The Glories of Sädhu-saìga
A lecture on Çrémad Bhägavatam 1.18.10–13
delivered by Çré Çrémad Bhakti Çré-rüpa Siddhanti Gosvämé Mahäräja
In Çrémad-Bhägavatam, after replying to the inquiry of Çaunaka and other åñis regarding
the history of King Parikñit, which is filled with narrations of Bhagavän Väsudeva’s pastimes, Çréla Süta Gosvämé said:
yä yäù kathä bhagavataù
saàsevyäs tä bubhüñubhiù
Those who desire to attain sad-bhäva, the pure state
of existence, must thoroughly and submissively serve
all the topics related to the transcendental qualities
and wonderful activities of Bhagavän Väsudeva.
The kathä of Bhagavän is abundant; there is no end to it. He performs wonderful activities and pastimes, and these are to be narrated and glorified by all. Samsevyäs tä – it is imperative to thoroughly serve (i.e. hear, glorify and remember) such pastimes. Pumbhiù – this is particularly true for those who desire to attain sad-bhäva, the pure state of existence. Sad-bhäva cä. Säd-bhäva means the bhäva, or nature, of Bhagavän and His bhaktas. Therefore it is essential for those who desire to attain sad-bhäva to thoroughly serve (i.e. hear) all the topics related to Bhagavän’s activities (karma) and qualities (guëa). In this verse, karma refers to Bhagavän’s lélas.
Serving kathä means hearing (çravaëa), glorifying (kértana) and remembering (smarana) that kathä. In his commentary, Çréla Cakravartipäda says “svasattämicchadbhiù– those who desire to maintain their sattä, existence, must hear bhagavat-kathä”; and “anyathä jévanmåtatvam syat – otherwise that person will become dead even while living”. Without hearing bhagavat-kathä, one is as good as dead.
neha yat karma dharmäya
na virägäya kalpate
jévann api måto hi saù
Anyone whose work is not meant to elevate him to
religious life, whose religious ritualistic performances
do not raise him to renunciation, and who is situated
in renunciation that does not lead him to devotional
service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, must
be considered dead, although he is breathing.
Thus those who do not perform kértana, çravaëa and smarana of hari-kathä are dead, even while appearing to live. Ordinarily we think that by eating and taking care of ourselves we remain alive. It is true that by eating and defending we can keep our body healthy, but to nourish the immortal existence of the ätmä is impossible without hearing hari-kathä. Therefore it is said that Bhagavän has ample activities. His wonderful qualities are to be glorified by all beings, and those who are eager to attain sad-bhäva must thoroughly serve (i.e. hear, glorify and remember) Bhagavän Väsudeva’s various pastimes, characterized by His qualities.
After hearing this, the åñis headed by Çaunaka Åñi said:
süta jéva samäù saumya
çäçvatér viçadaà yaçaù
yas tvaà çaàsasi kåñëasya
martyänäm amåtaà hi naù
The good sages said: O grave Süta Gosvämé, may
you live many years and have eternal fame, for
you are speaking very nicely about the activities
of Çré Kåñëa, the Personality of Godhead. This is
just like nectar for mortal beings like us.
The åñis said: “O graceful Süta Gosvämé, may you live for an unlimited period of time.” The åñis are hearing the Bhägavata from Süta Gosvämé. However, they are not blessing him in the statement above; rather, with great respect and profuse eagerness, they are praying for his long life. Why? Yas tvaim çaàsasi kåñëasya martyänäm amåtaà he naù – “because you are speaking the most purifying and nectarine pastimes of Kåñëa to mortal beings like us”. The kathä of Bhagavän is nectar. “You are distributing that nectar to mortal beings like us; therefore may you live for unlimited years.” Speaking like this, they are praying with great jubilation and eagerness. It is unfeasible for them to bless Süta Gosvämé, and therefore they are praying.
The åñis further said:
karmaëy asminn anäçväse
We have just begun the performance of this fruitive
activity, a sacrificial fire, without certainty of its result
due to the many imperfections in our action. Our bodies
have become grey from the smoke, but we are
indeed pleased by the nectar of the lotus feet of the
Personality of Godhead, Govinda, which you are distributing.
