Prayers are indeed the first step towards the path of bhakti and devotion. It is indeed the last step as well. Prayers done with an open heart is what is very much liked by the Lord. The easiest way to do prayers is to sing his Divine Names. When we chant his Divine Names we do not need to do any special prayer to support it. The chanting of Divine Names is verily enough and indeed makes the prayers for us. Such is the power of Divine Names when coupled with the prayers. The other end of prayers is to request the Lord to bestow with more and more devotion and be in the divine company of Sadhus always. This is indeed what the Sadhus and Mahatmas pray for. They are only requesting for the bond between the Lord and them to get strengthened. They want to remember the Lord and his Divine Form forever. That kind of prayer is indeed the most supreme and one should aim to do such prayers. The Lord is extremely pleased when we perform such prayers and our satsangs are one such prayer meet where we intersperse the chanting of Divine Names in the beginning and end of our satsangs.
Nishaji from Houston delivered a beautiful lecture expounding on the greatness of being in the divine company of Sadhus.
Who is a Sadhu? One cannot proclaim someone as a Sadhu if he wears a Gopichandan and clad in a saffron cloth. Our Guru Maharaj beautifully defines who a real Sadhu is. A sadhu is one who always listens to the glories of the Lord, expounds on the glories of the Lord and sings the glories of the Lord. They know nothing other than these. On the other hand the normal mortals who even in spite of being in satsang who are not there to revel in complete supreme bliss sometime delve into mundane talks. Our Guru Maharaj by making Madhurasmaranam official, our compassionate Guru Maharaj wanted his devotees to gossip about him and gave all our little wagging tongue, his stories to hold on to. By reminiscing on the divine stories of our Guru Maharaj we get ourselves into the highest states of meditation of the Lord who is in the form of Guru. This is a classic example to elucidate the precept that the divine association of the sadhus makes everybody sadhus itself. This goes to show the power of satsang.
It is a fact that a person’s attitude is a median of the top five people with whom he/she interacts with. If we ponder on this without scratching the surface, we will realize that it is a star fact in all our lives. When we associate with people who are pessimists, we find ourselves doing the same thing and having lot of negative energy in us. On the other hand, if we are in the companionship with people who have a lot of positive energy, we are also in turn motivated and energized. Our Guru Maharaj says that one second acquaintance with a Mahan can transform an individual.
In one of the kirtans of our Guru Maharaj, he extols the greatness of satsangs –
“Aagacha Aagacha Sajjana Sangam Maa Gacha Maa Gacha Durjana Sangam”
In the above verse, our Guru Maharaj welcomes the association of holy men [sadhus], who are the very manifestation of the Lord himself.
“Sajjana Sangam bahusaaram Dur Jana Sangam Athi Goram”
The association of the sadhus is so sweet and filled with bliss. When Lord Krishna had incarnated in the holy land of Vraja, the Gopis and Gopas were always in the divine company of the Lord. As years passed by, Krishna became the ruler of Mathura and he had ordained his dear Uddava to go to Vrindavan to have a darshan of the Gopas and Gopis. He was moved to tears when he saw their love and prema for Lord Krishna and he rolled over the sands which contained the dust from the feet [Pada Rajas] of these Gopis.
Having proclaimed the power of Sajjana Sangam, let us know look into the consequences of having a bad company. If we take the people during Kamsa’s reign, they were in quandary and always filled with fear about Kamsa’s course of actions.
