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Hearing the Glories of the Lord

"These nine processes, of which the easiest is sravanam, hearing Bhagavad-gita from the realized person, will turn one to the thought of the Supreme Being. This will lead to nisala, remembering the Supreme Lord, and will enable one, upon leaving the body, to attain a spiritual body which is just fit for association with the Supreme Lord."

Bhagavad-gita, Introduction

"Hearing" means hearing about someone's activities, form, qualities, entourage, and so on. If I want to hear about someone, he must have some activities. We hear about history, and what is history? It is but the record of the activities of different persons in different ages. As soon as there is a question of hearing, we must ask what subject matter we should hear about. Sravanam kirtanam visnoh: we should hear about the activities of Lord Visnu, or Lord Krsna, not about the news in the newspaper. Brahma-jijnasa: we should inquire and hear about Brahman, the Supreme. These are the statements of the Vedas. In our Krsna consciousness movement, we also hear and chant, but what is the subject matter? The subject matter is Krsna. We are not hearing about market reports and the price of this share or that share. No. We are hearing about Krsna."

Teachings of Queen Kunti, Chapter 19

"The beginning of Krsna consciousness and devotional service is hearing, in Sanskrit called sravanam. All people should be given the chance to come and join devotional parties so that they may hear. This hearing is very important for progressing in Krsna consciousness. When one links his ears to give aural reception to the transcendental vibrations, he can quickly become purified and cleansed in the heart. Lord Caitanya has affirmed that this hearing is very important. It cleanses the heart of the contaminated soul so that he becomes quickly qualified to enter into devotional service and understand Krsna consciousness.

In the Garuda Purana the stress on hearing is expressed very nicely. It is said there, "The state of conditioned life in the material world is just like that of a man lying unconscious, having been bitten by a snake. This is because both such unconscious states can be ended by the sound of a mantra." When a man is snake-bitten he does not die immediately, but first becomes unconscious and remains in a comatose condition. Anyone who is in the material world is also sleeping, as he is ignorant of his actual self or his actual duty and his relationship with God. So materialistic life means that one is bitten by the snake of maya, illusion, and thus, without any Krsna consciousness, is almost dead. Now, the so-called dead man bitten by a snake can be brought back to life by the chanting of some mantra. There are expert chanters of these mantras who can perform this feat. Similarly, one can be brought back into Krsna consciousness from the deadly unconscious state of material life by hearing of the maha-mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare. Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In the Fourth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, Twenty-ninth Chapter, verse 40, the importance of hearing of the pastimes of the Lord is stated by Sukadeva Gosvami to Maharaja Pariksit: "My dear King, one should stay at a place where the great acaryas [holy teachers] speak about the transcendental activities of the Lord, and one should give aural reception to the nectarean river flowing from the moonlike faces of such great personalities. If someone eagerly continues to hear such transcendental sounds, then certainly he will become freed from all material hunger, thirst, fear and lamentation, as well as all illusions of material existence."

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu also recommended this process of hearing as a means of self-realization in the present age of Kali. In this age it is very difficult to follow thoroughly the regulative principles and studies of the Vedas which were formerly recommended. However, if one gives aural reception to the sound vibrated by great devotees and acaryas, that alone will give him relief from all material contamination. Therefore it is the recommendation of Caitanya Mahaprabhu that one should simply hear from authorities who are actually devotees of the Lord. Hearing from professional men will not help. If we hear from those who are actually self-realized, then the nectarean rivers, like those which are flowing on the moon planet, will flow into our ears. This is the metaphor used in the above verse."

Nectar of Devotion, Chapter 10

"One may perform all the methods of devotional service or may accept only one. Simply hearing is enough. Pariksit Maharaja did not do anything else but sit down before Sukadeva Gosvami and hear for the last seven days of his life. If one simply hears, without doing anything else, if one simply sits down in the temple and whenever there is talk of Bhagavad-gita one goes on hearing, that will be enough. Even if you do not understand, please hear. The vibration, the mantra, will help you. Grammatical or scholarly understanding is not very important. One may not know Sanskrit grammar, but bhakti is apratihata, unimpedable. Nothing can check the progress of bhakti. Therefore one should simply adopt this process of hearing, as recommended by Caitanya Mahaprabhu."

