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THE ADVANTAGES OF KALI-YUGA
The Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.5.38-40) relates that while this Golden Age in Kali-yuga is in progress even those who live in Satya-yuga and the other ages want to take birth in this age since there will be many devotees of the Supreme, Lord Narayana, on this planet. Thus, intelligent persons of the other ages hanker for the association of these spiritually advanced souls because, with the help of these sages, within one short lifetime in Kali-yuga one can reach spiritual perfection. The Vedic literature is not the only culture that mentions that many souls want to be born on earth at this time. The Tibetan Lamas, the Native American Indians, the East Indian mystics, the Mayan priests, and others, also say that many souls are waiting to incarnate here to take advantage of the coming changes.
The most important advantage in the Golden Age in Kali-yuga, in spite of whatever chaos and wars currently plague the planet, is the opportunity for making great strides in spiritual understanding. After all, it was only 500 years ago when Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu (1486-1534) appeared to establish the process of spiritual-realization that is the easiest and most appropriate for this era. This process would bring in the Golden Age in Kali-yuga that we are presently beginning to experience. This is the process of harinama sankirtana, a type of mantra-yoga that incorporates the congregational glorification and singing of the names of the Supreme, which actually is very common in the hymns and chants of most religions and spiritual paths. But here it is specifically in the form of the Hare Krishna mantra. Harinama means name of Hari, Krishna. Although this mantra and the process of singing or chanting it has been advocated in many Vedic texts for thousands of years, Sri Caitanya said that spreading the chanting of this mantra is the single most important factor in changing the consciousness of humankind and spreading spiritual awareness, especially in this age of Kali. This, indeed, would produce a new species of humanity.
The Kali-santarana Upanishad specifically states, "After searching through all of the Vedic literature, one cannot find a method of religion more sublime for this age of Kali-yuga than the chanting of Hare Krishna." This is further verified in Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.5.32) which predicts that intelligent persons in the age of Kali will engage in congregational chanting of the names of Krishna to worship the incarnation of the Supreme [Lord Sri Caitanya] who constantly sings the names of Krishna, and who is Krishna Himself, although His complexion is not blackish. He is accompanied by His associates, servants, weapons, and confidential companions.
The Sri Caitanya-caritamrita (Adi-lila, 17.22) also says, "In this age of Kali, the holy name of the Lord, in the form of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, is the incarnation of Lord Krishna. Simply by chanting the holy name, one associates with the Supreme directly. Anyone who does this is certainly delivered." In other words, it is this mantra that provides the doorway which leads directly to the spiritual realm. Furthermore, the use of it means that we change the vibrational level of our own consciousness and the environment in which we exist. This can cause the manifestation of that spiritual vibration and atmosphere in this material world.
The Srimad-Bhagavatam (12.3.51-52) goes on to say that this process of reawakening one's spiritual awareness is the most important advantage of Kali-yuga. It also states (11.5.36-37) that enlightened persons who are advanced in knowledge can appreciate the real value of this fallen age of Kali-yuga because in this age all perfection can be attained easily by the process of sankirtana. For materially embodied souls wandering in this material world, there is no higher gain than coming in contact with the Supreme Being's sankirtana movement by which one attains supreme peace and freedom from the cycle of repeated birth and death. In the Padma Purana (5.80.2-8) we find a conversation between Shiva and his wife, Parvati, in which Shiva specifically says that Kali-yuga does not harass those who utter the name of Hari or chant Hare Rama, Hare Krishna. One can be freed from worldly existence just by remembering Vishnu's names, no matter whether one is pure or impure.
The point is that because the age of Kali is so difficult, polluted and disturbing—taxing our consciousness with so many distractions—all other forms of religion and processes of spiritual realization either lose their effectiveness or offer only incomplete knowledge; thus, they simply fail to produce the needed results. They may produce some peace and forgiveness, some moral standards and understanding, but they do not deliver the higher principles of spiritual realization. Shukadeva Gosvami says in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (12.3.45-49) that although all objects, places, and persons in Kali-yuga are polluted, the Supreme Being can remove such contamination from one who hears or chants about, meditates upon, glorifies, or simply offers respect to the Supreme. Therefore, by remaining ever aware and focused on the Lord in the heart, the contamination from many thousands of lifetimes can be removed. Such awareness is many times more potent than any other process; such as austerities, breath control, strict vows, or bathing in holy places. Anyone who maintains this concentration at the time of death will certainly attain the supreme destination in the spiritual world.
In this regard it is further related in the Mahanirvana Tantra (2.14-20) that all Vedic rites and processes of spiritual purification that were effective in other ages are useless in this age of Kali-yuga. So the primary process that must be followed in this age is the use of mantras from the tantric texts that give immediate results when used for chanting, meditation, or rituals and ceremonies.
This is also verified in a verse from the Brahma-vaivarta Purana which explains that in the age of Kali, austerities, yoga meditation, elaborate Deity worship, and rituals, cannot be carried out properly even by experts. This means that our faculties, whether they are mental, intellectual, physical, or otherwise, are simply not available in this age to the degree necessary to enable us to reach the proper results by any of these methods.