“We have started performing karma in the form of this yajïa, but we are unsure whether we shall be able to attain the lotus feet of Bhagavän at any point through this endeavour. We have performed yajïa for thousands upon thousands of years, but we have been unable to attain any realisation of Bhagavän. Our sole achievement has been dhüma-dhümrätmanäà bhavän: by the smoke of this yajïa our ätmä – that is, our bodies – have become pale (ashy). This is what we have attained.” The åñis were performing yajïa for thousands of years, and therefore they are saying that they are uncertain about realising any results from the yajïa.
The futility of such yajïas is mentioned in then Bhägavata; however, people are performing yajïas to this day and they will continue to do so in the future also. All paths will endure. Man can follow any opinion, for who can obstruct his free will? But for him to attain bhakti by whatever path he treads, is impossible. The method to attain bhakti is distinct and that process cannot simply be found anywhere.
Therefore the åñis are saying, “We have passed thousands of years in performing yajïa, the results of which are uncertain, and consequently our bodies have become pale. But we have been unable to make progress towards Bhagavän, even by an inch. In this state of ours, habvän äpäyayati (you have made us drink). Drink what? Govinda päda-padmäsava – the nectar from the lotus feet of Govinda. You have made us drink the nectar of Govinda’s kathä.” Madhu means “the nectarean kathä”.
In his commentary Çréla Viçvanätha Cakravartipäda says: “Why do we have no trust or confidence in this act of yajïa? Why will we not achieve anything by performing yajïa?
While performing acts like yajïa so many defects appear, that it becomes uncertain whether or not its fruits will be achieved. Thus, because the results are uncertain due to the presence of imperfections, no one knows what result will occur and when.”
What is being expressed in the åñis’ statement? tena bhakter viçvasanéyatvamukttam “We have developed faith in whatever you have made us hear about, namely, those matters pertaining to
bhakti and Bhagavän. This is the real path. By speaking hari-kathä to us, you have arranged for us to attain Bhagavän’s lotus feet. This is trustworthy; we can understand this.”
dhumena dhumrä vivarëä ätmänçcakçur
“By the smoke of this yajïa our eyes have become like that of a blind man. People of this world hope to attain Bhagavän by performing yajïa, yoga, dhyäna and so on, but there is no certainty of attaining Bhagavän by following these paths. This is because all these paths
carry so many faults.” Therefore the åñis are saying that they have developed faith in the path of bhakti to the extent that Süta Gosvämé has spoken bhakti-kathä to them, and thereby made them drink the sweetness of Bhagavän. “Bhakteù säkñät phaladatvamäùa – Bhakti can bestow its results directly.” Many people, despite hearing something about the excellence of bhakti,
nonetheless follow other paths, which leads them to karma and saàsära.
äsavam makrandarupam madhu mädakam
This hari-kathä is so intoxicating that by once entering into the sweetness of çravaëa, kértana and smarana, one cannot give it up or live without it, and one will most certainly relish it.
taditara sarva sukha dukhänanubhavät
This hari-kathä is so sweet and so intoxicating that even despite its own sweetness, it will not let us experience the happiness and distress of any other topic of this world. Such is the glory of Bhagavän’s kathä.
At every moment this hari-kathä makes us relish and experience such bhävas (moods), so that we do not develop a liking for any other topic. It makes one forget happiness, distress and all worldly affairs, and intoxicates one.
·Sädhu-saìga: A Wealth Beyond Compare
After speaking in this way, the åñis declare that they cannot estimate the value of the kind of association that bestows such hari-kathä, what to speak of the association of one who has in
fact embraced such kathä within his heart:
na svargaà näpunar-bhavam
martyänäà kim utäçiñaù
Çaunaka Åñi says: “The association of a bhagavadbhakta – that is to say, of one who has attained the direct association of Bhagavän – is very rarely achieved in the course of the jéva’s destiny. We see thousands of saints and ascetics wandering about in groups; but to get the association of one who has in fact attained the association of Bhagavän, has received His darçana and has entered into His lélä, is very difficult. What to speak of such a person, it is
extremely rare to attain the association even of one who has associated with such a person.”
How rare? “Tulayäma lavenäpi – The value of even a single moment (lava) of such association is incomparable. I do not consider anything equal to it.
