Bad Association (vs) Good Association

Dear Vaishnavas, 
Please accept my dandavat pranams. All glories to Srila Prabhupada and Srila Gurudev!

In Srimad Bhagavatam 1.19.16 - it is very nicely mentioned as to what Parikshit Maharaj prayed when he was facing the last moments of his life - after being cursed by the Brahmana boy that he will die within seven days by snake bite. 

punaś ca bhūyād bhagavaty anante
ratiḥ prasaṅgaś ca tad-āśrayeṣu
mahatsu yāṁ yām upayāmi sṛṣṭiṁ
maitry astu sarvatra namo dvijebhyaḥ

Again, offering obeisances unto all you brāhmaṇas, I pray that if I should again take my birth in the material world I will have complete attachment to the unlimited Lord Kṛṣṇa, association with His devotees and friendly relations with all living beings.

It is interesting to notice the blessings which Maharaj Parikshit sought from the sages at the time of his death. Since this world is full of miseries, we generally do not like to come back to this duḥkhālayam. But Maharaj Parikshit says with such a humble feeling, I am such a sinful living entity that I am definite going to come back to this material world. Then he says that he doesn't mind coming back to this place if he is blessed with the following 3 boons. Because he knew that if one is provided with these three boons, then this world is practically sukhālayam for him in all respects.

1. First boon is bhagavaty anante ratiḥ - attraction for Bhagavan who has unlimited potency. 
2. Second boon is prasaṅgaś ca tad-āśrayeṣu - association with Lord's devotees. 
3. Third boon is maitry - friendly relationship with everybody. 

A lot of our advancement in devotional service depends on what kind of people do we associate with. There is a nice saying in English, "A man is judged by the friends he keeps." If we associate with good people, we become good, whereas if we associate with bad people or bad thoughts, we become bad. Bad association is so dangerous that even a moment's association with unchaste thought or people drags us down to the lowest mode of material nature. In Srimad Bhagavatam we have the example of Ajamila, who was so pure and perfect in following his religious principles, but a moment's obscene vision had brought him down to such a wretched condition. 

Similarly in this age of Kali also, there is no dearth of impure association for our senses. There is enough nonsense for us to view in the form of television, movies etc. The result is obvious in front of us, where we see people so mad at watching the various channels in the TV and their lives are controlled by that tiny silly box. And the time they do not watch TV, they spend on meditating what has happened the previous day or week or what is going to be the next day's or week's program. We go to the market and by chance we have a glance of a pretty man or woman even for a moment, then our thoughts linger on to that one moment of glance we had of that person. If one moment's engagement of our sense of vision can disturb us so much then what to speak of seeing all the nonsense we have been watching for years? Hence in this age, there is a great need for providing the right kind of association so that we would at least not meditate on nonsensical stuff. As devotees when we start our day at 4:30 in the morning performing mangala arati, chanting, reading etc, we may not have these unwanted thoughts disturbing us at least during that time. In fact, Maharaj would say, "To put it frankly, as devotees following the regulative principles, we may not have the chance to watch other women or the mundane cinemas etc i.e., we may restrain ourselves from these distractions. Even after all our chanting and reading, given a chance we who claim as devotees too will engage ourselves in all these frivolous activities. Our real Krishna consciousness will be tested by what we do when we are put in such a tempting situation."

This is the reason even such a great devotee like Parikshit Maharaj is hankering for the constant association of pure devotees whose are always merged in the thoughts of the Supreme Lord Krishna. The sincerity of such pure devotee's association will rub on us and there is definitely hope for us to improve our devotional sentiments towards Krishna. This is the real meaning of association with the Lord's devotees.

Thank you very much.
Yours in service of Srila Prabhupada and Srila Gurudev,
Murlidhara Krsna das