Generally, we hear that Kaliyuga is the worst of the four yugas because adharma is more prominent than dharma during this time. In Satyayuga, dharma was manifested one hundred percent; thereafter, it gradually reduced to twenty-five percent in Kaliyuga. However, there is always some balance in nature. Although it is disadvantageous to be born in Kaliyuga from the point of executing dharma, yet for attaining spiritual perfection, Kaliyuga has an advantage due to the potency of kīrtana. Śrī Jīva Gosvamī explains this in the following anuccheda of Bhakti Sandarbha.
Therefore, sage Karabhājana said to King Nimi:
Those who are cultured in spiritual wisdom (āryāḥ), who can recognize the quality that inheres within any given thing (guṇa-jñāḥ), and who thus extract the essence of all things (sāra-bhāginaḥ), extol the essential value of Kaliyuga, in which all goals that one might aspire for can be attained simply by the performance of saṅkīrtana. (SB 11.5.36)
In the context of this verse, the word guṇa-jñāḥ, “those who can recognize the quality that inheres within any given thing,” means, “those who recognize Kaliyuga’s quality in the form of the widespread proliferation of kīrtana.” Therefore, they are known as sāra-bhāginaḥ, or “those who grasp only the essence of all things” (sāra-mātra-grahaṇāḥ), because they are unconcerned with Kali’s defects. It is for this reason that they extol Kaliyuga.
Sage Karabhājana describes the virtue of this age in the second line of the verse. The pronoun yatra, “in which,” means “in Kaliyuga,” and the words saṅkīrtanena eva, “simply by the performance of saṅkīrtana,” mean “by saṅkīrtana alone, without dependence on any other practice (sādhana).” The words sarvaḥ svārthaḥ, “all aspired for goals,” mean “all the various ends to be attained (sādhyaḥ) by thousands of methods prescribed for the other yugas, such as the practice of meditation in Satyayuga.” [In Kaliyuga, all of these are attained simply by saṅkīrtana.]
The result that one can attain by undertaking spiritual practice for thousands of years in other yugas can be attained in a short period of time in Kaliyuga by performing kīrtana. Indeed, one can attain a much more valuable end in the form of pure love for Kṛṣṇa, which was unknown even to great sages in former times. Therefore, those who are able to recognize the quality that inheres within objects praise Kaliyuga, in spite of the fact that it is rife with numerous vices and is considered the most degraded of all the yugas. Kīrtana is like a powerful pious emperor who chases away all the rogue-like defects of Kali. This is stated by Śukadeva:
O King, Kaliyuga is indeed a storehouse of all vice, yet it has one great virtue. Merely by performing kīrtana of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, one is freed from all bondage and attains the supreme destination. (SB 12.3.51)
There is a popular story of unknown origin that I have heard regarding the glory of Kaliyuga. Once there was a meeting of great sages, who gathered to discuss the greatness of the different yugas. There was no consensus as to which yuga was the best, so they decided to approach Vyāsadeva and take his opinion. They all went to his residence at Badarīka Āśrama in the Himalayas. When they arrived there, Vyāsa was taking a dip in the river Sarasvatī. Each time he ducked his head, he would come up muttering, “Kali is great.” When at last he came out of the water, the sages asked him the reason for his statement. In reply, Vyāsa explained to them that Kali is the best yuga, because in it one can attain the highest goal of life by kīrtana alone. Knowing this attribute of Kali, king Parikṣit did not kill Kali personified although the latter offended a bull by breaking his three legs.
It may be noted that although kīrtana is available in every yuga, it becomes popular only in the age of Kali. Śrī Jīva explains the reason for this in the next anuccheda.
Editor’s Note: The new edition of Bhakti Sandarbha in two volumes, from which these excerpts are taken, will be published this summer!
Our life is running on these two currents of raga and dvesha. It is the same river, but sometimes we are on the love side of the river bank and sometimes we are on the hate side. But the river is only one. There is only one reality. It is our mind that makes a duality of the reality. As soon as something enters our mind, we automatically divide it into either like or dislike. When your mind is running in these two grooves, then you cannot see the reality.
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