Giving Up the Company of Nondevotees
"Lord Caitanya was once asked by one of His householder devotees what the general behavior of a Vaisnava should be. In this connection, Lord Caitanya replied that a Vaisnava should always give up the company of nondevotees. Then He explained that there are two kinds of nondevotees: one class is against the supremacy of Krsna, and another class is too materialistic. In other words, those who are after material enjoyment and those who are against the supremacy of the Lord are called avaisnava, and their company should be strictly avoided.
In the Katyayana-samhita it is stated that even if one is forced to live within a cage of iron or in the midst of a blazing fire, he should accept this position rather than live with nondevotees who are through and through against the supremacy of the Lord. Similarly, in the Visnu-rahasya there is a statement to the effect that one should prefer to embrace a snake, a tiger or an alligator rather than associate with persons who are worshipers of various demigods and who are impelled by material desire.
In the scriptures it is instructed that one may worship a certain demigod if he is desirous of achieving some material gain. For example, one is advised to worship the sun-god if he is desirous of getting rid of a diseased condition. For a beautiful wife, one may worship Uma, the wife of Lord Siva, and for advanced education one may worship Sarasvati. Similarly, there is a list in the Srimad-Bhagavatam for worshipers of all demigods, according to different material desires. But all of these worshipers, although they appear to be very good devotees of the demigods, are still considered to be nondevotees. They cannot be accepted as devotees.
The Mayavadis (impersonalists) say that one may worship any form of the Lord and that it doesn't matter, because one reaches the same destination anyway. But it is clearly stated in the Bhagavad-gita that those who are worshipers of the demigods will ultimately reach only the planets of those demigods, while those who are devotees of the Lord Himself will be promoted to the Lord's abode, the kingdom of God. So actually these persons who are worshipers of demigods have been condemned in the Gita. It is described that due to their lusty desires they have lost their intelligence and have therefore taken to worshiping the different demigods. So in the Visnu-rahasya these demigod worshipers are forcefully condemned by the statement that it is better to live with the most dangerous animals than to associate with these persons."
Nectar of Devotion, Chapter 8
Rendering Service to Devotees
"In the Padma Purana, there is a nice statement praising the service of the Vaisnavas, or devotees. In that scripture Lord Siva tells Parvati, "My dear Parvati, there are different methods of worship, and out of all such methods the worship of the Supreme Person is considered to be the highest. But even higher than the worship of the Lord is the worship of the Lord's devotees."
A similar statement is in the Third Canto, Seventh Chapter, verse 19, of Srimad-Bhagavatam: "Let me become a sincere servant of the devotees, because by serving them one can achieve unalloyed devotional service unto the lotus feet of the Lord. The service of devotees diminishes all miserable material conditions and develops within one a deep devotional love for the Supreme Personality of Godhead."
In the Skanda Purana there is a similar statement: "Persons whose bodies are marked with tilaka, symbolizing the conchshell, wheel, club and lotus--and who keep the leaves of tulasi on their heads, and whose bodies are always decorated with gopi-candana--even seen once, can help the seer be relieved from all sinful activities."
A similar statement is found in the First Canto, Nineteenth Chapter, verse 33, of Srimad-Bhagavatam: "There is no doubt about one's becoming freed from all reactions to sinful activities after visiting a devotee or touching his lotus feet or giving him a sitting place. Even by remembering the activities of such a Vaisnava, one becomes purified, along with one's whole family. And what, then, can be said of rendering direct service to him?"
In the Adi Purana there is the following statement by Lord Krsna Himself, addressed to Arjuna: "My dear Partha, one who claims to be My devotee is not so. Only a person who claims to be the devotee of My devotee is actually My devotee." No one can approach the Supreme Personality of Godhead directly. One must approach Him through His pure devotees. Therefore, in the system of Vaisnava activities, the first duty is to accept a devotee as spiritual master and then to render service unto him.
Sri Rupa Gosvami affirms that all the quotations given in the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu from different scriptures are accepted by the great acaryas and devotees of the Lord."
Nectar of Devotion, Chapter 12
Associating with Advanced Devotees
"The importance of discussing Srimad-Bhagavatam in the society of pure devotees was explained by Saunaka Muni during the meeting at Naimisaranya, in the presence of Suta Gosvami. Suta Gosvami confirmed that if someone is fortunate enough to associate with a pure devotee of the Lord even for a moment, that particular moment is so valuable that even those pious activities which can promote one to the heavenly planets or give liberation from material miseries cannot compare to it. In other words, those who are attached to Srimad-Bhagavatam do not care for any kind of benefit derived from elevation to the higher planetary kingdoms, or for the liberation which is conceived of by the impersonalists. As such, the association of pure devotees is so transcendentally valuable that no kind of material happiness can compare to it.
In the Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya there is a conversation between Prahlada Maharaja and his father, Hiranyakasipu, in which Hiranyakasipu addresses Prahlada in this way: "My dear son, association is very important. It acts just like a crystal stone, which will reflect anything which is put before it." Similarly, if we associate with the flowerlike devotees of the Lord, and if our hearts are crystal clear, then certainly the same action will be there. Another example given in this connection is that if a man is potent and if a woman is not diseased, then by their conjugation there will be conception. In the same way, if the recipient of spiritual knowledge and the deliverer of spiritual knowledge are sincere and bona fide, there will be good results."
Nectar of Devotion, Chapter 12
Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada.