Sanga – The Power of Association
“You are what you eat.” Similarly, you are who you hang out with. You become like those you are with the most. “Show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are.” “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.”
Associating with advanced devotees is one of the most fundamental aspects of our spiritual life. This is because, like a mirror, we reflect the qualities of the people with whom we associate with the most. This is why Lord Caitanya said we destroy ourselves by associating with men attached to women.
“As the qualities of a nearby object are reflected in a crystal, one similarly takes on the qualities of a person with whom he associates. Therefore, in order to increase one’s devotional sentiment in his own line, a wise person should take shelter of those who have the same temperament.”
– Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya (8.51)
A mirror neuron is a neuron that fires both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another. Thus, the neuron “mirrors” the behavior of the other, as though the observer were itself acting. Such neurons have been directly observed in human and primate species, and birds. In other words, they also reflect the mindsets of people around us.
So, who we associate with closely has a huge effect on our consciousness and actions. If you are with a happy person, you’ll be happy; with a depressed person, you’ll be depressed; with an excited person, you’ll be excited, etc. If you are closely associating with strong devotees, you’ll become stronger.
We need association to have the strength needed to overcome our bad habits. The reality is that there are some things we may never be able to do or overcome on our own, but we can do them (or give them up) when we are in the right company.
Association allows us to share our hearts (our joys and challenges), an essential practice for spiritual growth. Opening our hearts to another is one of the most powerful forms of therapy available, and an important way to overcome problems.
Whatever you want to achieve, find people who are trying to do the same thing and do it with them.
How can you get better association?
Note: At the end of the course in the section titled, Where Do We Go From Here, we suggest support groups, devotee and secular, you can take advantage of.