How important is pious company and discourse towards spiritual uplift? Once sage rada put this question to Lord Vishnu. ‘’What are the fruits of satsang?’’, he asked.
From his position of eterl rest on Shesg, Lord Vishnu pointed down to the nether world. “See the worm there. He will explain to you the benefits of satsang,” he said.
Mystified, rada travelled to the nether world, passed the fires of hell before he saw the worm wriggling in a dark corner. He had barely finished asking his question when the worm suddenly grew still and lifeless.
Quite put out, rada returned. ‘’The worm died without answering my question. Please don’t turn me off again. Enlighten me,” he pleaded to Lord Vishnu.
This time Lord Vishnu looked towards the Earth and pointed: ‘’Look yonder, see that parrot’s nest. One egg has already hatched. Ask that baby parrot.”
Commanded thus, rada appeared near the nest and asked, ‘’What are the fruits of satsang?’’. To his dismay, as soon as the question escaped his lips, the fledgling took one look at him and fell down dead.
Upset, the sage made his way back to Lord Vishnu. ‘’It seems the benefit of satsang is death! Whoever I ask this question, dies straightaway. Please tell me the truth yourself,’’ he implored.
Lord Vishnu smiled. “Do not lose hope so easily. Surely another creature will answer your question,” he chided gently. He then showed rada a newly-born calf in a meadow.
With much hesitation, the sage approached the calf and softly murmured into its ear. As soon as the calf heard the question, it stood stock still and then collapsed dead.
Utterly distressed now, rada gave vent to his shock and anger before Lord Vishnu. “Thanks to you, the sin of causing death to a calf is now upon my head,” he cried out.
But Lord Vishnu calmed him down, saying: “The time has come for your question to be answered. Go to that royal palace. A son has been born to the king. This infant is the one you must seek out.”
But rada had lost heart. ‘’I had a question which you did not deign to answer. At your bidding, I asked a worm, a parrot and a calf, and they all died. Now, I cannot risk death to the king’s son. I no longer want to know the fruits of satsang.’’
Lord Vishnu however assured rada that the newborn prince was the one destined to enlighten him, and that he would not die while doing so. So the sage appeared at the infant’s bedside and asked: ‘’ Sweet child! What are the fruits of satsang?’’
Hearing this, the infant looked up and laughed with joy. He then said: “O wisest of sages, do you not recognize me? When you first asked me this question, I was but a worm. I died and became a parrot. One look at you was enough for me to die again and be re-born as a calf. And then you freed me once more, and this time I have been given this highest of births as a human being who can recall all his past lives.”
The prince continued: “With the grace of your darshan, this life of mine has already become blessed even as it has barely begun. If this is how I have come up in such short time because of associating with a great sage like you, one can only imagine the benefits of satsang!”
With his heart at peace now, rada returned to his contemplation of Lord Vishnu. ‘’Your divine ways will never be understood by anyone, O Supreme One,’’ said he in humble prayer.