Let us reiterate. Today, a Sant cannot replace Gurbani, the Guru, or the Panj Piyare, nor would a real Sant ever attempt to do so. Genuine Sikh Sant would claim to be only a Sikh and will kindle a desire in us so that we can be just like him, a true child of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Sant is the pinnacle of Sikh Panth.
If we continue to live as if this goal is unreachable and disregard seeking company of such Sikhs, then, either Gurbani has failed us or we have failed Gurbani. People tend to ignore the portions of Gurbani they cannot understand, or they derail them with some alternate meaning just because they lack faith in its simple and straightforward meaning. How can we claim to be in Sat Sangat if we do not believe in, and anticipate, its outcome?
If we were truly in Sat Sangat, then, someone among us must be turning into a Sant every so often. Otherwise, we must be wrong somewhere. If we do not have this conviction in our heart, then, clearly we have a problem (881:13-19). Our faith in Gurbani is valid only if we have a yearning and a hope to meet a perfect Gursikh, sometime soon, within our lifetime. We need to anticipate it, and pray for it whenever we are in the Sangat (763:1-. Gurbani is replete with Shabads saturated with this desire. They infuse vitality into the Sangat. If it were not so important, we would not have so many such Shabads.
Guru Ji promises that there is always a Sant living somewhere in this world (1429:9, 1204:5). Sant is our role model, a testimony to the ultimate triumph of the Guru. However, emergence of our role model rests upon our own desire to meet such a person. Gurbani kindles this desire in our heart. Sant is the living proof that it is possible, today, as always, to become God-conscious while living in this society. Gurbani exhorts us, repeatedly, to have a yearning to see such perfect Gursikhs, just to assuage our doubts, if for no other purpose (810:13-17). Coming to Sangat with this desire is the road towards spiritual awakening.
Here is a Shabad, regarding the qualities of Sant (adapted from translation by Dr. Sant Singh Khalsa):
“Aasaa, Fifth Mehl: Twenty-four hours a day, they know the Lord to be near, they surrender to the Sweet Will of God. Only the One Name is the Support of the Saints, they consider themselves as dust of the feet of all. My brother, listen, to the conduct of the Saints, their greatness cannot be described. Pause. They trade only the Name of the Lord. They are the vision of bliss, Kirtan, the Praise of the Lord, is their repose. Friends and enemies are same to them, They know of no other than God. They erase millions upon millions of sins, dispelling suffering; they give spiritual life to the soul. They are brave, men of their word. The Saints have enticed Maya herself. Even the gods and the angels seek their company. Blessed is their Darshan, and fruitful is their service. With my palms pressed together, Nanak offers his prayer: O Lord, Treasure of Excellence, please bless me with the service of the Saints.” (392:13-1
Disregard of this sacred term cannot protect us from the charlatans. It only promotes ignorance and certain superficiality. This creates a spiritual void among the Sikh masses and thus, it makes them vulnerable to individuals who claim to be a Saint or a Guru. As a result, while our congregations become anemic and ritualistic due to a deficiency in this vital component of Sat Sangat, many members become discouraged and leave to join some fervently misguided group away from the mainstream Sangat. A Sant would never allow this. It also results in attrition of our young members to various other spiritual and religious disciplines. Perhaps we expect too much from the masses. As Guru Ji has said, true seekers are rare souls.
Being a revolutionary, Guru Nanak introduced the remedy, a unique method to liberate us en masse: Sat Sangat generated with Gurbani, augmented with music and singing from the heart. Kirtan of GurShabd or God’s Word, in Sadh Sangat can gradually, or instantly, convert ordinary masses into Saints (642:7). In Sangat, Gurbani uses the ordinary Sikhs joined to sing Gurbani, to uplift each other, during the window of those elusive moments when the ego is silenced through Kirtan of Gurbani (1185:10).
Whenever two or more Sikhs, with faith in the miracle of Sangat, join and sing Gurbani, they are creating a Sadh Sangat. On the other hand, a multitude joined for singing Gurbani, but lacking faith in the outcome of Sangat, succeeds in creating only, a multitude singing Gurbani. Let us never confuse the two as the same.
It is amazing that even the faithless multitude gets blessed, with crumbs, falling from the feast enjoyed by those Gursikhs who cherish the Sangat and have a firm faith in its outcome. This is a miracle of Sat Sangat that everyone gets blessed by just being there (861:8, 493:2). Thus, in due course, an association with the Sangat is meant to spiritually awaken everyone.