“Na svargaà näpunar-bhavam. The heavenly kingdom (Svarga) and liberation from matter (mokña) are generally regarded as the highest of all goals, and therefore those who desire them endeavour very hard to achieve them. But bhagavat-saìgi-saìgasya. The result of just a moment’s association with one who is in Bhagavän’s direct company cannot be equated to
or compared with the attainment of even Svarga or mokña. What an astonishing fact! Lava means 1/11th of a second, a very short interval.”
Çaunaka Åñi continues: “We are speaking from experience, having had the association of Süta
Gosvämé. This our realization. It is not that we have merely heard of the glories of sädhu-saìga or have fabricated them with our imagination; we have directly experienced them. We performed yajïa for thousands of years with no result, but what we have attained in the very first instant, through only a moment’s association with Süta Gosvämé, cannot be compared to the attainment of Svarga and mokña.
“What of similar value to sädhu-saìga could we possibly attain by going to Svarga or achieving mokña, as a result of performing yajïa?
na svargaà näpunar-bhavam
If even Svarga and mokña cannot be weighed against such association, what can be said of the kingdom and seemingly unlimited wealth of mortal beings? Of what importance, then, are the great personalities of this world – the vastly learned, the immensely rich, the famous, and those of high birth and aristocratic lineage? All are inconsequential. If Svarga and mokña have become insignificant, then what comparative value can this worldly kingdom and wealth have?”
Eternal Union with God
Çréla Viçvanätha Cakravartépäda has written a wonderful commentary on this çloka. He states:
tasmät tädrçasädhusaìga mahänidher
The åñis headed by Çaunaka Åñi are saying: “Asmadanubhava-gocarékåtaà – I have directly experienced and perceived the glory of mahänidhi, the great treasure of sädhu-saìga about which I have spoken earlier. In other words, by having your personal association, Çréla Süta Gosvämé, we have now understood its glory.”
“Çréla Çukadeva Gosvämé is bhagavat-saìgi – he has attained the association of Bhagavän. And you are his saìgi – you have associated with Çréla Çukadeva Gosvämé. Thus by having the association of a bhagavad-bhakta like you we have realized that this type of association is mahänidhi, a great treasure, and that its glory which we have experienced is indeed wonderful. What more can we say?”
Who is bhagavat-saìginaù? The bhaktas. They always remain with Bhagavän; they never live outside His association. People may ask, “If the bhaktas are Bhagavän’s associates, they ought to reside in Bhagavän’s eternal abode. Why then are they living here?” But wherever the bhaktas may reside, whether it be here or elsewhere, they remain forever with Bhagavän.
Hiraëyakaçipu questioned his son Prahläda Mahäräja, “You are always chanting ‘Hari Hari’, but where is your Hari?”
Prahläda Mahäräja replied, “My Hari is everywhere.”
Hiraëyakaçipu then asked, “Can you see Him everywhere? I have searched for Him everywhere but I was unable to find Him. If I had found Him, I would have killed Him. But you are saying that He is everywhere. Are you actually seeing Hari everywhere? Is He in this pillar? Can you see Him in this pillar?”
Prahläda Mahäräja replied, “Yes, He is in the pillar.” Hiraëyakaçipu then struck the pillar with His fist and broke it, and Çré Nåsiàhadeva appeared. Just see, Prahläda Mahäräja lived in Hiraëyakaçipu’s kingdom and, despite being in the dynasty of a demon, he was always associating with Bhagavän and always having His darçana. Even when Hiraëyakaçipu was torturing Prahläda in various ways, Bhagavän at all times kept the boy in His lap. When Prahläda was made to sit in fire, was thrown in water and was placed under the feet of an elephant, Bhagavän always kept him in His lap and protected Him.
Those devotees who have gained entrance into Bhagavän’s eternal pastimes (nitya-lélä) reside in Bhagavän’s abode as His eternal associates. By the will of Bhagavän, however, such associates also come and reside in this world. During their sojourn here also, they are not without Bhagavän’s association; they always remain with Him. Thus, even while in this world they are to be regarded as associates of the Lord. They never leave Bhagavän.
