The Mother Divine
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(Association with Saints)

By Haridas Chatterji
Human life is a precious gift of God. It is so because the supreme privilege of God realisation is reserved for human beings only. Eating, sleeping and rearing up a family are functions common to both man and beast. What differentiates the one from the other is that whereas man can think of God and realise Him in life, a beast cannot do that. To realise God is indeed the supreme purpose to fulfil which man is born.

It is, however, by no means an easy thing to be born as a human being. One does not become elevated to that high and dignified position in one bound. The process is a very very long one and entails a tremendous lot of travail and preparation. Only step by step one moves higher and higher, and if our Shastras are to be believed, the final step, that is, birth in human form, is reached after passing through eighty-four lacs of steps or lives lived as lower beings. Rightly does a Hindi Doha say:
Hard to be born in human form,
One gets it not again and again;
The fruit that once falls to the ground
Adheres not to the stalk again.
And because it is so hard to be born as a human being, on every man devolves a sacred duty to strive for God-realisation. Neglect of this duty may lead to withdrawal of the gift of God and relegation to a position inferior to that of a human being.

All our scriptures recognise Sadhu-Sanga or association with saints as one of the means which help us forward to reach the goal of God-realisation. The Srimad-Bhagvat lays stress, not once but several times over, on the great role played by Sadhu-Sanga in man's pilgrimage to God. What that holy book says in Skandha X on the point is well worth reproduction.
"The measure of grace which the gods confer on man
is proportionate only to the measure of his worship.
But the grace bestowed by Sadhus has no limitation."
"The sacred rivers and places of pilgrimage purify
our souls only if resorted to for a long time.
But the Darshan of Sadhus bears immediate fruit."
But as Tulsidas, who occupies a position of unique distinction in the grand galaxy of saints born on the sacred soil of India, says:
"Saints' company and talks on the Lord,
Hard indeed to obtain these two;
Wife and children, fortune's favour,
Fall to the lot of sinners too."
Why does Tulsidas say that association with Sadhus is difficult to obtain? Because for one thing, Sadhus are not as plentiful as sinners. For another, there are Sadhus and Sadhus. When Tulsidas speaks of Sadhus, he has in mind Sadhus of the genuine brand. But everybody who dons the saffron robe and masquerades as a Sadhu is not a Sadhu in the real sense of the term. Saffron is India's age-old symbol of renunciation, sacrifice, service, love and spiritual excellence. Those and only those who have made these rare qualities a part and parcel of their being, men poor in material possessions but rich in spirit, are real Sadhus. Such men are the salt of the earth. But they are few and far between. As for others, their saffron robe serves only as a cloak to hide the baser instincts of man, such as anger, hatred, jealousy, greed, lust and so forth. Only their costume has been dyed saffron, not the core of their heart.

One of the conditions precedent to God-realisation is drawing the mind away from all sense objects, away from all external attractions and temptations; in other words, turning the mind inwards and bringing it to a pinpoint of concentration on God, who has His seat in the sacred shrine of every human heart.

This in-drawing of the mind is considerably helped by Sadhu-Sanga. The reason is not far to seek. In the first place, a Sadhu lives in a world of his own, a world of peace and bliss, and by precept and example creates around him an atmosphere of holiness, which in itself is conducive to the development of a spiritual urge. In the second place, the spirit of reverence generated by Sadhu-Seva and Sadhu-Pranam prepares the mind to approach God in the right spirit.

Then again, not being a worldly-minded man, a Sadhu does not talk about material things, about race horses, market prices or the technique of getting-rich-quick, for instance. His talks invariably centre round God and religion, and while listening to them one becomes oblivious of one's home and family, of the troubles and trials of life, and at least for the moment the mind is lifted to a higher plane and purified. The inspiring teachings of a Sadhu, sinking into the soul, prompt an earnest seeker of light to reclaim the waste land of his heart and irrigate it with the essence of faith and devotion. This process continuing uninterrupted by regular Sadhu-Sanga, may be trusted gradually to lead to the flowering of the soul, and eventually, with Divine Grace, to the fulfilment of one's spiritual aspirations.

If that be the real position, how is it, many ask with apparent justification, that in the case of most people Sadhu-Sanga fails to deliver the goods? The explanation is simple enough. They imagine that paying occasional visits to a Sadhu's Ashram, coming in superficial touch with him, exchanging a few words and offering a respectful Pranam are all that constitute Sadhu-Sanga. That, however, is a wholly wrong conception of the term.

Sadhu-Sanga means much more than that, and in order to be productive of the golden fruit which it is supposed to yield, one must resort to it with a proper mental equipment represented by a combination of qualities such as humility, reverence, a spirit of surrender, faith in the efficacy of a Sadhu's teachings, a desire to profit by and act up to them in life.

Unfortunately, however, amongst those who visit a Sadhu, some there are who listen to his teachings with one ear and deliberately throw them out through the other ear as so much useless stuff. There are some who allow their mind to wander about and to dwell on their domestic and business affairs during the Sadhu's discourse. There are some who cannot retain the substance of the discourse for subsequent "Manan" or reflection. Their mind may be compared to the outer surface of a tortoise shell which, due to its convexity, cannot retain any water. There are others again whose real object in meeting a Sadhu is to seek the furtherance of some material ends, such as the cure of an ailment, the birth of a son, advancement in service and so on.

Is it any wonder that such people should glide over the valley of life in spiritual starvation in spite of their complacent claim of Sadhu-Sanga?