For a devotee, there is no point in making friendships with ordinary persons, unless dictated by “time, place and circumstance). He should make friendship with other devotees, so that by discussing among themselves, they may elevate one another on the path of spiritual understanding. This is called “istagosthi.”
Srimad-bhagavatam 3.29.17, Purport:
“According to devotional vision, a man is poor if he is not in Krishna consciousness. A man may be very rich materially, but if he is not Krishna conscious, he is considered poor. On the other hand, many acaryas, such as Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami, used to live beneath trees every night. Superficially it appeared that they were poverty-stricken, but from their writings we can understand that in spiritual life they were the richest personalities.
A devotee shows compassion to those poor souls who are wanting in spiritual knowledge by enlightening them in order to elevate them to Krishna consciousness. That is one of the duties of a devotee. He should also make friendship with persons who are on an equal level with himself or who have the same understanding that he does. For a devotee, there is no point in making friendships with ordinary persons; he should make friendship with other devotees so that by discussing among themselves, they may elevate one another on the path of spiritual understanding. This is called istagosthi.”
Lecture on Srimad-bhagavatam .5.13 — New Vrindaban, June 13, 1969:
“So, this is the thing, tad-vicestitam. He’s simply thinking of the activities of Krishna and Arjuna. That’s all. That is perfect reading of Bhagavad-gita. It does not require to read Bhagavad-gita by your academic education. If you simply hear from the authoritative source the instruction of Bhagavad-gita, and if you simply meditate upon that speech, that instruction, “Oh, Krishna instructed like this. Arjuna received like this. He questioned like this. He answered like this,” that is meditation, perfect meditation, and you become liberated. Tad-vicestitam. It is not very difficult job. Simply you have to receive. …. You have to hear from the pure source, give aural reception, and think of it, meditate upon it. Simply by doing this, you are liberated. These are not bluff.
Here is the evidence. Simply receive the message from the right source and contemplate and meditate upon that instruction. You are liberated. Chanting and hearing. Hearing and… sravanam kirtanam (Srimad-bhagavatam 7.5.23). First hearing, then chanting. Hear from the right source and discuss amongst yourselves. Istagosthi. Then the perfection. … Samadhi does not mean something artificial. Here Śridhara Swami says, citta aikagrena. Citta means your mind, or heart, completely absorbed in Krishna thought. That means Krishna consciousness. That is samadhi.”
Sometimes the teacher questions to the student, and student replies, and sometimes the student questions to the teacher, and teacher replies. This is called istagosthi. To develop knowledge, these questions and answers are required.
Lecture on Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya-lila 20.66-96 — New York, November 21, 1966:
“The Lord was questioning Ramananda Raya, and Ramananda Raya was replying and here, in the similar way, the Sanatana Gosvami will question and Lord Caitanya will reply. So sometimes the disciple and the spiritual master, the relationship is like that. Sometimes the teacher questions to the student, and student replies, and sometimes the student questions to the teacher, and teacher replies. This is called istagosthi. To develop knowledge, these questions and answers are required. According to system of accepting a spiritual master, it is said that just after acceptance… One must have to accept a spiritual master. … Then he should be very much inquisitive. A student… Not finishing, that “Now I am initiated. Everything finished.” No. He should be very inquisitive. Unless one is very inquisitive, there is no necessity of accepting a spiritual master. That is the instruction in the Srimad-bhagavatam 11.3.21. One has the necessity of accepting a spiritual master who is very much inquisitive about transcendental matter. Otherwise, there is no necessity. Simply, “Oh, because so many people accept a spiritual master, so I’ll have to accept somebody as spiritual master. My business finished”—no. One should be very much inquisitive. Yes. He must be very much eager to understand what is transcendental subject. Then his, this business of accepting a spiritual master will be fulfilled.”