The Meaning of Sadhu-sanga
by Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja
You are holding a marginal position. Your limited free will is your capital. You should always utilize that towards the Godly side, taking one away from the satanic side.
This limited capital that you have, you are to begin your business with that. But you think, when you get a good capital, then you will begin business? This is imagination! “Whatever little capital I have got, I shall start my business with that. My attention, my energy will help me in the future.”
A man has an accident in the journey and he loses consciousness. But, when a little consciousness is regained, what should he do? He will utilize that consciousness directing, “Take this body to my guardians, my home is there. Oh my friend, carry my body to my home.”
This will be the best benefit of that limited consciousness which returned to the man – he was able to use his good knowledge. An intelligent man will consider that whoever will take care of this body with care and affection is the best prospect for its rehabilitation. Therefore, he shall request to place this body under their care.
So, whatever awakening we have in consciousness, we shall utilize that by placing ourselves in the care of Godly persons; only then there is value of devotion to God. Those who know the value of devotion to God, they are our near relations. They will appreciate this inner awakening, and they will take care of my devotional self. This is the penultimate benefit of sadhu-sanga: when medicine or our own attempts cannot heal us, the doctor advises us to make a change. Then the air and the water will naturally come to help improve our health. So, also, the atmosphere of saintly persons improves our spiritual health. Anyway, to always remain in the company of devotees in the same sampradaya – the same line – but superior devotees, by taking the lower position, such association is most desirable for any person aspiring to progress spiritually.
Srila Rupa Goswami has given the gist of the advice in Bhakti-rasamrta sindhu: “We are to associate with those superior to us, but in the same line of the Gaudiya Vaisnava devotees in Krsna consciousness. They also carry the same conception of the spiritual truth, but superior to me. If I engage myself even as a sweeper in that camp, it will be highly valuable for my future spiritual life.”
What is bad in me, I am responsible for that. You are responsible for seeing, for coming in connection with that vision. There are also good dealings in another sphere. Why have you come to see this misjudgement and mistreatment of so many who are quarrelling with each other? There are so many good dealings and you have not acquired a position to remain in that layer? Then why? “I am responsible for all the undesirable things in me – that is a fact. My weak free will has taken me down into this present undesirable environment and no one else is responsible.”
This fact you are to realize. If you ignore this, then you are in maya – misconception, illusion. When you sincerely realize this position, then your dark days will come to an end. When you feel that only you yourself are responsible for all these miserable things, then good days will awaken for you. This is the fact. It is not only a conception to achieve some end. It is not an imaginary conception to take help of in order to get out of the present condition. It is not like that: it is a fact, it is for everyone whether good or bad – he is responsible. Neither God nor Satan is responsible. There are two sides: good and bad. We are responsible for the freedom that is given to us.
God is not responsible for the fall of Adam and Eve into this world. Satan was present and he was trying to entice her. Why shall we accept the advice of Satan which is to take fruit from the tree of knowledge? This is the result of a loss of faith in God. This is a fall from the stage of surrender to God. This is a misuse of our own valuable free will. Then the result is, we have to come to this world and eat by the sweat of our brow, by our own labour – “Labour and Live”. Before, when we were in a surrendered position, God was feeding everyone of us. We cannot underestimate the circumstances. In the realm of God, everyone is being maintained.
Otherwise, when he takes charge of his own decision by his small faculty, then by the advice of Satan, he comes to take the fruit of “The Tree of Knowledge”, in order to exercise his own free will by coming down from the stage of surrender. It cannot be more clear. He misuses his freedom and comes to this world to labour and live in action and reaction. Vulnerability, weakness, independence and a paucity of free will is the cause to be traced. Neither God nor Satan can be held responsible or accountable for the fall of the soul. But to accept the advice of Satan depends on our free will and when free will is misused, we commit colossal mistakes. The soul subsequently has to fall down to this material world – leaving heaven.
The responsibility is with the free will that is vulnerable, weak and paltry due to not having full freedom. The smallest part of freedom we own, and by its misuse we come to this calculating world of action and reaction – labour and live. When we maintain our position in heaven where God is all-in-all – where we are his servants, then there is no sin and no fear.
The root possibility of fear comes from the association of a secondary cause. In heaven, all is harmonized and controlled by God. “I am there; I am His; I belong to Him; everything for Himself.” As long as I live in that atmosphere – “Everything for Sri Hari!” – then I am safe. But when I deviate from that consciousness – separate in interest from the common interest of God – then I shall have to come into this world of action and reaction. No one else is responsible for our displeasures. The environment is not responsible, you have acquired that. And any calculated plan to protect yourself against reactions of your own doing is also an implication involving more reaction.