Teachings of Queen Kunti, Chapter 19

"Hearing of the holy name of the Lord (sravanam) is the beginning of devotional service. Although any one of the nine processes is sufficient, in chronological order the hearing of the holy name of the Lord is the beginning. Indeed, it is essential. As enunciated by Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, ceto-darpana-marjanam: by chanting the holy name of the Lord, one is cleansed of the material conception of life, which is due to the dirty modes of material nature. When the dirt is cleansed from the core of one's heart, one can realize the form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead--isvarah paramah krsnah sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah. Thus by hearing the holy name of the Lord, one comes to the platform of understanding the personal form of the Lord. After realizing the Lord's form, one can realize the transcendental qualities of the Lord, and when one can understand His transcendental qualities one can understand the Lord's associates. In this way a devotee advances further and further toward complete understanding of the Lord as he awakens in realization of the Lord's holy name, transcendental form and qualities, His paraphernalia, and everything pertaining to Him. Therefore the chronological process is sravanam kirtanam visnoh. This same process of chronological understanding holds true in chanting and remembering. When the chanting of the holy name, form, qualities and paraphernalia is heard from the mouth of a pure devotee, his hearing and chanting are very pleasing. Srila Sanatana Gosvami has forbidden us to hear the chanting of an artificial devotee or nondevotee."

Hearing from the text of Srimad-Bhagavatam is considered the most important process of hearing. Srimad-Bhagavatam is full of transcendental chanting of the holy name, and therefore the chanting and hearing of Srimad-Bhagavatam are transcendentally full of mellows. The transcendental holy name of the Lord may be heard and chanted accordingly to the attraction of the devotee. One may chant the holy name of Lord Krsna, or one may chant the holy name of Lord Rama or Nrsimhadeva (ramadi-murtisu kala-niyamena tisthan). The Lord has innumerable forms and names, and devotees may meditate upon a particular form and chant the holy name according to his attraction. The best course is to hear of the holy name, form and so on from a pure devotee of the same standard as oneself. In other words, one who is attached to Krsna should chant and hear from other pure devotees who are also attached to Lord Krsna. The same principle applies for devotees attracted by Lord Rama, Lord Nrsimha and other forms of the Lord. Because Krsna is the ultimate form of the Lord (krsnas tu bhagavan svayam), it is best to hear about Lord Krsna's name, form and pastimes from a realized devotee who is particularly attracted by the form of Lord Krsna. In Srimad-Bhagavatam, great devotees like Sukadeva Gosvami have specifically described Lord Krsna's holy name, form and qualities. Unless one hears about the holy name, form and qualities of the Lord, one cannot clearly understand the other processes of devotional service. Therefore Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu recommends that one chant the holy name of Krsna. param vijayate sri-krsna-sankirtanam. If one is fortunate enough to hear from the mouth of realized devotees, he is very easily successful on the path of devotional service. Therefore hearing of the holy name, form and qualities of the Lord is essential."

Srimad-Bhagavatam 7:5:23-24

"One can directly approach the Supreme Personality of Godhead simply by executing the nine kinds of devotional service, of which hearing about the Lord is the most important (sravanadi). Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has very favorably stressed the importance of this process of hearing. According to His method, if people are simply given a chance to hear about Krsna, certainly they will gradually develop their dormant awareness or love of Godhead. Sravanadi-suddha-citte karaye udaya (Cc. Madhya 22.107). Love of God is dormant in everyone, but if one is given a chance to hear about the Lord, certainly that love develops. Our Krsna consciousness movement acts on this principle. We simply give people the chance to hear about the Supreme Personality of Godhead and give them prasada to eat, and the actual result is that all over the world people are responding to this process and becoming pure devotees of Lord Krsna. We open hundreds of centers all over the world just to give people in general a chance to hear about Krsna and accept Krsna's prasada. These two processes can be accepted by anyone, even a child. It doesn't matter whether one is poor or rich, learned or foolish, black or white, old or still a child--anyone who simply hears about the Supreme Personality of Godhead and takes prasada is certainly elevated to the transcendental position of devotional service."

Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi lila 7:141

"There are nine different processes. The most important process is hearing. And as soon as you want to hear, that means you have to concentrate your mind. So naturally, the mind becomes, I mean to say, locked. Sravanam kirtanam. But if we sleep, that is another thing, that "Let the lectures go on. Let me have some rest." That is another thing. But if you hear, if you are anxious to hear, then mind has to be engaged. Without attention, you cannot hear. If your mind is something doing, you are thinking of marketing something, or sometimes..., so you can hear, make a show of hearing, but you are not hearing. Therefore mind is the first thing. Sa vai manah krsna-padaravindayor vacamsi vaikuntha-gunanuvarnane. If you engage your mind in hearing, then you can describe the things in the Vaikuntha, in the spiritual world. Vacamsi vaikuntha-gunanu...

So we have to practice. This is bhakti-yoga. First of all we have to engage the mind. Mind. And as soon as you engage the mind in hearing about Krsna, Krsna will help you in cleansing the mind. That is the opinion given by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Ceto-darpana-marjanam. Because everything... We cannot understand about God, or we cannot see God, or we do not know what is God, because there are so many dirty things on the mind. Otherwise, as soon as the mind is clear, devoid of all dirty things, you can see. You can understand what is God; you can see God every moment."

Srila Prabhupada Lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam, 12-19-73, Los Angeles

"Simply by hearing. You remain in your place, there is no need of changing your place. If you are businessman, do your business. If you are a medical man, remain in your medical profession. Or lawyer, or whatever it may be. That is the recommendation of Brahma and confirmed by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Sthane sthitah sruti-gatam tanu-van-manobhir. If we hear, sruti-gatam, if we receive the message of bhakti, then you can remain in your place. But if you hear and try to implement it employ it in practical life, then one day the Supreme Lord whose another name is Ajita, you'll be able to conquer Him. Jito 'py asi. These are the recommendation in the sastra. So this is first-class or superior dharma. Everyone can accept it. Simply hear. And that hearing process is also made very easy. This chanting Hare Krsna maha-mantra you chant and hear. Anywhere you can do it. You sit down in your home or in your office, in your factory, underneath a tree or anywhere, you can chant Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare. Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. And you can hear. This process will make you advanced in everything. Caitanya Mahaprabhu has given His benediction, iha haite sarva siddhi hoibe tomara. By, simply by this chanting and hearing of Hare Krsna mantra, all perfection you'll get. It's very easy."

Srila Prabhupada Lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam, 10-09-76, Aligarh

"These nine. So the first principle is sravanam, it is said. Sravanam means hearing, that's all. The first principle of practicing this yoga, bhakti-yoga, beginning, "practicing yoga in full consciousness of Me." This yoga practice begins simply by hearing. You have got these ears. You simply just lend your ears and you become yogi. And as soon as you become experienced in hearing, you become a preacher--kirtanam. Immediately. One who has heard nicely, he will try to become a kirtaniya, or preacher. That is natural. That is natural. Sravanam kirtanam. And sravanam means hearing, and kirtanam means preaching or chanting. Then sravanam kirtanam. "Oh, I... People are hearing so many things daily. They are going to the college, schools, and meetings and assembly and association. They are all hearing, sravanam. They are practicing yoga?" No. Sravanam kirtanam visnoh: you have to hear and preach and chant of Krsna, nothing more. Not that simply by hearing any nonsense things you become yogi.

Here it is said, "Practicing yoga in full (sic:) conscious of Me, Krsna." So you have to hear of Krsna; you have to speak of Krsna. Then your yoga practice is nice. It clearly says, sravanam kirtanam visnoh. Not any other way. There are so many rascals, they say, "You can hear of any demigod, any man. That's all right." No. Any man, any demigod, is not Krsna. That is our misunderstanding. Kamais tais tair hrta-jnanah yajante anya-devatah. If any person goes to worship any other demigod, he is persuaded by lust. But those who are worshiper of Krsna, they are not persuaded by lust. They are persuaded by love. That is the difference. Therefore those who have got lust within their mind, they can worship many other demigods. But those who are freed from all lusty desires, simply wants to love Krsna, they can attain this sravanam kirtanam, chanting and hearing."

Srila Prabhupada Lecture on Bhagavad-Gita, 12-70-03, Los Angeles

Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada.

Hearing from Srila Prabhupada

Hearing Srimad-Bhagavatam

Maharaja Pariksit - The Personification of Hearing