We are now explaining mahat-saṅga (the association of great, self-realized souls). How glorious is the mahat!
Quoting the words of Parīkṣit Mahārāja, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī states in his Śrī Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta:

rahūgaṇaitat tapasā na yāti
na cejyayā nirvapaṇād gṛhād vā
na cchandasā naiva jalāgni-sūryair
vinā mahat-pāda-rajo-‘bhiṣekam

My dear King Rahūgaṇa, unless one has the opportunity to smear his entire body with the dust of the lotus feet of great devotees, one cannot realize the Absolute Truth. One cannot realize the Absolute Truth simply by observing celibacy [brahmacarya], strictly following the rules and regulations of householder life, leaving home as a vānaprastha, accepting sannyāsa, or undergoing severe penances in winter by keeping oneself submerged in water or surrounding oneself in summer by fire and the scorching heat of the sun. There are many other processes to understand the Absolute Truth, but the Absolute Truth is only revealed to one who has attained the mercy of a great devotee. (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 5.12.12)

By his mercy, Jaḍa Bharata told King Rahūgaṇa, “O Rahugana, neither tapasya (austerities) nor varṇāśrama-dharma (following the rules and regulations of the four social and spiritual orders of life), nor a mind one-pointed in worship of Bhagavān will help you attain pure bhakti. After some time the mind will reject that worship. Vedic karma, that is, obeying ones husband, father, mother, and other superiors will also not help you, and neither will the acceptance of sannyāsa, the renounced order of life.
A sannyāsī is also known as a niragniḥ, which means he does not cook for himself. Rather, he begs small amounts of prasādam at householders’ homes. Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī lived in this way, so he is an example of a niragniḥ. Nowadays, however, even gṛhastas do not have the opulent meals that sannyāsis have. Not only do modern sannyāsis have many varieties of fruits, vegetables, and other edibles to enjoy, but they also have so many people cooking for them. Ladies cook for them and not only one at a time, but several.
Worship of Varuṇa, the god of the waters, Sūrya, the Sun-god, Candra, the Moon-god, Agni, the Fire-god, Vāyu, the Air-god, Indra and the many other demigods can also not give us bhakti of Lord Vāsudeva Kṛṣṇa (Kṛṣṇa, the son of Nanda Mahārāja).*
Regarding the austerity of being surrounded by fires in the scorching heat of Summer, or being submerged in water in Winter, this also cannot help you attain bhakti. The yogī Saubhari Muni entered the water of a river for many years, but he did not achieve spiritual enlightenment. Rather he became like an animal. He lost control of his senses and married thousands of princesses.**
The word “agni” in the above-mentioned verse means being surrounded by fire. Many ṛṣis (sages) practiced this, but they could not attain pure bhakti. If there is no connection to Lord Kṛṣṇa’s associates mahat-saṅga one cannot realize the Absolute Truth and attain pure bhakti by any means. Anything less than sādhu-saṅga will not give perfection. On the other hand, if one takes bath in the dust of the lotus feet of pure sādhus, he easily attains it.
The essence of all this hari-kathā is that without the causeless mercy of mahat, the perfect devotee, we cannot attain Kṛṣṇa-bhakti. If one neglects the mahāpuruṣa guru śikṣā-guru pure Vaiṣṇava, he cannot have Kṛṣṇa-bhakti even after hundreds of thousands of births. On the other hand, if one performs austerity under a mahat-puruṣa’s guidance, he can very easily attain it.
Viśvāmitra became a Brahmarṣi (exalted brāhmaṇa) by serving Vasiṣṭha, and later on he went to Janaka Purī and other places with Śrī Rāma and Śrī Lakṣmaṇa. He always remembered the lotus feet of Vasiṣṭha, and by his mercy he was able to serve Lord Rāma.
Once, Śrīla Prabhupāda Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura sent my Guru Mahārāja, Śrīla Bhaktiprajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja, to Śrīla Gaurakiśora dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja. At that time Bābājī Mahārāja was residing in a municipal latrine, continually chanting, Hare Kṛṣṇa Hare Kṛṣṇa. He had made his abode there, and in the evening he would come out and beg some prasādam. He would not eat or drink anything for days at a time, and would only chant. Many important persons of the world, like the magistrate, would come to see him and offer him various facilities. They would say, for example, We can offer you a better place for doing bhajana. Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja would reject all their proposals and say, for example, I am sick. I cannot open the door.
Nowadays the consciousness is different. We invite the Prime Minister of India; movie stars of Bombay, and similar famous personalities to our festivals, considering that the presence of such persons will make the festivals successful. The situation is so different now.
Without mahat-saṅga no one can attain the spiritual power to do bhajana. We have discussed so many histories to illustrate this, so that you can have strong faith in mahat-saṅga. Only foolish persons, those who want to go to hell, will neglect mahat-saṅga. By such neglect their lives will be ruined forever.
If you will serve the mahat and take bath in the dust of his lotus feet, you will automatically be freed from grāmya-vārtā (mundane talk), and hari-kathā and uttama-bhakti will come to you. Here in New Vraja, at this hari-kathā festival, there is maṅgala-ārati in the early morning. After that there is bhajanas, and then a class, and simultaneously there is the morning walk which is like another class. Then there is another class. Then there is prasādam, wherein all devotees chant:

