Śrīla Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswāmī Mahārāj illustrates the value of the sādhus’ association.
‘sādhu-saṅga’, ‘sādhu-saṅga’—sarva-śāstre kaya
(Śrī Chaitanya-charitāmṛta: Madhya-līlā, 22.54)
All the scriptures have told us, “Get the association of the sādhus.”
An example of how important such association is has been given in the scriptures. Once, two birds were born in the jungle but while they were babies before they could fly, one was taken by a dacoit, and the other was taken the son of a ṛṣi. One bird went to a bad man’s house, and the other grew up in a ṛṣi’s house. Everyone’s behaviour was very nice in the ṛṣi’s house. Whenever a guest would arrive, everyone would say, “Welcome. Welcome. Please come in and be seated here” and then they would tell others, “Give him some water and clean his feet.” The bird in this house would hear all of this and learned this cultured behaviour.
The other bird would also hear and observe the way guests were treated his in house. There, the householders would say, “Who are you? Get out! Why have you come here? You not will get anything from us you nonsense rascal!”
It is the nature of Indian sādhus to go to homes of householders, beg for something to eat, and thereby maintain themselves and continue their meditation, chanting, and so on.
Once, such a sādhu went to that bad man’s house to beg for some food. When he said, “Hare Kṛṣṇa” or something, someone replied, “Oh! Such nonsense! Who are you? Get away from this house! Why have you come here?” At first, the sādhu could not understand where these words were coming from but when he looked closer, he saw that a bird was saying all these bad things. He was surprised to see this and thought, “What is this?” Anyhow, he left that house and after passing down the road for some time, he arrived at the house of the ṛṣi. There, the other bird greeted him, “Oh! Look who has arrived! Welcome. Welcome. Please come inside and be seated.” The bird also called inside the house, “Please come to look after a guest that has arrived. Please give him good nourishment.”
The swāmī was stunned to hear this. He thought, “I saw the exact same kind of bird at that previous house, but this bird is speaking so nicely.” The sādhu said to bird, “I saw another bird just like you at another house.”
The bird replied, “Yes yes, that is my brother.”
The sādhu asked, “What happened? You are speaking so nicely to me and welcoming me but he was … ” The bird then spoke this verse to the sādhu:
mātāpy ekā pitāpy ekā ahaṁ cha para pakṣiṇo
ahaṁ munibhir ānītas sa chānīto gavāśanaiḥ
ahaṁ munīnāṁ vachanaṁ śṛṇomi
gavāśanānāṁ sa śṛṇoti vākyam
na tasya doṣo na cha me guṇo vā
saṁsargajā doṣa-guṇā bhavanti
“O Sādhu, what can I say? Our father and mother are the same. We are both grew up in the jungle, but while were were still very immature, my brother was stolen away by some gavāśanas [cow-eaters], and I am came with the son of this muni. Since then, I have been living here, and he has been living there. I have always been hearing the words of the muni and his friends, and my brother has been hearing from that family of gavāśanas. So, nothing here is to my credit and he is not fault. It is all to the credit of association. He has the association of gavāśanas, and I have the association a muni. It is association that gives us our good and bad qualities.”
sādhu-saṅge kṛṣṇa-nāma—ei-mātra chāi
saṁsāra jinite āra kona vastu nāi
(Śrī Śrī Prema-vivārta: 6.13)
It is not necessary to read a whole Ganges full of scriptures. It is only necessary to get the association of a pure sādhu and chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahāmantra. Mahāprabhu said this is the goal of life for the soul. With that, they will get everything, all that they need and far more—shelter in the transcendental service world. There, everything creates happiness, joy, ecstasy, charm, and beauty, and there the soul gets everything through the service of Kṛṣṇa. This is the glory of the sādhus’ association.
Spoken 17 June 1993.