Hari-katha Articles Asat-sanga Defined and Vaisnavi-pratistha

Asat-sanga Defined and Vaisnavi-pratistha

Devotee: The Vaisnavas tell us to be one-pointed to Guru and Krsna, but also we are also told to be broad-minded. How can we reconcile?

Prabhuji: Sastra gives many warnings about asat-sanga. Mahaprabhu said (Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 22.87): asat-saṅga-tyāga, ei vaiṣṇava-ācāra—to reject asat-sanga is the standard of Vaisnavism. It is very dangerous for someone to associate with those who follow apasampradayas, dharma-dvajis, atheists, and so forth. But the conception of our spiritual line is even more focused.

Our Guru-varga says:

śrīmad-bhāgavatārthānām āsvādo rasikaiḥ saha
sajātīyāśaye snigdhe sādhau saṅgaḥ svato vare
Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 22.131


One should taste the meaning of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam in the association of rasika Vaiṣṇavas. One should associate with rasika devotees who are more advanced than oneself, who are endowed with a similar type of mood (sajātīya aśaye), and who are affectionate toward oneself (snigdha).

For us, any association that is not sajatiya-asraya-snigdha is asat-sanga. We must associate with a rasika Vaisnava who is our well-wisher and kindly disposed to us and who, if we are eternally a follower of madhura-rasa, can give us guidance and nurture us in that way. If I associate with those in dasya-rasa, sakhya-rasa, or any other rasa this is not asat-sanga, but it is also not sat-sanga for us.

There are different levels of Vaisnavas. Uttama-adhikaris have no problem. They can be around anyone and stay fixed and content in their devotion, but if neophyte sadhakas are not careful we can waste so much time by taking up the wrong association. Our hearts will become dry. We won’t get the flow of bhakti-rasa unless we engage in sat-sanga.

What is the difference between an intelligent person and a fool? Intelligent people will carefully stay under the shelter of sat sanga:

tato duḥsaṅgam utsṛjya satsu sajjeta buddhimān
santa evāsya chindanti mano-vyāsaṅgam uktibhiḥ
Srimad-Bhagavatam 11.26.27


Thus, intelligent people reject detrimental association and associate instead with saintly persons. This is because saintly personalities, with their powerful and virtuous instructions, cut unholy, material attachments from the heart and thus dispel all the distress they cause.

Those unfortunate people who are lazy and interested only in trying to enjoy with their senses only collect bad things. They do not speak about God and His glories because they are completely filled with dirt and have no room for good things. Thus, they only disturb others. These are some symptoms of people that engage in asat-sanga. In Bhagavad-gita (7.15) Krsna states:

na māṁ duṣkṛtino mūḍhāḥ
prapadyante narādhamāḥ
āsuraṁ bhāvam āśritāḥ
Bhagavad-gita 7.15


Those foolish miscreants who are devoid of discrimination, who are the lowest among human beings, whose knowledge has been completely stolen by māyā, and who have a demonic nature, do not surrender unto Me.

Madhavendra Puri had two disciples with very different natures. One disciple was Ramacandra Puri, whom Madhavendra Puri rejected completely. To his other disciple, Isvara Puri, Madhavendra Puri gave seva-adhikara and discussed very confidential topics of hari-katha with him. We must very carefully avoid asat-sanga. Many people come to destroy our bhajana and progress in bhakti. They are asat-sanga. Therefore, always think of our previous acaryas and pray for their protection.

How can we understand that we are in asat-sanga? If the result of meeting someone is that, for even a moment, we forget Rupa-Raghunatha, harinama, and our stava-stuti, then that sanga is asat-sanga. The Guru-varga and harinama are our true, nearest and dearest friends, if we can forget them in one minute, know that that minute was spent in asat-sanga. Asat-sanga will pull you with an invisible chain and make your forget our Guru-varga and their mood.