“Sajjana Sangam Dharma chinthanam Dhurjana sangam dhurbhodhanam”
The association of Sadhus leads one in the path of dharma. The Pandavas were always in the divine companionship with Lord Krishna. The Lord was always with them in flesh and blood. They never deviated from the path of dharma. On the other hand, Dhuryodhana solicited the company of his uncle, Shakuni. Karna, being the son of Kunti, who was the mother of the Pandavas, befriended Dhuryodhana. When Arjuna and Dhuryodhana went to seek help and advice before the advent of the Kurkshetra War, Krishna was in the state of slumber. He woke up and had the glimpse of Arjuna at the first sight since he was near his feet. The Lord knew that both of them came for taking help for the Mahabharatha war. The Lord came out with a clause that he will give his entire army for one and that he himself will be with one of them. Duryodhana did not have confidence on the Lord and hence he culled the army while Arjuna who was also in company of the Lord opted for Krishna to be along with the Pandavas during the battle. The outcome of the battle was evident, with the Pandavas triumphed over the Kauravas and they were completely annihilated.
“Sajjana Sangam Hari Sevanam Dhurjana Sangam Parihasanam”
The divine communion with the holy men ushers one and all to the service of the Lord. On the other hand association with mundane people makes one repugnant. Let’s take some examples to substantiate this precept from the life-history of Sant Tukkaram. There lived a great Brahmin scholar Rameshwar Bhat. He gave a lot of discourses. One day, he found lot of people moving past his place and he enquired of those few who sat listening to him, “Where are all these people going?” They said that these people were going to listen to Tukkaram since his sings are rendered with full of devotion. Hearing this Rameshwar Bhat was furious and headed straight to Tukkaram. He told him that the Lord Panduranga cannot comprehend the kirtans composed in Marathi and that the Lord can only follow Sanskrit. Anybody else would have argued with the Brahmin, but Tukkaram being a Sadhu who are humility personified implicitly apologized to him and asked him for the next course of actions. The brahmin asked him to bundle up all his kirtans and throw them into the Chandrabaga river.
Rameshwar bhat said, “Bundle up your kirtans and throw them into the Chandrabhaga river. And from now onwards stop singing your kirtans.” Tukkaram bundled all his kirtans and threw them into the Chandrabhaga. He experienced deep pain as if he had pushed into the river a child of his whom he had brought up lovingly. He then sat on the banks of the river without food or sleep. After three days, when the Pandas (priests) in Pandarpur temple opened the doors of Lord Panduranga’s sannidhi they found a wet sack on the head of the Lord. It was dripping with water and the Lord’s garments were totally wet. Wonder struck they took the sack from the Lord’s head and opened it. They found innumerable writings with the stamp of ‘Tukkaram’ in them. They realized that it was the kirtans of the Sadhu who visited the temple from Dehu Road. They immediately took the kirtans to Tukkaram.
When Tukkaram saw them with his writings, he asked them, “It is I who had thrown them in the river. Why did you retrieve them?” The Pandas explained, “No! We did not retrieve them from the river. We found them on the Lord’s head this morning when we opened the door. Since they all carry your stamp we realized that they are all your kirtans. We, therefore, came to return them to you.”
Tukkaram’s joy knew no bounds as he realized that Panduranga had accepted his kirtans.
He asked the Lord, “If you approve of them why this delay in bringing them to me, Oh! Lord! I have been sitting here without food and sleep these for the past three days.”
The Lord said to him, “Tukkaram! They were so wonderful that I have been reading them for the past three days!” Learning about the incident, Rameshwar Bhat came running to Tukkaram and fell at his feet. “I did not realize your greatness. Please forgive me for the wrong done.” Tukkaram shrunk away pleading, “You are a great scholar. You know all the Shastras. How can you fall at my feet? Please do not fall at my feet.” Such is the humility of Sadhus.
