A Deliberation on the Methodology of Sdhu-saga

by rla Bhaktivinoda hkura

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Association is the basis of ones nature


A persons nature is shaped by the company he keeps. In other words, a person develops a nature similar to that of whomever he associates with. The jvas association with the fruitive activities he performed in his past life moulds his nature, and this nature is transformed by the company he keeps in his current life. Thus, association is the root cause in forming a persons character. It has therefore been said:


yasya yat sagati puso

maivat syt sa tad-gua

r Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya (quoted in

r Bhakti-rasmta-sindhu 1.2.229)


The quartz crystal assumes the colour of any object in its proximity, regardless of the hue of that object. Similarly, a person acquires the qualities of whomever he joins company with. Sdhu-saga is the path to liberation rmad-Bhgavatam (3.23.55) states:


sago ya saster hetur

asatsu vihito dhiy

sa eva sdhuu kto

nisagatvya kalpate


By associating with worldly-minded materialists, a person is bound to undergo severe suffering in material existence. He will certainly have to bear the consequences of his association, even if he cannot distinguish between good and bad. By associating with saintly persons, however, a person attains nisagatva, complete freedom from worldly attachments.


Relinquishing unfavourable association is essential


Regarding bad association, rmad-Bhgavatam (3.31.3334) affirms:


satya auca day mauna

buddhi rr hrr yaa kam

amo damo bhaga ceti

yat-sagd yti sakayam


tev anteu mheu

khaittmasv asdhuu

saga na kuryc chocyeu

yoit-kr-mgeu ca


Worldly association destroys all ones virtues like truthfulness, cleanliness, mercy, gravity, intelligence, shyness, prosperity, reputation, forgiveness, control of the mind, control of the senses, good fortune and opulence. One should utterly reject the company of a person who is not a sdhu, considering such association to be extremely miserable, for such a wicked and restless fool is but a dancing dog in the hands of a woman and is thereby simply bent on annihilating himself.


The symptoms of a sdhu, and the necessity of sdhu-saga


We do not, however, attain the desired goal merely by renouncing bad association. We must earnestly engage in sdhu-saga. The symptoms of a genuine sdhu, one whose association must be sought, have been outlined in rmad-Bhgavatam (3.25.21,2324):


titikava kruik

suhda sarva-dehinm

ajta-atrava nt

sdhava sdhu-bha


mad-ray kath m

vanti kathayanti ca

tapanti vividhs tp

naitn mad-gata-cetasa


ta ete sdhava sdhvi


sagas tev atha te prrthya

saga-doa-har hi te


Lord Kapila said, O Mother, the sublime ornaments of a sdhu are that he is tolerant, merciful and a well wisher and friend to all living entities. He considers no one his enemy, is peaceful and abides by the scriptures. These qualities comprise the nature of all pure devotees.


Since the minds of such personalities are fully absorbed in Me, they do not perform the arduous endeavours of those lured by the paths of karma, jna or aga-yoga. Rather, they engage themselves simply in speaking and hearing harikath, their minds having been easily cleansed by narrations of My pastimes. O virtuous lady, these devotees, who are completely free from all worldly attachments, counteract the harmful effects of a persons material bondage. You should pray for their association.


A sdhu is very rare and not to be judged by external dress


We should not identify a sdhu by his external garb. Even if someone has completely given up criticising others and engaging in idle gossip, he must clearly possess the above-mentioned virtues before we can recognise him as a sdhu. In this Age of Kali, knowledge of what makes a real sdhu is vanishing. It is a matter of grave concern that anyone and everyone who dresses himself as a sdhu is acknowledged as one. We should be ever mindful that by associating with such false sdhus we become duplicitous ourselves. There are few genuine sdhus. They are currently so rare that a person would be lucky to discover one after intently searching far and wide for a very long time.


Ka-bhakti influenced by mdhurya-rasa is especially uncommon


Mahdeva (Lord iva) once said to Dev (Prvat),


O Bhagavat, among thousands upon thousands of persons desiring salvation, perhaps one exhibits the characteristics of a liberated soul. Among thousands upon thousands of such persons, maybe one actually achieves spiritual realisation and perfection. And among millions and millions of perfected and liberated souls, perhaps one, on the strength of his past virtuous activities (sukti) and good association (sat-saga), is devoted to Lord Nryaa. Just see, the devotees of Lord Nryaa are self-satisfied, and therefore they are extremely rare. But look here. If the pure devotee who serves Lord Nryaa in dsyarasa, the mood of servitorship, is so rare, how much more uncommon is he who serves r Ka in mdhurya-rasa, the mood of amorous love.


