In Sadhana Panchakam verse 13, Adi Shankara gives the instruction that one must keep the company of knowledgeable people, specifically the Guru. Most people focus on the latter half, i.e. finding the ‘knowledgable One’, i.e. the Guru, and making sure the Guru is the right one for us. Even when we are in dire need of help, materially or spiritually, we only think of estimating / forecasting whether this Guru can really help our cause. Will the Guru make us stop eating the foods we like or watch the TV we crave or visit the pubs we like? If so, then I’d rather change my Guru, because that is infinitely easier than changing my lifestyle.
All the focus though, has to be on the first part of the sentence, i.e. ‘keeping company of’. This looks disarmingly easy, but is extremely difficult. A true Guru might administer some much needed bitter medicine, and in such times, sticking on to the chosen spiritual path might seem not just troublesome, but also unnecessary. While the solution for this problem is introspection, grit and perseverance, the oft-resorted-to measure is Guru-hopping.
From a more materialistic point of view, keeping company with knowledgeable people helps akin to the “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with” adage. Hence it is important to choose the people we are around. If we surround ourselves with billionaires, the chances of us thinking lofty, goal-oriented and futuristic increases manifold, as does the chance of success. The question of course is, why would even one billionaire want to spend time with me, let alone five?
‘Billionaire’ is the end goal, as is moksha. It is neither the start, nor the journey. What if we could have lunch with one person smarter than us, every day, or at least twice a week, instead of eating alone, or with the same team members? What if we could cold-write to people for their guidance / mentorship on LinkedIn? What if we could reach out to people seeking to partake in their wisdom? Without doubt the results will come. But taking the first step, and maintaining it (keeping the company going) is in our hands. The rest will follow.