“When there is sound vibrated praising the transcendental pastimes of the Lord…one is forced to hear. That hearing process enters into the mind, and the practice of yoga is automatically performed.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.28.19 Purport)
We live in an age where technology is rapidly improving, with new products coming out all the time. Big screen televisions, cellular telephones, Bluetooth devices, and laptop computers are some of the products that have resulted. One of the more intriguing advancements brought on by this advancement in technology is the mp3 music file.
No less than thirty years ago, music was listened to primarily on record players. Artists released albums on large vinyl disks and consumers would then play them on large turntable style record players. Unlike the compact portable music players that exist today, these record players were quite bulky. There were no fast forward or rewind buttons; instead you would have to manually move the needle or the stylus to a different position on the record. Listening to music in the car was accomplished only by turning on the radio. There was no freedom in that, for one was forced to listen to whatever music was playing on the various radio stations. Progress occurred gradually through the years with the release of cassette tapes, which was then followed by compact discs. This smaller medium made it easier to listen to music while on the go. Compact discs even afforded us the luxury to fast forward and rewind between tracks on albums.
Fast forward to today and we now have the luxury of listening to music stored on computer files, called mp3s. Though a compressed form of music, these files are almost identical in sound quality to compact discs and they provide us much more flexibility and convenience. A large library of music is now available to us right at our fingertips wherever we go. Mp3 files can also be tagged with metadata, such as artist, track, and album names. You can even apply an album cover image to mp3 files, allowing you to browse through covers on your iPod or computer, similar to the way people used to browse through record album covers in music stores. Listening to music has never been easier, and we can even copy and share these files with our friends.
According to the Vedic teachings, technological advancement is not completely shunned, but it is generally not viewed favorably. The reason for this is that new technology binds us in the mode of passion. The material world is governed by three gunas or qualities: goodness, passion, and ignorance. Lord Krishna describes the mode of passion in this way:
“O chief of the Bharatas, when there is an increase in the mode of passion, the symptoms of great attachment, uncontrollable desire, hankering, and intense endeavor develop.” (Bhagavad-gita, 14.12)
One in the mode of passion is constantly hankering after things and is thus never satisfied. If one only focuses the mind on matters of sense gratification, then it will be very difficult to achieve spiritual advancement.
“In the mode of passion, people become greedy, and their hankering for sense enjoyment has no limit. One can see that even if one has enough money and adequate arrangement for sense gratification, there is neither happiness nor peace of mind.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 14.17 Purport)
When we get a new phone or mp3 player, immediately we are anxiously awaiting the next release, hoping that newer technology will correlate to greater happiness. With our new device, we are happy for a few days while we discover all the new features. That satisfaction doesn’t last for long however, as we eagerly await the release of the next model. Evidence of this can be seen with the iPhone produced by Apple. Considered a groundbreaking device, the iPhone is a cellular telephone, mp3 player, navigation system, and internet web browser all rolled into one device. Its popularity is immense, and its utility far reaching. However, upon its initial release, people still complained about features that it lacked, such as cut-and-paste, and MMS messaging capabilities. In answer to that, Apple recently released a newer iPhone model, which was once again met with great approval. We can be sure the euphoria will be short-lived, for people will be eagerly anticipating the next groundbreaking device. Since our material senses can never be satisfied, we end up trapped in a never ending cycle of hankering and lamenting.
Though technology can have this binding effect, if we use it for serving Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, then it becomes most beneficial to us. When we dovetail material activities with devotional service to God, then our material activities become spiritualized. Mp3 technology allows us to listen to songs about Krishna much more easily now. Since we are working hard at school or at our jobs, it may be difficult to find time to chant. Mp3 players allow us to listen to Hari-Kirtana, congregational songs about Krishna, at any place and at any time. We love to listen to music while driving, so now we have the opportunity to listen to songs praising Krishna. We can even sing along if we want. Car stereos now even support mp3 CDs, which allow one to place hundreds of tracks onto one disc. The car stereo will read and display the song title, name, and album, and it even keeps track of where you left off in a track when you start your car again. Such great technology shouldn’t go to waste.
One can probably make the best use of mp3 technology by using it to listen to Krishnakatha, or discourses about Krishna. The recorded lectures of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada give us direct access to such discourses. Shrila Prabhupada was a great devotee of Lord Krishna and the founder of the modern day Hare Krishna movement. While starting the movement in the late 60s, he gave lectures daily on Krishna consciousness, and these were recorded by his disciples. All his recorded lectures, speeches, and spiritual conversations are now available on mp3 format. We should take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to have a real spiritual master give us instruction. The Vedas tell us that the hearing process is the most effective in receiving transcendental knowledge.
With the Prabhupada Mp3 Library, we can now take spiritual instruction wherever we may be. Prabhupada made the complex philosophy of Vedanta understandable to the common man. Just by hearing one lecture, our lives are greatly benefited. Listening a few minutes a day while driving, while at work, or while relaxing at home will make our lives so much better.