By Gokulananda das ACBSP
Sanga means association, community, an aggregate of souls. As “social animals”, we all require each other to better fulfill our common needs for identity, communication, and learning. Just as “birds of a feather flock together”, devotees will naturally associate to help each other for spiritual progress. Vaisnavas are the fortunate souls who acknowledge their true identity as eternal servants of God, Sri Krishna. Being sufficiently freed from our chronic envy of God, such good souls seek to actualize their eternal connection to God by practical devotional activities.
What is above is also below. In God’s Abode, all beings are interconnected to serve His pervasive pleasure. Similarly, here in this world, His devotees gather together to explore and enjoy the infinite varieties of His opulent glories, absorbing themselves in hearing, chanting and glorifying the Lord’s blissful names, pastimes and teachings. They can thus practically experience for themselves what Karunavatar Sri Chaitanya revealed to the whole world; that pure Krishna consciousness, love of God, lies dormant in every soul.
This sat-dharma or eternal function of each soul can become awakened by the practice of devotional service, which is optimaly fruitful in the association of like-minded devotees. One’s dormant love for God is activated by practicing loving exchanges with His true servants. By becoming absorbed in the ever-fresh topics of the Lord in the pleasing company of His devotees, one’s innate devotion can start shining through. Thus the main business of the Vaisnavas is to relish and broadcast the Lord’s infinite glories. This is wonderfully explained by the Lord Himself in His Gita: “The thoughts of My pure devotees dwell in Me, their lives are fully devoted to My service, and they derive great satisfaction and bliss from always enlightening one another and conversing about Me(Bg.10:9)”.
There is tangible benefit in hearing and discussing Krishna-katha: one becomes ‘tusti’ satisfied, and ‘ramanti’ happy and blissful. So much so, that one becomes gradually disinterested in seeking pleasure from other temporary sensual or mental stimulation. By the higher taste of Krishna-katha, the sincere devotee can become completely ‘atmarama’, fully self-satisfied in one’s service to the Lord. Srila Prabhupada very nicely explains such advancement: “As one advances in devotional activities, the process becomes progressively clearer and more encouraging. Unless one gets this spiritual encouragement by following the instructions of the spiritual master, it is not possible to make advancement. Therefore, one’s development of a taste for these instructions is the test of one’s devotional service” (C.C.Adi-lila,ch.1:60,purport).
This attraction and taste for the Lord’s glorification becomes gradually manifested in proportion to one’s ‘sradha’ and’saranagati’, one’s faith and surrender to the Lord, available through the association of those great souls of deep faith: “O twice-born sages, by serving those devotees who are completely freed from all vice, great service is done. By such service one gains affinity for hearing the messages of Vasudeva”(S.B.I.2:16). Srila Prabhupada explains: “The eagerness to hear about God is the first qualification of a devotee eligible for entering the kingdom of God”. Such eagerness and taste ‘ruci’ are the highest blessings a sincere devotee can attract by his humble and steady devotion.
And all these spiritual rewards are available only in the close association of the Vaisnavas, whose greatest wealth is the vast treasure of Krishna-katha: Bhagavad-gita, Srimad Bhagavatam, and the complete Gaura-vani, as elaborated in the empowered writings of the Six Goswamis of Vrindavan and of all the Gaudiya Vaisnava Acaryas.
The Vaisnava sanga is not a limited or sectarian affair. Having learned the art of spiritualizing all human activities by connecting them with God’s glorification, devotees are very eager to share this truth with the whole human community. Understanding that all souls are suffering in this world due to forgetting their real loving relation with our Supreme Father, the Vaisnavas work with compassion on His behalf to expand the Vaisnava sanga to which all souls originally belong. Such is the merciful desire of Sri Chaitanya: to empower His devotees to spread His prime benediction, the Sri Krishna Samkirtan. Imbued with Mahaprabhu’s great compassion for all souls, the Vaisnava sanga is dedicated to help everyone reconnect with our Eternal Friend, Lord Sri Krishna, the Reservoir of infinite love and pleasure.
Jai Sri Krishna.