In the purport of Srimad Bhagavatam 4.12.37, Srila Prabhupada writes about the importance of devotee association, “Without the association of devotees, one cannot advance in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Therefore, we have established the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Factually, whoever lives in this society automatically develops Kṛṣṇa consciousness.”
Srila Prabhupada in his Bhativedanta purports and lectures have highlighted about the need of devotee association many times. Association plays a vital role in shaping our destiny. It is said that we are sum total of the people we associate with.
How association affects us?
Let us pause for few minutes and reflect on our life especially on the qualities which we have and we appreciate and the qualities which we have but we do not like and want to give it up. Now let us try to figure out how did we develop these qualities. Some of our qualities are from our childhood days and some we acquired in later part of our life either in school or college or from somewhere else. In almost all the cases we will find that the good or bad qualities which we have, we inculcated from others.
For example, no one learns to smoke or drink liquor from the womb of his or her mother. Ask any smoker or drunkard and he will tell you that he imitated someone, or he was somehow convinced by others to indulge in it. Similarly, if you appreciate some good quality in others and if you go and ask them about it, he will tell you that he got inspired by someone and so started applying it in his life.
So, it is important that we choose our association very carefully. Not just people around us but things around us also affects our psyche. How things affect our consciousness is very well explained by Mother Sita. She tells the following story to her husband, Lord Rama, when they were wandering in the forest during the exile period.
Sage becomes a killer
There was a sage who was doing severe penance in the forest. Indra, the king of heaven, became worried that he may lose his kingdom to the sage. He wanted to somehow stop the sage from doing penance. So, one day fearful Indra went to the forest dressed as a soldier to meet the austere sage. He was carrying a sword with him. When he met the sage, he bowed down to him and requested him to guard his sword till he returns back from some urgent work.
The sage promised to keep the sword safe. The sage had given his word to properly take care of the sword. So, the sage always carried the sword with him. When he would go to pluck the flowers and fruits, he carried the sword. While doing penance also he was cautious to take care of the sword.
Sword impact on sage’s life
Slowly the sage started developing cruel nature. He started using his sword to cut tree branches and plants for flowers and fruits. Not just that slowly he started even attacking and killing animals with the sword. Gradually, he became extremely cruel. Everyone started fearing him. Innocent animals would flee in fear seeing him.
Other sages doing penance in the forest left that place and went somewhere else. He lost all his accumulated piety and became a cruel person. Needless to say, Indra never came back to take back his sword. The sage who had great destination became a ruthless killer just by associating with the sword. He went to hell after death.
These stories are there in our scriptures to help us understand the consequences of wrong association in our life. Whether it’s the people we associate with or the things we associate with, we have to be very careful. Just by associating with the sword the sage lost all his saintly qualities. So, we have to be careful not only with the people we associate with but with also the things we associate with.
Associate with gadgets carefully
These days everyone carries a mobile. It has become a necessity but if we do not use it carefully, we will be in great trouble. Just like weapon of mass destruction can create havoc on earth similarly mobile if not used righteously can create havoc in our life.
Mobile addiction has become so common these days. Just like the sage who always carried the sword with him, we too have mobile with us 24 hours a day. When we sleep, our mobile also lies with us on the bed. Even in bathroom we carry mobile.
Our mobile has high speed internet connection and so with this little gadget we can see anything and can do anything. We can waste tonnes of time on mobile browsing social medias, watching videos or playing games. This will surely degrade our consciousness and take us away from Krishna.
So, it is advisable to use gadgets carefully, only when we need them. And most importantly not do anything with it which takes us away from Krishna.
Association of exalted devotees give exalted destination
If we study the life of great spiritual personalities, we find that they were very careful as how they spent their time and with whom they spent their time. Not even a single moment they wasted.
First, they would give up the association of non-devotees and the things which may hamper their devotional journey. And then they would make sure that they only associated with sincere devotees of Krishna.
Just as the sun rays can immediately dispel all darkness, similarly, association of sincere devotees can enlighten our heart.
In Srimad Bhagavatam sage Narada underlines the importance of associating with exalted devotees while narrating his life story to his disciple, sage Vyasdeva. The revered sage says that his life got totally transformed when he got an opportunity to associate with the great devotees of Lord Krishna for four months.
By serving these great personalities, Narada who was in his previous life, son of a maidservant, developed transcendental qualities.
Chaitanya Charitamrita 22.54 says that one achieves complete success in life if one gets an opportunity to associate with a devotee of Krishna even for a moment.
‘sādhu-saṅga’, ‘sādhu-saṅga’ — sarva-śāstre kaya
lava-mātra sādhu-saṅge sarva-siddhi haya
“The verdict of all revealed scriptures is that by even a moment’s association with a pure devotee, one can attain all success.
From the statements of the scriptures and sages, we understand that those who want Krishna always associate with those people and with those things that can give them Krishna. Srila Prabhupada established Iskcon, so that genuine seekers can associate with each other and encourage each other to practice devotion to Krishna.
Srimad Bhagavatam 4.12.37 tells the destination of those who associate only with the devotees of Krishna.
“Persons who are peaceful, equipoised, cleansed and purified, and who know the art of pleasing all other living entities, keep friendship only with devotees of the Lord; they alone can very easily achieve the perfection of going back home, back to Godhead.”
As we discussed earlier we are sum total of five people we associate with. So if we want to become a sincere devotee then we should seek association of sincere devotees. If we do so we will have a great future.
We should try our best to surround ourselves with those devotees who are sincerely practicing Krishna consciousness 24 hours a day. In their association we will develop taste for devotional life, will become a dear devotee of Krishna and will attain love of Krishna.