“Sajjana sangam Aanandah Durjana sangae Alasyah”
The ardent devotee of Lord Krishna, Meera grew up in her grandfather’s place. He used to invite lot of Mahans to his home. Meera used to eagerly listen to all the divine exploits of Lord Krishna with reverence and this was verily how devotion to Lord Krishna was sowed in her hearts. The satsang that she got gave her the bhakti and devotion to hold onto Lord Krishna all throughout her life. From our eyes, we perceive Meera to have been happy only in her childhood days. As she grew up, she was forced to marry someone whom she didn’t want to marry. Her in-laws did not like her being devoted to Krishna. Her husband Rana who was earlier provided her support to perform bhakti to Lord Krishna did not like it later. She was in captive where she was in isolation and also underwent lots of trials and tribulations even threat to her life. This is the state of Meera as perceived by normal mortals. But our Guru Maharaj clarifies this perception that it is verily the people around her who were under the impression that Meera was depressed, but in reality she was completely lost in the bliss of love for her dear Krishna. She was totally lost in joy. Krishna bhakti gave her the supreme bliss and hence she did not bother about the events happening around her.
In one of her bhajans, she expounds her enjoyment that she deuces by being a devout to Lord Krishna.
hari guN gAvat nAchUngI mei
prabhu guN gAvat nAchUngI
apne mandir me beit beit kar
gIta bhAgavata vAchUngI
“Meera Bai Sings- ‘I shall sit in the temple of my beloved Lord and read Srimad Bhagavat Gita and Srimad Bhagavata. I shall immerse myself in singing the Divine Names and plays of the Lord and dancing to its tunes! ’
On the other hand, bad company can lead us into loathsome and become indolent. A classic example is Kumbakarna.
The next verse goes – “Sajjana Sangae Mana shanthih Durjana Sangae Mano Branthih”
The divine company ushers in mental peace. Our little Prahalad was in acquaintance with Sage Narada even when he was in his mother’s womb. He came as his Guru and was bestowed with the Divine Name ‘Narayana’. Prahalad was incessantly chanting the Divine Name and hence he was an embodiment of peace despite all the harassments enforced on him by his father Hiranyakashipu. On the other hand, Hiranyakashipu was the most powerful ruler on Earth and had boons so that he wouldn’t die by any common means. In spite of this, his mind was always wandering and was always perturbed. This was because of the fact that he did not have any divine communion with a realized soul. Even though his son was a sadhu, he did not cherish his companionship.
“Sajjana Sangae Pramodhah Durjana Sangae Pramadhah”
The company of holy men leads us to immense happiness and joy and helps us to realize the purpose of our life which is verily attaining the holy feet of the Lord.
“Sajjana Sangae Sadhu Poshanam Durjana Sangae Sadhu Dhushanam”
The divine company with realized souls makes us perform service to Mahans. This act bestows one with all goodness. Sugreeva was in the divine company of Hanuman and that finally lead him to do service to Lord Rama. On the other hand, Ravana harassed and disrespected Sadhus and hence the consequences were obivious. Our Guru Maharaj in one of his discourses mentioned that at the beginning of Ramayana, Sri Lanka was a prosperous country with untold riches. At the end of Ramayana, Lanka was completely burned down. Sugreeva was a pauper at the advent of Ramayana but he was crowned as a king at the culmination of Ramayana. It was verily because Sugreeva cherished the company of Sadhus and was always in the divine company of Hanuman, whereas Ravana who abused the Sadhus destroyed his entire clan.
“Sajjana Sangae Krishna Katha Durjana Sangae Gramya Katha”
The divine company leads us to listen to the stories of Lord Krishna. Parikshit had the company of Sage Sukha who was his guru. He was bestowed to listen to the divine exploits of Lord Krishna. He had the honor to be the first recipient to listen to Srimad Bhagavatham.
“Sajjana Sangae Muralidharah Durjana Sangae Mahisharudhah”
Our Guru Mahraj concludes his song by saying that by being in the divine company of holy men will lead us to Muralidhara. A good example to support this is Ajamila. Even though he was a good person initially, he later started to have the company of bad people and developed a lot of vices. In the last minute of his life, he called out his son Narayana and this was heard by our Lord Narayana in Vaikunta and hence he sent the Vishu Dootas. The second satsang that he had with the Vishnu Dootas bestowed him liberation. Such is the greatness of chanting the Divine Names of the Lord and being in the divine company of Sadhus.