From Teachings of Queen Kunti, Chapter 19:
Therefore, even though the Lord may be present before our eyes, it is not possible to see Him unless we have the necessary vision. This necessary qualification is developed by the process of devotional service only, beginning with hearing about the Lord from the right sources.
The Bhagavad-gītā is one of the popular literatures which are generally heard, chanted, repeated, etc., by the people in general, but in spite of such hearing, etc., sometimes it is experienced that the performer of such devotional service does not see the Lord face to face.
The reason is that the first item, śravaṇa, is very important.
If hearing is from the right sources, it acts very quickly.
Generally people hear from unauthorized persons. Such unauthorized persons may be very learned by academic qualifications, but because they do not follow the principles of devotional service, hearing from them becomes a sheer waste of time.
Sometimes the texts are interpreted fashionably to suit their own purposes.
Therefore, first one should select a competent and bona fide speaker and then hear from him.
When the hearing process is perfect and complete, the other processes become automatically perfect in their own way.
There are different transcendental activities of the Lord, and each and every one of them is competent to bestow the desired result, provided the hearing process is perfect. In the Bhāgavatam the activities of the Lord begin from His dealings with the Pāṇḍavas. There are many other pastimes of the Lord in connection with His dealings with the asurasand others. And in the Tenth Canto the sublime dealings with His conjugal associates, the gopīs, as well as with His married wives at Dvārakā are mentioned.
Since the Lord is absolute, there is no difference in the transcendental nature of each and every dealing of the Lord. But sometimes people, in an unauthorized hearing process, take more interest in hearing about His dealings with the gopīs. Such an inclination indicates the lusty feelings of the hearer, so a bona fide speaker of the dealings of the Lord never indulges in such hearings. One must hear about the Lord from the very beginning, as in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam or any other scriptures, and that will help the hearer attain perfection by progressive development.
One should not, therefore, consider that His dealings with the Pāṇḍavas are less important than His dealings with the gopīs. We must always remember that the Lord is always transcendental to all mundane attachment. In all the above-mentioned dealings of the Lord, He is the hero in all circumstances, and hearing about Him or about His devotees or combatants is conducive to spiritual life.
It is said that the Vedas and Purāṇas, etc., are all made to revive our lost relation with Him. Hearing of all these scriptures is essential.
In the previous verses, Kuntīdevī has explained that those who have come to this material world are working very hard like asses and have such a hard burden that they cannot bear it. Because their lusty desires have created heavy work that puts them always in trouble, Kṛṣṇa comes to introduce the system by which one can get relief from this continuously troublesome life.
Religion consists of the laws of God.
People who do not know this think that religion means faith. But although you may have faith in something and I may have faith in something, and although I may believe you and you may or may not believe me, that is not religion.
There is even a supposedly religious mission that says, “You can manufacture your own way.” Yata mata tata patha: “Whatever you think is right, that is right.” This is their philosophy.
But that is not science. Suppose I am a madman. Is whatever I think all right? How could this be? “Two plus two equals four” is science. If I believe that two plus two equals five or three, does it become true? No.
So there are laws of God, and when there is dharmasya glāniḥ, deviation from these laws, we suffer. Just as we might suffer by violating the laws of the state, as soon as we violate the laws of God we are subjected to so many tribulations.
Now, how are we to get free from these tribulations? Kṛṣṇa comes to free us from them by giving us bhakti-yoga. Kṛṣṇa recommends, “Do this,” and if we do it we shall get relief. Prahlāda Mahārāja mentions that this bhakti-yoga consists of nine items:
śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ
arcanaṁ vandanaṁ dāsyaṁ
iti puṁsārpitā viṣṇau
bhaktiś cen nava-lakṣaṇā
kriyeta bhagavaty addhā
tan manye ’dhītam uttamam
“Hearing and chanting about the transcendental holy name, form, qualities, paraphernalia, and pastimes of Lord Viṣṇu, remembering them, serving the lotus feet of the Lord, offering the Lord respectful worship, offering prayers to the Lord, becoming His servant, considering the Lord one’s best friend, and surrendering everything unto Him (in other words, serving Him with the body, mind, and words) – these nine processes are accepted as pure devotional service. One who has dedicated his life to the service of Kṛṣṇa through these nine methods should be understood to be the most learned person, for he has acquired complete knowledge.” (Bhāgavatam 7.5.23–24)
“Hearing” means hearing about someone’s activities, form, qualities, entourage, and so on. If I want to hear about someone, he must have some activities.
We hear about history, and what is history? It is but the record of the activities of different persons in different ages. As soon as there is a question of hearing, we must ask what subject matter we should hear about.
Śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ: we should hear about the activities of Lord Viṣṇu, or Lord Kṛṣṇa, not about the news in the newspaper.
Brahma-jijñāsā: we should inquire and hear about Brahman, the Supreme.
These are the statements of the Vedas.
In our Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, we also hear and chant, but what is the subject matter? The subject matter is Kṛṣṇa. We are not hearing about market reports and the price of this share or that share. No. We are hearing about Kṛṣṇa.
And when there is hearing, there must also be speaking or chanting. So we speak and chant about Kṛṣṇa (śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ).
And as soon as one becomes expert in hearing and chanting, the next stage is smaraṇam, thinking or meditation.
Whatever we speak or hear we shall later contemplate or meditate upon.
First one must begin with śravaṇam,hearing, otherwise how can there be meditation? If one does not know the subject matter of meditation, where is the question of meditation? Therefore there must be hearing and chanting about Lord Viṣṇu (śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ).
Jaya Srila Prabhupada!
Sulalita devi dasi