We’re only as Good as the Company We Keep

The Gurbani Teaches through the relationship we change.

People influence us every day. But, does their influence inspire us or sap our energy? Do they serve as positive role models or negative influences? Do they want what’s best for you, or are they out for themselves?

When we were younger, we were most likely warned by our parents to be careful of whom we choose to spend our time with. They said this in reference to the influence our friends would have upon us, in addition to the way others would judge us in accordance to our friends.

The implication is that if we have friends with good qualities or virtues, our thinking is likely to be influenced accordingly.

On the other hand, if we make friends with someone who has bad nature or qualities (i.e. Kusang) — fool, corrupt, cheat, Manmukh-Saakat-Mayadhaaree, wicked, arrogant, unrighteous, untruthful, unfaithful, Bikaar-stricken etc. — that person is likely to be a bad influence on our thinking (Soch-ਸੋਚ) for such friendship leads to evil or corruption.

  • ਤੁਰਦੇ ਕਉ ਤੁਰਦਾ ਮਿਲੈ ਉਡਤੇ ਕਉ ਉਡਤਾ ॥ ਜੀਵਤੇ ਕਉ ਜੀਵਤਾ ਮਿਲੈ ਮੂਏ ਕਉ ਮੂਆ ॥ : Just as a walking (insect, animal and human being) associates with another walking, and a flying (e.g. bird) keeps company of another flying (bird), similarly a spiritually alive person associates with other spiritually alive persons, and one who is spiritually dead associates with other spiritually dead people. (sggs 788).

In short, every living being likes to associate with its own nature. For example, a Kusangee will find Kusang, a Satsangee will find Satsang, a drunkard will fill other drunkards, a gambler will find other gamblers, a fool will fins other fools, a greedy will find other greedy persons, a crafty and corrupt will find other crafty and corrupt people, and so on.

Fittingly, the Gurmat Wisdom of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) claims you are the company you keep.

  • ਜੋ ਜੈਸੀ ਸੰਗਤਿ ਮਿਲੈ ਸੋ ਤੈਸੋ ਫਲੁ ਖਾਇ ॥੮੬॥: According to the company it (i.e., mind) keeps, so are the fruits it eats ||86|| (sggs 1369).
  • ਜੈ ਸਿਉ ਰਾਤਾ ਤੈਸੋ ਹੋਵੈ ॥: A person becomes like the one he falls in love with (i.e. associated or imbued with etc.). (sggs 411).
  • ਏ ਮਨ ਜੈਸਾ ਸੇਵਹਿ ਤੈਸਾ ਹੋਵਹਿ ਤੇਹੇ ਕਰਮ ਕਮਾਇ ॥ ਆਪਿ ਬੀਜਿ ਆਪੇ ਹੀ ਖਾਵਣਾ ਕਹਣਾ ਕਿਛੂ ਨ ਜਾਇ ॥੭॥: O (my) mind! You become what you pursue and acts accordingly. (You) reap what you sow; nothing more needs to be said about this. ||7|| (sggs 755).

For example, the SGGS reveals to us that since the evil or bad friendship is founded on false foundation, such false friendship lasts ‘for only a few short days‘ and ‘never works out right‘.

  • ਨਾਲਿ ਇਆਣੇ ਦੋਸਤੀ ਕਦੇ ਨ ਆਵੈ ਰਾਸਿ ॥ ਪਾਣੀ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਲੀਕ ਜਿਉ ਤਿਸ ਦਾ ਥਾਉ ਨ ਥੇਹੁ ॥੪॥: Friendship with a fool (ignorant, blockhead etc.) never works out right, and love with a boastful (pompous etc.) are like a line drawn in water, NO trace of that line remains. ||4|| (sggs 474).
  • 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॥: Friendship with the Manmukhs lasts for only a few short days. It doesn’t take long for this friendship to break down, (after all) only Bikaar (lust, anger, greed etc.) come out of this friendship (i.e. this friendship leads to evil or corruption). They (Manmukhs etc.) do not fear (respect) Truth within, and they do not love the Naam. O Nanak! Why become friends with these who have separated themselves from ‘Kartaar‘ (Hukam etc.)? ||1|| (sggs 587).

