The Strength of Association
There was a thief who was robbing businessmen and murdering people. One day he heard that the king of the country had invited all the sannyasis, sadhus and ascetics for a big meeting. The thief was thinking, "Maybe the king will be giving help to them, so I will see if I can rob someone and get some money." So he went to the meeting and hid himself away. The king then came out onto his balcony, and he began to speak. "O great sadhus, I have a daughter and she is very inclined to marry a saintly person. So I am offering half of my kingdom with this girl, so someone please marry my daughter."
As soon as he said this, fifteen people in the front row got up and left. They were sannyasis, they were not interested. They came because they thought, "The king has called for a saintly meeting, so maybe there will be an opportunity to preach." But the king said, "No no, I am giving my daughter." So they left. And then the other row came forward next. The king said, "Look, I will give 75% of my kingdom. I will only keep a little part for myself. Please accept my daughter." The first person said, "My dear sir, the thing is that we are saintly persons. And we are not sannyasis, we are married persons. I have my wife and I have my ashram. I do not want to marry your daughter. Since you are the king, in order to respect you I have attended your meeting. So please give me permission and I am going." And he left. The thief in the back was hearing this and he was thinking, "this is a good chance. I don't have to do any hard work and I can get 75% of the kingdom." So he disguised himself, covering himself with tiger skin and he went and sat with the others. He was sitting in a very uncomfortable position with his eyes half-closed.
The king went to the next man and said, "Did you hear what I said to the last man?" "Yes I did," the person replied. "And I am also going." And he left. So then he asked five people in all, and the sixth person was the thief. The five people all said the same thing. "What will we do with the country? We are not here for ruling, we are trying to rule over our senses. Let us do this first, and if I make it then I will come and rule over the world." So then the king came to the sixth person, who was the robber, and said to him, "O great saintly person..." "You are wrong, " the thief interrupted. The king was surprised. "What? To address you as a saintly person is wrong?" "Yes, because I am a robber, not a saintly person. But I ask you, who wants your country? Who wants your kingdom? If it has got any value, why is it that these people got up and left? So I would rather pursue on this path. I will neither rob any more, nor will I marry your daughter. I am sorry but I am going."
Purport: He had accrued the nature of a thief by his previous activities, but by association he developed the nature of a sadhu, in just a very short time. Lava matra sadhu sanga sarva siddhi haya. Just a moment's association brings all perfection. “The value of a moment’s association with the devotee of the Lord cannot even be compared to the attainment of heavenly planets or liberation from matter, and what to speak of worldly benedictions in the form of material prosperity, which are for those who are meant for death.” (Srimad Bhagavatam. 1.18.13) If one desires his real welfare, he must associate with devotees and saintly persons and in this way rectify the material condition of his life.