You are the friends you keep. You are the books you read. There are many such proverbs that show us the value of good company. Adi Shankaracharya, too, tells us an easy way to live as a liberated human being, not bound by sorrow, delusion and worries. Satsanga or the company of seekers of the truth is the answer.
In a very famous verse in the Bhaja Govindam, the master says, when we seek the company of the devout, who contemplates on the truth and meditates on the ultimate reality, we find ourselves in a satsanga.
This satsanga is many a time compared to a luxury liner that takes us in comfort, across the ocean of sorrow, change and death. A satsanga is of many types. In a congregation where people gather to worship, sing bhajans, meditate, practice yoga, listen to upanyasas of some purana or itihasa, even a classical music concert or a traditional dance performance which has divinity alone as its content, even watching a movie on a spiritual theme, a painting exhibition, visiting a temple or going on a pilgrimage to holy places with large groups of people—all of them and more can be termed satsanga.
When the mind is routed to a satsanga, very much as we take our dog for a good, refreshing evening walk, the constantly yelping, clamouring, demanding and attached mind becomes free. It remains in its peaceful state even without any object to satisfy itself. In this state of freedom from all attachments to sounds, sights, tastes, smells and feelings that brings joy, the mind becomes nischala, or steady and still.
The mind of a normal worldly person is like the flame of the fire, leaping high in search of material objects and experiences to satisfy it. In its steady state, the mind remains solid as fire—the core which is content by itself and does not waver or wander like the flame.
It is this steady state of mind in its essential nature that is called jeevan mukti. It may sound like a scary word for death, but it is not. In Sanskrit, the words that signify actions in the present continuous—sitting, standing, eating, walking, etc end with an ‘n’ as in upavishan, thishtan, khadan and challan.
Similarly, the word to denote living—present continuous tense—is jeevan. Mukti means freedom. If someone holds your hand tight, your immediate desire is to free yourself from that grip. That way, all of us (without exception) like freedom, and we even fight for it if required.
Mukti means to simply be free. Jeevan mukti means to be a person of free mind even as we are living. Being in the company of the wise takes us to the state of a free mind in a short span of time.