Choose the collective that is corrective, not disruptive
We are social beings. Not only do we long to belong to some social group, but also the mindsets and passions of the social group around us affect us consciously and subconsciously.
Many of the feelings, desires, worries we experience originate not from us but from our social climate. For example, the baseball mania in a US university may change an immigrant Indian student with no prior interest in baseball into an obsessive baseball fan.
The collective culture may not affect us spiritual seekers so blatantly. Nonetheless, the materialism of mainstream society subtly erodes our devotional determination. Though we resolve to live accordingly to spiritual values, our resolutions are frequently sabotaged by overwhelming materialistic passions. Thus the collective becomes disruptive, even destructive, for our spiritual growth.
To avoid such disruption, the Bhagavad-gita (13.11: aratir jana samsadi) recommends that we keep a safe distance from the materialistic masses. This distance refers not so much to a physical distance but to an emotional distance, wherein we subject the passions coming from our environment to adequate and appropriate screening.
Even better than such blocking out of materialistic social environment is tuning in to the social environment that nourishes our spiritual values: the association of devotees. The Bhagavad-gita (10.09) mentions how devotees delight in sharing their spiritual joys centered on Krishna. If somehow we can’t join such association physically, then we can join it emotionally through sound vibration by hearing spiritual talks.
By joining devotee association, we gain not only protection from disruptive passions but also nutrition by corrective passions. That is, the strong devotional desires of advanced devotees nourish our tender devotional desires and empower us to do any required course corrections on our spiritual journey.
Thus, by intelligently choosing our association, we can stay fixed and strong in our march towards Krishna.