Therefore, Çréla Cakravartépäda has written that bhagavat-saìginaù refers to the bhaktas. But who are those bhaktas, who always live with Bhagavän and with whom Bhagavän also always resides? This is a separate topic of discussion.
The Value of Only a Moment’s Association
Teñäm saìgasya means the association of such type of bhaktas. Yo lava means for very short time, that is, for 1/11th of a second. Such association, even if only momentary, cannot be compared to attaining Svarga, the fruit of karma. By following the path of karma people hope to reach Svarga, believing Svarga to be the highest goal and the topmost fruit of karma.
Apunar bhavaà mokñaà ca. Apunar bhavaà refers to mokña, the fruit of jïäna. By cultivating
jïäna people hope to attain mokña. But na tulayäma: the fruits of karma and jïäna cannot be
measured against the fruit of even a moment’s association with a bhagavad-bhakta. But people do not readily put their faith in the result attained by 1/11th of a second of such association, and this kind of good fortune does not easily come their way also. Therefore it is said: “na tulayäma martyänäà tucchä äçiño räjyädyaù kimuta – how, then, can it be compared with an insignificant worldly kingdom of mortal beings?”
The åñis headed by Çaunaka Åñi are now asking rhetorically, “Why is it that I do not wish to make any comparison with sädhu-saìga? What result is in fact obtained from the association of Bhagavän’s saìgi for even a very short time? What of significant value is gained in such a brief interval that cannot be measured against the attainment of Svarga and mokña?”
paramdurlabhäyä bhakterankuro hådy
udbhavata iti bhävaù
What is obtained is the supremely rare commodity known as bhakti. It cannot be attained even by thousands of different types of sädhana, including the sädhanas performed on the paths of karma, jïäna and yoga. This is because bhakti is paramdurlabha, the rarest among all rarities. But it is that sädhu-saìga that manifests within one’s heart the sprout of this extremely rare bhakti. This is the result of associating with a bhagavad-bhakta for even a very short time, what to speak of associating with such a personality over a prolonged period.
tatra bhakteù sädhanasyäpi sädhusaìgasya
lavenäpi karmajïänädeù phalaà sampurëamapi
Sädhu-saìga is the sädhana of bhakti. Whatever
is achieved by sädhu-saìga for a very little
time cannot be compared against even the complete
fruits of karma and jïäna.
Sädhu-saìga is the method to achieve bhakti, and the fruits of karma and jïäna in their entirety do not even bear comparison with the result of obtaining sädhu-saìga for a single moment.
kimuta bahukäla vyäpinä sädhu-saìgena
And what can be said about the results one derives from sädhu-saìga and bhakti-sädhana over
a long time? They are kimuta, truly incomparable. Even if bhakti-sädhana in the form of sädhu-saìga is momentary, it has no comparison.
kimutataräm tatphalabhutayä bhaktyä
Now the word kimutataräà (“still more incomparable”) is being used. The åñis are saying that this describes the nature of bhakti attained as a result of performing bhakti-sädhana (i.e. sädhu-saìga). And finally the word kimutatamäà (“most incomparable”) is used, denoting the highest fruit of bhakti, namely, prema. When as a result of bhakti, prema is attained, then where is the question of drawing any possible comparison? There simply cannot be any comparison whatsoever.
The words kimuta, kimutataräà and kimutatamäà are in the positive, comparative and superlative degrees respectively. The suffix -tara is used to convey the sense of “still more incomparable”, and -tama the sense of “most incomparable”. Thus, the highest idea is gradually revealed.
Meaningless Attempts to Calculate
tathätra sambhävanärthak lotä tolene
sambhävanämeva na kurmaù
Someone may submit that whatever has been said previously is merely speculative, and that now some type of objective scale should be used to make verifiable comparisons. To this Çaunaka Åñi replies, “But I have no wish to compare sädhu-saìga against the attainment of Svarga and mokña on a scale, setting aside the fact that such task is actually impossible.”
“Why? What is the harm of such a comparative analysis?”
“For what purpose should I do it?” Çaunaka Åñi asks. He further states, rhetorically: “na hi meruëä sarñapam kaçcittulayaté – can any meaningful comparison be made between a mountain and a sesame seed?”
