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noble souls. In all of Hindu religious literature (and there is no reason to suppose it is otherwise in other religious literature) the value of such association is never superseded by any other religious value. It is the only force which inexorably produces the attachment to the divine. The very strange and powerfully distracting (ulbaNam) abyss of samsAra can be crossed very easily (anjasA) by the spiritualising effect of sharing of the Lord's stories and exploits with like-minded souls of devotion. Every one of their activities, consciously done or unconsciously, is an eloquent expression of the surge of divine love and proclaim it to the whole world. They are like the neem tree which purifies the very air we breathe. That is why Narada confidently says, (Narada-bhakti-sUtra No.68):
parasparaM lapamAnAH pAvayanti kulAni pRthVIMca //
Conversing with one another with choking voice, tearful eyes,
and horripilation, they purify not only their families
but the land which gave birth to them.
te na smarantyatitarAM priyamISa martyaM
ye cAnvadas-suta-suhRd-gRha-vitta-dArAH /
saugandhya-lubdha-hRdayeshu kRta-prasangAH //
Oh Padmanabha! They do not get involved in the memory of either their mortal body, or its necessary accessories as kith and kin, friend and foe, property, money and spouse; because they are already immersed in the association with noble souls whose minds are lost in the fragrance of Your divine feet.
This verse characterises divine love, also called Spiritual Love (see the entire chapter on The Art and Science of Spiritual Love starting from 'The non-Absolutist School'). The finest example of this was that of the gopis to Lord Krishna. cf. Bhagavatam.10-30-44:
tan-manaskAs-tadAlApAH tad-viceShTAs-tadAtmikAH /
tadguNAn-eva gAyantyaH nAtmAgArANi sasmaruH //
Their hearts given to Him, they talked of Him alone,
they imitated His sportful activities,
they could not think of themselves as different
from Him. Singing His glories all the time,
they could not think of their own homes.
The Gita praises this kind of spiritual Love as the Acme of
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