੁ ॥: Make friends with the Gurmukhs, and focus your consciousness on the Satigur (True Wisdom-ਸੱਚਾ ਗਿਆਨ). (sggs 1421).
  • ਸਿਖ ਸਭਾ ਦੀਖਿਆ ਕਾ ਭਾਉ ॥ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਸੁਣਣਾ ਸਾਚਾ ਨਾਉ ॥: Keep the company of those Sikhs (learners) who love the Guru’s Upadesh (Giaan, Wisdom, Teaching…). By becoming the Gurmukh, listen to the True Naam (Giaan, Wisdom…). (sggs 1369).

Further, we are asked by the Gurbani to replace the internal KUSANG (i.e. Bikaar: lust, anger, greed etc.) with Virtues (i.e. Gun-ਗੁਣ).

Aptly, the Gurbani asks us strengthening Virtues, sharing in Virtues, weakening and ultimately annihilating demerits (Avgun-ਅਵਗੁਣ).

This is essential because – according to the Gurbani – Bhagti (‘ਭਗਤਿ’) is not even possible without Virtues!

  • ਵਿਣੁ ਗੁਣ ਕੀਤੇ ਭਗਤਿ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥: Without acquiring Virtues, Bhagti can not be performed (sggs 4).
  • ਗੁਣ ਵੀਚਾਰੀ ਗੁਣ ਸੰਗ੍ਰਹਾ ਅਵਗੁਣ ਕਢਾ ਧੋਇ ॥: (My prayer is that) I keep contemplating divine Virtues, keep accumulating those Virtues (in my mind) and (thus from within) wash away my demerits. (sggs 37).
  • 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).

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 (i.e. Gurmukh). In their contact, one gets spiritually uplifted, transformed or 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).
  • ਜਿਨੀ ਸਖੀ ਕੰਤੁ ਪਛਾਣਿਆ ਹਉ ਤਿਨ ਕੈ ਲਾਗਉ ਪਾਇ ॥ ਤਿਨ ਹੀ ਜੈਸੀ ਥੀ ਰਹਾ ਸਤਸੰਗਤਿ ਮੇਲਿ ਮਿਲਾਇ ॥੧॥: Those soul-mates who have understood or recognized their divine ‘Kant’ (Mool, True Nature or Jot Saroop etc.), I wish to touch their feet (i.e. respect them and follow their example). (I wish) I become like them by joining their True Company. ||1|| (sggs 37).
  • ਸਤਸੰਗਤਿ ਕੈਸੀ ਜਾਣੀਐ ॥ ਜਿਥੈ ਏਕੋ ਨਾਮੁ ਵਖਾਣੀਐ ॥ ਏਕੋ ਨਾਮੁ ਹੁਕਮੁ ਹੈ ਨਾਨਕ ਸਤਿਗੁਰਿ ਦੀਆ ਬੁਝਾਇ ਜੀਉ ॥੫॥: What kind of gathering should be considered as ‘Sat Sangat’ (Good or True Company)? (Sat Sangat is that) where only ONE NAAM (Giaan, Shabad, Hukam, Wisdom…) is elucidated (explained, expounded, clarified etc.). O Nanak! Satguru has explained that only ONE NAAM is the divine Hukam. ||5|| (sggs 72).

To the contrary, consider a sorry plight of a banana plant growing near a thorny bush — the bush’s thorns tear 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).

11 comments

  1. ਮਨਮੁਖ ਸੇਤੀ ਦੋਸਤੀ ਥੋੜੜਿਆ ਦਿਨ ਚਾਰਿ ॥ ਇਸੁ ਪਰੀਤੀ ਤੁਟਦੀ ਵਿਲਮੁ ਨ ਹੋਵਈ ਇਤੁ ਦੋਸਤੀ ਚਲਨਿ ਵਿਕਾਰ ॥ ਜਿਨਾ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਸਚੇ ਕਾ ਭਉ ਨਾਹੀ ਨਾਮਿ ਨ ਕਰਹਿ ਪਿਆਰੁ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਤਿਨ ਸਿਉ ਕਿਆ ਕੀਚੈ ਦੋਸਤੀ ਜਿ ਆਪਿ ਭੁਲਾਏ ਕਰਤਾਰਿ ॥੧॥: Manmukh setee dosatee thorrarriaa din chaar. Is pareetee tuttadee vilam na hovee it dosatee chalan vikaar. Jinaa andar sache kaa bhaou naahee naam na karahi piaar. Nanak tin siou kiaa keechai dosatee ji aap bhulaaeaye karataar ||1|| (sggs 587).

    Mr. T Singh Ji,
    What does Guruji mean in this case, when he says that such Friendship leads to corruption? Is he talking about friendship/ association with the Manmukh mentality/habit/character, or is Guruji refering to an actual person?