Therefore, the Brihan-naradiya Purana (39.97), along with the Vishnu Purana (6.2.17), the Padma Purana (Uttara-khanda 72.25), and the Bhagavat Purana (12.3.52) all say that what was achieved in Satya-yuga by meditation, and in Treta-yuga by the performance of rituals, and in Dvapara-yuga by refined Deity worship, can now be attained in Kali-yuga simply by sankirtana, glorifying or singing the names of God, Lord Keshava, Krishna. In other words, because Kali-yuga is the most difficult age, we have been given the easiest spiritual process. This is stated in the Kurma Purana (1.30.37) that although the age of Kali is full of defects, the good point is that people can acquire great spiritual merit without great strain. The Vayu Purana (58.47), as well as the Linga Purana (40.47), goes on to explain that pious acts performed in one day in Kali-yuga are equal to those practiced for a month in Dvapara-yuga, or a year in Treta-yuga. Further elaboration is given in the Padma Purana (1.41.91-92, and 7.26.40-44) which explains that what merit is attained through ten years of spiritual practice in Satya or Krita-yuga, a year in Treta-yuga, or a month in Dvapara-yuga, is attained in one day and night in Kali-yuga. What is achieved by meditation in Krita-yuga, or by ceremonies in Treta-yuga, or by elaborate worship in Dvapara-yuga, one can obtain in Kali-yuga simply by glorifying and repeating the name of Keshava (Krishna). The Padma Purana (6.71.23-29) also concludes that with all their sins destroyed by this means in Kali-yuga, people can attain the highest position.
In fact, this is why King Pariksit did not kill the personality of Kali when he first saw him, as related in Chapter Three of this volume. After all, why didn't he simply kill Kali and do away with all of this trouble that was bound to happen? The Srimad Bhagavat-Mahatmya (1.67-69) of the Padma Purana explains that when King Pariksit first met Kali, he thought to himself that Kali did not deserve to die at the King's hand. In the age of Kali a person, through the mere chanting of the names and glory of Sri Krishna, can secure the fruit [liberation from material existence] which cannot be attained through concentrating the mind or deep meditation in yoga. Therefore, perceiving the Kali age to be valuable in this one respect, though devoid of all other benefits, King Pariksit, vith a view to secure the spiritual happiness of those born in Kali-yuga, allowed the spirit of it to stay.
The Narada Purana (1.41.89-118) also gives explicit directions on rising into a higher dimension of existence, both individually and collectively. It is stated that nowhere does the dark age of Kali affect those whose consciousness is absorbed in devotion to Hari, Krishna, or who practice the recitation of His names. In fact, it states that those who are devoted to the repetition of the names of Hari are equal to Shiva [or can attain Shiva's higher dimensional level of existence by the required change of consciousness]. Therefore, it is advised that one should always be absorbed in the spiritual vibrations of reciting the holy names of Hari, Keshava, Govinda, Vasudeva, Jagannatha, or Krishna. Those persons need not be afraid of the age of Kali. They are very fortunate and noble, even if they do not have the association of saintly persons. How fortunate are those who recite these names, for sins do not bind them and they are worthy of being worshiped by the Devas. Narada emphatically declares that individual liberation from the material world is not possible by any other means in Kali-yuga except through the name of Hari. This is the greatest merit and penance.
The conclusion of all this is that the greatest virtue of Kali-yuga is the opportunity to learn and hear about the Supreme Being and, tius, clear your consciousness to perceive who and what you really are. This is clearly stated in the Bhagavatam (12.3.51):" Although Kali-yuga is an ocean of faults there is still one good quality about this age, and that is by chanting the holy names of Krishna one can become free from material existence and reach the spiritual kingdom." This is the ultimate goal of life. This can easily be achieved in this age of Kali. Actually, according to the Brihan-naradiya Purana (38.126), this is an absolute necessity in this age. It states: "Chant the holy name, chant the holy name, chant the holy name of Lord Hari, to make spiritual progress in this age of Kali there is no other way, no other way, no other way."
It is also said that all Vedic rites and the results of all other spiritual practices are found within the holy names of the Hare Krishna mantra. Thus, it is the easiest and most effective process for spiritual enlightenment and liberation. The Vedic literature leaves no doubt, as stated in the Skanda Purana (Caturmasya-mahatmya section), that the most perfect process of spiritual elevation that can be executed is the chanting of the holy names of Lord Sri Hari. Such performance of sankirtana can please the Supreme Being, especially in the age of Kali. It is also for this reason that Brahma said to Lord Krishna in Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.6.24) that in the age of Kali pious and saintly persons will easily cross over the darkness of this age if they hear about and praise Your transcendental qualities and activities.
Furthermore, it is predicted that this form of spiritual development, bhakti-yoga, devotion to the Supreme, will spread around the world. This is related in the Srimad-Bhagavata-Mahatmya section of the Padma Purana (2.1-12). Therein is a conversation between the great sage Narada Muni and the feminine personality of Bhakti. Narada explains that in the other ages, Satya-yuga, Treta-yuga, and Dvapara-yuga, meditation and rituals were the means to spiritual enlightenment. But in Kali-yuga, bhakti alone, devotion to the Supreme, brings unity with the Supreme Being. Bhakti's real form looks after the devotees in Vaikuntha, the spiritual world, and assuming a shadow-form she takes care of the devotees on earth.
Narada specifically explains (2.13-21) that there is no age like Kali. In this age bhakti will travel all over the world and be established in every house and in every individual. Narada says that if he fails to propagate bhakti throughout the world, making all other religions fade in the background and making prominent the grand celebrations connected with devotion, then he is no longer a servant of Sri Hari, Krishna. Those that become endowed with bhakti, though they are sinners in this age of Kali, will attain the abode of Sri Krishna in the spiritual world after death. Those who are full of bhakti never see Yama, the lord of death, nor are they touched by a ghost, a spirit of the departed, nor a fiend, an ogre, nor a demon. The Supreme can be won only through devotion (bhakti), not meditation, good deeds, sacred vows, pilgrimages, disciplines, rituals, discourses, or enlightenment. In Kali-yuga, bhakti alone is the supreme path, through which Sri Krishna reveals Himself. This easy path is the great advantage of Kali-yuga.