Which is your favorite means to attain knowledge among the following options-
Sage Narada searches for Bhakti
The perfectly enlightened sage Suta Goswami, the knower of Puranas, settled under a tree and the 60,000 rishis clustered around to listen to him, to understand his exposition on the Shrimad Bhagavatham. In the city of Vishala, many thousand rishis assembled to perform a “Satra Yajna” (सत्र यज्ञ), which means, to perform a fire sacrifice for the general well-being of all its citizens. The great sage Deva rishi Narada was passing by the city, extremely worried. Sage Narada, usually is a calm figure with no worries because he chants the name “Narayana Narayana”. Whoever chants the Lord’s name never has any cause for worry. Then how come this great sage has any cause of worry, so thought the people of this city. When approached and asked the reason for his worry, the great sage said “ I have been wandering the length and breadth of earth to locate a place where there is calmness of Bhakti and I have been quite unsuccessful in my attempt”, said the sage. The people said “You should have visited the already recognized holy places on the planet. You should have definitely found at least a few good devotees.” The sage said, I will mention the places that I have already visited, you decide whether I have been looking at the right places. I went to Pushkaram, Kashi, I went to the banks of Godavari, I went to Hari Kshetra, Kurukshetra, Srirangam, and Rameswaram. I checked these places to see if there is Vairagya, Bhakti or Tapas in any of these places. I could only see the dark shadow of Kaliyuga engulfing these places. The sage said that no merit of the spiritual kind existed in these locales even.
The rishis of Vishala blame Narada for finding everything unworthy
The rishis in the city of Vishala said that probably you have not investigated these places properly, probably it is a defect in your vision. The rishis of Vishala asked, what did you observe as you surveyed these areas? To this, Narada said “Nobody speaks the Truth. No one has Tapas or Vairagya in their persona. People are not transparent or pure.
Mind becomes the rule breaker in Kaliyuga
People think of a thing in a certain way but talk about it in the exact opposite way. After having said a particular thing, they further do things which do not match their thought or word. After having so much discrepancy in thought, word and action, no one has the guilt of having conducted oneself in such an incongruent manner. No one is able to control the senses in any manner. Nobody has the power to control even one sense organ. In those days, when the Lord was offered food stuff, it was custom to draw a covering that would give privacy to the Lord so that he could partake the offerings. Lord Krishna ordered to draw a curtain so that food offerings could be made to the great mountain, Goverdhana who is the mountain form of Lord Vishnu. The innocent people of Gokula and Goverdhana immediately shut their eyes, following the orders of the Lord. This was the level of obedience and sense control of the people of Vrindavana. But such straightforwardness, is not found today, sage Narada said. In the old days of Satyuga and Tretayuga the mind itself was the guard, the torch-bearer; but in Yugas like Dwaparayuga and Kaliyuga, the mind is the first one to be off-guard and even the rule breaker. Even blood relatives such as brothers, sisters try to show off amongst each other and speak lies. People lie for every small thing even if there is no need to lie about something. Even cleverness is being attributed to cheating mentality in Kaliyuga.
Mentality of People in Kaliyuga
People go to any level of meanness in order to beat hunger and accumulate wealth. People’s intelligence has become extremely blunt and their ability to grasp something appropriate has dramatically degraded. People’s attention span, owing to adherence to vile means has also degraded alarmingly. People are dressed as devotees but their talks reveal that they do not have faith in God. Even when marriage proposals are being dealt, instead of looking at the girl’s ability to care for the family, to walk according to Dharma, more emphasis is given one he beauty and education qualifications and her sense of independence, because of which there is turmoil in every family in Kaliyuga. Marriage has now been reduced to a wealthy transaction rather than an adherence to Dharma. There appear to be many temples but tapas or ability of sacrifice seems to be non-existent. Although there are many spots of pilgrimages but there appears to be no Vairagya or detachment. There are many sources of wealth but there is no love and mutual understanding. There appear too many things but things that ought to be existent are non-existent.
Bhakti becomes old as she moved northwards
Sage Narada continued, then finally I reached the banks of the river Yamuna. There I saw a young maiden seated alongside two very old men. When I enquired further, I was told that the two men were in fact the sons of the young maiden. This was astonishing indeed. How could a young maiden have two aged sons? The young maiden was continuously trying to wake up the two old men, who appeared to be lying down out of advanced age and tiredness. The young lady then saw sage Narada and called out to him. When the sage enquired into the matter. She said “I am Bhakti and these two old men are my sons.” When Narada enquired as to how these men went old. Then Bhakti Devi replied “I was also as old as my sons, but when we reached Vrindavana, I got back my youth but my sons remained old. My two sons are named Jnana and Vairagya. I was born in the Dravida Desham in the South of India. I grew up in the region which is currently known as Karnataka. I started getting old as I approached Maharashtra and became very old, as I reached the state of Gujarat. Thus I and my sons reached a ripe age as we passed through Gujarat. However when we reached the banks of Yamuna in Uttar Pradesh, I regained my youth but my sons never recovered from their old age.” Sage Narada, after hearing the story of Bhakti Devi, closed his eyes in deep contemplation.
The greatest benefit of Kaliyuga
Then Sage Narada said “Bhakti Devi, this is the gory Kaliyuga. You have descended to the earthly platform from Vaikuntha way back in Satya Yuga. You were accompanied then by two other associates known as Jnana and Mukti. The process was that through Bhakti one would attain Jnana and on the basis of Jnana, one shall attain Mukti or get liberated. Till the end of Treta Yuga, Bhakti, Mukti and Jnana used to go hand-in-hand. In Dwaparayuga, the attitude of people changed and no one would aspire for Mukti. Mukti went back to Vaikuntha. Mukti Devi then informed Bhakti that whenever she desired the services of Mukti, Mukti Devi would come down to the earthly platform and would then go back to Vaikuntha at once. In Dwaparayuga itself Mukti was rare and now it is Kaliyuga. Attaining Mukti under Kaliyuga conditions has become very rare indeed.” Bhakti Devi inquired with the sage “Why does the Lord not take action against the atrocities of Kali Yuga?” To this the great sage replied “Although Kaliyuga is full of faults, there is something that is very simple and easy that can be done to get rid of all afflictions. This path was not directly available in the three previous Yugas but it is the greatest merit of this fallen age of Kaliyuga. One can simply attain God by doing Harinama Sankeertanam (हरिनाम संकीर्तन chanting the name of the Lord). Simply chanting the names of the Lord can get one out of all worldly woes with minimum effort, relaying maximum benefit. Such a facility was never available directly in the prior three Yugas. Kaliyuga may have the maximum defects but it has the greatest benefit of delivering Liberation, Mukti through the simple process of chanting the Lord’s divine names. This is a point that supersedes all the other times put together.