  2. Hi ji,
    Thank you very much for your very comprehensive description of what a Saakat is. My question however, is not so much to focused on the definition of Saakat, but rather on whether or not we should disassociate/ avoid someone who may be considered a Saakat. Allow me to rephrase; lets say that I have friends who don’t necessarily believe in God, but are still good human beings. They are kind,compassionate,loving and so on. My question is, does the verse above imply that we should break our bonds/ disassociate with such people, or rather is it refering to disassociating with the mentality/habits/nature of a Saakat.

    Thank you so much for clarifying this matter.

    Warm regards,

    Mansukh

  3. Saakat is the one who’s mind is disconnected or separated from its Mool (Source, Jot, True Nature…).
    In words:
    Saakat is the one who is disconnected from Virtues.
    Saakat is the one who is disconnected from Wisdom.
    Saakat is the one who is disconnected from the Brahm-Giaan.
    Saakat is the one who is disconnected from his True Nature as Jot Saroop.
    Saakat is the one who is disconnected from the Truth.
    Saakat is the one who is diseased with false ego-sense (Haumai).
    Saakat is the one who hungers for Maya (Mayadhaaree).

    Saakat is Manmukh (denier of Truth)…

    The SGGS gives us the invaluable Giaan (Spiritual Knowledge).
    Whether one wants learn that Giaan and then live life with the discerning intellect (Bibek Budhi) is up to the individual. Choice will determine the results and consequences.

    Thank you Mansukh Ji for taking the time to reply. Welcome to the Gurbani Blog!

  4. Hi Ji,
    I have a question in pertinence to the following passage in the SGGS : ਝੂਠੈ ਕੀ ਰੇ ਝੂਠੁ ਪਰੀਤਿ ਛੁਟਕੀ ਰੇ ਮਨ ਛੁਟਕੀ ਰੇ ਸਾਕਤ ਸੰਗਿ ਨ ਛੁਟਕੀ ਰੇ ॥: Jhoothai kee re jhooth pareet shuttakee re mann shuttakee re saakat sang na shhuttakee re (sggs 535).
    Is it right to say that the phrase Break your ties with the faithless cynic is in reference to the mentality and thinking of a faithless cynic, and not an actual person. In other words, does it imply that one should unfriend someone simply because he does not believe in God? Because I am sure that a lot of us have friends who may not necessarily believe in God but are good human beings nonetheless.

  5. Thank you Sukhwant Jio for Sharing Shabad Vichaar.

    The mind’s Original Nature (Jot Saroop, Mool…) is often depicted as the lotus flower. That is what the mind would look like if one could see his True Self (the Gurmukh state, Awakened state…).

    • ਜੈਸੇ ਜਲ ਮਹਿ ਕਮਲੁ ਨਿਰਾਲਮੁ ਮੁਰਗਾਈ ਨੈ ਸਾਣੇ ॥ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਸਬਦਿ ਭਵ ਸਾਗਰੁ ਤਰੀਐ ਨਾਨਕ ਨਾਮੁ ਵਖਾਣੇ ॥ ਰਹਹਿ ਇਕਾਂਤਿ ਏਕੋ ਮਨਿ ਵਸਿਆ ਆਸਾ ਮਾਹਿ ਨਿਰਾਸੋ ॥ ਅਗਮੁ ਅਗੋਚਰੁ ਦੇਖਿ ਦਿਖਾਏ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਤਾ ਕਾ ਦਾਸੋ ॥੫॥: Jaise jal mahi kamalu niraalamu muragaaee nai saane… (sggs 938).

  6. But ultimately any person is recognized by the company he keeps.

    Slightly amending word “COMPANY” with IDEA :-

    A man is known by the IDEA he keeps.
    some time you have to work or live in Bad Company But your IDEA’s should not be affected i.e.

    ਜੈਸੇ ਜਲ ਮਹਿ ਕਮਲ ਅਲੇਪ ॥
    &
    ਦੀਸਹਿ ਸਭ ਸੰਗਿ ਰਹਹਿ ਅਲੇਪਾ ਨਹ ਵਿਆਪੈ ਉਨ ਮਾਈ ॥
    (He appears to keep company with everyone, but he remains detached, and Maya does not cling to him.)

  7. Yes, Bhai Sahib Jeo. You are right.
    Like minds attracts like minds.
    Like qualities attracts like qualities.
    Like character attracts like character.
    Like habits attract like habits.
    like nature attracts like nature.

    The Gurbani says:
    • ਮਨ ਕਾ ਸੁਭਾਉ ਸਭੁ ਕੋਈ ਕਰੈ ॥ (1167).
    • ਵਿਆਪਿਆ ਦੁਰਮਤਿ ਕੁਬੁਧਿ ਕੁਮੂੜਾ ਮਨਿ ਲਾਗਾ ਤਿਸੁ ਮੋਹਾ ॥ ਠਗੈ ਸੇਤੀ ਠਗੁ ਰਲਿ ਆਇਆ ਸਾਥੁ ਭਿ ਇਕੋ ਜੇਹਾ ॥ (sggs 960).

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