The devotee of Lord Ka is the topmost sdhu,and the fruit of associating with him is the highest


Only r Kas pure devotee, who possesses all the symptoms mentioned previously, is to be

considered the best of sdhus, and his association is highly desirable for us. r Brahm describes the benefit we receive from this association:


tvad rgdaya stens

tvat kr-gha gham

tvan moho ghri-nigao

yvat ka na te jan


rmad-Bhgavatam (10.14.36)


r Brahm says, The attachment and hatred that arise from spontaneous absorption in the objects of sense gratification are robbing us of our true nature. Our homes have become nothing but prison houses and we are constantly bound by the foot-shackles of material affection (moha). What a miserable condition we are in. O r Ka, only when possessiveness (mamat) towards You awakens in my heart by associating with Your pure devotees, shall I be counted among Your associates. From that day, the various propensities of my mind, such as attachment, shall no longer act like thieves but like beloved friends, by allowing me to engage in pure devotional service to You. Only then will my home become transcendental and bestow eternal bliss; only from that day will my power of affection become favourable for devotional service and actually advance the cause of my soul.


Lord Brahm offered further prayers:


tad astu me ntha sa bhri-bhgo

bhave tra vnyatra tu v tiracm

yenham eko pi bhavaj-jann

bhtv nieve tava pda-pallavam


rmad-Bhgavatam (10.14.30)


O r Ka, he entreated, my earnest prayer is that in this life as Brahm, or in any other species of life, even as an animal or a bird, I may attain the fortune of being counted as one of Your devotees and engage in devotional service to Your lotus feet. One achieves this exalted position only by associating with a pure devotee of r Ka.


Sdhu-saga misconceived



What activities comprise sdhu-saga? This is a matter of great importance. Generally people think that sdhu-saga is performed when one identifies a sdhu and massages his feet, offers obeisances to him, honours his caramta, takes his remnants or donates some money to him. It is true that a person honours a sdhu by these activities and thereby derives some benefit, but it is incorrect to deem these activities sdhu-saga.


The methodology of associating with sdhus


rmad-Bhgavatam (2.7.46) describes how to engage in sdhu-saga:


te vai vidanty atitaranti ca deva-my

str-dra-ha-abar api ppa-jv

yady adbhuta-krama-paryaa-la-iks

tiryag-jan api kim u ruta-dhra ye


The word adbhuta-krama denotes r Ka, whose pure devotees are adbhuta-krama-paryaa, or dedicated to Him. Only those who make a great endeavour to seek training and instruction from the la, or nature and spotless character, of such pure devotees can understand the illusory potency of the Lord. They alone become capable of fully crossing the ocean of my. Even souls who are born as women, dras, has1, abaras 2 or other sinful kinds of human beings, or as animals and birds, can learn from the character of a ka-bhakta and thereby effortlessly cross the ocean of birth and death. Thus, what doubt can there be that scholars with profuse knowledge of the scriptures will not also easily cross the ocean of material bondage by following the spotless conduct and character of a pure devotee.


In conclusion, one cannot transcend the power of my even after acquiring knowledge from many scriptures. No great benefit is achieved from birth in a high-class family, and one is unable to cross the material ocean of birth and death even after practicing the dry renunciation enjoined in stra. Nor can worldly opulence and physical beauty render this favour. One achieves unalloyed, transcendental devotional service to r Ka only by very carefully investigating the nature and character of the pure devotee, who is a true sdhu, and then by honestly following him.


The materialists humility and appeals for mercy are utter hypocrisy


Materialistic persons offer obeisances to a sdhu and pray to him, O benevolent one, I am extremely fallen. Please bestow your mercy upon me and explain how my attachments to this world may be removed. But their words are hollow. In the depths of their heart, they are convinced that accumulating wealth is real gain, and amassing objects for sense enjoyment is lifes only goal. An infatuation for money burns in their hearts day and night. The materialist hankers to be recognised by the sdhu and fears that the sdhus curse may destroy his prospects for sensual pleasure. Therefore, he displays false humility and devotion before him. If the sdhu were to bless such a person by saying, May your desire for sense gratification be extinguished, your opulence destroyed and your relatives taken away, the materialist would at once cry, O sdhu-mahrja, be kind! Dont bless me like this. Your favour is a curse and definitely harmful for me. Just see! Such behaviour with a sdhu makes a mockery of sdhu-saga.


Duplicity deprives one of the real fruits of sdhu-saga


In the course of life, we may encounter many sdhus, but our deceitful natures check us from receiving the real benefit of their association. Our souls will make spiritual advancement if, with simple faith, we carefully and continuously assimilate the spotless character of a genuine sdhu that is, a mahtm, great soul. Keeping this in mind, we should associate closely with a sdhu. By doing so, we will become conscious of his nature and character and make a focused endeavour to develop such a nature and character ourselves. This, indeed, is the teaching of rmad-Bhgavatam.


1 a hill tribe originating from Eastern Germany and part of Russia

2 a tribe of hunters who keep and sell pigs


(Originally published in Bengali in Sri Sajjana-tosani, 1917)
Translated from Sri Gaudiya Patrika, Year 2, Issue 7
by the Rays of The Harmonist team.
Published in English for the first time in Rays of The Harmonist No. 14 Karttika 2004


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