mahā-prasāde govinde nāma-brahmaṇi vaiṣṇave
svalpa-puṇyavatāṁ rājan viśvāso naiva jāyate

Persons who are not very highly elevated in pious activities cannot believe in the remnants of food [prasādam] of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, nor in Govinda, the holy name of the Lord, nor in the Vaiṣṇavas.


Then there is another class, and this is fifth class. Then, before you go to sleep, Kṛṣṇadāsa (the expert singer of devotional songs who travels with Śrīla Mahārāja) sings and dances, and makes you all dance. If you go to India to hear his singing, that will be a great expense and most of you will not be able to go at all. But he has mercifully come here to you.
After hearing the instructions of Jaḍa Bharata, Mahārāja Rahūgaṇa told him:

aho nṛ-janmākhila-janma-śobhanaṁ
kiṁ janmabhis tv aparair apy amuṣmin
na yad dhṛṣīkeśa-yaśaḥ-kṛtātmanāṁ
mahātmanāṁ vaḥ pracuraḥ samāgamaḥ

This birth as a human being is the best of all. Even birth among the demigods in the heavenly planets is not as glorious as birth as a human being on this earth. What is the use of the exalted position of a demigod? In the heavenly planets, due to profuse material comforts, there is no possibility of associating with devotees. (Śrīmad-Bhagavatam 5.13.21)

King Rahūgaṇa became happy and satisfied. He prayed, You are very kind. You are causelessly merciful. Now I have come to know that this human life is best among all the 8,400,000 species of life.
We should not waste our time in mundane talk and other mundane ventures, because in this special human birth we can attain bhagavat-bhakti through the association of a mahat-puruṣa (self-realized soul). Indra and other demigods cannot do this. Sometimes Brahmā and Saṅkara can have mahat-saṅga, because they are also mahat-puruṣa, but for other demigods it is practically impossible to have this. Rather, they pray to Lord Kṛṣṇa, “I want to be in a human form, to serve a mahat-puruṣa”.
You are very fortunate to have come in this line, and fortunate that you are trying to serve Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Especially those who have met Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja – for even one second are very fortunate. Those who have met him, or my Gurudeva Śrīla Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja, or Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura and Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura knowingly or unknowingly their life will be successful. In this human form bhakti can develop from śraddhā (initial faith) to rati (the preliminary stage of love of God), from rati to prema (pure love), and in prema up to mahā-bhāva, rādhā-dāsyam (the highest attainment of love). And, to attain this Vraja-bhakti, there are special kinds of mahāpuruṣas, like Rāya Rāmānanda, Śrī Svarūpa Dāmodara, Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī and Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī.
What is the use of birth as Lord Brahmā; what is the use of birth of demigods like Indra, Kuvera, Yamarāja and Vāyu? There is no need of such births. Some persons tell me, “I want to become wealthy, and with that money I can serve.” Don’t have these desires. These desires are not okay. Whatever you already have, try to engage in the service of a mahat-puruṣa. If you do not have anything, you can simply offer Lord Kṛṣṇa tulasī leaves. If Kṛṣṇa is satisfied, Vaiṣṇavas will also be satisfied. There is nothing more valuable than tulasī – but if you have great wealth, don’t take tulasī to Ṭhākurajī (the Deity) with a desire to cheat Him. Don’t think, “I’ll keep the wealth and I’ll give Ṭhākurajī the tulasī leaf.” Don’t have an idea to cheat.
The demigods are always engaged in sense gratification. Apsarās, beautiful celestial maidens, like Menakā and Urvaśī enjoy with the residents there in the heavenly planets, and those residents cannot come out of the trap of sense gratification. On the other hand, great devotee-kings on this Earth like Janaka Mahārāja and Prahlāda Mahārāja were ruling in their kingdoms, but they had nothing to do with those kingdoms. They were always serving in mahat-saṅga. So if you are a gṛhasta (family person) there is no harm in that. Always try to serve Vrajavāsīs and hear hari-kathā in mahat-saṅga.
Mahats sometimes go on tour here and there, to sacred holy places like Kanyā-kumārī, Raṅganātham, Ganges, Prayāg, Bhadri-nārāyaṇa, Hṛṣīkeśa, Yamunotri, Gaṅgotri, Dvārakā, and Ayodhyā. They do not go for their own purification, but to give some power to all the tīrthas. They do not go for themselves, but for the benefit of all human beings. The holy places (tīrthas) become covered by a layer of materialistic activities, by the accumulated sins of those who bathe in their waters. By the merciful touch of the pure devotee, they become free from this layer. The holy place or holy river is always pure, and its influence is certainly there for those who visit it; but it is very difficult to see its real glories.
The influence of the association of the mahat-puruṣa increases the influence and power of the holy places. Without the influence of the mahat, the holy places seem completely covered. The tīrthas become more powerful when the pure devotees go there and take bath. Their lotus foot-dust purifies the holy places even further, and they become more powerful in purifying others.
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu said, ‘The ocean is the husband of all the holy rivers, but when Śrīla Haridāsa Ṭhākura’s lotus feet touched the ocean, it became a mahā mahā mahā tīrtha.’ This is the exalted nature of the mahats. They always engage their heart and mood in serving the lotus feet of Lord Kṛṣṇa. If millions of dollars come to them they are not affected by that, just as the ocean is not affected when river waters enter into it. And if everything all their wealth, health, possessions, family, fame and popularity disappears in a moment, they don’t care or remember what they lost. Mahāpuruṣas are very rare –very rare. They preach all over the world by kīrtana, and nāma-saṅkīrtana, and they have unconditionally surrendered to nāma-saṅkīrtana, who is a person who is Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself.
Not all teachers and preachers are mahat-puruṣa. How will you know who is actually such a personality? Without the mercy of Lord Kṛṣṇa you cannot know. By the Lord’s mercy you can have some realization of the glories of that great soul.
In the seventh Canto Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Śrī Prahlāda Mahārāja says:

naiṣāṁ matis tāvad urukramāṅghriṁ
spṛśaty anarthāpagamo yad-arthaḥ
mahīyasāṁ pāda-rajo-’bhiṣekaṁ
niṣkiñcanānāṁ na vṛṇīta yāvat

Unless they smear upon their bodies the dust of the lotus feet of a Vaiṣṇava completely freed from material contamination, persons very much inclined toward materialistic life cannot be attached to the lotus feet of the Lord, who is glorified for His uncommon activities. Only by becoming Kṛṣṇa conscious and taking shelter at the lotus feet of the Lord in this way can one be freed from material contamination. (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 7.5.32)

Do you know the history of King Mucukunda? Who is he?
Śrīpāda Bhaktisāra Mahārāja: Mucukunda was a king who was employed by the demigods to fight against the demons. Over many ions of years he fought and defeated the demons. When the war was over he was offered a benediction. He said, ‘I would like to sleep, undisturbed. If anyone disturbs my sleep, I should have the power to burn him to ashes by my glance.’
At the time Jarāsandha was attacking Mathura, Mucukunda had been sleeping in a cave. Jarāsandha was attacking with a Yavana king named Kālayavana. To complete this pastime, Lord Kṛṣṇa pretended to flee from the battlefield, and Kālayavana was chasing Him. Kṛṣṇa was leisurely walking away. No matter how fast Kālayavana ran, he couldn’t catch up to Him. Finally, Kṛṣṇa disappeared into that cave. Kālayavana also went inside, and he couldn’t see clearly. He saw someone lying on the ground and thought, ‘Kṛṣṇa, you are tired, hiding and lying on the ground, and you are afraid of me.’ He went over and kicked him. Of course, this wasn’t Kṛṣṇa but King Mucukunda. Mucukunda looked at Kālayavana, as flames shot from his eyes and burned him to ashes. When King Mucukunda came out of the cave with Kṛṣṇa, he saw that many millions of years had passed, and now everyone had become small because it was a different time and age.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja:

bhavāpavargo bhramato yadā bhavej
janasya tarhy acyuta sat-samāgamaḥ
sat-saṅgamo yarhi tadaiva sad-gatau
parāvareśe tvayi jāyate matiḥ

When the material life of a wandering soul is coming to an end, O Acyuta, he may attain the association of Your devotees. And when he associates with them, there awakens in him devotion unto You who are the goal of the devotees and the Lord of all causes and their effects. (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 10.51.53)

