While walking on spiritual path it’s necessary to understand certain paradoxical situations which are subtle but vital for our growth. Sages like Buddha and Narada transformed barber dacoits and murderers like Angulimala and Valmiki by power of their enlightenment and charisma. Prima facie it seems appropriate for all of us to not restrain any company good or bad too, as everyone of us has the same god residing inside. But on a closer inspection and while living by these principles it will be known that it’s not very practical always.
Renunciates were suggested to never visit their families in ancient times. They used to mingle with other people and sometimes even with other householders( though some injunctions strictly prohibit mingling with other householders too) but not with their families. The reason behind it was to avoid dense karma they shared with family members. It’s easier to deal with karma while being with people you are not too close to but when it comes to close relations most of us get bewildered and they are the true test of your transcending modes of nature. If you can stay without reacting to your spouse or siblings you might have transcended karma. But most people can’t do so, especially in the initial stages of spiritual practice, that is why those injunctions suggested to stay away from family members. Now, the same lord resides inside the family as does inside you but the separation was to ripen your practice.
Similarly some elements are disturbing in nature and we are recommended to stay away from them for ripening of our Sadhana. Lion and snakes are sentient beings and the same god resides inside them as does inside us but none of us will be advised to fearlessly venture through jungle and hug every lion, wolf and snake. It doesn’t mean we hold grudges towards them or discriminate against them. No, it just means that we understand that though our inner feelings are of love towards one and all the company(satsanga) should be good for the fructification of dharma. People driven by modes of passion and inertia are not a good company for those who practice meditation. They should be avoided. It’s practicality, though within your heart you clearly understand that they are same as you and only different in the sense that they are driven by more passion and inertia.
There is an interesting tale which explains this beautifully. Once sage Narada was passing through a village and some people cautioned him to not pass through a particular street because a fierce snake used to live there who had bitten many people and killed many children too. Narada being compassionate to snake went there and the snake started hissing fiercely standing with big hood. He looked at it with grace and started speaking to it about kindness and soon its anger melted and it humbly surrendered to sage. Then it promised to not to hurt humans or cattle which were not its food. The sage left the village after a while.
After a year when Narada was again passing through the village and recalled snake. He visited the street and saw that the same snake was lying in a corner and it looked very weak and injured. It seemed as if it had no life. He asked the snake about its ill condition, to which it replied in a trembling voice saying that it had been a year since it had stopped hurting human beings. Since then many mischievous and wicked humans and kids had been hurting it with stones and sticks. Narada felt immensely compassionate towards the snake and told it that it didn’t clearly understand the purport of the teaching. It was suggested to not to hurt people lethally but it was not suggested to at least not defend oneself. Self-defense is not violence. If the snake had kept hissing and chasing some kids people will have stayed alarmed of it instead of using it as a toy. This parable is a teaching that kindness doesn’t mean becoming fool and allowing wicked people to harm you. It means loving one and all but you should be practical about the company you keep and sometimes you might even have to pretend to be angry. Pretending to be angry is not as same as being angry. Anger makes you lose control and you are in hold of emotions whereas pretending to be angry is merely showing that there are boundaries while you remain as detached as ever!