Chapter 16 — On the Company of the Virtuous and Good Conduct

Vasishta resumed saying:—

Know, O highly intelligent Rama, that the company of the virtuous (the fourth gate-keeper) is everywhere of the greatest benefit to men for their crossing over the ocean of the world (samsara). It is the tree of virtuous company (satsanga) that produces the fresh blossom of discrimination which, being cherished by men with great souls, yields its fruit of prosperity. The society of the learned makes solitude appear as company, and the evil of death as good as a festivity, and converts a difficulty to ease.

The society of the virtuous wards off all disasters which, like the frost, invade the lotus beds of our hearts. The society of the virtuous baffles the icy breath of ignorance. Know that the society of the virtuous is the best way to improve understanding, destroy the tree of ignorance, and remove all our mental diseases. The society of the virtuous produces the light of reason, which is as charmingly fair as a cluster of flowers after being washed by rainwater. The influence of virtuous company teaches us the best way of living, which is never impaired or obstructed by anything and is ever full in itself.

Let no man ever keep himself from the association of the virtuous, even though he is involved in utmost distress and cast in irremediable circumstances. The society of the virtuous lends a light to the right path. It destroys a man’s internal darkness by the rays of the sun of knowledge. 10 Whoever has bathed in the cold, clear stream of good company does not need the merit derived from acts of charity, pilgrimage, austerity or sacrifice. 11 Of what use is austerity or pilgrimage to one who has the society of virtuous men and whose life is free from passions, sins, doubts and knots (of scruples in the heart)?

12 Blessed are the peaceful in their minds who people regard with as much devotion as poor men dote fondly upon gems and jewels. 13 An intelligent mind with its gracefulness derived from good company always shines like the goddess of riches in the company of fairy nymphs. 14 Therefore that blessed man who never abstains from the company of the holy is renowned as having attained the crown of clear understanding. 15 Hence all uncompromising believers, holy men and those who are revered by people are to be served by all means for crossing over the ocean of the world.

16 The company of the saints is like rainwater that extinguishes the flames of hell. Surely those who neglect the company of the saints serve as dry fuel to hell-fire. 17 The medicine of holy association serves to allay entirely all the afflictions consequent to poverty and death and all tribulations of worldly affairs.

18 Contentment, society of the virtuous, the practice of reasoning, and remaining undisturbed comprise the means for mankind to cross over the ocean of the world. 19 Contentment is reckoned to be the best gain, good company the right course, reasoning the true knowledge, and remaining undisturbed the highest bliss. 20 These are the four surest means to break off the shackles of the world, and whoever is practiced in these has surely passed over the false waters of terrestrial sea.

21 Learn, O best of the intelligent, that the practice of any one of these pure virtues leads to a habit of all four. 22 Every one of these separately is a leader to the others. Therefore apply yourself diligently to one of these for your success in getting them all.

23 Association with the good, contentment, right reasoning, and good judgment, joined with peace and tranquility, serve as cargo-ships in the ocean of the world. 24 All prosperity attends on him who is possessed of reason, contentment, peacefulness and the habit of keeping good company, like the fruit of the wish-fulfilling kalpa tree. 25 The man possessed of reasoning, contentment, tranquility and a proclivity to keep good company is attended by every grace, as all the digits unite in the full moon. 26 The happy mind filled with contentment, quietness, reasoning power, and a tendency towards good company meets with prosperity and success, much like kings guided by good ministers.

27 Therefore, O delight of Raghu’s race, bravely govern your mind and always diligently practice some one of these virtues. 28 Exert your best courage to subdue your elephantine mind. Know that until you have mastered one of these cardinal virtues, you can make no progress. 29 It must be, O Rama, that you must set your heart to work by the exertion of your courage and the gnashing of your teeth in order to succeed in meritorious deeds. 30 For whether you be a god, yaksha nature spirit, man, or tree, you cannot, O long-armed Rama, have a better course until you master one of these qualities.

31 As soon as one of these virtues is strengthened and made fruitful in you, it will serve to weaken the force of the faults of your uncontrollable mind. 32 The cultivation of virtues leads to their full growth and the suppression of vice, but the fostering of vice will lead to the increase of vices and the suppression of good qualities.

33 The mind is a wilderness of errors in which the stream of our desires flows with full force between its two banks of good and evil where we hold our stand. 34 It bears away and throws a man on the bank which he strives to reach by his own efforts. Therefore O Rama, do as you like to reach either shore. 35 Now with all the exertion of your manly force, try by degrees to turn the course of your desires towards the happy shore in the forest of your mind. Know, O high-minded Rama, that one’s own disposition is like a rapid current that must not be permitted to bear him away (to the perilous coast).