Many sincere householders would come to Sri Ramakrishna for his holy company. Every now and then they would ask him whether it is possible to realise God, even while living in the world as a householder. The reason perhaps is the fact that in his company they used to experience a tremendous sense of spiritual uplift, but when they went back to their familiar household surroundings they would be confronted by numerous problems and difficulties associated with life in the world. Hence, their minds would often be in doubt as to their ability to reach the Ultimate Goal of life.
Sri Ramakrishna would console them and assure them again and again that it was possible to realize God or the Ultimate Goal of life even while living the life of a householder. But he would ask them to follow certain disciplines to achieve their goal. In particular, he would advise them again and again to keep the company of the holy or engage in Satsang, which has a tremendous power to uplift the mind. To drive home the point, he would quote an analogy from daily life.
Someone had brought a caged parrot home. The person used to teach him regularly to chant Rama Rama. Initially, the bird found it very difficult since it was used only to squealing. But over a period of time, due to constant practice, it learnt to chant Rama beautifully. But one day, when the owner carelessly left the cage open, the parrot flew out and the moment it went out, it started squealing again in its original voice.
Thus, Sri Ramakrishna would say that in the temple or in the home of the guru or in the company of the holy, a person hears the name of God again and again and slowly develops spiritual tendencies. It takes enormous amount of practice to get rid of the old samaskaras. That is why Sri Ramakrishna used to advocate strongly the company of the holy for spiritual uplift.
-by Swami Shantatmananda, Sunday Guardian, 7th Mar 2015