Recently I was with two friends trapped in a hotel room; it was raining cats and dogs and we couldn’t go out. We had come to a small temple town for a pilgrimage but the rains forced us to remain indoors.
I shared an idea of a game with my companions, and said we have to collectively win this game and it has three rounds. Excited, they lapped it up. I took out my I-pod and speaker and played one class of Srila Prabhupada. After the half hour class, we began the first round; each one of us shared what we remembered from the class. Much to my amazement, we could together recall the entire class. We had been hearing attentively, but I never expected we would be able to recollect everything. The revision was also fun as each one prompted and helped the other, and together we had churned the class more. But the best was to come in the second round.
In the second round we shared what we relished the most in the class. Soon we were reminiscing philosophical points and examples spoken by other devotees, connected to the class we just heard. We could feel it; we found ourselves coming closer to each other as well as Srila Prabhupada whose words had filled our hearts with spiritual pleasure. Then the third round saw each one of us share what we could resolve to practise in our own lives based on what we heard and understood in the class. This went on for another half hour. As each round got better, we felt we were part of a fun filled game
Later while hearing His Holiness Srila Sacinandan Swami Maharaj’s lecture I was happy to note that our great Vaishnava acharyas have also recommended this type of hearing. He explained how Srila Vishwanath Chakravarty Thakur mentions that Sravanam, or hearing is complete when it’s followed by mananam, or contemplation. Then a devotee takes his hearing to the third level of deeper contemplation or application of the subject heard in one’s own life. And that is called as nidhidhyasana. Unknowingly we had done exactly that on that rainy day.
Srila Baladeva Vidya bhushana, another vaishnava saint and scholar has added the fourth dimension to hearing by saying vandanam, or offering prayers after hearing a class completes the process of hearing. Sometimes we are impressed by some statements spoken in class and we resolve to improve our lives in a moment of inspiration. But the nature of our mind is to forget and therefore prayerful petition to Krishna to help us remember His words spoken through a devotee helps us come closer to the Lord of our heart.
Just like when we eat food, we don’t swallow it but chew it nicely, and then even our digestion has to be good. Otherwise we may eat a lot yet remain weak. But with good digestion we feel nourished and strong. Similarly we may hear a lot of lectures but if we are absent mentally and unable to ‘chew’ or ‘digest’ through contemplation then the subject doesn’t really nourish us. But by our prayers and contemplation, we purify our consciousness and connect to Krishna, and that helps us also transcend our petty problems of life.
As the rains stopped and we left the room to visit the temple, my friend shared how the class of Srila Prabhupada was for half hour but we had discussed it for over an hour and half. It was worth it; the ‘chewing’and ‘digesting’ filled us with spiritual strength and happiness.