If suddenly I find myself in the prison house, then who is responsible? There are so many culprits, so many deceitful persons, so many thieves in the prison house. If I find myself in the midst of them, then who is responsible? I have acquired that position. There is also heavenly association but instead of that. “Why am I put in the prison house where, wherever I look I see culprits. Why am I here? Why am I not with heavenly association? Who is responsible? Who?” In this way,
I am to try and understand that I am responsible for being there. First, there must be the diagnosis, then the treatment and nursing. Nursing and treatment is good, but it must follow the diagnosis. The diagnosis is, “I am the culprit!” and the medicines must be applied accordingly. A thorough cure and not a patch-job is what will be advantageous. Then the thorough, wholesale treatment is like this:
bhunjana evatma-krtam vipakam
(Srimad Bhagavatam 10.14.8)
("One who, in the hope of achieving Your grace, goes on enduring the inauspicious fruits of his own karma, and passes his days practising devotion unto You in every thought, word and deed - such a person is heir to the land of freedon: he attains to the plane of positive immortality.") This is the magical cure for fault-finding. Srimad Bhagavatam recommends the system of a magical cure – this is the diagnosis proper.
Preaching must be on the basis of this truth. Otherwise, all is haphazard. The Srimad Bhagavatam’s preaching is like this – deep penetration to the root cause of the disease. Do the Vedas advocate a dreamless sleep induced by renunciation? That is not the conclusion accepted by the Srimad Bhagavatam. The Srimad Bhagavatam has accepted the wholesome organic life. It is unavoidable that we have to live with some particular paraphernalia. Complete retirement entering into Samadhi or dreamless sleep is also not the conclusion of life.
That is a temporary arrangement. But, permanent adjustment (sambandha-jnana) must be for Him. Everything is for Him. “I am for Him and not for myself. He is also holy, so accommodating and so good. I am for Him and that is my best prospect. My best prospect is with Him – the Absolute Good, the Organic Whole, and I cannot leave that. I cannot look after my separate goals.
My goal must be part of the Whole – such adjustment is necessary. So, if I am to live in a holy atmosphere, in an organic environment, then I shall always be cautious and careful to detect my own fault.” Neither exploitation nor renunciation can give permanent solution – but “Dedication” will. The basis of dedication is that the eye is not faulty:
evadhikaras te, ma phalesu kadacana
ma karma-phala-hetur bhur, ma te sango ‘stv akarmani
“The whole of your attention must be towards the discharge of your own duty without caring for the environment. That is in My command. I am to look after that. You must give your whole attention to the discharge of your own duty.” And, if all the units are wholly connected to discharge their own duty, then it will be heavenly. But when we would rather find fault with the environment – “They are thieves” – and I shall also become a thief – should that be the conclusion? Everything here is undesirable. I may not even know the extent of undesirability in me.
There are many things underground and they will gradually come to the surface. I shall then find, “Oh! All these undesirables are in me?” They must go out and then the real gems will come forth. The gold should be cast into the fire. When the alloy portion vanishes then the real gold will be visible. Now at present our condition is that this pure gold – it is mixed with some alloy. So, “Die to Live” – throw yourself into the fire. Your so-called ego at present is mixed with alloy and that alloy must be destroyed by the fire of suffering – fire means suffering – and the golden gems will then come out. Alloy is not a part of your body nor your soul – it is acquired.
The inner soul’s svarupa will then come forth. So, if you want to live a real proper, noble and holy life, then what you think you are at present – that must die. And preaching will be part of your adjustment. If this environment is not suitable, then I shall try another environment that may be more suitable to me. That is a small thing. But the main line is what I say and the small partial adjustment may vary differently from place to place. Anyhow, the main line must be – “No complaints against the environment”. A bad workman quarrels with his stool; the origin is the workman.
So, there is no benefit in quarrelling over the effect. That was food and in his association, it became stool. So, shall we preach against the injustices of the environment? Never. What is necessary you will feel from within – not as a pleasure but as a duty – and only if it comes from above, i.e., if you find some inspiration for the cause of the higher conception, and not for your personal cause.
If you go to criticize for your personal interest, then that fault will come back to you. It will enter into you. But if for purification, and not out of envy, you seek help from the higher, then you will be purified. Otherwise, you may find yourself in the same position the next moment. “I am vulnerable. What I am criticizing to be so bad, the next moment I may be left in such a deplorable position. I do not know the ways of the Infinite environment. I am a doll playing in the hands of the Infinite. “In the next moment, from human birth, I may have to go to a dog’s birth, a cat’s birth or an insect’s birth. They are descending into the mental system.”