In other words, it is quite sufficient simply to observe the incomparable nature of the two. No one in his right mind will think it necessary to place the two on either side of a scale. That which is widely accepted (bahuvacanena bahünäà sammatyä) cannot be denied by anyone (naiñor ’thaù kenacidapramäëékarttuà çakyate). That is, one is simply unable to reject or disregard it.
Sädhu-saìga: More Powerful Than Associating with Bhagavän
Now the potency of bhagavad-bhaktas will be highlighted further.
bhagavat saìgi sangasya ityanena –
na tathäsya bhavet kleço
yoñit-saìgäd yathä puàso
Çréla Viçvanätha Cakravartépäda here offers an analogy from the Eleventh Canto of Çrémad- Bhägavatam (Chapter 14, verse 30) to elucidate the nature of sädhu-saìga. He explains that by associating with a woman one is afflicted by bondage. But yathä tatsaìgisaìgataù: the association of one who associates with women is in fact more harmful than the direct association of a woman. Why? Because by knowing that the association of women will bind one, a person can at least try to remain aloof from such association. More harmful is the company of a man who associates with women, as greater bondage comes from such a relationship.
For this reason, it has similarly been said: viñayer anna khäile malina haya mana – by eating grains (foodstuffs) given by a worldly person (sense enjoyer), one’s mind becomes polluted, and with such a contaminated mind one cannot perform bhajana of Çré Kåñëa. In this regard, it is also harmful to accept anything from a person who associates with women. There is a danger in associating with such a person.
Associating with women is harmful, but associating with persons addicted to associating with women is more harmful. Similarly, associating with bhaktas of Bhagavän is more powerful than associating with Bhagavän Himself. One attains auspiciousness by associating with Bhagavän, but one attains greater auspiciousness by associating with His bhaktas.
This same fact was explained by Dhruva Mahäräja when he attained darçana of Bhagavän. At that time Bhagavän asked him to accept any benediction. Dhruva said, “My only request is that I should always have the association of Your bhaktas. I do not desire anything else.”
Bhagavän replied, “What is this? You have finally attained Me, and now, having achieved this, you again desire the association of My bhaktas?”
Dhruva said, “O Prabhu, if I had not attained the association of your bhaktas, then how could I have attained Your association today? I would have deviated from the path of attaining You by committing some offence. And even now, how will it be possible for me to remain in Your
company if I am without the association of your bhaktas? At any time I may commit some offence and lose Your association.”
Thus, the association of bhaktas is more powerful than the association of Bhagavän Himself. This has been made clear. Since we are unable to understand this, the harmful effects of associating with a woman and with a man who associates with women has been illustrated. Of the two, the latter harm is the greater. But although people may hear this, do they pay any regard?
iti yoñitsaìgädapi yoñitsanginäà
saìgo yathätinindya uk ttaù
Just as associating with a man who associates with a woman has been denounced in Çrémad-
Bhägavatam as more condemnable than associating with a woman, so associating with a bhagavad-bhakta has been glorified as more virtuous, advantageous and desirable than
associating with Bhagavän directly. Indeed, there is nothing more virtuous and desirable than sädhu-saìga. Through such association all one’s desires are fulfilled.
Our Inability to Actually Associate
Real sädhus, however, are extremely rare and therefore difficult to find; and if they are found, it is very difficult to associate with them in the real sense. Although people of this world may attain the association of a bhagavad-bhakta, they remain unable to comprehend his bhäva-dhara, line of thought that is his moods. We may, by the accumulation of previous sukåti, come close physically to a bhagavad-bhakta; but we then discover that we cannot associate with him in any real sense. If those who have attained the saìga of bhagavad-bhaktas find themselves unable to benefit from it, what can be said of the predicament of those who have not even attained such saìga.
Why is this so? Why can we not properly associate with bhagavad-bhaktas despite being in their company? Saìga means “samyak rüpeëa gamana – to completely follow the bhagavad-bhakta.” It is difficult for us to comply with their instructions. Moreover, the foundation of saìga is préti. Without préti, there can be no saìga. We go to the market and see, meet and talk with many people, but can this be called saìga? No. Préti is the real requirement.
