We frequently hear that such and such exalted Vaishnava is an eternal associate of Krishna or Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Some other terms used for an eternal associate of Lord are Sangi or pāriṣada. Let’s hear from Srīla Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura what is the real significance of being called an eternal associate of Lord and what is the qualification needed to be called one.
The Gauḍīya: Ṭhakura [Narottama dasa] Mahāśaya writes, gaurāṅgera saṅgi-gane, nitya-siddha kari māne, se yāya brajendra-nanda pāśa: “Anyone who is preaching the saṅkīrtana movement is an associate of Caitanya Mahāprabhu.” So whom should we accept as gaurāṅgera saṅgī, Lord Gaurāṅga’s associates or companions?
Srīla Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura: Only those who support Śrī Gaurāṅga’s mood of separation are actual associates of Gaurāṅga; they are His saṅgī. Those who fulfill Gaura’s mission, who serve His inner desire, are His associates. Those who eternally remain present with Gaurāṅga in order to serve Him are gaurāṅgera saṅgī.
While traveling in South India, Śrīmān Mahāprabhu converted people in village after village to Vaiṣṇavism, but those who did not engage constantly in His mission –who did not associate with Mahāprabhu at all times by dedicating everything to Him –how can they be called His “associates”?
The word saṅgī derives from the word saṅga, which means “one who approaches completely.” Those who did not associate with the Lord constantly cannot be called His saṅgī. They can be called His bhaktas, but not His saṅgī.
Another word for saṅgī is pāriṣada. Even though Ṭhākura Narottama did not appear when Śrīmān Mahāprabhu was having His pastimes, he is still Śrīmān Mahāprabhu’s saṅgī because he appeared in this world only to fulfill Mahāprabhu’s mission and is eternally absorbed in His service –totally overwhelmed by Mahāprabhu’s internal mood. He nourishes the Lord’s mood of separation and is therefore a nitya-siddha devotee.
(Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura and the Editor of The Gaudiya, March 23, 1926)
I hope we understood a little bit about the exalted position of someone who is an eternal associate of Lord- someone who is sold-out to the mission of Krishna, dedicating everything for Krishna’s service.
The above would also imply that there is a window of opportunity available for every soul to go back to Godhead and become an eternal associate of Lord by following the path shown to us by previous acharyas – Narad, Dhruv Maharaj, Prahalada Maharaj, our own acharya – Srila Prabhupada. What is needed is a burning desire and a heart that is sold out to the service of Sri Guru and Gauranga. Srimad Bhagavatam says-
O Lord, who resemble the shining sun, You are always ready to fulfill the desire of Your devotee, and therefore You are known as a desire tree [vāñchā-kalpataru]. When ācāryas completely take shelter under Your lotus feet in order to cross the fierce ocean of nescience, they leave behind on earth the method by which they cross, and because You are very merciful to Your other devotees, You accept this method to help them.
This human form of body is a most valuable boat, and the spiritual master is the captain, guru-karṇadhāram, to guide the boat in plying across the ocean of nescience. The instruction of Krishna is a favorable breeze. One must use all these facilities to cross over the ocean of nescience. Since the spiritual master is the captain, one must serve the spiritual master very sincerely so that by his mercy one will be able to get the mercy of the Supreme Lord.
The path is there, the process has been given and an unlimited amount of mercy is flowing our way- the choice is ours.
All glories to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura
All glories to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.