Therefore, the Guru-varga cleverly give asat persons wealth and gifts and this keeps them distant and unable to disturb their bhajana. Always pray that you will never forget your Guru-varga for even a moment. If you find yourself without time to chant or engage in kirtan and hari-katha—know that you are the victim of asat-sanga.

If you chant harinama and Harinama Prabhu’s svarupas do not appear in your heart this means you are doing asat-sanga. “Where is my devotion?” Consider this carefully. I may be physically with a bhakta, but do I really accept him in my heart? Is there room for him within my heart? Am I under the bhakta’s guidance or am I independent?

If you think you are the doer, you must be doing asat-sanga. Mahaprabhu does not come to sadhakas on the strength of their austerities. Always understand yourself to be the servant of the servant of the servant. Our chanting of harinama will not be successful without sadhu-sanga. Many dharma-dhvajis and cheaters do kirtan but not all kirtan is the same. Therefore, sadhu-sanga is necessary.

Sukadeva Gosvami told Pariksit Maharaja, “From the beginning of Srimad Bhagavatam to the end, I have glorified the bhaktas and association with them. Now the choice is yours. Where will you take shelter, at the feet of the Vrajavasis, or at the feet of family and friends?”

Our Guru-varga and Mahaprabhu Himself clearly established: srimad-bhagavatam pramanam-amalam—we accept the Bhagavata as the highest authority. The Bhagavata means the person Bhagavata as well as the book Bhagavat. The indication to take up sadhu-sanga is present in this statement of our Guru-varga. Tatrādaro naḥ paraḥ—the followers of Mahaprabhu have no room for any other conception.

During His pastimes, Mahaprabhu Himself went here and there in search of the bhaktas. In that form, that was the Lord’s purpose. Mahaprabhu taught that if we follow the ragatmika Vrajavasis, then there is no chance of falling into asat-sanga.

There is only one thing in a babies mind, momma. His mother may chastise or even slap him but the baby has no other shelter. Where else will he go? If one takes this kind of shelter of the Guru-varga then he has nothing to fear. They will think for him. They will arrange everything for him. That is their responsibility. But if one does not take shelter like this then what can be done? He will be lost.

So, if someone who is not like-minded comes to you, only relate with him externally. Continuously remember and pray to the Guru-varga. Chant the names of Radha-Govinda and honor the foot-dust and caranamrta of the Vaisnavas. This is our very simple process. Narrotama dasa Thakura prays for this. He says, “Let me not be related to any ordinary people, only with Rupa-Raghunatha and my whole Guru-varga.”

People will try to come and arrest us and keep us in box, but remain neutral to such persons. Respect everyone but do not associate with them. We must be amani-manada. This is Mahaprabhu’s instruction. We have heard what it means to be amani. Amani does not simply mean to tolerate it if you are not respected. Amani-manada means that, instead of becoming disturbed and forgetting harinama, offer everyone respect even if they hate and abuse you. If you offer respect to those who are against you, while simultaneously not becoming involved with them, then harinama will be very easy. Do not become disturbed by such people and never forget Rupa-Raghunatha. Will Rupa-Raghunatha not help you? Will they not protect you? If you do not have faith in them when people come to torture you then you are not amani.

Vaisnavism is very easy but the trnad-api-sunica sloka is like a huge admission gate to enter the realm of pure devotion. This gate is the only way in. If you can get past that gate then there is nothing to worry about, if you cannot, then you have a problem.

Now, at the slightest test of our patience, we erupt like volcanoes, but really, we should never be disturbed even in times of difficulty. We have discussed how in the pastime of Durvasa Rsi and Ambarisa Maharaja, we can understand that Durvasa has a closer relationship to the Lord than Ambarisa Maharaja. The Lord never chastised Ambarisa Maharaja. He was like a delicate child. But because Bhagavan accepted Durvasa as His near and dear He chastised him. Where there is strong affection there can be chastisement.

