How Does Association With Vaishnavas Help Us? by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura
Association with prejudiced ideas in the form of karma and jñāna, is very dangerous. Due to this association a living entity’s propensity for ignorance and passion becomes stronger. Whatever propensities for goodness, passion, and ignorance are seen in people’s eating, sleeping, and sensory activities are all due to association with prejudices.
Karmis and jñānīs disrespect Vaishnavas only due to their attachment for prejudices. However, by affectionately associating with pure devotees of the Lord, the effects of one’s association with prejudices is destroyed. Until the attachment to prejudices is destroyed, the ten offenses in chanting the holy name will not be uprooted. Offenses at the feet of sādhus is due to being proud of one’s karma and jñāna. The offense against chanting in the form of blaspheming devotees enters the heart of the non-devotee and takes up residence there.
Worldly attachment is contrary to the acceptance of Lord Krishna’s undisputed supremacy, and it therefore does not allow the unfortunate living entity to fully surrender to Him. Thus, disobeying the spiritual master, blaspheming the Vedic literatures, interpreting the holy name, considering the chanting of the holy names as equal to the pious activities offered in the Vedas, committing sinful activities while pretending to chant the holy name, aversion due to conceptions of I and mine, selling the holy names to unfit persons-all these offenses against the holy names continue. In such a condition, how can one be benefitted? Therefore it is said:
asadbhiḥ saha saṅgas tu
na kartavyaḥ kadācana
yasmāt sarvārtha hāniḥ syād
adhaḥ pātaś ca jāyate
“One should never associate with materialistic persons, for by doing so all one’s assets are lost and he falls from his position.”
It has been seen that many fortunate souls have given up attachment for prejudices by the association of pure Vaishnavas. From the scriptures it is well known that by the association of Sri Narada Muni the hunter (Mrgari) and Ratnakara (Valmiki) attained auspiciousness.
The foremost instruction of Sri Ramanujacharya is this: “If you cannot purify yourself by any endeavor whatsoever, then just go to sit with the Vaishnavas and by this you will achieve all auspiciousness.” By observing the pure characteristics of a devotee, in a very short time a person’s mind is purified, his attachment for sense enjoyment decreases, and the seedling of bhakti sprouts in his heart. One even gradually develops a taste for the Vaishnavas’ food and behavior. We have seen how by associating with Vaishnavas, people have given up many anarthas – taste for associating with women, thirst for wealth, desire for sense enjoyment and liberation, inclination for karma and jñāna, eating meat and fish, drinking wine, smoking tobacco, and the desire to chew pān. By observing a Vaishnava’s quality of not uselessly wasting time, many people have easily given up anarthas such as laziness, oversleeping, useless talk, urges of speech, etc. We have also seen that by associating with Vaishnavas for some time someone’s cheating propensity and desire for fame have been destroyed. We have seen with our own eyes that by associating with Vaishnavas with a little affection, the effects of all other association – such as attachment for prejudices – have been vanquished. Those who are attached to winning arguments, those who are expert at attaining dominion, those who are eager to accumulate great wealth- all such people have attained devotional service by being purified in the association of Vaishnavas. Even the hearts of persons who think, “I will defeat the world by my arguments and attain supremacy,” have been pacified. Without the association of Vaishnavas there is no alternative for rectifying the attachment for prejudices.
—Śrī Bhaktyāloka » Saṅga-tyāga » Giving up the association of nondevotees » Srila Bhakivinod Thakura