Sri Ramakrishna would tell the devotees that the company of the holy or Satsang is an extremely important discipline in spiritual life. Satsang has immense power to quicken our spiritual progress. The following story beautifully illustrates this idea.
Narada once asked Bhagwan Vishnu about the nature of Satsang. The Lord asked Narada to follow him to the earth. Together they reached a garden where they saw a worm in a heap of cow dung. The moment their eyes fell on the worm it became extremely restless and died immediately. Then Bhagawan Vishnu took Narada to a lake where they saw a bird. The moment they came near the bird it writhed in pain and died. Narada was stunned, but before he could ask anything, the Lord took him to a cowshed where a cow had given birth to a calf. Again the moment both of them approached the calf, it developed signs of severe suffering and dropped dead. Narada became speechless. However, the Lord asked him to continue the journey. They reached a house where they saw a new born baby in a cradle. The moment they approached the child, it got up and started speaking.
He said, “O Lord, I was an angel (Devata) in the heaven (Swarga) and because of a terrible misdeed was cursed to be born on earth and suffer several births. Accordingly, I came tumbling down to earth and was born as a worm. But, by your grace, by the power of Satsang, I got rid of three births and was born as a human. Now by Satsang, I have been liberated and am going back to heaven”.
Thus the power of the company of the holy or Satsang is extraordinary. Several of our scriptures extol the great qualities of Satsang.
The Narada Bhakti Sutras say that it is extremely difficult to get and it is impossible to understand the way it operates, but it has extraordinary saving power.