What is sathsanga?

It is association with the good, the saintly and the devotees whose heart is filled with love for all due to their love for the Lord.

The Lord Himself extols the merits of sathsanga in the 11thskandha, Chapter 12 of srimadbhagavatha, in His advice to Uddhava.

na roDhayathi maam yogo na saankhyam Dharma eva cha

svaaDhyaayasthapasthyaagaH na ishtaapoortham na Dhaksinaa

Vrathaani yajnaaH Chandhaamsi theerThaani niyamaa yamaaH

YaThaavarundhe sathsangaH sarvasangaapaho hi maam

Yoga, sastras, piety, study of the Vedas, austerity, renunciation, rites such as agnihotra, and public services like digging a well etc., and giving away money as dhakshina, Vows, sacrifices, manthras, going on pilgrimage, practising inner and outer control,

none of these bind me, as much as, sathsanga, binds Me, since it removes all attachment.

kevalena hi bhaavena gopyo gaavo nagaa mrgaaH

ye anye mooDaDhiyaa naagaaH sidDhaa maam eeyuh anjasaa

Yam na yogena saankhyena dhaana vratha thapo aDhvaraiH

Vyaakhyaa svaaDhyaaya sannyaasaiH praapnuyaath yathnavaan api

Through love alone, the gopis, the cows, trees and animals serpents and others though not intelligent, became established in Me, who cannot be attained either by yoga or knowledge , or charity, or penance or by yajnas, or by teaching and learning the Vedas, or by renunciation.

The merits of Sathsanga were enunciated by Sankara also in Bajgovindam.

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Sathsangathve nisssangathvam

nissangathve nirmohathvam

Nirmohathve niSchala thathvam

niSchala thathve jeevanmukthiH

What are the signs of sathsanga?

Those who are saths or sajjana are described by the Lord in Gita as follows:

macchitthaa madhgathapraaNaaH boDhayanthaH parasparam

kaThayanthaScha maam nithyam thushyanthicha ramanthi cha (Bg. 10.9)

With their mind absorbed in Me, their very life depending on Me , they exchange the knowledge to one another and talking about Me take pleasure and enjoy it always.

The perfect example of this description of devotion is that of the gopis towards Krishna. They were all the time engrossed in Him, always talked about him and exchanged their experiences with Him and sang and danced around Him and about Him. In fact their whole existence was nothing but Him.

The Lord further says,

. theshaam eva anuampaarTham aham ajnaanjam thamaH

naaSayaami aatmabhaavasThaH jnaana dheepena

bhaasvathaa (BG. 10.11)

For them alone I destroy, from inside them, the darkness born out of ignorance by the brilliant light of knowledge.