“Always chanting My glories, endeavoring with great determination, bowing down before Me, these great souls perpetually worship Me with devotion.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.14)
सततं कीर्तयन्तो मां
यतन्तश् च दृढ-व्रताः
नमस्यन्तश् च मां भक्त्या
satataṁ kīrtayanto māṁ
yatantaś ca dṛḍha-vratāḥ
namasyantaś ca māṁ bhaktyā
“Have you ever heard of this concept of passing the time? I guess I should have known what it meant when I heard about baseball while growing up. That was always referred to as America’s pastime. From the context, I understood that to mean people in America love playing baseball.
“Now I realize the time aspect to it. I guess we are all doing it. We surf the internet. We read newspapers. We take walks. We talk on the phone. We do things to pass the time.
“There is a negative connotation, that if we didn’t have such activities, time would influence us in a way that isn’t preferred. I find that kind of sad. Why should we have to pass the time? Should not we be enjoying our life?
“I am not criticizing anyone. We are all on this boat together. This boat is destined for destruction. Each person departs at the time allotted for them. No one gets out alive.
“We see that people in old age take up different time-consuming tasks, in a way to avoid depression, sadness, or even total madness. They will renovate the house. Put up a new wall. Rip out the carpet in a room and put in new flooring.
“There are the studies which show people who retire early don’t live as long. It makes sense. They give up working for a living, but then they have nothing to do. They have little to live for. They have to replace the work with something else, with something meaningful.
“There is still death on the horizon. It’s that thing no one wants to talk about. I don’t know, something about the whole thing seems off. Shouldn’t life have more meaning than simply passing the time?”
With the science of self-realization, with study conducted under an authorized instructor, the postgraduate situation is one of an eternal engagement. The idea is to find something to do that will continue into future lifetimes.
For instance, in Bhagavad-gita we learn the different characteristics of transcendentalists. These are people directly offering service to the origin of everything, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. They are not merely passing the time; they have a specific direction they are headed, with accompanying activities.
One of those characteristics is chanting the holy names, such as in the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Devotees are always chanting the glories of God the person.
This is known as kirtana. There is the sounding of mantras, but describing the glories of God is also kirtana. This means that writing books, giving lectures, and discussing with interested parties also fall under the category of kirtana.
Such behavior seems like a way to pass the time. It is certainly an engaging process, for those who know. The subject matter is the king of education, raja-vidya. Shri Krishna describes it as the perfection of religion. It is something that brings joy throughout.
पवित्रम् इदम् उत्तमम्
सु-सुखं कर्तुम् अव्ययम्
pavitram idam uttamam
su-sukhaṁ kartum avyayam
“This knowledge is the king of education, the most secret of all secrets. It is the purest knowledge, and because it gives direct perception of the self by realization, it is the perfection of religion. It is everlasting, and it is joyfully performed.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.2)
Kirtana is more than passing the time. As an example, take someone who describes the glories of God and devotion to Him through regular publishing of written material. You casually inquire from them about when the process will complete, what the future looks like, what goals they hope to accomplish, and so forth. Their response might be along the following lines:
“I don’t know what you mean. I am not looking to finish anything. Everything I produce spawns further inquiry, discussion, inspiration, areas of glorification, and so on. Through this process I have understood the sanatana aspect to dharma. There is no beginning and no end. I hope to have this same occupation for thousands of lifetimes. Maybe then, perhaps I will have found a way to repay the favor God has shown me. Just a little bit of gratitude, but even then I don’t think my output will be sufficient.”
With this glorification task,
Of final end you ask?
But never a thought for me,
Rather the same in future to see.
That immense favor to repay,
Never quite settled to say.
Joy and bliss entire time bringing,
Whether hearing or glories singing.