Chapter 3: The Means of Achievement

Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Narada Bhakti Sutra 44



kama -- of lust; krodha -- anger; moha -- bewilderment; smriti-bhramsa -- failure of memory; buddhi-nasa -- loss of intelligence; sarva-nasa -- and total loss; karanatvat -- because of being the cause.


Material association is the cause of lust, anger, confusion, forgetfulness, loss of intelligence, and total calamity.


One may wonder why Narada is dwelling on the effects of bad association after having discussed advanced subjects in bhakti-yoga. But who else will heed the warnings except those who are serious about crossing the ocean of birth and death? Even one who is practicing devotional service in the renounced order can fall down. As stated in Caitanya-candrodaya-nataka (8.23),

nishkincanasya bhagavad-bhajanonmukhasya

param param jigamishor bhava-sagarasya

sandarsanam vishayinam atha yoshitam ca

ha hanta hanta visha-bhakshanato 'py asadhu

"Alas, for a person who is seriously desiring to cross the material ocean and engage in the transcendental loving service without material motives, seeing a materialist engaged in sense gratification and seeing a woman who is similarly interested are more abominable than drinking poison willingly." And so the advice against bad association is intended for all, including those transcendentalists who wish to progress without impediment.

In the Bhagavad-gita (2.62-63), Lord Krishna analyzes the soul's downfall due to bad association:

dhyayato vishayan pumsah sangas teshupajayate

sangat sanjayate kamah kamat krodho 'bhijayate

krodhad bhavati sammohah sammohat smriti-vibhramah

smriti-bhramsad buddhi-naso buddhi-nasat pranasyati

"While contemplating the objects of the senses, a person develops attachment for them, and from such attachment lust develops, and from lust anger arises. From anger complete delusion arises, and from delusion bewilderment of memory. When memory is bewildered, intelligence is lost, and when intelligence is lost one falls down again into the material pool."

Bad association (duhsanga) brings out the stored karmic tendencies for sin, thus activating one's lower propensities. If an aspiring devotee hears the hedonists talk of lusty enjoyments, he may easily become agitated, since until he becomes pure he has many tendencies to enjoy worldly pleasures. As soon as he begins to think about the objects of pleasure, he will begin to desire them. Then he will attempt to fulfill his desires, and on being frustrated he will become angry. Thereafter he will lose his discrimination, become deluded, and so on. By keeping company with nondevotees, therefore, bad habits crop up one after another, and good qualities become ruined. As Lord Kapiladeva states (Bhag. 3.31.32-33):

If, therefore, the living entity again associates with the path of unrighteousness, influenced by sensually-minded people engaged in the pursuit of sexual enjoyment and the gratification of the palate, he again goes to hell as before. He becomes devoid of truthfulness, cleanliness, mercy, gravity, spiritual intelligence, shyness, austerity, fame, forgiveness, control of the mind, control of the senses, fortune, and all such opportunities.

Not only "coarse fools" but even austere ascetics -- if they are not devotees -- are considered duhsanga. Mental speculators, impersonal yogis, jnanis, and voidists may all adversely influence a devotee and turn him toward nondevotional paths. Bhagavan Acarya, a follower of Lord Caitanya's, insisted that he was immune to contamination because he was a fixed-up devotee of the Lord. But Svarupa Damodara Gosvami replied that hearing talks on Mayavada philosophy "breaks the heart and life of a devotee" and should not be indulged in. Srila Prabhupada writes:

The Mayavadi philosophers have presented their arguments in such attractive, flowery language that hearing Mayavada philosophy may sometimes change the mind of even a maha-bhagavata, or very advanced devotee. An actual Vaishnava cannot tolerate any philosophy that claims God and the living being to be one and the same. [Cc. Adi 7.110, purport]

Considering the dangers of duhsanga, even for a fully engaged sadhaka, we can see that Narada has not exaggerated these dangers or given a warning only for neophytes.

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His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
Satsvarupa dasa Goswami
Gopiparanadhana dasa Adhikari