“The root cause of devotional service to Lord Krishna is association with advanced devotees. Even when one’s dormant love for Krishna awakens, association with devotees is still most essential.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 22.83)
कृष्ण-भक्ति-जन्म-मूल हय ऽसाधु-सङ्गऽ
कृष्ण-प्रेम जन्मे, तेङ्हो पुनः मुख्य अङ्ग
kṛṣṇa-bhakti-janma-mūla haya ‘sādhu-saṅga’
kṛṣṇa-prema janme, teṅho punaḥ mukhya aṅga
“I came across something interesting recently. It was a principle relating to a subject area with which I lack familiarity. The principle is something I have never given consideration to prior, but upon hearing it totally makes sense. The application is towards a specific situation, but the lesson seamlessly transitions to other areas.
“In this case a person is a prisoner of war. They are being tortured by the opposing side in a military conflict. They can confirm with their own experience that having others around with whom to communicate helps in survival. That is to say if I am being tortured, it helps if I can talk to some of my colleagues, who are in the same situation.
“This might not signal any increased chances of escape. We might be undergoing the exact same misery together, but from the community aspect there is some comfort. If I were all alone, I would have more difficulty. I would feel hopeless and helpless.
“Is there any correlation to spiritual life? How does the person in the renounced order survive, considering they have essentially committed suicide within society? They no longer have ties to friends and family. There is no community, precisely because they are constantly travelling. This is by rule within the ashrama.”
In the hot and cold game, you look for a specific object without necessarily being able to see it. You get clues along the way, in coordination with your movements. If the object is in the back of the room, for instance, the closer you move in that direction, a third party informs you that you are getting warmer. If you move further away from the back, you are getting colder.
Within the context of spiritual life, this translates to auspicious and inauspicious, anukula and pratikula. The idea is to hold on to what is auspicious, increasing the amount, if possible, and renouncing that which is not good.
Sadhu-sanga is one of the most auspicious blessings. This is communion with the saints. Communicating with like-minded people, who have the same goals and desires. The sadhu is the saintly person, who aligns with shastra and guru in the direction of progress.
Following spiritual life in the standard method, which is beneficial particularly in the beginning, involves rules and regulations. Some of them may be too difficult to follow. For instance, how can I abruptly give up intoxication, when I have grown accustomed to it during adult life? It is not easy to stop eating meat when it is all I have consumed since childhood.
With sadhu-sanga there can be a shared experience. Others might also be struggling with the same attachments. They have the same vulnerabilities, fears, doubts, and negative attention paid towards the descending clock of time, which eventually strikes zero, signaling death.
While the lonely and isolated becomes weak and vulnerable, the person supported by community and fellowship becomes strong and immune. If they are in a situation where they can practice spiritual life as the primary engagement, with no options for inauspicious activity, then it is only a matter of time until they find perfection in consciousness, which is the highest objective for the human birth.
“I love Shri Krishna so much, but just see others around me. I will never match their level of dedication. I cannot believe their skill, either. That woman decorates the temple so nicely. That child’s love for God is so innocent and pure. That saintly man can quote verses from shastra from memory and provide appropriate context and explanation. I never want to leave the company of such a loving and inspiring community.”
By others inspired,
So association required.
Otherwise hopeless and alone,
To fatally weaken known.
But community supporting when,
Strength and confidence then.
Soon devotion the only way,
And with Shri Krishna to stay.