By Sacinandana Swami
The influence of maya is very difficult to overcome. In our scriptures, the material energy is therefore compared to an ocean. When you sail the ocean you never know when the weather will become stormy and high waves will make it impossible for you to continue your journey. Material life is similar – you never know when difficulties will shake you. Krishna explains this fact to Uddhava and then says: “Devotees are like a strong boat that comes to rescue those persons who are repeatedly rising and falling in the fearful ocean of material life. Thus, they are the ultimate shelter.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam, 11.26.32)“
Krishna gives another example (Srimad-Bhagavatam, 11.26.31): when someone approaches a fire in a dark night, all 1) coldness, 2) fear and 3) darkness will go away. Something similar happens when one comes into the association of devotees. 1) Your dullness goes away,
2) your fear of samsara leaves you and also 3) the darkness surrounding you in the form of the uncertainty of how to reach Krishna disappears. You will no longer worry: “How will I approach Krishna, reach Him and how will I please Him?” This is because in the association of devotees you come in contact with talk about, glorification of Krishna and the sincere effort to please Krishna. Seeing this, Krishna feels invited and comes into the association – and everyone can feel it. Everyone can feel the effect of such kirtana in the heart; when it starts to blossom and lighten up. Krishna also often manifests Himself through what the devotees say and share with us and we feel that “Krishna spoke to me through this devotee!” Another effect of the association of devotees is the feeling “Oh, I have become so neglectful of devotional service, my consciousness has become so invaded by the material energy and I again feel the same attraction to maya as earlier in my life”. In other words, we become humble by seeing the good qualities of the devotees and by this newfound humility, which wakes us up, even startles us at times, we are at a great starting point for serious practice.
To summarize, the association of devotees gives us the following blessings: it destroys our spiritual dullness, it removes the fears of material life and dissolves our uncertainty about how to reach Krishna. “Therefore,” Krishna says to Uddhava, “an intelligent person should take up the association of saintly devotees, whose words cut off the excessive attachment of one’s mind.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam, 11.26.26)