Company we keep

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This article is part of the series on the "Message of Gurbani"

What influence does the company that we keep have on us? According to the Guru Granth Sahib, the company that we keep has a marked influence on us, resulting in disastrous consequences if we are not careful. "Kabeer, I have been ruined and destroyed by bad company" (SGGS p 1369). Bhagat Kabir tells us frankly how his life was destroyed due to the companionship of bad sangat. And it was only by changing this company that salvation and peace was obtained.

Gurbani warns us that through our relationship with others around us we ourselves change and our outlook and perception also changes. We all know the saying, "A person is the product of his or her environment." The Sri Guru Granth Sahib reveals to us that our friendships, associations and the sangat (company) that we keep has a profound influence on our actions in life, our general outlook, the way we act, the way we behave and our future development and direction.

What does Gurbani explain?

The Guru says: "False is friendship with the false and greedy. False is its foundation" (SGGS p 1412). The message again is clear; friendship with a fool, a untruthful person, a corrupt being, a Manmukh (self-centred, self-willed, a person in worldly consciousness, etc.), person who is wicked, pompous (proud or arrogant), unrighteous, greedy, unfaithful and so on — is founded on a false foundation, therefore, it will last "for only a few short days" and will "never work out right". Such friendships will lead a person who wishes to embrace the path of righteousness, to ruin. (Dharam).

The implication is that if we associate and have friends with good qualities or virtues, our nature will change accordingly. However, on the other hand, if we make friends with someone who has bad qualities, he (or she) will be a bad influence on us for such "friendship leads to corruption". The more deeper the friendship the more wide spread the negative or positive influence.

Accordingly, the Great Souls tell us that one can tell - "who you are by the company you keep!" - Thus goes the proverbial expression "you are the company you keep".

The following lines or tuks from the Guru Granth Sahib explain the dangers of associating with the "wrong" type of company and how the company that we keep influences us:

Ruined by bad company

ਕਬੀਰ ਮਾਰੀ ਮਰਉ ਕ੝ਸੰਗ ਕੀ ਕੇਲੇ ਨਿਕਟਿ ਜ੝ ਬੇਰਿ ॥ ਉਹ ਝੂਲੈ ਉਹ ਚੀਰੀਝ ਸਾਕਤ ਸੰਗ੝ ਨ ਹੇਰਿ ॥੮੮॥
Kabīr mĝrī mara▫o kusang kī kele nikat jo ber. Uh jẖūlai uh cẖīrī▫ai sĝkaṯ sang na her. ((88))
Kabeer, I have been ruined and destroyed by bad company, like the banana plant near the thorn bush.
The thorn bush waves in the wind, and pierces the banana plant; see this, and do not associate with the faithless cynics. ((88))

Run away from company of evil people

ਸਾਧੋ ਮਨ ਕਾ ਮਾਨ੝ ਤਿਆਗਉ ॥ ਕਾਮ੝ ਕ੝ਰੋਧ੝ ਸੰਗਤਿ ਦ੝ਰਜਨ ਕੀ ਤਾ ਤੇ ਅਹਿਨਿਸਿ ਭਾਗਉ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
Sĝḝẖo man kĝ mĝn ṯi▫ĝga▫o. Kĝm kroḝẖ sangaṯ ḝurjan kī ṯĝ ṯe ahinis bẖĝga▫o. ((1)) rahĝ▫o.
: Holy Saadhus: forsake the pride of your mind.

Sexual desire, anger and the company of evil people - run away from them, day and night. ((1)(Pause))

If you don't keep good company

ਅੰਤਰਿ ਲਹਰਿ ਲੋਭਾਨ੝ ਪਰਾਨੀ ਸੋ ਪ੝ਰਭ੝ ਚਿਤਿ ਨ ਆਵੈ ॥
ਸਾਧਸੰਗਤਿ ਸਿਉ ਸੰਗ੝ ਨ ਕੀਆ ਬਹ੝ ਜੋਨੀ ਦ੝ਖ੝ ਪਾਵੈ ॥
Anṯar lahar lobẖĝn parĝnī so parabẖ cẖiṯ na ĝvai.
Sĝḝẖsangaṯ si▫o sang na kī▫ĝ baho jonī ḝukẖ pĝvai.
The waves of greed are rising up within him, and he does not remember God.
He does not join the Company of the Holy, and he suffers in terrible pain through countless incarnations.

Company of the good and wise

Always seek and keep the company of the good, wise and holy people:

ਜਿਨੀ ਗ੝ਰਮ੝ਖਿ ਨਾਮ੝ ਸਲਾਹਿਆ ਤਿਨਾ ਸਭ ਕੋ ਕਹੈ ਸਾਬਾਸਿ ॥ ਤਿਨ ਕੀ ਸੰਗਤਿ ਦੇਹਿ ਪ੝ਰਭ ਮੈ ਜਾਚਿਕ ਕੀ ਅਰਦਾਸਿ ॥
Jinī gurmukẖ nĝm sahĝli▫ĝ ṯinĝ sabẖ ko kahai sĝbĝs. Ŧin kī sangaṯ ḝėh parabẖ mai jĝcẖik kī arḝĝs.
Those Gurmukhs who praise the Naam are applauded by everyone.

Grant me their company, God - I am a beggar; this is my prayer.

ਮੇਰੇ ਮਨ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮ੝ ਧਿਆਇ ॥ ਕਰਿ ਸੰਗਤਿ ਨਿਤ ਸਾਧ ਕੀ ਗ੝ਰ ਚਰਣੀ ਚਿਤ੝ ਲਾਇ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
Mere man har har nĝm ḝẖi▫ĝ▫e. Kar sangaṯ niṯ sĝḝẖ kī gur cẖarṇī cẖiṯ lĝ▫e. ((1))rahĝ▫o.
O my mind, meditate on the Name of the Lord, Har, Har.
Always keep the Company of the Holy, and focus your consciousness on the Feet of the Guru. ((1)(Pause))


The conclusion has to be drawn that although we all perceive ourselves as impervious to external influence, this perception is false; Gurbani explains that the company that we keep has a profound effect on our behaviour and development. And the Guru advises us to refrain and restrict ourselves from bad sangat and deliberately and consciously seek wise and sensible company.

We should "go looking" for friends and associates who have a wise and mature outlook on life and who are above the influence of material entrapments; the Guru calls this "Sant ke sangat". But do interpret this in the normal everyday sense but in the Gurmat way which mean any person who is closer to God; who understands the true meaning of dharam or true righteousness. Find company which draws you towards God; company that influences your mind towards doing good and acting in positive ways and takes your mind away from evil actions and negative thoughts/ways.

Other related tuks