Truly, when you meet any mahat-puruṣa, you can think, “My journey in this world is soon going to be finished.” But who will know this fact? A mahat-puruṣa can think like this, or a person who is on the doorway of becoming a mahat. Such persons can realize this, but others cannot. Prahlāda Mahārāja can think like this when he sees a mahat like Śrī Nārada Muni. Great devotees like Vidura and the Pāṇḍavas can also think like this.
Here, Mucukunda is praying to Lord Kṛṣṇa. ‘O, Acyuta (infallible Lord), Your associates are mahat. They are akiñcanā (without material possessions). If they are poor or rich, they do not claim any property or person as their own. They only claim You as their own. When, by causeless mercy not by luck– a person gets the association of your pure devotees, he can know that, “My journey in this world is about to be finished.”
Vālmīki, was a very famous robber and cruel person. When he received the mahat-saṅga of Śrī Nārada Muni, his life was at once completely changed.
But even Śrī Nārada– or even Lord Kṛṣṇa cannot help a person who commits Vaiṣṇava or guru-aparādha. This mercy will not go to him. It is very hard for Kṛṣṇa to help the mahat-aparādhī, vaiṣṇava-aparādhī or guru-aparādhī. Vaiṣṇava aparādha is more dangerous than guru-avajñā (disobedience or neglect of Śrī Guru). We are somewhat careful in connection with Guru, but we are not careful with pure Vaiṣṇavas who may not necessarily be one’s Guru. We can criticize them at any moment, to please others.
If a mahat-puruṣa has come and we are taking bath in the dust of his lotus feet, the endless chain of birth and death will go away– as an incidental result. This is because the mahat will forcibly take our heart and engage it in serving Hṛṣīkeśa, Lord Kṛṣṇa, the master of all our senses.
Try to be very diligent regarding mahat-saṅga. Even if your entire wealth will be spoiled by coming for mahat-saṅga or sādhu-saṅga here or anywhere else don’t care for that wealth. Don’t care for your job or anything related to it. Let it go no harm. Then you can develop a strong faith in this. Some persons think, Today I must leave the association of the pure devotee, because otherwise I will lose my job. Thus, they leave sādhu-saṅga, mahat-saṅga. What is this? It is ignorance. And those persons are mahat-ignorant.

*When the best of the Vasus, named Droṇa, and his wife Dharā were ordered to increase progeny by Lord Brahma, they said unto him, ‘Dear father, we are seeking your benediction. When we take birth again within the universe, may the Supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa in His most attractive feature of childhood absorb our whole attention. May our dealings with Him be so powerful that simply by hearing of these childhood activities of His, anyone will very easily cross over the nescience of birth and death.’ Lord Brahma agreed to give them the benediction, and as a result the same Droṇa appeared as Nanda Mahārāja in Vṛndāvana, and the same Dharā appeared as mother Yaśodā, the wife of Nanda Mahārāja.

**Saubhari Ṛṣi was engaged in austerity, deep in the water of the river Yamunā, when he saw a pair of fish engaged in sexual affairs. Thus he perceived the pleasure of sex life, and induced by this desire he went to King Māndhātā and begged for one of the King’s daughters. In response to this request, the King said, “O brāhmaṇa, any of my daughters may accept any husband according to her personal selection.”
Saubhari Muni thought: I am now feeble because of old age. My hair has become grey, my skin is slack, and my head always trembles. Besides, I am a yogī. Therefore women do not like me. Since the King has thus rejected me, I shall reform my body in such a way as to be desirable even to celestial women, what to speak of the daughters of worldly kings. Thereafter, when Saubhari Muni became quite a young and beautiful person, the messenger of the palace took him inside the residential quarters of the princesses, which were extremely opulent. All fifty princesses then accepted him as their husband, although he was only one man.
Thereafter, the princesses, being attracted by Saubhari Muni, gave up their sisterly relationship and quarrelled among themselves, each one of them contending, “This man is just suitable for me, and not for you.” In this way there ensued a great disagreement.
Because Saubhari Muni was expert in chanting mantras perfectly, his severe austerities resulted in an opulent home, with garments, ornaments, properly dressed and decorated maidservants and manservants, and varieties of parks with clear-water lakes and gardens. In the gardens, fragrant with varieties of flowers, birds chirped and bees hummed, surrounded by professional singers. Saubhari Muni’s home was amply provided with valuable beds, seats, ornaments, and arrangements for bathing, and there were varieties of sandalwood creams, flower garlands, and palatable dishes. Thus surrounded by opulent paraphernalia, the muni engaged in family affairs with his numerous wives. (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 9.6.40-46)

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