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Sankaracarya’s take on sat-sangh

Sunday, 19 July 2009 / Published in Blog thoughts / 8,184 views

Madan Manohar Das: Lord Siva kindly appeared as Sankaracarya, in kali-yuga, to fulfill the desire of the Supreme Lord to mislead the atheists by his mayavada philosophy. Lord Siva is the topmost vaisnava and so before his disappearance he managed to give some crucial instructions in the famous “Bhaja Govindam” verses.
One among them, stresses the need for sat-sangh (devotee-association).

” Sat-sanghatve nissangatvam
nissangatve nirmohatvam
nirmohatve nischala-tattvam
nischalatattve jivan mukti”

This verse says that through association of ‘sat’- the devotees of the Lord, one becomes free from the modes of material nature. Then ‘nir-mohatvam’ or the subsequent stoppage of illusion, because we are free from the association of material modes. Further there is ‘nischalatvam’. This means that the flickering mind becomes steady once the illusion is dispelled. A steady mind makes one ‘jivan-mukta’ or a liberated soul.
That is why all sastras say “sadhu-sangh, sadhu-sangh” – “associate with devotees, associate with devotees”. Such association, even if done for less than a second, will award all benefits.
Srila Prabhupada and all great acaryas have used this principle as the background for opening huge temples and encouraging devotees to start preaching centres all over the world. Even if a vaisnava ( Lord Siva ) is in disguise and preaching against the Lord, still his compassionate nature reveals itself through his instructions. Everyone should be encouraged to take devotee association and by this simple formula obtain liberation from material bondage. Such a liberated soul will then engage in his real activity on the spiritual platform,serving the Lord to his heart’s content in a relationship of his choice. Blessed are those who savour the association of devotees.
Madan Manohar Das

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6 Responses to “Sankaracarya’s take on sat-sangh”

  1. Suresh das says :

    My question has always been, when you hear of the benefits and requirement of association of devotees, as mentioned in the sastras, does it refer to the association of persons who neophyte devotees, such ourselves, or does it refer to the association of pure devotees?

  2. Pavamana says :

    I would reply that, even if one is a neophyte, one can refer to statements of liberated devotees. Simply making a social gathering without discussing the transcendental topics isn’t going to help much, but it’s at least going to help us remember Krishna by being with His devotees.
    By repeating the message of the Acharya, we become a sort of guru, or messenger, a representative of the Guru. Srila Prabhupada used to say that he had no extraordinary qualification, but that he was simply repeating the message, untouched. If we are following strictly, our words will also have effect. Repeating the message doesn’t mean just parroting, but revealing our minds and giving our realizations to each other. We can encourage one another to continue to fight with Maya, to become more serious about following the spiritual path. To remain alone, shunning the contact of others who aren’t “pure devotees” because they are inferior is a mistake. If we find someone less advanced, we can give instruction to them. That is association. If someone is present who is more serious than we are, we can learn from them. That is association. Amongst ourselves, we can share friendship, prasad, philosophy, gifts, and our realizations. That is also association.
    Srila Prabhupada built the temples to give everyone the opportunity to associate, whether they were first-timers, sadhana-bhaktas, or pure devotees. He said the temple is like the stock market- if you want to trade stocks and you’re far away, you won’t do much business. Similarly, if you want to “trade” in Krishna Consciousness, you need to go to a temple or make your home a temple where devotional activity takes place.

  3. Suresh das says :

    Reflecting more on what I first stated, I feel very ashamed to have included myself as one of the devotees. When I consider that everyone else is a devotee, except for me, then any association of any of the devotees is uplifting for me. I have lived outside of the association of devotees for such a long time. I often forget the happiness of being in the association of devotees. At the same time though, many times when I try to come into the association of devotees, I get upset and even angry. Something always manages to not work out so well. There must be an art to associating with devotees.

  4. Akruranatha says :

    Even though I am no authority, I will try to answer Suresh’s question according to my limited understanding and experience. Maybe that will inspire others to give more authoritative answers.