So, don’t go to criticize. Don’t be hungry to find the fault of others. But if someone finds fault in you, then you may consult a higher authority – a more senior Vaisnava: “There have been some complaints against me. Whether or not they are valid, I don’t know. Please, can you help me to understand my defects.” – Such an enquiry has no envy, no spirit of competition that I am good and he is bad; it is devoid of mischievous motives underground. Only it must be endowed with pariprasnena – honest enquiry. Otherwise, I shall have to suffer.
So, “Physician, cure thyself,” before you attempt to cure others. This is your primary duty, then you will really be able to offer others a cure-all. In conclusion, my advice is that you should try to be submissive to the Vaisnava devotees. Submissiveness to them will promote your spiritual merit. We shall also pray to the Supreme Lord for such an attitude, “Oh Lord, my bad temperament stands in the way of my association with the devotees – please remove it.” The association with the devotees of the Lord is a primary necessity. It vastly improves our position with the Supreme if we always remain in prayer: “Oh my Lord, this bad temperament in me, this inconsiderate thinking and feeling – sentiments concerning the outer world – this is disturbing my association with the higher Vaisnava devotees.
They are the real source of improving our own inner wealth. So, please purify me by dismissing all these tendencies in my mind which the devotee section does not adore.” We shall always try to be in such a position that the servants of the Lord will like our company and service. They would utilize me for this is my primal necessity. If they do not like my presence due to some contaminating disease or something, then it will be a loss to my spiritual life. So, we shall have to repent.
mat-tulyo masti papatma, naparadhi ca kascana
parihare ‘pi lajja me, kim bruve purusottama
“If we slip and fall on the ground, then the ground is the only help by which we can stand erect; so we cannot leave the ground.” We shall sincerely pray, “Oh Lord, I am committing a mistake by disregarding You, ignoring You. I have no other alternative to get out of this disadvantage except by your help. I cannot correct myself. Under no condition can I leave you my Lord. If I commit mistake against You – an offense against You – still, only by Your help can I be purified. I have no other alternative. So, please forgive me and help me so that I may be saved by Your most intimate associates. It is so, because without their grace I may not be able to enter Your domain of Divine Love. It is only through the devotees that I may go. I have no other alternative.
There are so many agents. If I am disappointed by one agent, then I may try another in a mild temperament – without speaking much against that previous party.” It is better that we consider ourselves to be faulty. To put blame on another’s shoulder – that is ultimately not considered to be very happy or valuable. We should try and learn to blame ourselves. What is coming from outside I have no concern.
The Lord can see and He sees everything. He is seeing who is responsible. But, I won’t try to put the blame on others’ shoulders. It will not be fruitful. I shall gain if I can find fault within myself and not complain to others about the environment. The environment should be considered to be within His jurisdiction and it is really so. I am concerned with seeing the defect in myself only. If I attain success. I shall try to attribute it to others – to the grace of the devotees.
If any failure, then I shall try to find the cause within myself. Through this process, we can make real valuable progress and that is the most universal process of progress – to find fault with our own selves. I am responsible for this disgraceful condition, but if there is any good, then that is coming from Him. He is All-Good. He is watching the environment and is in full control.
So, this is included in Him, in God’s party. One party, myself; another party, God’s. He controls everyone and He is conscious of their activities. This position would be very advisable. If without looking at the fault of others. I can search myself and find out that the fault is within me and not with them, then this is the key to success in spiritual life. Srimad Bhagavatam has advised us to go on this way. You will thrive, but when you are finding fault with others, then you will become a loser. This sloka from Srimad Bhagavatam is very effective, very true and safe in all respects.
It is also His Grace to be able to see that the environment is always helpful to you – even in punishment. When the mother is punishing the child, it is from the guardian’s side – but it is for the good of the child. So, on the whole, the Lord and His paraphernalia are to vindictive. Yet the punishment comes – to correct you. They are fully aware of your defects and your real interest. They are all-affectionate. You are responsible. In this process, in time you will be purified to the highest degree. So, don’t go to quarrel with the environment. That environment which you are presently facing, is a product of your own karma. You have acquired such environment according to your karma. So, the environment is produced by your own action. You cannot lodge any complaint against that as you yourself are responsible. This is true.
If you can accept such a truth in your sadhana in this life, then in no time at all, you shall prosper because Divine Grace will be attracted most intensely towards you.
visno paramam padam sada, pasyanti surayo diviva caksur-atatam
tad vipraso vipanyavo jagrvamsah, samindhate visnor yat paramam padam
(Rig Veda 1.22.20)
“His vigilant eye, like the sun, is seeing everything and He is omniscient. His presiding guardian-eye over our heads is always looking for us.” We shall be able to draw His Sweet attention – His Divine Grace – towards us very soon if we take this miraculous process of seeing the defect within us – blaming ourselves and not the outside environment.”
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