Satsangatve nissangatvam nissangatve nirmohatvam
nirmohatve nishcala tatvam nishcalatatve jeevanmuktihi
In the company of pious people, one loses all his attachments and attraction and becomes a Viragi - by dissolving all the feelings of me and mine. He will also escape the negative effects of bad company. He will shine with wisdom just like the king Parikshit shone in the company of Sri Shukabrahma. A wise advice affirms that even if one walks just seven steps in the company of such people, he is sure of acquiring pious habits. One should also particularly avoid the company of people with bad habits. The sage poet Sarvagna explains
Sajjanara Sangavadu Hejjenu Savidante
Durjanara Sangavadu Bachalarocchinanthakku Sarvagna - the company of pious people is like enjoying the best quality Honey, whereas the company of wicked people is like rotting in the water of sewerage. Sri Vijayadasaru requests Lord Dasadasa gurudasara dasyava kodu give me the company of the servants of servants of the Gurus. Another wise adage says
Agnanigala kooda adhika sangakkinta sugnanigala kooda jagalave lesu - it is even better to quarrel with knowledgeable people than to have a thick friendship with ignorant people. This highlights the importance and advantages of pious company.
Just as a wild elephant is tamed in the company of tamed elephant, in the company of pious people, we develop non-attachment and divine thinking, even without our conscious effort. By handling jack fruit, we acquire its smell and in the company of great devotees, we too become His devotees.
Once attachment and attraction are lost, one achieves single minded concentration by continuously thinking about God at all times. Then he will be clear of the guidance, the path and the goal of meditation. If he follows - dwells upon the form of Sripathi always, then he is absolutely sure of salvation in this body and life itself. Further, he is always one with the Lord; leads a life devoted to Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. He will be overflowing with happiness, peace of mind and divine light.
In his efforts of saving and protecting a deer child, Bharata Muni got totally entangled in its attachment and led a treacherous life, far away from divinity. The great sage Viswamitra was disturbed from his penance and led a worldly life, because he got attracted and developed attachment to the beautiful divine damsel Menaka.
Sri Krishna explains in Bhagavadgita the effects of bad company thus:-
Sangaat sanjaayate kaamaha kaamaat krodhobhijaayate krodhaadbhavati sammohaha sammohaat smrtivibhramaha smrtibhramshaat buddhinaashaha buddhinaashaat pranashyati - due to bad company one develops attachment, which leads further to Anger. Anger destroys the ability to distinguish between right and wrong. With this, one propels himself towards self destruction.
Air is called carrier of smell. While passing on dirty things, it acquires bad smell but acquires enjoyable smell while blowing on Jasmine grove. This is exactly how the good company produces good results.
Sita considered Sri Rama as her only and complete recluse and thus led a happy life. But, when she saw the Golden deer and aspired to acquire it, her mind wandered away from Sri Rama for a short while. Thinking of something other than God even for a short time itself was the reason for all her further sufferings in the hands of Ravana in Lanka. These are the dangers resulting when one loses good company and un-attachment.
There is a saying exalting the Satsanga, in Bhagavata - Bhavaapavargo bhramato yadaa bhavet janasya tarhyacyuta satsamaagamaha satsangamo yarhi tadaiva sadgatau paraavareshe tvayi jaayate matihi
- in this stanza, the great devotee Muchukunda praises Sri Krishna and says “Oh! Achyuta, the Jeeva, while wandering along the never ending cycles of birth & death from times immemorial, somehow comes across the company of pious people & lo! the path to salvation is found immediately. Once in the company of pious people, the jeeva gets the good thinking of serving You, the only Lord of this universe, and the only goal and resting place of all pious people”.
This article has been taken from the book A Torchlight in the Path of Salvation, Bhaja Govindam- Pray to Govinda by K V Varadaraja Iyengar