"Take a bath in the holy water of satsang and purify the inner being."
(Quote from Balakhand chapter of Ramayana, which was written originally in Sanskrit by an ex-murderer, Valmiki)
Yogically we are all criminals. In thought, word and deed we are ever committing the most serious of crimes both against ourselves and against others. We are incessantly hurling negative thought and word bombs at all in our range. Daily we commit arson in our actions by knowingly doing those things which unnecessarily hurt and destroy the well-being of others, and in turn ourselves. Fraud is also a common crime that we all commit... We deceive ourselves with false pride and self-importance and in turn try to deceive others by pretending we are more than we are. Dishonesty is rife. Daily we commit suicide by dying to the Inner Self and trying to jump out and seek oblivion in the peripheral distractions of worldly events. Every moment we commit theft by robbing our being of constant remembrance and awareness of the Eternal Now. Adulteration is also a widespread crime... adulteration of the pristine glory and clarity of mind with senseless regrets of past and anticipations of the future. Because we are, from a yogic point of view, criminals, we have been imprisoned. We are imprisoned within a five-walled cell called the panchakosha (five sheaths), one within the other: the annamaya (food or physical), the pranamaya (vital or pranic), the manomaya (mental), the vigyanamaya (intuitive) and anandamaya (blissful). Before we can be free, we have to break out through each of these sheaths, one after the other, very carefully and stealthily and with a strong desire to shatter the fetters of mind and body.
How do we escape from our prison? The best way has been told to us by yogic masters, who have already liberated themselves from their shackles, whispered quietly to those who ardently want to escape. They tell us emphatically that the way is to associate ourselves with those living persons who have already escaped (yogis and saints) and with those who are also in the process of trying to escape (sadhaks and spiritual aspirants). In yoga, this is called satsang- 'association with the wise, with truth or with those who are seeking the truth'.
The basis of satsang is that one's character and aspirations are moulded by the company that we keep. If we live with low-minded people, then there is every likelihood that we will also become that way, even though we may not initially have that tendency. If we mix with greedy people then we will tend to also become greedy. Conversely, if we mix with high-minded people we will also tend to imbibe higher qualities such as viveka (discrimination), vairagya (detachment), bhakti (devotion), nishkam seva (the spirit of selfless service) and so forth.
Even one short satsang can bring about incredible changes in one's being, whether consciously or unconsciously, knowingly or unknowingly. It can transform one's attitudes and open up new avenues of perception, joy, understanding, creativity and vitality. We are all bound by fixed ways of thinking, misconceptions and conflicts. It is difficult to eliminate them in the normal course of events, for we tend to wallow in and cling to our conditioned ways of thinking. A satsang knocks us out of our 'rut', and awakens us to new directions, greater potential and meaning in life.
Therefore, if you are a yogic criminal as most of us are, or a convicted criminal languishing in a government jail, why don't you try to invite a yogi, a sannyasi or any sadhaka to visit your neighbourhood, prison or house. You and fellow prisoners can imbibe the nectar of satsang. This will act as an antidote to our criminality, to our criminal like mind and motives, and will start to loosen the chains which bind us in our prison of ignorance... and lead us to that way of life where we are as free as an eagle winging through the big blue sky.