Accordingly, one can tell who you are by the company you keep!

We have all heard the saying that birds of a feather flock together, meaning that the company you keep reflects your personality. A wise person surrounds himself with other wise people. If you hang out with trash, you will be perceived as trash. Hence the advice of the Wisdom of the SGGS is to surround yourself with top-notch people. It makes a huge difference. As the proverbial saying goes, ‘you’re only as good as the company you keep’.

In other words, if one keeps the company of ‘Bharashat-ਭ੍ਰਸਟ’  people (i.e. corrupt, crafty, fraud etc.), that ‘Bharashat‘ company is certain to contaminate one’s thinking.

  • ਸਾਕਤ ਥਾਨ ਭਰਿਸਟ ਫਿਰਾਹੀ ॥੫॥: ‘Saakat‘ (those who are separate from their Mool…) wander at corrupt (polluted…) places. (sggs 239).
  • ਗੁਰ ਮੰਤ੍ਰ ਹੀਣਸ੍ਯ੍ਯ ਜੋ ਪ੍ਰਾਣੀ ਧ੍ਰਿਗੰਤ ਜਨਮ ਭ੍ਰਸਟਣਹ ॥ ਕੂਕਰਹ ਸੂਕਰਹ ਗਰਧਭਹ ਕਾਕਹ ਸਰਪਨਹ ਤੁਲਿ ਖਲਹ ॥੩੩॥: That mortal who lacks the Gur-mantra (Guru’s counsel, advice, Wisdom, Upadesh, ਸਲਾਹ), cursed and fallen (depraved, polluted…) is his life. That wicked person is a dog, a pig, a jackass, a crow, a snake (in this very life, here and now, not after death). ||33|| (1356).
  • ਦੁਨੀਆ ਕੇਰੀ ਦੋਸਤੀ ਮਨਮੁਖ ਦਝਿ ਮਰੰਨਿ ॥: Manmukhs burn and die in worldly friendship (i.e. they burn their spiritual life to ashes). (sggs 755).

However, our Haumai (false ego-sense) being the mother of falsehood will not appreciate this Truth of thr SGGS.

In the following verse, the Gurbani has used some more strong words, which will undoubted be detested by our ego-ridden mind. In this verse, those of us who make friends with the unrighteous are compared with thieves, adulterers, prostitutes, pimps etc. Because, often these characters are seen dining and wining with the unruly.

  • ਚੋਰਾ ਜਾਰਾ ਰੰਡੀਆ ਕੁਟਣੀਆ ਦੀਬਾਣੁ ॥ ਵੇਦੀਨਾ ਕੀ ਦੋਸਤੀ ਵੇਦੀਨਾ ਕਾ ਖਾਣੁ ॥ ਸਿਫਤੀ ਸਾਰ ਨ ਜਾਣਨੀ ਸਦਾ ਵਸੈ ਸੈਤਾਨੁ ॥ ਗਦਹੁ ਚੰਦਨਿ ਖਉਲੀਐ ਭੀ ਸਾਹੂ ਸਿਉ ਪਾਣੁ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਕੂੜੈ ਕਤਿਐ ਕੂੜਾ ਤਣੀਐ ਤਾਣੁ ॥ ਕੂੜਾ ਕਪੜੁ ਕਛੀਐ ਕੂੜਾ ਪੈਨਣੁ ਮਾਣੁ ॥੧॥ : Thieves, adulterers, prostitutes and pimps stand side by side. Those who are deprived of Dharma have friendship, eating and drinking among themselves. They know no value of the truth and have devils forever in their minds. Decorate an ass with sandalwood but it will still run to the dust. If you spin a false thread, you get a false cloth in turn. False the cloth, false the dimensions and false the pride in such apparels. ||1|| (sggs 790).
  • ਰੰਨਾ ਹੋਈਆ ਬੋਧੀਆ ਪੁਰਸ ਹੋਏ ਸਈਆਦ ॥ ਸੀਲੁ ਸੰਜਮੁ ਸੁਚ ਭੰਨੀ ਖਾਣਾ ਖਾਜੁ ਅਹਾਜੁ ॥ ਸਰਮੁ ਗਇਆ ਘਰਿ ਆਪਣੈ ਪਤਿ ਉਠਿ ਚਲੀ ਨਾਲਿ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਸਚਾ ਏਕੁ ਹੈ ਅਉਰੁ ਨ ਸਚਾ ਭਾਲਿ ॥੨॥ : (Without Giaan or Wisdom) men have become brutal and oppressors (ਜ਼ਾਲਮ), and women have become their counselors (i.e. submissive to them) for such cruelty. Politeness, self-control and mental purity have vanished, and dishonest living has become the way of life of these men. The sense of shame and honor has disappeared from the society. Nanak, there is only One Creator, don’t search for another one. ||2|| (sggs 1243).