Krsna likes to test His devotees. He left the Vrajavasis and went to Dvaraka. Does this mean the Dvaraka-vasis are superior to the Vrajavasis? Krsna kept those dearest to Him at a distance. But really, the Vrajavasis were not distant from Him in the true sense. To be dear to Krsna is to be near to Krsna. If you are not dear to Krsna then you will never be near Krsna. It is that simple.

If you are sincerely endeavoring to follow rupanuga-bhakti under the guidance of anuraga-mayi bhaktas then asat-sanga cannot come near you. People may wish to teach you something but if they do not cause Radha-Krsna’s nama, rupa, guna, and lila to appear in your heart then what is the use? That is useless. That will make our heart like a desert. This world is like a big forest fire. Everything and everyone is burning. However, I cannot be burnt if I am not in this world. If I am at the feet of the Guru-varga then no fire can touch me. Narottama dasa Thakura therefore sings:

nitāi-pada-kamala, koṭi-candra-suśītala
je chāyāya jagat juḍāya
heno nitāi vine bhāi, rādhā-kṛṣṇa pāite nāi,
dṛḍha kori’ dharo nitāiyer pāya


Nitāi’s lotus feet are more cooling than millions of moons. Their shade gives solace to the universe. O brother, without Nitāi, it is not possible to attain Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. So hold on very tightly to His lotus feet.

If we are with Nitai and the Guru-varga then we can have anuraga.

Daily make a self-assessment. Ask yourself, “Where am I? What kind of association am I accepting?” If asat sanga comes to you, cry and pray, “Alas, alas! O Rupa, O Sanatana! Help me! O Nitai, O Gaura! Help me!”

hā gaura-nitāi, torā du’ṭī bhāi, patita-janera bandhu
adhama patita, āmi he durjana, hao more kṛpā sindhu


“O Gaura-Nitāi! You two brothers are the only true friends of all the fallen souls! I am the lowest of the low, most fallen and wicked-minded, so kindly bestow Your ocean of mercy upon me!”

Pray like this. Then they will save you from asat-sanga. It is crucial for us to understand this. Men, women, offenders, sahajiyas, and so on, do not compose asat-sanga. Wherever there is no anuraga-mayi-bhakti, whoever does not follow anuraga-mayi bhakti, whatever does not relate to anuraga-mayi bhati—that is asat-sanga.

This is Rupa Gosvami’s main instruction. It is the essence of his Upadesamrta:

smṛtyoḥ krameṇa rasanā-manasī niyojya
tiṣṭhan vraje tad-anurāgi janānugāmī
kālaṁ nayed akhilam ity upadeśa-sāram
Śrī Upadeśāmṛta 8


Utilize every moment by sequentially engaging your speech and mind in meticulously chanting and remembering Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s names, form, qualities and pastimes while residing in Vraja under the guidance of the Vrajavāsīs, who have spontaneous love for Śrī Kṛṣṇa. This is the essence of all instruction.

Follow the anuragi-jana and no one else. If you do not you will ruin your chances to obtain what Mahaprabhu came to give us through the Gosvamis and the Guru-varga. Remember, if you are doing kirtan, attending hari-katha, and carrying out the limbs of bhakti, but your heart is not melting and you are forgetting harinama and Guru-pada-padma—you are engaged in asat-sanga. Carefully locate the root of that asat-sanga and remove it.

In his mood of unshakable humility, Srila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja used to always sing:

gaura pahu nā bhajiyā mainu
prema-ratana-dhana helāya hārāinu


Alas! Failing to serve Śrī Gaurasundara with full heart and all senses, I have neglected the many precious jewels (many bhāvas) of prema and have thus lost them.


adhane jatana kori dhana teyāginu
āpana karama-doṣe āpani ḍubinū


Carefully attending to worthless trifles, I have thrown away my real wealth and am drowning in a vast ocean, being pulled under by my own misdeeds.

