Incompatible saṅga by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura
A spiritual practitioner should always remember this instruction of the Lord. If a practitioner engages in prohibited association, then gradually his material attachment increases. The more this attachment increases, the more his firm faith in the supreme goal diminishes. The purport is that the living entity is spiritual; but due to being conditioned by maya and falsely proud due to ignorance, the living entity has forgotten his constitutional position. In his pure state the living entity does not associate with maya, rather he remains fully spiritual. In the spiritual world all the association of the living entity is spiritual, therefore the pure association of the living entities in that state is desirable. The saṅga [association] in the conditioned state of a living entity is polluted. That saṅga, being polluted with nescience in the form of association with non-devotees and women and attachment for family and assets, is unfavourable for one’s advancement. The spiritual saṅga of the living entities is compatible, whereas material saṅga is incompatible. To get free from this incompatible saṅga is the cause of the living entity’s liberation.
First we will consider the association of non-devotees. Who is a non-devotee? Those who are not accepting of their subordination to the Lord are called nondevotees. The jñānīs never subordinate themselves to the Lord. They think that they can become one with the Lord on the strength of their knowledge. They think, “Jñāna is the highest goal; the Lord cannot keep one who attains Jñāna under His control; the Lord became Supreme by the strength of this Jñāna, and I too will become Supreme.” Therefore all the endeavours of the jñānīs are to become independent of the Lord. They believe that the Lord’s power does not act on one who achieves liberation in the form of merging with the Lord, which is attained by Jñāna. This is the vainattempt of the jñānīs! The jñānīs and mundane scholars do not depend on the mercy of the Lord. They try to achieve everything on the strength of their knowledge and reasoning, and thus they do not care for the Lord’s mercy. Therefore jñānīs are a prime example of non-devotees. Although some jñānīs accept devotional service as their process of sādhana, at the time of perfection they discard it. In all their activities there are no symptoms of an eternal serving mood or voluntary subordination to the Lord. Such are the symptoms of the jñānīsampradāya, the school of philosophical speculators. They only get a glimpse of real knowledge. Real knowledge is but a minor aspect of pure devotional service. Only pure devotees, by the mercy of the Lord, can attain that. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu instructs Srila Sanatana Goswami in the Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya 22.29) as follows:
pāinu kari’ māne
vastutaḥ buddhi ’śuddha’
nahe kṛṣṇa-bhakti vine
“There are many philosophical speculators [jñānīs] belonging to the Mayavada school who consider themselves liberated and call themselves Narayana. But their intelligence is not purified unless they engage in Krishna’s devotional service.” Therefore those who are attached to philosophical speculation are counted amongst the non-devotees. There is a fruit called mukti, (liberation] and that is the supreme goal of their spiritual practices (sādhana]. It is not the purpose of their life to attain the Lord’s mercy through His service. People who have faith in fruitive rituals are also not devotees. Therefore they are also non-devotees. If anyone performs karma in order to achieve the mercy of Krishna, then that karma is called bhakti. That karma which yields mundane results or mundane knowledge is adverse to the service of the Lord. Karmis do not exclusively search for the mercy of Krishna. Although they respect Krishna, their main purpose is to attain some kind of personal happiness. Karma is nothing but selfish activities, therefore karmis are also called non-devotees. Yogis sometimes search for liberation, the fruit of Jñāna, and sometimes they search for vibhūti, opulence, the fruit of karma. Hence, they too are called non-devotees. Due to lack of full surrender, worshipers of the demigods are also called non-devotees. Those who are attached to discussing dry logic are also adverse to the Lord. And what to speak of those who conclude that the Lord is only a figment of the imagination. Those who are attached to sense gratification and thus have no opportunity to remember the Lord are also counted among the non-devotees. If one associates with these non-devotees, then in a very short time one’s intelligence is polluted and one’s heart is overcome by their propensities. If anyone desires to attain pure devotional service, then he should carefully give up the association of non-devotees.
The second consideration is association of women. Association with women is detrimental to spiritual progress. In the Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya 22.87) Sri Chaitanya instructs Srila Sanatana Goswami as follows:
’strī-saṅgī’—eka asādhu, ’kṛṣṇābhakta’ āra
“A Vaishnava should always avoid the association of ordinary people. Common people are very much materially attached, especially to women. Vaishnavas should also avoid the company of those who are
not devotees of Lord Krishna.”
There are two types of Vaishnavasthe householders and the renunciates. Renunciates are forbidden from speaking with any woman. By the instruction to give up the association with women, they have been forbidden from conversing with women. As stated by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Antya 2.120): kṣudra-jīva saba markaṭa-vairāgya kariyā indriya carāñā bule ’prakṛti’ sambhāṣiyā their possession who accept the renounced order of life like monkeys. They go here and there engaging in sense gratification and speaking intimately with women.”
Regarding Vaishnavas, the Caitanyacaritāmṛta (Antya 12.42) says:
pūrvavat prabhu kailā sabāra milana
strī-saba dūra ha-ite kailā prabhura daraśana
“Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu received them all, just as He had in previous years. The women, however, saw the Lord from a distance.”
This is the prescription in regard to householder Vaishnavas. Householders should not associate with others’ wives or prostitutes. They should not indulge in any association other than with their own wives according to religious scriptures.
One should give up the self-indulgent mentality of being excessively fond of one’s wife. The instructions of the scriptures regarding the smārtas is given in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Ādi 15.27) as
na gṛhaṁ gṛham ity āhur
gṛhiṇī gṛham ucyate
tayā hi sahitaḥ sarvān
“Merely a house is not a home, for it is a wife who gives a home its meaning. If one lives at home with his wife, together they can fulfill all the interests of human life.”
— Śrī Bhaktyāloka – The Six Faults and Qualities of Bhakti.