What Is the Advantage of Meeting Holy Men?

Ask and Answer

by Jayaram V

Question: My parents and some of my friends do not miss any opportunity to see holy people or spiritual gurus. Even if sometimes it is inconvenient for them, they plan and go. They say it brings them good luck. What is the advantage of meeting holy men or holy people?

I do not know about luck. May be it is one of the secondary advantages. The primary advantage is you get an opportunity to see them and learn from them. Your five senses and mind participate in that process, which may prove to be beneficial. Seeing holy men with your eyes can cleanse your perceptions. When you directly listen to them or their words and think about them, your ears engage in good karma. By the practice of sravanam (hearing) and mananam (thinking) your mind and ears become purified.

Listening to the good words of spiritual masters is always beneficial since they come from a higher thought center. Their words can elevate your consciousness and help you turn your attention to spiritual matters, which in turn may rekindle your interest in spiritual practice. It may also help you find an assurance of something of which you may be concerned or worried.

Next, in the presence of holy men, you may get an opportunity to touch their feet. It will purify your sense of touch. If you are fortunate, they may also touch your head or your back to bless you. Some holy people also hug their devotees or place both their hands on their heads or shoulders to give them blessings. That touch can cleanse your body or remove some karmic impurities. Many a time, through touch you may also receive positive, spiritual energy (taposhakti), which the holy people possess due to their enlightened states and rigorous austerities.

It may not happen always, but sometimes when you visit a holy place or meet holy people, you will get an opportunity to eat the sacred offering (prasad) which is distributed by them or you may smell the uplifting aroma of camphor, incense and other ritual materials. It will cleanse your other two senses, tongue and nostril. Thus, you can see that in the presence of holy men, the first thing that happens is that your physical senses (jnanendriyas), subtle senses (tanmatras) and mind become purified, uplifted or elevated.

The senses are responsible for our desires and attachments. According to the Bhagavadgita, because of them we become drawn to worldly things and develop an attachment to them, which in turn lead to mental instability, accumulation of karmic impurities and suffering. By perceiving holy people and the good things that are associated with them, you will be involuntarily drawn towards spiritual thoughts and become cleansed.

Another important fact is, the memory of your meeting will remain in your mind for long. It may bring a transformation in you or strengthen your resolve to put into practice the words or the advice of the holy person you met. Each time you meet a holy person, a little of your impurities become cleansed, and your resolve to dwell deep into spirituality strengthens.

Holy people serve the same purpose as the holy scriptures. They ignite our interest in spiritual matters. For a brief period, when you are in their presence, they draw your attention away from worldly things and make you think about your spiritual nature or your spiritual purpose. They inspire you to cultivate virtues and practice Dharma or righteousness. It is said in the Bhagavatam, “Association with holy men is the most precious thing in life. The moment opens the path of spiritual progress.”

As you frequently meet them, you will cultivate faith (shraddah), resolve (drth), devotion (bhakti) and purity (sattva). By that, some of your karma may also become neutralized, or you may accumulate good karma. Hence, our tradition places a lot of importance upon satsang or association with holy people and righteous people. It is a transformative practice in itself. The assembly of righteous people generates a lot of spiritual energy or what the Chinese call, Chi.  Just as the light of the sun, it benefits everyone who is present there, including the onlookers.

It is however, important that you do not become excessively attached to holy people or gurus and develop mental dependence upon them. That will be self-defeating since the purpose of spiritual practice is to cultivate detachment and become absorbed in the contemplation of the Self or God, not to become beholden to the physical form a guru or spiritual person. Many people fall into that trap, which in many ways is infatuation, a form of passion or even delusion. It is like becoming free from one mental snare to fall into another. You may meet them, but you must move on with your spiritual practice, unless you have other aims.

Avoid unholy associations

Just as it is important to meet holy people occasionally, it is equally important to stay away from unholy people or people who are excessively driven by material things (Artha) and sexual passion (Kama) or those who are devoid of virtues such as honesty, truthfulness, cleanliness, compassion, etc. You should also carefully avoid those who speak ill of our gods or God himself.

Not believing in God or gods or in religious practice is one thing but criticizing them or abusing them, or those who believe in them, is a very unholy act and sinful karma. One should try to avoid their company. If it is not possible, one should stay aloof and avoid any conversation regarding one’s religious or spiritual beliefs. Association with them reduces your spiritual purity and may even impart to you some of their impurities. Lord Chaitanya said in Katyayana Samhita that it is better to be locked up in a cage that is filled with fire rather than associating with those who are enemies of God.

The Self is the holiest of all

Lastly, constant association with the Self or God is even more purifying than association with all the holy people in the world. Therefore, you may meet holy people for inspiration and self-cleansing, but do not become too preoccupied with it. At some point, you have to renounce that ritual too and move on. Your inner Self (Isvara) is verily God. He is holier than the holiest, and association with him is more beneficent than association with anyone else.

To meet this holiest person (Purusha), you do not have to travel anywhere, or eagerly stand in a queue for hours to see the holy person or spend a lot of money to travel to his or her place of residence or discourse. He is always there in you. To meet him, you just have to withdraw your mind and senses and go on an inner spiritual journey. It is the most auspicious journey that you can ever take. What is there in all the holy places or in holy people, which is not in you? If you meet holy people by chance, consider that it is providence. If you meet them out of desire, know that it is a desire-ridden action which produces karma. You are a living and breathing temple of God, and the deity who resides there is the holiest of all. Right now, he is eagerly waiting for you. Visualize that shining light and open the doors to your subtle world.

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