The key to spiritual advancement is sadhu sanga:
“The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: My dear Uddhava, by associating with My pure devotees one can destroy one’s attachment for all objects of material sense gratification. Such purifying association brings Me under the control of My devotee. One may perform the aṣṭāṅga-yoga system, engage in philosophical analysis of the elements of material nature, practice nonviolence and other ordinary principles of piety, chant the Vedas, perform penances, take to the renounced order of life, execute sacrificial performances and dig wells, plant trees and perform other public welfare activities, give in charity, carry out severe vows, worship the demigods, chant confidential mantras, visit holy places or accept major and minor disciplinary injunctions, but even by performing such activities one does not bring Me under his control.”
“When the material life of a wandering soul has ceased, O Acyuta, he may attain the association of Your devotees. And when he associates with them, there awakens in him devotion unto You, who are the goal of the devotees and the Lord of all causes and their effects.” SB 10.51.53
“In the association of pure devotees, discussion of the pastimes and activities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is very pleasing and satisfying to the ear and the heart. By cultivating such knowledge one gradually becomes advanced on the path of liberation, and thereafter he is freed, and his attraction becomes fixed. Then real devotion and devotional service begin.” SB 3.25.25
“The root cause of devotional service to Lord Krsna is association with advanced devotees. Even when one’s dormant love for Krsna awakens, association with devotees is still most essential.” CC. Madhya 22.83
How do I know if I’m doing sadhu sanga right?
“If a person is actually executing devotional service, then he must be happy. If he’s not happy, then he’s not doing properly. So first thing is this. He might be doing something in the name of devotional service. If he’s actually rendering devotional service, then he must be feeling. Just like if you are eating actually, then you must feel strength and satisfaction of your hunger. You cannot say, “I’m eating, but I’m not satisfied of my hunger.” That is impossible. This is not possible. Then you are not eating. Or you are eating, but it is being devoured by the worms within your intestines. Sometimes it happens. If there are many worms within the intestines, you go on voraciously eating, but you don’t get strength because the eating substance, the essence, is taken by the worms. Therefore the worm treatment is there to kill the worms. Otherwise they will eat everything. You’ll feel hungry, but will not get any strength. This is the worm disease. So if I am actually rendering devotional service and I’m not getting any happiness, that means there is some maya’s play. Otherwise there is no such reasoning. He must feel happy. Then he has to rectify the process of his service. Not to change but rectify the process. [aside:] What is that? [laughs] It cannot be. If you are actually executing devotional service, you must feel happy. If you don’t feel happy, then you are not executing. There is some flaw. Yes.” Lecture on Bhagavad-gita 2.13-17 — November 29, 1968, Los Angeles
“Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is always eager to see everyone in the material world happy….” CC. Antya 7.140
“The topmost benediction for those who are living in this material world and are subjected to the repetition of birth and death (transmigration) is association with pure devotees. One should search out such pure devotees and remain with them. That will make one completely happy, even though living within the material world.” SB 4.30.34 purport
What kind of devotee do we need to associate with for our sadhu sanga to have desired effect?
“The summary is that one has to, first of all, seek the association of pure devotees who not only are learned in the Vedānta but are self-realized souls and unalloyed devotees of Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the Personality of Godhead.” SB 1.5.34
How can we all always have such sadhu sanga?
“I am therefore so much laboring hard that we…, before my leaving this body, I may give you some books who you can enjoy after my death. So utilize it. Utilize it. Read every sloka nicely, try to understand the meaning, discuss amongst yourself. Nityam bhagavata-sevaya. That is our mission.” Lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.1.1 — July 6, 1972, London
“So in my absence you read the books. What I talk, I have written in the books……. you can associate with me by reading my books.” Morning Walk — August 7, 1975, Toronto
“Your guru is writing books. If you think, “There is no necessity of reading books,” that is guror avajna. Do you mean to say I am writing these books whole night for selling and making money? Why do you think like that?” Lecture — December 23, 1968, Boston
I hear from Srila Prabhupada, but I am not happy. Why?
“Simple hearing is not all; one must realize the text with proper attention….The secret of knowing Bhāgavatam is mentioned here. No one can give rapt attention who is not pure in mind. No one can be pure in mind who is not pure in action. No one can be pure in action who is not pure in eating, sleeping, fearing and mating. But somehow or other if someone hears with rapt attention from the right person, at the very beginning one can assuredly see Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa in person in the pages of Bhāgavatam.” SB 1.3.44
“In this verse, both blind following and absurd inquiries are condemned. Not only should one hear submissively from the spiritual master, but one must also get a clear understanding from him, in submission and service and inquiries.” BG 4.34 purport
“Generally, people cannot understand. But if one understands, he becomes liberated. If some way or other….it is not very difficult; simply we have to associate with devotees and discuss this literature. Then we will understand Krishna very easily.” Lecture on SB 6.1.39-Los Angeles, June 5, 1976
“Be engaged always in reading Srimad-Bhagavatam, discussing amongst yourself. Then you’ll make progress. Otherwise, if you take it as an official routine work… You should take as routine work, but with consciousness that “We have to learn something,” not simply attending the class, but to learn something. In this way make your life successful.”
Lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.26.41 — January 16, 1975, Bombay
“As a devotee hears more and more about the Supreme Lord, he becomes enlightened. This hearing process is recommended in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam: “The messages of the Supreme Personality of Godhead are full of potencies, and these potencies can be realized if topics regarding the Supreme Godhead are discussed amongst devotees.” This cannot be achieved by the association of mental speculators or academic scholars, for it is realized knowledge…….
Discussion of Kṛṣṇa is very potent, and if a fortunate person has such association and tries to assimilate the knowledge, then he will surely make advancement toward spiritual realization.” BG 9.1 purport
ISKCON’s leaders (Gurus, GBC, TPs, husbands, fathers) must ensure that every devotee properly associates with Srila Prahupada and becomes happy.
“Your first job should be to make sure that every one of the devotees in your zone of management is reading regularly our literatures and discussing the subject matter seriously from different angles of seeing, and that they are somehow or other absorbing the knowledge of Krishna Consciousness philosophy. If they are fully educated in our philosophy and if they can get all of the knowledge and study it from every viewpoint, then very easily they will perform tapasya or renunciation and that will be their advancement in Krishna Consciousness…….
So…train the devotees first. Don’t be too much concerned for the time being with nondevotees, now we must fix-up what devotees we have got in the knowledge of Krishna Consciousness, then we will succeed. What good are many, many devotees if none of them are knowledgeable?” Letter to: Satsvarupa — Los Angeles 16 June, 1972
If Iskcon’s leaders fail to discharge this duty properly we will fail in our mission to save ourselves and the conditioned souls.
“Why they are going? They are busy in some other work? Eh? Ugra-karma. Without hearing, what he will do, nonsense? Sravanam kirtanam, this is our main business. Sravanam. If you don’t hear, what you will do? You will do simply sense gratification. That’s all.
So this is difficulty, that we are not very much interested in hearing. And that is the main business. Our bhakti begins: sravanam kirtanam visnoh [SB 7.5.23]. We have to hear and we have to speak. But if we are not interested in hearing and speak, then it will be the same thakura-bari[?], simply formula. That’s all. And gradually it will be stopped. Unless there is life of sravanam kirtanam, these big, big building, temples, will become burden. So if we are…, if we want to create burden for future, then we may give up this hearing and chanting and sleep very nicely. It will be burden. Galagraha. Not sri-vigraha, but galagraha. Galagraha. Sri-vigraha means worshipable Deity. So if we give up this sravanam kirtanam visnoh [SB 7.5.23], then it will be thought that “Our Guru Maharaja has given a burden in the neck, galagraha.” This is the danger. So we must be very much alert in sravanam kirtanam. Otherwise, all this labor will be futile. This building will be only the nest, nest for the doves and the pigeons. That is the danger. That is being done. Nobody is interested.” Lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.8.19 — September 29, 1974, Mayapur
“If you are not interested in association, discussion, then you are finished. So? Karmis, they are fools and rascals. When you have got this center, it is not that you should be engaged from morning till you go to bed for sense gratification. That is not life. That is karmi’s life. You have no time for sat-sanga, for association.
You cannot make any progress by this sort of karmi’s life. We have to work for organization, but not that whole day and night engaged and no sat-sanga. That is a misguided policy, and it will spoil the whole structure. In Los Angeles, they regularly assemble during arati and class. If this regulative principle is lost, then you are karmis. They must come back by six o’clock, suspending all other duty, and assemble by seven o’clock. Joint mess program is not good. “You bring some money. You bring some money and spend us jointly for eating, sleeping,” that is called joint mess. You know the joint mess, this word? What is that, meaning?”
Room Conversation on Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.10.11– November 3, 1973, Delhi
This is also the duty of husbands to train their wives and children at home how to properly associate with Srila Prabhupada and be happy. (also see CC M 3.190 & Bg 13.8-12)
“That can be introduced in every house, every home. The Bhagavad-gita is there, and everything is explained there. If family-wise everyone sits down in the evening or in the morning for half an hour and reads Bhagavad-gita, chants Hare Krsna mantra, just see the result. Every home will be happy. This is our propaganda, Krsna consciousness movement. Simply try to hear about Krsna.” Lecture on Bhagavad-gita 13.4 — April 20, 1974, Hyderabad
If currently our sadhu sanga is not giving us the desired result, what should be done?
“….unless and until one is trained in the culture of good association, one cannot become good.” SB 3.3.6 purport
“In order to become really learned, we have to associate with devotees. Then we can actually relish krsna-katha. When discussed among devotees, krsna-katha is pleasing to the heart and ear. This requires a little training, and this training is given by the devotees.” Teachings of Lord Kapila vs 25-26
“One should learn how to associate with the devotees of the Lord by gathering with them to chant the glories of the Lord. This process is most purifying. As devotees thus develop their loving friendship, they feel mutual happiness and satisfaction. And by thus encouraging one another they are able to give up material sense gratification, which is the cause of all suffering.” SB 11.3.30 verse