sat-saṅga chāḍi kainu asate vilāsa
te-kāraṇe lāgilo ye karama-bandha phāsa


Forsaking the association of sādhus for temporary enjoyment with non-devotees, I am caught in the snare of my own karmic follies – my hands are free but are unable to untie the noose around my neck.

viṣaya viṣama viṣa satata khāinu
gaura-kīrtana-rase magana nā hainu


I constantly drank the deadly poison of sense objects rather than becoming absorbed in the nectar of singing about every aspect of Śrī Gaurasundara’s vast glories.

keno vā āchaye prāṇa ki sukha pāiyā
narottama dāsa keno nā gelo mariyā


“Why do I maintain my life? What happiness am I finding? Narottama dāsa laments, “Why do I not simply die?”

If we understand that this is our unfortunate situation, then we will pray with sincerity.

The highest wealth we can obtain is the feet of the ragatmika or more specifically, the rupanuga Vaisnavas.

ṭhākura vaiṣṇava-pada, avanīra su-sampada,
suno bhāī hoyā eka mana
āśraya loiyā bhaje, tāre kṛṣṇa nāhi tyaje,
āro saba more akāraṇa


The lotus feet of the saintly Vaiṣṇavas are the greatest wealth in this world. O my dear brothers! Please listen attentively. Kṛṣṇa never forsakes one who worships Him, having first taken shelter of the Vaiṣṇavas. Others die uselessly.

At the time of chanting harinama, we must pray for only one thing: How can I have the sanga of the rupanuga-bhaktas? If you desire sat-sanga then God Himself will arrange that you have it.

A Devotee asks a question about the Gopala-mantra.

Gopal-mantra has three parts. First, there is ‘krsnaya.’ This is baby Gopala. First you must have the mood of a baby. If you think you are old and senior then who will take care of you? You will have no guardian. Then comes ‘govindaya.’ This Govinda is a little older. He goes around meeting with everyone and stealing their hearts. Then He becomes kisora. That is ‘gopi-jana-vallabhaya.’ If you chant this mantra, first Gopala will give you sambandha-jnana—whether you are His affectionate elder, His servant, His friend, or a follower of madhura-rasa. Then, after you have this then you will receive a mood of service and that is abhidheya. When you serve then automatically there will be love or prema—our prayojana.

Remember this while you chant Gopala-mantra and remember those who are near to Gopala. Gopala alone is Brahma. Do not meditate on Gopala alone, because he is not just Gopala, but Govinda and Gopi-jana-vallabha.

Devotee: The dhama seems so unavailable to me. How can I have the blessings to always come to the dhama?

Prabhuji: This is nothing.

kibā bā karite pāre kāma-krodha sādhakere
jadi haya sādhu-janāra saṅga


What harm can lust and anger do to the sadhaka if he is in sadhu-sanga?

Always be with the sadhus. Remember them. Meditate on them. Then you will have no tension whatsoever. Just continuously try to carry them in your heart. Practice following their instructions every day and at every moment, then their blessings will automatically come to you. Therefore, do not worry about this. Do not think, “Only if I am here I can get bhakti. If I am there then I cannot.” No. Wherever you are, continuously try to develop your relationship with Guru and Vaisnavas and promise to practice as they teach and desire. God’s arrangement is always a good arrangement. If He sees you behaving like this, He will be pleased and He will arrange for your progress and protection. Do not be worried about such a small thing. God has great power.

Devotee: You said that if we are chanting but our mind is going here and there then we must be doing asat-sanga. But I am staying here with many nice Vaisnavas who…

Prabhuji: You are not with them. To be with them means to have sambandha with them, and if you had sambandha with them then you would definitely be serving them. If we think, “I am senior here. I am an authority,” this is not sambandha. If you have sambandha you will be following abhideya, and that means serving. You will be busy in your service all day long without any time to waste. We can be with Vaisnavas, but behaving exactly like bedbugs and mosquitoes. This is not sanga. If you are really doing sanga of a Vaisnava, you will be fulfilling his desires. If he likes that you go to kirtana, you would be going to kirtana. If they like that everyone does seva then you would be serving. Following the senses, your bed, and your body will not do.

