“Prahlada Maharaja was already educated in devotional life, but when his father sent him to those two sons of Shukracharya to be educated, they accepted him at their school along with the other sons of the asuras.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.2)
तौ राज्ञा प्रापितं बालं
पाठयाम् आसतुः पाठ्यान्
tau rājñā prāpitaṁ bālaṁ
pāṭhayām āsatuḥ pāṭhyān
The Sanskrit term is sadhu-sanga. Maintain the association of saintly people. That is the recommendation for advancement. Not just earning a lot of money. Not just having more conveniences with respect to daily responsibilities. Create genuine progress along the path that will bring liberation.
On the other side is asat-sanga. The ideal situation is sat-sanga combined with asat-tyaga. Keep the association of those who are on the spiritual path, who wish to go beyond the dualities of the material world. Renounce the association of those who are attached to the non-permanent.
In societies it is seen that a good-natured person can sometimes go astray. They started out pure and innocent, but through mixing with the wrong crowd in a specific place, they became tainted.
You are not happy about having to travel such a great distance. This is the second trip in order to reach a satisfactory resolution. You received a parking ticket while at work. You know that you did nothing wrong. The police officer issuing the ticket made a mistake. It wasn’t a spot reserved for the handicapped.
The problem is that the fine for the ticket is quite hefty. A few pictures of the parking spot should clear your name. The first trip to the traffic court yields a notification of a future return date. That is when the trial will occur.
That day is today, and after waiting in line for a long time, you come up to meet the prosecutor. They barely look at you as they speak, and they argue this point and that.
“Oh, you were parked along the blue line of the other spot. That is why you got the ticket.”
“Actually, that’s not true. I was not anywhere near the line. This is a valid parking spot. I work in the building. People park there all the time.”
“Well, the officer is going to say that you parked on the blue line. Do you want to discuss entering a guilty plea for a reduced fine?”
In essence, the truth makes no difference. It’s a petty issue to the government, but not to you. If you ask the prosecutor about their principles, they will tell you that they stand for the truth, but rarely is that the case. The government is all-powerful. If a newcomer plays ball, so to speak, they will be able to keep their job. No reason to go on a crusade to eradicate corruption. Join the group and receive lifetime immunity from such violations yourself.
This person used to always give an honest opinion. They did not care about offending others. They were not worried about outside reaction. Yet since they joined a television news show, everything has changed. They pile on against the so-called offenders, when they themselves are guilty of such behavior in the past. They realized that in order to keep their job, in order to get interviews with powerful people in the business, they have to sometimes tell lies. Withhold your honest opinion in order to maintain a good relationship with others.
The obvious danger here is with other children. If you are from a family that teaches traditional values like honesty, cleanliness, austerity and compassion, it will be a culture shock to meet others who are not that way. Enough of them join together and there is something known as peer pressure. Basically, at some point it is easier to give up the fight. Become like the others so that you won’t stand out.
In the interesting case of Prahlada Maharaja described in the Shrimad Bhagavatam, the bad association was from the teachers themselves. They were employed by the king, who happened to be Prahlada’s father. The boy had different interests from practically everyone else in the community. Prahlada was already aware of moral principles. He correctly dovetailed all relevant information with devotion to the Supreme Lord.
The teachers were only interested in material life. They would cover neither God nor devotion to Him. Prahlada was in great danger of losing his dedication to Bhagavan, as teachers are naturally considered authority figures. They are traditionally called guru for a reason.
Yet from the history described, we learn that Prahlada could not be dissuaded, even with the threat and subsequent exercise of violence inflicted by the father, Hiranyakashipu. Though sadhu-sanga is recommended, sometimes it is not available. Yet if the heart is pure, if the dedication is there, if the prior instruction was sufficient and from an authorized source, then nothing can break the link in yoga. Prahlada received such instruction from Narada Muni, and so the crowd aligned against him could not alter the situation.
This person innocent and pure,
But with bad association to endure?
Corrupt the politician and leader,
Media figure fake criticism’s feeder.
In school bad habits to learn,
Friendship of the crowd to earn.
For Prahlada everything against aligned,
But too strong in devotion to find.