On choosing the Right person to hear from: Srila Prabhupada writes, “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.” (1.8.36p)
“….sometimes people, in an unauthorized hearing process, take more interest in hearing about His dealings with the gopis. 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 Srimad-Bhagavatam 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 Pandavas are less important than His dealings with the gopis. We must always remember that the Lord is always transcendental to all mundane attachment. (1.8.36p)
Srila Prabhupada writes, “One can certainly see directly the presence of Lord Sri Krishna in the pages of Bhagavatam if one has heard it from a self-realized great soul like Sukadeva Gosvami. One cannot, however, learn Bhagavatam from a bogus hired reciter whose aim of life is to earn some money out of such recitation and employ the earning in sex indulgence.” (1.3.44p). Thus one has to choose the right source before one sits down to hear Bhagavatam.

On Right Attitude of the Hearer: The hearer should be inquisitive to ask questions but not in a challenging mood; he should present his queries with great regard for the speaker and subject of Bhagavatam. The transcendental subject should be heard by submissive hearing process from right sources (based on SB1.1.5p). If queries are presented to test the scholarly aptitude of the speaker or to present one’s learning, such a boorish attitude blocks one’s ability to access the spiritual truths. Understanding is not a question of information accumulation, rather becoming an antenna to receive the descending mercy of Guru parampara.
Srila Prabhupada also writes, “The conditions for hearing the transcendental message of the Absolute Truth are set forth herein. The first condition is that the audience must be very sincere and eager to hear. The transcendental message of the Absolute is not understandable by those who are materially absorbed. Under the direction of a bona-fide spiritual master, one becomes gradually purified. (SB 1.1.13p). The transcendental literature like Bhagavatam deals with the supermost activities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna on the spiritual realm. If the hearers come with mundane motivations of earthly or heavenly pleasures or with desire for liberation from cycle of birth and death, then such self-absorption they will not be able to receive the full benefit. In India Bhagavat saptahas are held for seven days by well-to-do men, to increase their popularity by inviting a speaker who pampers the senses of the audience by directly going to the 10th canto confidential pastimes of Krishna and gopis. This titillates the senses of the hearers materially without yielding any spiritual benefit to them. Sincerity means that the audience should be interested in knowing how to rise above all forms of sense gratification and engage in the service of Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna. They should be eager to blossom their devotional attitude by parampara wisdom.
Also Srila Prabhupada says, “Simple hearing is not all; one must realize the text with proper attention. The word niviñöa means that Suta Gosvami drank the juice of Bhagavatam through his ears. That is the real process of receiving Bhagavatam. One should hear with rapt attention from the real person, and then he can at once realize the presence of Lord Krishna in every page. The secret of knowing Bhagavatam is mentioned here. No one can give rapt attention who is not pure in mind. No one can be pure in mind who is not pure in action. No one can be pure in action who is not pure in eating, sleeping, fearing and mating. But somehow or other if someone hears with rapt attention from the right person, at the very beginning one can assuredly see Lord Sri Krishna in person in the pages of Bhagavatam.” (1.3.44p). This illustrates the importance of RAPT ATTENTION on the part of hearer.

The above article is an open book essay on Srimad Bhagavatam Canto 1.1-9, written by HG Radheshyam Das for the following question: Present your understanding of the Bhaktivedanta Purports on the following – “Qualities of a hearer of Srimad Bhagavatam”.

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