“One can change his habit by good or bad association, and one has to become intelligent enough to discriminate between good and bad. The best association is the service of the devotees of the Lord, and by that association one can become the highest qualified man by the grace of the Lord’s pure devotees.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.10.41 Purport)
“Like most while growing up, I was a product of the people around me. If they found something to be important, I tended to place the same emphasis. It was instinct; I didn’t know why, otherwise. For instance, if a peer couldn’t wait until Saturday night to watch a particular show on television, I ended up doing the same.
“If others were into video games and amassing a cartridge collection, suddenly I took it as a competition. I had to keep pace, to be on an even level. In some cases, there was indulgence in forbidden activities. My parents knew right away that this behavior was not like me, that it was due to the poor association.
“Is it similar with the science of self-realization? If we spend time around good people, who are engaged in shuddha-sattva activities, some of that goodness will rub off on us?”
It is like opening the eyes to a new way of thinking. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada often uses the example of Dr. Frog in the well. Someone approaches the frog, who has lived its entire life in the well. The visitor tries to explain to the frog the size of the Pacific Ocean.
The frog can only think in terms of the size of the well; this is the unit used for measurement. In truth, the Pacific Ocean is so vast there is no way to easily correlate how many wells it would take to equal the size.
In the same way, until someone opens my eyes to the spiritual side of things, I can only go off of what I know. I only know what I am exposed to. The environment around me makes a difference. The kinds of books I read make an impact; if I read at all.
There is the well-known story from Vedic literature of Narada Muni running into the highway robber. The thief was actually a brahmana who had lost his way. Good association was lacking, so there was nothing putting a stop to the criminal way of living.
The thief made the excuse of needing to support his family, but Narada intelligently asked if the family knew they were sharing in the demerits accumulated through the life of crime. The thief had never given thought to such an idea, and when he later heard the response from his family, he knew that Narada was someone to be respected.
Just a few moments of association changed everything. The thief gave up the criminal life and sat down to meditate and chant on the holy name of Rama. The remedy was effective to the highest degree, and because of that brief interaction the world is blessed with the Ramayana poem of Maharishi Valmiki.
If I can spend time with saintly people, there is the chance that my interests will change. I will see the bigger picture, the view from thirty-thousand feet. I will realize the inevitable end, which is the destiny for every person, but I will also learn how to make the most of the remaining time.
My days have the potential to be filled with blissful activities, with ever-increasing happiness, and saintly people are the ones to show me the way. Once I have their association, I never want to let it go. They stay with me in thought, word and deed, and they are responsible for my connection in yoga: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Because of association bubble,
Recently regularly in trouble.
Parents saying that not like me,
Poor influence must be.
Flip to the positive side making,
Where saintly association taking.
The interests of devotees to share,
Of which previously unaware.