Time and again we are reminded by the Gurbani that everything we see in this world is changeful, thus temporary or fleeting. But still most of us become attached to the transitory worldly objects! Why?

The Gurbani’s answer is: false ego-sense (Haumai).

It is this false ego-sense that begets negative tendencies (Bikaar) such as lust, anger, greed, emotional attachment, pride, enviousness, stubborn mindedness, doubts, and so on (i.e. all evil passions and their numerous variations).

The material or Mayaic consciousness is very selfish indeed. Accordingly, the Gurbani declares ‘all are concerned only with their own happiness’ in this world. Our worldly consciousness (false ego-sense or Haumai), however, may not agree to this Truth but that does not change it.

  • ਜਗਤ ਮੈ ਝੂਠੀ ਦੇਖੀ ਪ੍ਰੀਤਿ ॥ ਅਪਨੇ ਹੀ ਸੁਖ ਸਿਉ ਸਭ ਲਾਗੇ ਕਿਆ ਦਾਰਾ ਕਿਆ ਮੀਤ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: In this world, I have seen love to be false. Whether they are spouses or friends, all are concerned only with their own happiness. ||1||Pause|| (sggs 536).
  • ਝੂਠੈ ਕੀ ਰੇ ਝੂਠੁ ਪਰੀਤਿ ਛੁਟਕੀ ਰੇ ਮਨ ਛੁਟਕੀ ਰੇ ਸਾਕਤ ਸੰਗਿ ਨ ਛੁਟਕੀ ਰੇ ॥: Consider love of a false human being to be false as well; it never lasts; it definitely breaks. Hence one can never get rid (of the vices) by remaining in the company of Sakat (one disconnected from Truth). (sggs 535).

Friendship with fools or the false (Manmukhs-Saakat-Mayadhaaree) indicates one’s level of consciousness to be Mayaic (i.e. deluded, ignorant, corrupt etc.). Accordingly, the Gurbani declares that ‘Friendship with the Manmukhs is an alliance with Maya only.’

As a result, there cannot be found any lasting peace or happiness in such friendship. If we believe to obtain peace in such false friendship, then it’s only our illusion (Maya). For the Maya is deceptive. The Gurbani tells us that the life of a Manmukh etc. is a waste, so is the friendship with that person.

