“Conditional life is due to this contamination only, and as soon as it is cleared off, then naturally the dormant function of the living entity – rendering service to the Lord – awakens. By developing his eternal relationship with the Supreme Lord, one becomes eligible to create friendship with the devotees.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 7)
Girish: Why is it so important to associate with the devotees?
Shankar: Because their friendship is most beneficial to you, me and everyone else.
Girish: So the association has to be in friendship?
Shankar: It doesn’t have to be, but if you’re going to have a friend, why not make it one of them?
Girish: So basically I’m looking for something from them if I intentionally decide that I want to make friends?
Shankar: That’s really the case with all friends if you think about it. It’s unpleasant to consider, but it’s undoubtedly true. Why do friendships end?
Girish: People get into fights. Some little squabble ends everything.
Shankar: Right. So the basis for the friendship is tenuous. Whatever it is you were getting out of the friendship is no longer there. Therefore the friendship ends. You’re also getting something out of the friendship with the devotees.
Girish: What exactly is that?
Shankar: You can think of it like a password or key that unlocks endless treasures. And we’re not talking limited stuff here. It’s not that if they tell you then they’ll lose out themselves. It’s not like how things work normally.
Girish: Oh you mean like if a friend tells me about a website allowing free downloads of a particular software, movie, or video game?
Shankar: Right. Since you are friends with them, you get access. But as the more people find out, the treasure diminishes in value. The server holding the files could buckle under the heavier load. If the website of origin didn’t intend on giving stuff away for free, they could get tipped off by the increased traffic.
Girish: Yeah. Or it could be something like with the free sodas we got from the machine in school.
Shankar: Oh, I totally forgot about that. That got out of hand real fast.
Girish: Yeah, that one kid figured out that if you press and hold down the button for the ginger ale the machine would spit out endless sodas, as many as were in the machine.
Shankar: I remember the first time you showed that to me. It was amazing.
Girish: I’m not sure if I ever told you, but one day I went down and waited for the delivery of sodas to the machine. To my surprise, the kid who told us about the trick was already there. He was going to wipe the machine dry as soon as it was loaded.
Shankar: That’s insane. But it proves my point.
Girish: Yeah, so even in that friendship there is competition.
Shankar: Not everyone will be willing to part with what they have. But anyway, if you have an earnest desire to establish a relationship with the Supreme Lord, you become eligible for making friends with those who already have that relationship.
Girish: I hear that all the time, “a relationship with God.” What does that mean exactly?
Shankar: It means consciousness of Him. That consciousness gets strengthened by service and it also inspires future service. That consciousness controls you. That relationship is the best one to have.
Girish: Is it like an obsession? Always thinking about one particular object?
Shankar: I wouldn’t say an obsession, since you’re not lusting after something. You’re not looking to exploit. Rather, there is a greediness to serve more and more, to give more of yourself. The friendship with the devotees helps you figure out how to best accomplish that.
Girish: I see. But if it’s a friendship, isn’t it limiting? Won’t the friendship break easily?
Shankar: Of course. That’s how friendships are. But you’re getting the most out of this one. Even if you never talk to the person again, at least you have picked up something about being conscious of God. If someone inspired you to regularly chant the holy names then you’re benefitted by them even if you never see them again.
Girish: Every time you chant the maha-mantra, you’re essentially paying respect to that friendship.
Shankar: Yeah, exactly. That chanting is but one part of a complete lifestyle. From the secrets the devotees give you, you figure out a way to always think of God. You learn that hearing about God is more blissful than hearing about anyone else. You set aside time for that hearing. You understand that God is a person originally, and since He is all-attractive Krishna is a perfect name for Him. You learn that the more you give in bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, the more you get out of it. You learn that giving the same gift to others, being another sincere spiritual seeker’s friend, makes you more conscious of God.
Relationship with friend not secure,
From single argument can break for sure.
Best if with the devotees to make,
Then valuable lessons away can take.
For being conscious of God how,
To turn life around today and now.
If even that friend to see again never,
By Krishna’s grace to be benefitted forever.