“One must give aural reception to any knowledge one wants to receive, either material or spiritual. Therefore shrotram is very important. The Vedic knowledge is called shruti; knowledge has to be received by hearing. By hearing only can we have access to either material or spiritual enjoyment.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.26.32 Purport)
If we’re not witness to a certain event, we can only rely on the testimony of others to know about it. What they see they will hopefully remember. Then that memory will be shared with us in the form of words. Basically, we hear about the event. Thus we know only what we’ve heard. If the information is wrong, incomplete, or not relevant to our circumstances, what we hear isn’t worthwhile. But if the information is of the most value, then hearing becomes very worthwhile. And so it is not surprising that in the Vedic tradition so much stress is given to hearing.
Imagine this situation. You’re at the supermarket picking up food for the week. You’ve got your checklist that you’re running through. You’ve picked up the tomatoes, potatoes, flour, sugar, and bottled water. There’s one item left: milk. You head over to the dairy aisle and to your surprise you run into someone you know. You haven’t see them for a while. In fact, it’s probably been years. They barely have any hair on their head and they are much skinnier than before.
But this doesn’t surprise you since you heard that they were sick. You heard from others that they were not well. So when you approach this person you mention their health. You say that you hope that they are doing better. At this they return a puzzled look. “What do you mean ‘better’? I’m fine. Who told you I was sick?” Not wanting to out anyone, you bring up how from the smooth head you assumed there were problems. Then this person tells you that they merely cut their hair short for the summer. They’ve also been exercising a lot, so that’s why they look much thinner. In this situation there was nothing you could do, since you only went by what you heard. If you had heard properly, from an authority source, such as the person itself, you would have known better.
We hear many things that aren’t completely accurate. We hear that the aim of life is to enjoy as much as possible, with that enjoyment involving eating, sleeping, mating and defending. We hear that there is no God and that the people who claim there is one are crazy. We hear that if you don’t support the killing of an innocent child in the womb you are an extremist. We hear that if you don’t believe innocent animals should be killed for food then you are a hippie, someone into new age things. We hear that if you try any sort of renunciation for self-realization then you are needlessly punishing yourself.
If we change the source, if we hear from the speaker of the Bhagavad-gita and the people who represent Him, then we get on the right course. From that hearing we learn that we are spirit soul. This is very important to know. No one else has told us this so far. Even those who claimed to be religious never mentioned the difference between matter and spirit. They never told us that we are not our body. They never mentioned that there is a spiritual equality shared between all the species, from low to high. From the ant all the way up to the elephant, the animating force within is identical in constitutional makeup.
avyakto ‘yam acintyo ‘yamavikāryo ‘yam ucyatetasmād evaṁ viditvainaṁnānuśocitum arhasi
“It is said that the soul is invisible, inconceivable, immutable, and unchangeable. Knowing this, you should not grieve for the body.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.25)
From hearing from the speaker of the Bhagavad-gita, we learn that the coverings to spirit point action in various directions. One type of covering is geared for manual labor, one for business and industry, and another for offering protection through the exercise of strength. One type of covering is meant for studying the difference between matter and spirit, for knowing what the different coverings are. Yet despite the variety in coverings, the ultimate purpose is uniform: realizing God.
He is the Supreme Spirit, which means that He is not the property of any one religion. That we are spirit means that everyone, regardless of where they live or what language they speak, is animated by the same thing. The Supreme Spirit has the same relationship to all individual spirits. Thus the goal of life is the same for everyone.
And how do we achieve that goal? Again, the answer comes to us from hearing. Surrender to that spirit. Surrender here means relinquishing the fight to surpass. It means no longer competing with God; instead cooperating with Him. It means thinking of Him all the time, serving Him, offering all work as a sacrifice to Him, and remembering Him especially at the time of death. Surrender means helping those who want to increase the distribution of hearing. Just as a good newspaper will want to increase its circulation to help get their message out, the supporter of the speaker of the Bhagavad-gita knows that broadcasting the message of the Divine is the only way to correct all the past mistakes made from hearing from the wrong sources.
Their most valuable tool in increasing the distribution is the holy name itself, which carries all the potency of the Supreme Spirit. Put together in a wonderful sequence of words known as the maha-mantra, that name gives meaning to the power of hearing: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Of impending death to fear,
When from wrong source you hear.
Aim of life not to know,
In wrong directions to go.
To right authority source shift,
And immediately your spirits lift.
Chant holy names with feeling,
And to power of hearing give meaning.