If a person has sambandha with his senses and only serves them, that is asat-sanga. Just pray for sambandha with sadhus. When you have sambandha-jnana this body will no longer disturb you. Instead, it will be very helpful. Without this sambandha-jnana, life is full of suffering.

To drag your body into the presence of the Vaisnavas is meaningless. That is not sanga or relationship. Real relationship with the sadhus will be when you beg for it—when you cry and request Guru and Vaisnavas and the holy dhama to bless you with it. This is very easy. Our bad habits are the only reason it seems difficult to us.

Devotee asks a question about pracara.

Prabhuji: Pracara means nothing but ‘good practice.’ Properly practicing is preaching. Also when you are preaching, you will be forced to practice, otherwise you will be humiliated. This is very good.

Devotee asks about what to do when there is no hari-katha being spoken around you.

Prabhuji: If you cannot hear hari-katha then chant harinama. Param Gurudeva said that hari-katha and harinama are non-different. But you can always speak hari-katha yourself. It may seem that no one is there to listen but there are souls everywhere. Everyone including yourself will benefit if you speak hari-katha. You can speak hari-katha to the trees and cows at your home while you work. Speak the pastimes and glories of Radha-Krsna, Mahaprabhu, the Pancatattva, and the Vaisnavas to the cows while you milk them, then they will give lots of sweet milk.

Devotee: Is it possible to be rid of the desire for pratistha in this lifetime?

Prabhuji: Pratistha is not a bad thing. Srila Prabhupada Sarasvati Thakura says, “Vaisnavi-pratistha tate koro nistha.” If there is no pratistha we have no life. Without pratistha we become hopeless. Pratistha gives us utsaha, enthusiasm. But I am not speaking about jadera pratistha, material prestige. That kind of pratistha is like the stool of hogs. Vaisnavi-pratistha is very good.

Devotee: What exactly is Vaisnavi-pratistha?

Prabhuji: If you do sincere guru-seva, people will become very happy with you and give you presentations. You may even become famous and whatever you foretell will come to pass. You will inspire people. These are some natural things that will come to you. If you see all of this as very bad then you may start to avoid seva, kirtan, and hari-katha. You may even try to avoid devotees and then fall into asat-sanga and then become against God altogether. This must be your mood: I will distribute the glories of Guru and God. I will distribute their prasada. If anyone offers me respect as a result of this then I will see this as respect to God and Guru-pada-padma and not to me. Sarvasvam gurave dadyat—I will offer anything and everything that comes my way to Sri Guru. Everything I have is for them.”

This pratistha will naturally come to the bhakta, but the bhakta thinks, “This is not my property; it is God’s property and Guru’s property.” Then more pratistha comes to them and thus they offer more to Guru and Krsna. That pratistha keeps coming, like a test from God—is this person really following sarvasm gurave dadyat?

When this pratistha comes to you and you understand that it is not actually for you but for your Guru Maharaja then you are rightly situated and will never have any problems in your spiritual life. Remember that that appreciation is not for you but for your Guru-varga and your sampradaya. Without this pratistha then you will have no life and you will be unable to do bhakti and make progress. This kind of pratistha gives utsaha. It is very helpful.

Vaisnavi pratistha tate koro nistha. Vaisnavi-pratistha is not bad. It is the power of hladini-sakti, not the power of you or me. But if you demand respect and adoration, if you force people to do pranam to you, etc., this is not Vaisnavi-pratistha. This is very bad. Then you are called a bhogi. Don’t be hungry for pratistha. Pratistha will run behind you as you progress in bhakti, but do not look back. Just keep looking ahead. Then you will have no problems.

17 March 2017
[CC-by-NDNC Bhakta Bandhav]

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