On Sunday I experienced my first ever Satsang. Like lots of stuff I end up doing it started with me seeing a post on Facebook, thinking “hmmmm I’m not sure what that is but it looks kind of interesting” and signing up.
According to Wikipedia, a Satsang is “a traditional activity in the Indian spiritual context, and basically translates to “being with good/righteous companions.”” In other words, it is a group of people sitting together with an enlightened person who usually gives a short speech and then answers questions.
Sunday afternoon saw myself, Ann & Otto piling into a tuktuk and heading about 10km down river to the secluded guesthouse that was hosting the event.
We arrived to find our guru, Ladu Baba already in residence, resplendent in his faded orange robes, sipping a cup of jasmine tea whilst gazing firstly into the middle distance and then latterly at his mobile phone.
At the requisite time we all plodded down to the lower deck to start the Satsang together with Ladu Baba.
A beautiful note resonated from a singing bowl deftly handled by a lady worthy of spiritual enlightenment solely as a result of her chosen outfit – harem pants, a bejewelled crop top, various jingling bracelets and three silver toe rings.
We sat patiently as the note quivered on, me already regretting my choice to adopt the seated meditation pose I know I can’t sustain for more than five monutes without starting to get chronic back pain.
Thankfully, reprieve came. Just as Babu opened his eyes ready to enlighten us, the Chinese woman sitting opposite started jerking her head and poking at her ear. Her boyfriend joined in the exploration of the ear canal and all sense of peace and tranquillity was lost as we stared on incredulously at the apish display in front of our eyes.
They got up and left, with miss harem pants explaining that she had a creature in her ear.
I took the opportunity to move, firstly as a way of better supporting my back by placing myself next to a pillar to lean on but also as Ann and I had struggled to hear the few words that Babu had so far uttered – a fact we thought might negatively impact on our experience which was specifically centred around listening to him talk.
And we waited with Babu maintaining his peaceful enlightened state for a good ten minutes before bluntly muttering something to harem pants lady which I didn’t quite catch but definitely had something to do with getting started as it had involved him getting his mobile phone out to check the time before hand.
Sitting closer and having time on my hands I was able to observe Babu more closely. He truly was the epitome of Indian guruness, his face appearing to have been carved from a block of mahogany before being lovingly waxed, his hands leathery from years of toil and exposure and his great straggly beard tapering off into split ends galore.
Finally, ear girl and her boyfriend returned – an ant had caused the issue and resolution was achieved after first drowning it in olive oil before scooping it out of her shell-like.
With everyone seated Babu shared some kind of spiritual prayer thingy (in Sangskrit I assume) before inviting us to chant a mantra together. Norman was convinced that this was a stupid thing to do as how did I know what he was getting me to say – it could be anything, but I ignored him and complied, finally managing to get the different syllables in the right order by about the eighth time round but never quite mastering the key change (I sure wasn’t alone in that – there were some very oddly pitched noises coming from the right of the room!).
Rituals over, Babu settled into his stride, sharing with us his take on happiness and how to achieve it. It quickly became apparent that Babu had a limited command of English which led to some interesting choices of phrase, a lot of repetition of the words god, stupidness and misunderstanding and more than a few side wards glances between Ann and myself that resulted in stifled giggles.
The giggles weren’t quite held in when, mid flow, Babu was interrupted by the resident dog who had come sniffing around to try and work out what was going on and in the process get himself some fuss and love. Babu was having none of it, very firmly (and a little too loudly) stating no whilst commanding the dog to go away with a forceful hand gesture. It worked and the dog shuffled away, tail firmly between his legs allowing Babu to continue to enlighten us with all things happiness and stupidness.
I took to gazing out towards the river as Babu continued on, listening to stuff I’ve read and heard many times before and in the main believe to be true but struggling at times to reconcile with some of the stuff he was saying, wondering if he truly meant that we shouldn’t judge others but should judge ourselves or whether it was a case of a message lost in translation.
His message finally delivered, Babu invited questions from his assembled audience. A well-meaning chap, the companion of harem pants lady and wearing more than a little hemp fabric, decided to share with Babu his difficulties maintaining focus on the stuff that’s really important thanks to the noise of the outside world and ask for his guidance. Well, that’s what I heard anyway. As for Babu, I’m not so sure as the question was met with a fervent (and again a little too loud) NO, followed by a bit of rant about stupidness.
And then came that moment. You know the one. That moment when something like the above lost in translation engagement occurs and the questioner decides to try again.
It took every ounce of self-control I had to not yell ‘stop it you muppet” (yep I know it’s not a very enlightened way of being but it’s me so get over it!)as the same outside world… noise… staying on track…. speil spilled from hemp man’s lips to be met once more by emphatic, loud and totally irrelevant rebukes from Babu.
Eventually, both parties gave up and we were approaching the end. A little white pot was retrieved from Babu’s bag of tricks and he invited each one of us to in turn go up and have a blob of it pressed onto our third eye whilst Babu did a weird rolling his eyes to the back of his head thing as he shared the energy or spirit or whatever it was with us.
Ceremony complete and donations of energy paper (AKA hard currency) gratefully received by Babu, we headed back upstairs to grab a post Satsang libation and for me this was where the magic happened. Our dissection and reconstruction of what had gone before led to a really interesting and enlightening discussion which went on well into the night. Added to that we had the joy of experiencing Babu wandering down to the river and gazing out before taking numerous selfies from various angles .
So, would I do it again?
Well, whilst the Satsang itself was slightly underwhelming, the entertainment value inherent in it and the fab discussion that followed would certainly lead me to sign up for another should the opportunity occur. Watch this space!