Once, the sages Viśvāmitra and Vasiṣṭha were quarrelling. Viśvāmitra told Vasiṣṭha, “You should address me as brahmarṣi, because I have become an exalted, realized brāhmaṇa.” Vasiṣṭha said, “I will address you as rājarṣi, a saintly warrior, because you have come from a royal family.” He refused to praise Viśvāmitra as a brahmarṣi, because he considered that Viśvāmitra would become proud, which would not be beneficial for him.
Viśvāmitra then boasted that his performance of austerities was a great thing – greater than any other achievement. Vasiṣṭha disagreed. He insisted that sādhu-saṅga, the association of saintly devotees of the Lord, was the greatest achievement.
They both approached Ananta Śeṣa, the serpent incarnation of the Lord on whose innumerable hoods millions of universes rest, and presented their case to him. Viśvāmitra asked him, “Please, you decide if it is Vasiṣṭha, or I, who is telling the truth. Am I greater than Vasiṣṭha or is Vasiṣṭha greater than me?”
Lord Ananta replied, “This topic is very deep and grave, but at present I am carrying the burden of all the universes upon my hoods. O Viśvāmitra, I am extremely tired. I want to rest one of my hoods. Please arrange that when I remove my hood, the universe will not even slightly move or fall from its position, and then I will answer you.” Viśvāmitra responded, “Oh, that is a very insignificant task.” To this end Viśvāmitra offered Lord Ananta the fruit of the entirety of his performances of yoga and austerities, but still he could not carry the burden of Ananta for even a moment. When Ananta began to remove his hood, there were severe earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters.
Ananta then turned to Vasiṣṭha and asked, “Can you take my burden?” Vasiṣṭha replied, “I am offering you the result of only half a moment of my association with saintly persons. If I have ever had any elevated Vaiṣṇava association, may the universe remain calm.”
Again Ananta went to remove his hood from beneath the universe, this time successfully. The universe remained calmly in its place, hovering in space without moving. Ananta said, “Viśvāmitra, by this I have given my answer, which is for you to ascertain. Vasiṣṭha offered me the result of taking sādhu-saṅga for a mere half a moment, and that in itself fully freed me of the burden. You were unable to arrange that for me.”
So, taking sādhu-saṅga for even a fraction of a second can change your entire life and make you happy forever.
―Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja
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