In the Srimad Bhagavatam (7.8.1) it is stated:
satam prasangan mama virya-samvido
bhavanti hrit-karna-rasayanah kathah
taj-joshanad asv apavarga-vartmani
sraddha ratir bhaktir anukramishyati
“By the association of the sadhus (saintly persons), discussions revealing the super-glories of the Supreme Absolute Truth take place which are nectar to the ear and heart. Continue affectionately in this way and quickly you will gain first faith, then heart’s devotion and finally divine love or prema-bhakti will graciously appear within your heart. Associate with the sadhus and follow their directives. Then you will understand everything. Why? Because the sadhus are always trying to satisfy the Lord; and you can see how they satisfy Him by having their association. If they are affectionate to you, they will give that consciousness to you and you will easily get His mercy. Whoever follows them reaches the lotus feet of the Lord very quickly.”
The Compass Is the Only Guide
Our Srila Gurudev, Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj, translated this verse spoken by Kapila Deva to His mother Devahuti. Here in his pastimes as Kapila, the Lord reveals the concentrated spiritual substance of all the Vedic teachings. The focus of the sadhus is always exclusively on the Holy Name, form, qualities and pastimes of the Supreme Lord. By following the saintly devotees and sincerely becoming their humble servants, we can culture all transcendental knowledge and become fixed in devotional service by their grace. Sadhus are our spiritual enablers, they are the healthiest and most well adjusted people in this world because they are situated in reality and are living in harmony with the environment. By their purifying influence a total transformation from material to spiritual occurs and devotion awakens within our hearts.
svayam samuttirya sudustaram dyuman
bhavarnavam bhimam adabhra-sauhridah
bhavat-padambhoruha-navam atra te
nidhaya yatah sad-anugraho bhavan
(Srimad Bhagavatam: 10.2.31)
Our grand Guru Maharaj, Srila Bhakti Rakshak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj, said that here, Srimad Bhagavatam says that just as in the vast ocean, when nothing else can be seen, the compass is the only guide, so in the world of the infinite, our only guide is the footsteps of those great souls who have traveled on the path of faith. The way has been marked by the holy footsteps of those who have gone to the highest quarter. That is our only hope. Yudhishthira Maharaj also says that the real secret is concealed in the hearts of saints, as treasure is hidden in a mysterious cave (dharmasya tattvam nihitam guhayam). The broad line towards the truth is chalked out by those who are going to the divine world. And that is our surest guide.
Once we come to embrace the path of devotion and begin our spiritual journey we will find support from the devotees, especially from those who are more advanced than us. Gradation exists everywhere, so it also exists amongst the sadhus according to their vaishnavata, the degree of realization, qualification in devotion, faith and surrender. Sri Guru, the divine guide or spiritual master, is known as “the king of the sadhus” and generally holds the supreme position. He is also a devotee but because he fully represents the essence of Divinity so he is therefore a function of Divinity. Guru, sadhus and devotees in all of their gradations are our benefactors and we are dependent upon them for our spiritual development. Srila B.R. Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj said, “In Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhuh (1.2.90) Rupa Goswami has said, sajatiyasaye snigdhe sadhau sangah svato vare, what sort of saintly persons shall we try to mix with earnestly? Those who are in our line, who have the same high spiritual aspirations as we do, and who hold a superior position. To associate with such saintly persons will help us the most to progress towards the ultimate goal.” This is the power of spiritual association.
One day our Srila Gurudev smilingly said, “What we are aspiring for, our ultimate goal is to receive admission into the personal home and private family life of Lord Sri Krishna, and where He gives Himself to His devotees. How many people would you want to give your own self to, to give everything you have and all that is personal and private to you? It is rare. We are very, very negligible but He is the Infinite Supreme Personality. He is the Infinite and He is infinitely merciful and generous, but we can not conceive it…”
bhaktya mam abhijanati
yavan yas casmi tattvatah
tato mam tattvato jnatva
(Srimad Bhagavad-gita: 18.55)
In The Loving Search for the Lost Servant, Srila Sridhar Maharaj said, Krishna says: “Only through love and devotion can I be understood as I am. Thereafter, fully understanding Me, you can merge into My entourage.” This merging is explained by Krishna: “They enter into Me to become a person in My family. Among the circles of My friends, he enters: visate tad-anantaram. He becomes as if My own. That means that without losing your personality you can be fully My own.” To enter into the Lord’s family is a living merging, not a physical or dead merging into Brahman, spirit. That is the result of prema, divine love.
We are being welcomed into the highest innermost regions of the spiritual world where “all rights are reserved”. We are not entitled to enter there where everything is unlimitedly greater than us, the divine plane that is beyond all time and space. If we want greatness then we need to associate with great personalities. If we want a higher existence then we must search for a higher plane and everybody in its connection. So let us all stay in the company of those who are superior to us and follow them home to the lotus feet of the Lord.