“The nine different processes enunciated by Prahlada Maharaja, who learned them from Narada Muni, may not all be required for the execution of devotional service; if a devotee performs only one of these nine without deviation, he can attain the mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.23-24 Purport)
Friend1: The dark age of Kali.
Friend2: Quarrel and hypocrisy.
Friend1: Everything upside down.
Friend2: Dharma becomes adharma and vice versa.
Friend1: In this age there is no other way…
Friend2: Except the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Friend1: There seems to be great emphasis on that. Chanting. Either to oneself, japa, or out loud with others, sankirtana.
Friend2: The emphasis is there because of Kali Yuga. The conditions especially make it difficult for other kinds of spiritual practice to be effective.
Friend1: In the other ages there is meditation, religious sacrifice, and deity worship, right?
Friend2: Yes. Interestingly, any of the processes will work in any of the ages.
Friend1: Oh. I didn’t know that.
Friend2: Yeah, but some are better suited for specific time periods.
Friend1: Okay, I’m glad you mentioned that. I was wondering to myself what happens if a person is not so interested in chanting.
Friend2: Any person or a devotee?
Friend1: Someone who is interested in bhakti-yoga. They understand the concept of the afterlife, how there is a difference between matter and spirit. They believe in God, for sure. They even accept the idea that the different religions of the world merely represent various stages of understanding of the Absolute.
Friend2: Like the pocket dictionary compared to the full dictionary.
Friend1: Exactly. Living within these conditions, what if a person isn’t so keen on chanting?
Friend2: They just don’t want to do it or they would rather do something else?
Friend1: Let me give you an example. You have one person who listens to kirtana all day. They watch videos online of people chanting the holy names in song. Some of these songs are bhajans, which are a little different than kirtanas.
Friend2: Right, slightly different. Not as much call and response. People generally are seated during the performance. In kirtanas, there is greater crowd participation.
Friend1: Then you have another person that likes to read Bhagavad-gita, Shrimad Bhagavatam, and the Ramayana. They may like to talk more about God and devotion to Him. They are not necessarily following the recommendation that chanting is everything in this dark age.
Friend2: And you’re wondering if the second person is worse off than the first?
Friend1: Not even just the second person. Anyone who doesn’t spend the entire day chanting. Basically, are there ways to be engaged in bhakti-yoga without specifically doing one thing?
Friend2: Oh, of course. Prahlada Maharaja mentions nine different processes when speaking to his father, the evil King Hiranyakashipu. The first two are hearing and chanting. The person you described listening to the songs is doing both of those, in effect.
Friend2: You have to remember that consciousness is the key. Consciousness is everything, in fact. You could be sitting outside during the day and staring at the sky and still be perfectly Krishna conscious.
Friend2: Of course. You see the blue sky and it reminds you of the complexion on the transcendental body of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. You see the clouds and appreciate how they give some relief from the scorching rays of the sun. You understand how they turn into rainclouds every now and then, sustaining life on earth. You appreciate the sun, also, for providing heat and light. You connect everything to the Divine, who is ultimately responsible. You are sitting around, apparently doing nothing, but you are swimming in the ocean of nectar that is bhakti.
Friend1: Wow, that’s great. Not that you’re recommending I sit around and do nothing, but the description is helpful. What about outside opinion, though? People will always ask, “How many rounds are you chanting?” They want to know which programs you attend.
Friend2: And if anything is insufficient in this regard, they will consider you to be in maya, or illusion.
Friend1: Exactly! Wow, you can read my mind.
Friend2: The short answer is, “Who cares?” Progress is at the individual level. You have your spiritual guide to help you, either through their direct association or the access to their timeless wisdom of instruction. Hearing and chanting are the most effective, though. They help to bring about the proper consciousness and then maintain it. But yeah, you could be doing something as simple as cooking and still be perfectly Krishna conscious. There is not just one path towards success.
If chanting by me not done,
Is then hope for success none?
What about opinion of others to say,
That in illusion I’ve lost my way?
Bhakti on consciousness depending,
Even bliss from simply at sky gazing.
Hear, chant, just shastra read,
Or cooking the Supreme Lord feed.