  • ਮਨਮੁਖਾ ਕੇਰੀ ਦੋਸਤੀ ਮਾਇਆ ਕਾ ਸਨਬੰਧੁ ॥ ਵੇਖਦਿਆ ਹੀ ਭਜਿ ਜਾਨਿ ਕਦੇ ਨ ਪਾਇਨਿ ਬੰਧੁ ॥ ਜਿਚਰੁ ਪੈਨਨਿ ਖਾਵਨ੍ਹ੍ਹੇ ਤਿਚਰੁ ਰਖਨਿ ਗੰਢੁ ॥ ਜਿਤੁ ਦਿਨਿ ਕਿਛੁ ਨ ਹੋਵਈ ਤਿਤੁ ਦਿਨਿ ਬੋਲਨਿ ਗੰਧੁ ॥: Friendship with the Manmukhs is an alliance with Maya only. They never get a firm bond (of friendship), as we watch they run away. They stick around as long as they get food and clothing. The day their (food-clothing) come to an end, they start cursing. (sggs 959).
  • ਕੂੜੀ ਆਵੈ ਕੂੜੀ ਜਾਵੈ ਮਾਇਆ ਕੀ ਨਿਤ ਜੋਹਾ ॥ ਸਚੁ ਕਹੈ ਤਾ ਛੋਹੋ ਆਵੈ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਬਹੁਤਾ ਰੋਹਾ ॥ ਵਿਆਪਿਆ ਦੁਰਮਤਿ ਕੁਬੁਧਿ ਕੁਮੂੜਾ ਮਨਿ ਲਾਗਾ ਤਿਸੁ ਮੋਹਾ ॥ ਠਗੈ ਸੇਤੀ ਠਗੁ ਰਲਿ ਆਇਆ ਸਾਥੁ ਭਿ ਇਕੋ ਜੇਹਾ ॥: The whole race of (the religious scholar) is a lie (because) he is always looking for Maya. If someone tells him this fact then he gets annoyed (because) there is a lot of anger in his mind. (Such a religious scholar is in fact) a great fool engrossed in evil-mindedness; because his mind is attached (to Maya). A Thugg (cheat, swindler…), joins with similar Thugg; it is a comradeship of like minds. (sggs 960).

The Gurbani’s edict (ਫੈਸਲਾ) is that forgetting the Naam (Wisdom / Virtues), all becomes false.

  • ਮਾਇਆ ਮਗਨੁ ਪਰਮ ਪਦੁ ਦੂਰਿ ॥ ਨਾਮਿ ਬਿਸਾਰਿਐ ਸਭੁ ਕੂੜੋ ਕੂਰਿ ॥: Intoxicated with Maya, one is taken far away from higher spiritual state. If the Naam is forgotten, then all is in vain, (all efforts are useless). (sggs 226).

Then, what’s the enduring friendship?

  • ਜਿਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਾ ਦਿਸੰਦੜਿਆ ਦੁਰਮਤਿ ਵੰਞੈ ਮਿਤ੍ਰ ਅਸਾਡੜੇ ਸੇਈ ॥: Our (real) friends are those seeing whom (i.e., keeping whose friendship) wicked intellect is dispelled. (sggs 520).

If we want to move in life in Nanak-like Conscious, the Gurbani’s instruction is to make friends with the divine Naam: Wisdom / Virtues).

  • ਹਰਿ ਇਕਸੈ ਨਾਲਿ ਮੈ ਦੋਸਤੀ ਹਰਿ ਇਕਸੈ ਨਾਲਿ ਮੈ ਰੰਗੁ ॥: My friendship is with the One Hari; I am in love with the One Lord alone (sggs 958).

The goal of any relationship is to get to know the other better. But that’s a little tricky with the Creator (Universal Energy, Hukam…), since we can’t just go out for a cup of tea with Creator and chat about it!

In order to be ONE with the Universal Energy or Hukam, we are advised by the Gurbani to hang out with the Gurmukhs (Enlightened) and become Gurmukhs ourselves.

  • ਮਨਮੁਖ ਸਉ ਕਰਿ ਦੋਸਤੀ ਸੁਖ ਕਿ ਪੁਛਹਿ ਮਿਤ ॥ ਗੁਰਮੁਖ ਸਉ ਕਰਿ ਦੋਸਤੀ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਸਉ ਲਾਇ ਚਿਤੁ ॥: O friend! (Tell me) if you make friendship with the Manmukhs, how can you ask for Peace (ਆਤਮਕ ਆਨੰਦ)? Make friends with the Gurmukhs, and focus your consciousness on the Satigur (True Wisdom-ਸੱਚਾ ਗਿਆਨ). (sggs 1421).
  • ਦੀਸੈ ਬ੍ਰਹਮੁ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਸਚੁ ਲਹੀਐ ॥: Divine is seen (in everyone, everywhere…); this Truth is revealed to those who become the Gurmukh. (sggs 353).

