loke ‘pi bhagavad-guṇa-śravaṇa-kīrtanāt
loke — in the world; api — even; bhagavat — of the Supreme Lord; guṇa — about the qualities; śravaṇa — by hearing; kīrtanāt — and chanting.
One achieves bhakti by hearing and chanting about the Supreme Lord’s special qualities, even while engaged in the ordinary activities of life in this world.
Someone might say that Nārada is being unreasonable in advocating “uninterrupted loving service.” How can those who are busy with duties in the world maintain constant bhajana? But Nārada, like all ācāryas, is well aware of the worldly situation and the jīva’s predicament. Thus he recommends śravaṇaṁ kīrtanam [SB 7.5.23], hearing and chanting about the Lord, for all persons at all times. An outstanding example of a Kṛṣṇa conscious devotee who was busy in the world is Arjuna, Kṛṣṇa’s friend. And it was Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself who insisted that Arjuna not renounce the battlefield in favor of meditation:
tasmāt sarveṣu kāleṣu mām anusmara yudhya ca
mayy arpita-mano-buddhir mām evaiṣyasy asaṁśayaḥ
“Therefore, Arjuna, you should always think of Me in the form of Kṛṣṇa and at the same time carry out your prescribed duty of fighting. With your activities dedicated to Me and your mind and intelligence fixed on Me, you will attain Me without doubt” (Bg. 8.7).
Śrīla Prabhupāda writes, “The Lord never suggests anything impractical…. If he [Arjuna] doesn’t practice remembering Kṛṣṇa while he is struggling for existence, then it will not be possible for him to remember Kṛṣṇa at the time of death” (Bg. Introduction). Lord Caitanya also advises, kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ: [Cc. Ādi 17.31] “One should always chant the names of the Lord.”
Still the question remains, How can an active person perform double duty-work and chant at the same time? But it is possible, through love. Prabhupāda gave the example of a man who goes to work in an office while his young son is very ill at home. Out of natural affection, the father is always thinking, “How is the boy?” Another example, given by the ācāryas, concerns a married woman’s attachment for her paramour. The wife always thinks of her lover, even while doing her household chores. In fact, she does her housework even more carefully so that her husband will not suspect her. In the same way, we should always remember the supreme lover, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, even while meticulously discharging our material duties. If we say, “But I lack strong love for Kṛṣṇa,” the only remedy is vaidhi-bhakti. The very purpose of this training stage of bhakti is to bring out our original love for God, just as striking a match brings out a flame. And among all the devotional practices, the foremost are śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ [SB 7.5.23], hearing and chanting the glories of the Lord.
No one can honestly say he has absolutely no time to devote to śravaṇaṁ kīrtanam. Even the busiest people find time daily to go through newspapers or magazines, and almost everyone finds some time for television, as well as for idle talk. Much of this time could be spared for bhakti-yoga. And even when we are working at the office or factory, if we are donating a portion of our earnings to Kṛṣṇa we may think, “Kṛṣṇa has assigned me this particular duty.”
If despite his best efforts a devotee finds his social and occupational duties overwhelming, he should consider living in a different way. One should avoid ugra-karma, work that completely saps one of all higher energy and pious inclination. In the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Nārada Muni advised Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira that one should work “to earn his livelihood as much as necessary to maintain body and soul together.
… An intelligent man in human society should make his program of activities very simple” (SB 7.14.5-6).
Śrīla Prabhupāda, who worked for many years as a Kṛṣṇa conscious businessman, addressed the problem realistically. He said that there was no question of stopping all activities, just as there is no question of wiping out one’s temperature altogether when trying to recover from a fever. If one has a fever of 105ºF, one should carefully decrease it to the normal temperature, 98.6º, and maintain it there. Śrīla Prabhupāda writes, “The great sages and saints of India wanted to maintain the normal temperature by a balanced program of material and spiritual knowledge. They never allowed the misuse of human intelligence for diseased sense gratification” (Īśopaniṣad 11, purport). Most people give the highest priority to economic development and sense gratification, relegating religion to a support activity. But actual religion—self-realization—should come first. Economic development is required only to maintain the body in a sound, healthy condition.
Understanding the awkward position of people in the Kali-yuga, the Supreme Lord has given us the chanting of the holy names as the yuga-dharma, the religion of the age:
harer nāma harer nāma harer nāmaiva kevalam
kalau nāsty eva nāsty eva nāsty eva gatir anyathā
[Cc. Ādi 17.21]
“In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy, the only means of deliverance is the chanting of the holy names of the Lord. There is no other way. There is no other way. There is no other way” (Bṛhan-nāradīya Purāṇa).
Śrīla Prabhupāda formed the International Society for Krishna Consciousness on the basis of the yuga-dharma and Nārada Muni’s instructions in this sūtra. Throughout the world, many of Prabhupāda’s followers chant sixteen rounds of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra daily, attend a morning and evening program of kīrtana and scriptural discourse, and follow the four rules prohibiting sinful life—even while pursuing active professional careers. Lord Kṛṣṇa has personally promised Nārada Muni that whoever chants His glories will attain the Lord’s mercy, despite social or occupational status:
nāhaṁ tiṣṭhāmi vaikuṇṭhe yogināṁ hṛdayeṣu vā
yatra gāyanti mad-bhaktāḥ tatra tiṣṭhāmi nārada
“My dear Nārada, I do not dwell in Vaikuṇṭha or in the hearts of the yogī, but wherever My devotees sing My glories” (Padma Purāṇa).
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