“The beginning of Krishna consciousness and devotional service is hearing, in Sanskrit called shravanam. 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 Krishna consciousness. When one links his ears to give aural reception to the transcendental vibrations he can quickly become purified and cleansed in the heart.” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 10)
Friend1: I know that Prahlada Maharaja enumerates devotional service, bhakti-yoga. To be clear, it is the list of activities within that discipline.
Friend2: Nine processes.
Friend1: Not an absolute and final list. There is always nuance and subtlety within this world. I am sure we could think of something that might qualify for its own category.
Friend2: Prahlada’s list is pretty comprehensive. It is in reply to a question from the father. What has the boy learned? What is the most important thing?
Friend1: Prahlada was the son of a king. The ruler in the Daitya family, feared throughout the world. Hiranyakashipu was expecting a different response.
Friend2: A reply along the lines of advancing the temporary condition. How to deal with foreign adversaries. How to maintain a properly funded treasury. How to prevent depleting resources on frivolous expenditures.
Friend1: Prahlada’s words were like a knife in the back, given Hiranyakashipu’s disposition.
Friend2: The best of Daityas, asura-varya, had a mortal feud with Vishnu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Friend1: We must say that Vishnu does not hold enmity towards anyone.
Friend2: It is like finding out one day that someone hates you. You have never met them. You don’t remember ever having influence over their life. And yet they despise you with a passion.
Friend1: It makes no difference to the Supreme Lord. He stays who He is. He is not bothered by Hiranyakashipu’s enmity.
Friend2: The feud was one-sided. The leader of Daityas held a grudge over what he deemed an unjustifiable violent act by Varahadeva against Hiranyaksha.
Friend1: Before we go deeper into that, I wanted to touch on the first item listed by Prahlada. Shravanam.
Friend1: Yes, we understand from the acharyas that any single process within the nine is capable of bringing perfection. Shravanam is first in the list and it is the easiest one to implement.
Friend2: Not much effort required. Perhaps sacrifice some time. While you go for a walk in the morning. While running errands and driving the car. Maybe play a video on the smart television.
Friend1: Does the type of hearing matter?
Friend2: What do you mean? Obviously, the content should have a direct relationship with devotional service or the Supreme Lord Himself.
Friend1: Well, we know that we can hear songs. We can listen to other people glorifying Vishnu through Sanskrit poetry put to music.
Friend2: The call and response is kirtana and when people are sitting down we usually refer to that as a bhajan.
Friend1: Then there are the discourses. Hari-katha. I understand that in a formal presentation you get a mix of the two. When we are reading books, however, there is no music. We are hearing through the process of key-translation. The letters form words, and in the mind we convert the words to sound.
Friend2: That is why reading is so important. It is a way to preserve sound through the ages, without the use of technology.
Friend1: Should I hear kirtana or katha? Which one will bring perfection?
Friend2: Either one.
Friend1: So if I never listen to a single kirtana, I can still be saved?
Friend2: Of course. Bhagavata Purana is a conversation between guru and disciple. Maharaja Parikshit attains perfection simply through hearing. He is not engaged in sitting quietly and listening to kirtana.
Friend1: I can see someone gaining knowledge that way. Conversely, if someone never hears katha, they can still make it?
Friend2: The name is everything. If you simply hear the name that you alone produce through soft-chanting, then there every opportunity for reaching perfection in the auspicious human birth: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
First in the list appearing,
Likely then the most appealing.
That simply sit and hear,
And to God come near.
But mattering should not the thing.
Like words of praise or song to sing?
Any of the nine by Prahlada listed,
Divinity through name itself persisted.