Question: “The sadhus who are present in this world, and whom they are also oppressed by the miseries of material existence, so how is it that they can deliver other jivas?”
It is a fact that sadhus also live in this world, but there is a significant difference between the earthly life of sadhus, and that of the jivas who are bewildered by maya. Although the earthly lives of both appear to be the same from the outside, internally there is a vast difference. Moreover, the association of sadhus is very rare, because even though sadhus are always present, the common man cannot recognize them.
There are two categories of jivas who have fallen into the clutches of maya. Some are completely absorbed in insignificant worldly pleasures and have tremendous regard for this material world; whereas others are dissatisfied with the insignificant pleasures of maya and employ finer discrimination in the hope of attaining a superior quality of happiness. Consequently, the people of this world may be roughly divided into two groups: “those who lack the power to distinguish between spirit and matter, and those who possess such spiritual insight.
Some people refer to those who have no such insight as material sense enjoyers, and to those who have insight as mumuksus, those who seek liberation. When I use the word mumuksu here, I am not referring to nirbheda-brahma jnanis, those who seek the nirvisesa-brahma through the process of monistic knowledge. Those who are exasperated with the miseries of material existence, and seek their true spiritual identity are known as mumuksus in the Vedic sastras. The word mumuksa literally means ‘the desire for mukti (liberation)’. When a mumuksu gives up this desire for liberation and engages in worshiping Bhagavan, his bhajana is known as suddha-bhakti. The sastras do not order one to give up mukti. Rather, when a person who desires liberation gains knowledge of the truth of Krishna and the jivas, he is liberated at once. This is confirmed in Srimad-Bhagavatam (6.14.3-5) as follows:
The jivas of this world are as innumerable as particles of dust. Among all
these living entities, very few attain higher life forms, such as those of the human beings, devas, and Gandharvas, and very few of those adopt higher religious principles.
O best of the brahmanas, amongst those who adopt higher religious principles, very few strive for liberation, and out of many thousands who strive for liberation, one may actually attain the perfected or liberated state.
O great sage, among many millions of such liberated and perfected souls, a devotee who is fully peaceful and exclusively devoted to Sri Narayana is extremely rare.”
Bhaktas of Krishna are even more rare than those of Narayana, for they have surpassed the desire for liberation, and are already situated in the liberated state. They remain in this world as long as the body endures, but their earthly existence is categorically different from that of the materialists. The bhaktas of Krishna live in this world in two conditions (as householders or as renunciants).
Question: “The Bhagavatam slokas which you just quoted refer to four categories of people who possess spiritual insight. Out of these four, which type of association is considered sadhu-sanga?”
There are four categories of people who possess spiritual insight: “viveki, those who are conscientious; mumuksu, those who desire liberation; mukta, those who are liberated; and the bhakta. Amongst these, the association of vivekis and mumuksus is beneficial for visayis, gross materialists. Muktas are either liberated individuals with an insatiable thirst for transcendental rasa, or impersonalists who pride themselves on being liberated. Only association with the first type of muktas is beneficial. Nirbheda Mayavadis are offenders, and association with them is forbidden for all.
Such people have been condemned in Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.2.32):
“O lotus-eyed Lord, those who do not take shelter of Your lotus feet vainly consider themselves to be liberated. Their intelligence is impure because they are devoid of affection and devotion for You, and in reality, they are baddha-jivas. Even though such people attain the platform of liberation by undergoing severe austerities and spiritual practices, they fall from that position due to neglecting Your lotus feet.”
The fourth category of discriminating souls, the bhaktas, are attracted either to Bhagavan’s opulent and majestic feature (aisvarya), or to His sweet and intimate feature (madhurya). The association of Bhagavan’s bhaktas is beneficial in all respects. Particularly if one takes shelter of those bhaktas who are immersed in His sweetness, visuddha-bhakti-rasa, the transcendental mellows of bhakti, will manifest in one’s heart.
Question: “You have explained that bhaktas live in two conditions. Kindly explain this clearly so that people like myself, who have limited intelligence, may understand easily?”
Bhaktas are either grhastha-bhaktas, householders, or tyagi-bhaktas, those who have renounced household life.
One does not become a grhastha simply by building a house and living in it. The word grha in grhastha refers to the household that one establishes by accepting a suitable wife in marriage, according to Vedic rules and regulations. A bhakta who resides in such a condition and practices bhakti is known as a grhastha-bhakta.
The jiva who is bound by maya sees form and color through the eyes; he hears sound through the ears; he smells fragrance through the nose; he touches with the skin; and he tastes with the tongue. The jiva enters the material world through these five senses, and becomes attached to it. The more attached he is to gross matter, the more distant he is from his Prananatha (the Lord of his life) Sri Krishna, and his condition is called bahirmukha-samsara, consciousness directed outwards towards mundane existence. Those who are intoxicated with this mundane existence, are known are visayis, those who are attached to worldly sense objects.
When bhaktas live as grhasthas, they are not like the visayis, who merely seek to gratify their senses. A householder’s dharma-patni (wife, who is one’s partner in realizing nitya-dharma) is a dasi, or maidservant of Krishna, and so are his sons and daughters. The eyes of all the family members are satisfied to behold the form of the Deity and objects related to Krishna; their ears become fully satisfied to hear hari-katha and narrations of the lives of great sadhus; their noses experience satisfaction by smelling the aroma of tulasi and the other fragrant objects offered to the lotus feet of Sri Krishna; their tongues taste the nectar of Krishna-nama, and the remnants of food offered to Krishna; their skin feels delight through touching the limbs of Sri Hari’s bhaktas; their hopes, activities, desires, hospitality to guests, and service to the Deity are all subordinate to their service to Krishna. Indeed, their entire life is a great festival consisting of Krishna-nama, mercy to jivas, and service to Vaisnavas.
Only grhastha-bhaktas can possess material objects and utilize them without becoming attached to them. It is most appropriate for jivas in the age of Kali to become grhastha Vaisnavas, for then there is no fear of falling down.
Bhakti can also be developed fully from this position. Many grhastha Vaisnavas are gurus who are well versed in the fundamental truths of the sastra. If the children of such saintly Vaisnavas are also pure Vaisnavas (Gosvamis), they too are counted as grhastha-bhaktas. This is why the association of grhastha-bhaktas is particularly beneficial for the jivas.