What is préti? Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé has written:
guhyam äkhyäti påcchati
bhuìkte bhojayate caiva
Çré Upadeçämåta (4)
Offering pure devotees items in accordance with
their requirements, accepting remnant items given
by pure devotees, revealing to devotees one’s confidential
realizations concerning bhajana, inquiring
from them about their confidential realizations,
eating with great love the prasäda remnants given
by devotees and lovingly feeding them prasäda –
these are the six symptoms of loving association
with pure devotees.
Are we able to deal with bhagavad-bhaktas with these six symptoms of préti? We can have these six exchanges with worldly people, but not with bhagavad-bhaktas, because mäyä does not let us do so. Such is the oppression of mäyä that she will not allow us to associate with sädhus. Hence, the saìga of bhagavad-bhaktas is very rare; we are unable to attain it even after attaining their company. This is our misfortune.
Why is this so? Man is the saìgi (associate) of mäyä and likes associating with her. Ordinary people may come close to a bhagavad-bhakta, but they will prefer to discuss worldly topics with him and go away. They are not influenced by his association. It is very difficult for them. Therefore it is said that the result of associating with a bhagavad-bhakta for a single moment cannot be compared to the attainment of Svarga and mokña. What a significant matter! What
a precious commodity is sädhu-saìga. Is such a highly worshipable and desirable thing attained in the course of everyone’s fate?
It is said in Çré Caitanya-caritämåta (Madhya-lélä 22.54):
‘sädhu-saìga’, ‘sädhu-saìga’ sarva-çästre kaya
lava-mätra sädhu-saìge sarva-siddhi haya
The verdict of all revealed scriptures is that by even
a moment’s association with a sädhu, one can attain
Smearing One’s Body with a Sädhu’s Foot Dust
In Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Bhärata Mahäräja speaks as follows to King Rahügaëa:
rahügaëaitat tapasä na yäti
na cejyayä nirvapaëäd gåhäd vä
na cchandasä naiva jalägni-süryair
How significant are the words spoken by Bhärata Mahäräja to King Rahügaëa. “O Rahügaëa, you want to know Bhagavän, but He cannot be known by austerity (tapasya), nor by worship, nor by giving up one’s home, nor indeed by living in one’s home. He cannot be known by reciting the Vedas nor by worshiping the demigods such as the Sun-god, Varuëa and so on.
Why? Because vinä mahat-päda-rajo-’bhiñekam: as long as one does not smear himself with the foot dust of the mahat, great saintly personalities, one cannot achieve any result by performing all these other activities. So one should first seek the saìga of a great saintly personality, and only when he can smear himself with the foot dust of this personality, can Bhagavän be known to him.”
Prahläda Mahäräja gave the same instruction to the sons of his guru:
naiñäà matis tävad urukramäìghrià
spåçaty anarthäpagamo yad-arthaù
niñkiïcanänäà na våëéta yävat
Prahläda Mahäräja told the sons of his teacher that they should give up everything. “What benefit can you derive from your father Çukräcärya, who you consider a great paëòita?” he asked. “His consciousness is unable to touch the lotus feet of Bhagavän, who performs uncommon activities. These lotus feet have the effect of removing a person’s anarthas and
awarding him complete perfection. They deliver to him his prayojana, or goal.
“So how can we attain Bhagavän? Can everyone attain him? Mahéyañäà päda-rajo-’bhiñekam: one must smear himself with the dust of the lotus feet of mahat, a saintly personality. Who is such a saintly personality? Niskiïcanänaà na våëéta yävat: one who possesses no wealth other than Bhagavän. As long as we do not accept and smear upon our bodies the foot dust of a niskiïcana mahäpuruña, we will achieve nothing at all.”
The essence of the whole subject, in the language of my gurupäda-padma Çréla Bhaktisiddhänta
Sarasvaté Öhäkura Prabhupäda, is that the jéva’s supreme auspiciousness comes about by hearing hari-kathä in sädhu-saìga. This is because sädhusaìga is the sole means to attain kåñëa-bhakti:
kåñëa-bhakti-janma-müla haya ‘sädhu-saìga’
Çré Caitanya-caritämåta (Madhya-lélä 22.84)
The root cause of bhakti to Çré Kåñëa is association with sädhus.
Sri Srimad Bhakti Sri-rupa
Siddhanti Gosvami Maharaja Page