Sri Rupa Goswami, foremost of the six Goswamis of Vrindavana, delineates the actions that help boost one’s devotional life and those that serve as impediments hindering one’s spiritual progress. He writes in his ‘Nectar of Instructions’ that associating with worldly-minded people, who are not drawn to devotion, is one such action that is detrimental to spiritual progress (jana sangas ca laulyam ca sadbhir bhaktir vinashyati). He therefore urges a serious devotee of Lord Krishna to renounce such material association in order to achieve success in his/her spiritual endeavors (sanga tyagat sato vritteh sadbhir bhaktih prasidhyati). The Vedic Literatures are full of such evidences that establish the sublime benefits of associating with a Vaishnava (Sadhu Sanga). Spirituality fosters in the association of devotees while materialistic company promotes materialistic pursuits. Hence the wise choose their association carefully acknowledging that their consciousness is affected by the company they keep.
Spirit and matter are fundamentally opposed to each other. One can either live in spiritual or else in material consciousness. Likewise, material and spiritual attachments are inversely proportional to each other. Lord Krishna, the Supreme Lord, is the master of countless potencies.
parasya saktir vividhaiva sruyate – His energies are innumerable and immeasurable (Svetasvatara Upanishad 6.8)
These potencies can be grouped primarily into internal, marginal, and external. The internal energy of the Supreme Lord constitutes the eternal, blissful, and cognizant spiritual world. Those who possess a spiritual consciousness and seek the shelter of the Supreme Lord fall within the purview of the Lord’s internal energy (Hladini shakti). On the other hand, this temporary world of matter falls within the purview of the Lord’s external energy (Bahiranga shakti). The living entities of this world, however, belong to a third category. They belong to the marginal potency or the ‘tatastha shakti’ of the Supreme Lord. ‘Tata’ refers to the region between land and water, and hence it holds the properties of both. Therefore ‘tata’ cannot be referred to as belonging purely to either land or water. Similarly, the living entities of this world have a choice to be attracted to either the world of spirit or the world of matter. Though the living entity is a part and parcel of the Supreme Lord and spiritual by nature, yet sometimes it may become overwhelmed by this temporary world of dull matter.
Those living beings who grow bewildered by the illusory energy (Maya) of the Lord and consequently try to enjoy this temporary material world, become controlled by the external potency (bahiranga shakti) of the Supreme Lord. These unfortunate souls deviate from their constitutional position as a servant of the Supreme Lord and indulge in sense gratification by trying to Lord over matter. However, their efforts only die in frustration as flickering sensual pleasures can never fully satisfy a living being who is eternally hankering for pure spiritual bliss. On the other hand, those wise living entities (devotee of Krishna), who choose to engage in the devotional service of the Supreme Lord become controlled by the Lord’s internal energy (Hladini shakti).