    Obviously, association with first class devotees is very powerful. It is said that other people become devotees by the influence of such devotees who are fully committed, fully convinced, fully free from envy, material attachments and other bad qualities, and fully versed in the science of Krishna consciousness. When the virtues of sat-sanga and mahat-seva are extolled, it may be that the association of very advanced, liberated souls who are devotees of Krishna with great ecstasy and prema is indicated.

    Nevertheless, association with intermediate and even neophyte devotees is highly beneficial. We have to associate with someone, and association with materialistic people who do not like to hear and chant about Krishna is detrimental. We have to associate with devotees.

    Rupa Goswami advises to respect within the mind anyone who chants “Krishna”, to offer obeisances with the body to those who are initiated and engaged by the guru in sadhana bhakti, and to seek out and faithfully serve those who are free from all envy (i.e., the liberated, first class devotees).

    It is probably at least as important to ask not only with whom to associate, but how to associate. If we associate with neophyte devotees and engage in some nonsense activities with them (or even worse, quarrel with them), that is not very beneficial. But if the basis of our friendship is that we like to chant and read Prabhupada’s books together, that favorable association is very powerful, and it includes association with the maha-bhagavata devotee (through his books) and with Nama Prabhu.

    The problem with neophyte devotees is that they do not very well know how to associate with others. An intermediate devotee worships the Lord, befriends the devotee, shows mercy to the innocent, and avoids the envious.

    The neophyte may have faith in Krishna in the temple but will soon want to return to some nondevotional activity. As long as a neophyte is engaged directly in spiritual activities like kirtan or discussion of Prabhupada’s books, the “dirty man in the shower” principle applies and his or her association will be very pleasing and beneficial.

    If we become really attached to such association, so that we steadily engage in remembering Krishna together, we won’t be neophytes for long, IMHO.

  5. Suresh das says :

    Generally we consider three classifications of devotees, 1st class, 2nd class, and 3rd class. But I have heard Srila Prabhupada mention that there are actually only two classes of devotees – the pure devotees are the actual devotees, and everyone else is considered a neophyte. My reason for making my first statement about association of pure devotees is when I read Srila Prabhupada’s books, and he speaks of association of devotees, I meditate that he means the association of pure devotees. Sometimes one might think when the Sastra is speaking of the benefits of association of devotees, that it means any class of devotee, so my question was are they actually implying pure devotees.

  6. pustakrishna says :

    Akruranath Prabhu has given a super-excellent explanation. The early faith we have leads one to sadhu-sanga. If it does not progress to this 2nd and important phase, then faith will remain limited and overly-provincial (narrow). Through association, the processes of bonafide devotional service (bhajana-kriya) begins, starting with hearing and chanting. Then unwanted things will be easily set aside. The fact is that Krishna takes pleasure Himself when we engage in discussions about Him. Tushyanti ca Ramanti ca, as our senses are part and parcel of His (hrishikesha hrishikena sevanam).

    Today, I read the Veda Base about the conversations of the last days of Srila Prabhupad. Even in the last days of Srila Prabhupad, he never tired of hearing and glorifying Krishna, and instructing his disciples. We must be convinced of the primacy of devotional service. It has been described that the bhakta is rescued in a life-boat and lands on the island of Krishna consciousness. Having arrived, he burns his boat. There is no return to the ocean of illusion.

    We must take the association of devotees, and if we are fortunate, we will find sincere bhaktas with which to associate. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has stated that the saddest thing is to be without the association of devotees. How much it is important? And, in that process, we may have committed some offenses to others along the way. Then, our appreciation of that association may be set back too far so that maya,illusion, will again come to rule our consciousness. We therefore must pray to Krishna to grant us the association of good bhaktas through which we can water our bhakti creeper regularly. And, guard against offenses toward vaishnavas. With enthusiasm, determination, and patience, we proceed according to Srila Rupa Goswami’s advice, and reach our goal of goals of reawakening our transcendental love for Sri Krishna. Pusta Krishna das

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