sat-sangena hi daiteya
yatudhana mrgah khagah
vaisyah sudrah striyo ’ntya-jah
tasmims tasmin yuge yuge
bahavo mat-padam praptas
vrsaparva balir bano
mayas catha vibhisanah
sugrivo hanuman rkso
gajo grdhro vanikpathah
vyadhah kubja vraje gopyo
In every yuga many living entities entangled in the modes of passion and ignorance gained the association of My devotees. Thus, such living entities as the Daityas, Raksasas, birds, beasts, Gandharvas, Apsaras, Nagas, Siddhas, Caranas, Guhyakas and Vidyadharas, as well as such lower-class human beings as the vaisyas, sudras, women and others, were able to achieve My supreme abode. Vrtrasura, Prahlada Maharaja and others like them also achieved My abode by association with My devotees, as did personalities such as Vrsaparva, Bali Maharaja, Banasura, Maya, Vibhisana, Sugriva, Hanuman, Jambavan, Gajendra, Jatayu, Tuladhara, Dharma-vyadha, Kubja, the gopis in Vrndavana and the wives of the brahmanas who were performing sacrifice.
The Lord has mentioned devotees such as the gopis in Vrndavana and also demons like Banasura to illustrate how He comes under the control of those who surrender to Him. It is understood that devotees like the gopis and others mentioned here obtained pure love of Krsna, whereas the demons generally obtained only salvation. Many demons were purified by association with devotees and came to accept devotional service to the Lord as the most important among the various activities in their lives, but the exalted devotees like Prahlada and Bali Maharaja know nothing except devotional service, which they accept as their very life. Still, the reformed demons are also mentioned so that readers of Srimad-Bhagavatam will understand the enormous benefits one may achieve by associating with devotees of the Lord.
The demon Vrtrasura was the pious King Citraketu in his previous life, during which he associated with Sri Narada Muni, Sri Angira Muni and Lord Sankarsana. Prahlada Maharaja, being the son of Hiranyakasipu, is considered a Daitya, or demon. Yet while still in the womb of his mother, Kayadhu, he associated with Narada Muni by sound vibration. The demon Vrsaparva was abandoned by his mother at birth, but he was raised by a muni and became a devotee of Lord Visnu. Bali Maharaja associated with his grandfather Prahlada and also with Lord Vamanadeva. Bali Maharaja’s son, Banasura, was saved by association with his father and Lord Siva. He also associated with Lord Krsna personally when the Lord cut off all but two of his one thousand arms, which had been awarded as a benediction by Lord Siva. Understanding the glories of Lord Krsna, Banasura also became a great devotee. The demon Maya Danava constructed an assembly house for the Pandavas and also associated with Lord Krsna Himself, eventually achieving the shelter of the Lord. Vibhisana was a pious-natured demon, the brother of Ravana, and he associated with Hanuman and Ramacandra.
Sugriva, Hanuman, Jambavan and Gajendra are examples of animals who achieved the mercy of the Lord. Jambavan, or Rksaraja, was a member of a race of bears. He personally associated with Lord Krsna, fighting with Him over the Syamantaka jewel. The elephant Gajendra in a previous life had association with devotees, and at the end of his life as Gajendra he was personally saved by the Lord. Jatayu, the bird who at the cost of his own life assisted Lord Ramacandra, associated with Sri Garuda and Maharaja Dasaratha as well as other devotees in rama-lila. He also personally met with Sita and Lord Rama. According to Srila Jiva Gosvami, the association that the Gandharvas, Apsaras, Nagas, Siddhas, Caranas, Guhyakas and Vidyadharas had with the devotees is not very prominent and does not need to be mentioned. Vanikpatha is a vaisya, and his story is mentioned in the Mahabharata in connection with the pride of Jajali Muni.
The importance of association with devotees is illustrated in the story of Dharma-vyadha, the nonviolent hunter, as described in the Varaha Purana. In a previous life he somehow became a brahma-raksasa, or brahmana ghost, but was eventually saved. In a previous Kali-yuga he had the association of a Vaisnava king named Vasu. The lady Kubja associated directly with Lord Krsna, and in her previous birth she had associated with Sri Narada Muni. The gopis of Vrndavana rendered service to saintly persons in their previous births. Having had ample association with devotees, they became gopis in Vrndavana in their next lives and associated with the eternally liberated gopis who had descended there. They also had association with Tulasi-devi, or Vrndadevi. The wives of the brahmanas performing sacrifice had association with women sent by Lord Krsna to sell flower garlands and betel nuts and heard about the Lord from them.