Just as a person who desires to improve his tennis will seek out tennis experts and enthusiasts, so a person interested in spiritual life will want like-minded friends. But where do we find them? And even if we meet students of self-realization and God consciousness, does it mean we will automatically develop loving friendships with them? The scripture states, “Seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” And so it is with spiritual friendships.
The word association in Sanskrit is known as “sanga” and that means – san = together and ga = forward. However the word sanga doesn’t refer to any type of association, we can have bad association and good association, but sanga refers to spiritual relationships – when people come in a group and their moving towards a spiritual goal.
The power of association, spiritual friendship is so strong that Ramunja Acharya says “when all other spiritual practices fail, go to the association of sadhus (spiritual individuals)
“As the qualities of a nearby object are reflected in a crystal. The qualities of a person are reflected in our heart. In order to increase your spiritual inclination or sentiment then associate with those who have with similar inclination.” – Rupa Goswami
What’s the best way to cultivate spiritual relationships? Bhakti saint Rupa Goswami suggests six simple ways:
1 Confidentially reveal your mind to your close friends.
2. Listen to your friends when they open themselves up to you.
3. Be giving; give gifts.
4. Receive gifts from friends with gratitude.
5. Offer friends sacred food (prasada). Eat with your friends. Be hospitable and invite them home for meals. Be supportive.
6. Graciously receive sacred food from your friends. Affection is reciprocal.
These exchanges are ways that any friends share affection. When they are centered on a shared interest in devotion to the Supreme Being, they deepen one’s bhakti. If we don’t build affectionate relationships with other spiritually minded persons, we risk building them with those whose habits and values are not conducive to our spiritual health. What makes spiritual relationships so fulfilling is that they connect us to the source of all pleasure and love.