In other words, the Gurbani asks us to keep Satsangat => Company or Association of Truth (ਸਚ – Sach).

  • ਮੇਰੇ ਮਾਧਉ ਜੀ ਸਤਸੰਗਤਿ ਮਿਲੇ ਸਿ ਤਰਿਆ ॥ : O my dear God, whosoever joins the congregation of seekers is able to cross the worldly ocean of vices. (sggs 495).
  • ਸਤਸੰਗਤਿ ਕੈਸੀ ਜਾਣੀਐ ॥ ਜਿਥੈ ਏਕੋ ਨਾਮੁ ਵਖਾਣੀਐ ॥ ਏਕੋ ਨਾਮੁ ਹੁਕਮੁ ਹੈ ਨਾਨਕ ਸਤਿਗੁਰਿ ਦੀਆ ਬੁਝਾਇ ਜੀਉ ॥੫॥ : What constitutes a ‘SatSangat’ (a congregation of seekers, SatSangee, enlightened beings)? SatSangat is there, where there is deliberation or discourse on ONLY ONE NAAM (Wisdom / Virtues). Nanak, ONE NAAM is the divine Hukam, the Satguru has given me this understanding. ||5|| (sggs 72).
  • ਸਾਧਸੰਗਤਿ ਕਉ ਵਾਰਿਆ ਭਾਈ ਜਿਨ ਏਕੰਕਾਰ ਅਧਾਰ ॥੧॥: (I am a) sacrifice to the Saadh Sangat (of Gurmukhs) who have made One Rabb the support (of life). ||1|| (sggs 608).
  • ਹਰਿ ਸਭਨਾ ਕਾ ਹੈ ਖਸਮੁ ਸੋ ਭਗਤ ਜਨ ਚਿਤਿ ਕਰਿ ॥: ‘Hari’ (Mool) is the Master of all; ‘Bhagats‘ (Gurmukhs, Daas, Jan, etc. always) keep Him in their mind (sggs 849).

In short, without practiced, implemented or applied (ਅਮਲ, ਕਮਾਈ), the following edict of the Gurbani will apply to us:

  • ਗਲੀ ਅਸੀ ਚੰਗੀਆ ਆਚਾਰੀ ਬੁਰੀਆਹ ॥ ਮਨਹੁ ਕੁਸੁਧਾ ਕਾਲੀਆ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਚਿਟਵੀਆਹ ॥ ਰੀਸਾ ਕਰਿਹ ਤਿਨਾੜੀਆ ਜੋ ਸੇਵਹਿ ਦਰੁ ਖੜੀਆਹ ॥ ਨਾਲਿ ਖਸਮੈ ਰਤੀਆ ਮਾਣਹਿ ਸੁਖਿ ਰਲੀਆਹ ॥ ਹੋਦੈ ਤਾਣਿ ਨਿਤਾਣੀਆ ਰਹਹਿ ਨਿਮਾਨਣੀਆਹ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਜਨਮੁ ਸਕਾਰਥਾ ਜੇ ਤਿਨ ਕੈ ਸੰਗਿ ਮਿਲਾਹ ॥੨॥: We are good at talking, but our conduct is bad (ਮਾੜਾ ਚਾਲ-ਚਲਣ ਜਾਂ ਆਚਰਨ…). Mentally, we are impure and filthy, but outwardly, we appear pure and clean. (Yet) we imitate (ਰੀਸ) those (Bhagat, Gurmukh…) who are established in divine consciousness (i.e. serve or live the Truth with full attention). They are soaked in the love of Khasm (Truth), and rejoice in Bliss. They remain powerless (ਤਾਣਹੀਣ) even while they are powerful; they remain humble. O Nanak! (Our) birth can be successful (fruitful, ਸਫਲ) if we stay in their Company (Sangat). ||2|| (sggs 85).

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