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We Become Like Those Whom We Associate With

We become like those whom we associate with

We Become Like Those Whom We Associate With

Bharat Maharāj, born in the lineage of mighty rulers, was not only a great emperor, but also an ardent devotee. When his sons came of age, he divided the kingdom among them, and left to the āśram of Pulaha, where he immersed himself in the meditation of the lord. Devoid of all material desires, he lived in a state of total bliss, worshiping the Lord and contemplating upon His love, thus being in the constant association of the Supreme Lord.

One day, while meditating on the banks of Chakranadi (Gaṇḍakī River,) Bharat Maharāj heard the roar of a lion. When he opened his eyes, he saw a pregnant doe that leaped across the river in fright, delivered a baby fawn prematurely, and died. Watching the helpless fawn floating down the river, the compassionate Bharat Maharāj rescued him, took him to his āśram, and began raising him as his own child.

Bharat Maharāj, who was so steadfast in his devotion until then, was soon captivated by his affection for the fawn. While meditating upon the Lord, his mind revolved around the fawn, either thinking of the fawn’s childish behavior or worrying about how a pack of wolves or a tiger would devour the helpless little one.

Bharat Maharāj gradually forgot to devote time to worship the Lord. Even when he took his last breath, his mind was so absorbed in the fawn that he acquired the body of a deer in the next life. Thus, his fond association with the fawn not only became a hurdle to his spiritual progress, but also led to a fall from his exalted spiritual position. We have to be cautious where we attach our mind and with whom we associate especially when we are a novice sādhak. We have to protect our sādhana and devotion the way we protect a tender sapling, or else the surging waters of bhav-sagar can wash it away. Hence, Devrishi Nārad warns:

तरन्गिता अपीमे सन्गात् समुद्रायन्ति
Tarangitā apime saìgāt samudrāyanti
                            (Narad Bhakti Darshan 45)

“The bad effects of material association, although initially appear as tiny little waves, will gather momentum and mass into a great deep ocean.” 

No wonder, Bharata Maharāj, who renounced his vast kingdom as well as his family, fell into the trap of worldly affection for a fawn. This world is in the realm of Maya (material energy) that consists of three modes - sattva, rajas, and tamas (goodness, passion, and ignorance.) When we associate our mind with any material object or person, we plummet deeper into the material existence. Instead, if we incessantly attach our mind in the all-pure God, who is gunateet (beyond the three modes of material nature), we ascend sublime heights. Hence, the Ramayan states:

सब कै ममता ताग बटोरी, मम पद मनहि बान्ध बरि डोरी
saba kai mamatā tāga baṭorī, mama pada manahi bāñdha bari ḍorī 

"Cut all the strings of worldly attachment of your mind; make a rope of these strings, and tether it to the lotus feet of God." 

When we do so, we not only progress in this life, but also beyond. Bharata Maharāj although received the body of a deer in the next life, by the grace of God, he remembered his earlier birth and the calamity that had befallen him at the end of that life. Therefore, while in the deer’s body, he subsisted merely on dry grass, and lived in the company of sadhus. As a result, in the next life he was born as Jada Bharat, the realized soul.  

Therefore, do your Daily Sadhana; be in His blissful association by taking your mind to His splendid forms, glorious names, sublime virtues, delightful pastimes, magnificent abodes, and His benevolent saints.