THE STORY OF NARADA MUNI
In our investigation into the process of spiritual realization and meditation that is recommended to work in this age, we can listen to the most interesting story of Narada Muni, as related in the Bhagavatam (Canto One, Chapters Five and Six) and hear how he achieved success, and what he also recommends for everyone in this age. However, he was someone who had become so perfect in meditation that He was completely God realized, and could directly see God. Nonetheless, even though the form of meditation that he used at first to achieve this enlightenment was similar to the one we have been describing so far, it was not the process he used in the end. So let us hear his story and find out what he recommends.
While giving instructions to Sri Vyasadeva, the great sage Narada Muni described his life and the process of his advancement to the level of spiritual and God realization. Narada Muni explained that in the last millennium he had been born as the simple son of a maidservant who was engaged in the service of brahmanas. They were devout followers of Vedanta, so they would settle as a group that would not travel in the rainy season. It was during this time that Narada was in the service of these Vedantists. Narada was a well-behaved boy and after some time the brahmanas gave him their mercy by once allowing him to take the remnants of their food. Taking the remnants of food from those who are spiritually advanced is sacred since their consciousness enters into the food and can help purify those who eat it. Once Narada had taken their food, he became purified in heart and he became attracted to path of the transcendentalists.
At that time he could also hear them talking amongst themselves about the nature of the Absolute, the Supreme Being. Narada became attracted to their conversations. Narada could then realize that it was only in his ignorance that caused him to accept gross and subtle coverings as his real identity. The sages also instructed Narada in the most confidential of spiritual topics.
After the sages left for other territories, Narada stayed with his mother. Since he was her only son, he looked after her. She wanted to take care of him, but she was a simple woman and could not do much. Then once when she was going out one night to milk a cow, she was bitten on the leg by a serpent. After she died, Narada traveled north. He went through many towns, villages, valleys, dark forests, gardens, and more. He finally became exhausted and then took a bath in a river. After drinking some water, he felt relieved and found a banyan tree in an uninhabited forest.
Then in the shade he began to perform deep meditation. He focused on the Supersoul within him, as he had learned from the sages that he had served. His mind became filled with spiritual love, tears rolled down from his eyes, and not long afterwards the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna appeared in the lotus of his heart. He became overwhelmed by feelings of happiness. Being absorbed in an ocean of ecstasy, he could see both himself and the Lord. But then he suddenly lost the vision of the Lord within him and got up, being perturbed. Despite his attempts to concentrate again and regain the perception he had, he could not recapture his meditation and the vision of the Lord. Thus he was much aggrieved.
However, the Lord then spoke to Narada from within. He said that He regretted that during this lifetime Narada would not be able to see Him anymore. But those who are incomplete in service and not completely free from all material taints can hardly ever see Him. Yet, the short vision Narada had of the Supreme was enough to increase Narada's hankering for Him. The more Narada desired to attain the vision of the Lord again, the more he would remain free from material desires. This would help in his progress. Such remembrance of the Supreme is itself a form of meditation. Through this sort of meditation one's intelligence becomes fixed and it becomes a means that helps take one to the transcendental world, out of the world of illusion. Then the Supreme Being, personified by sound but unseen by eyes, stopped speaking.
Narada then offered his obeisances to the Lord, bowing his head. Then, having experienced the unfruitful nature of his previous attempt to meditate, he started chanting the holy names of the Lord by repeated recitation. Thus he was able to experience the beneficial and auspicious nature of the chanting and remembering of the spiritual pastimes of the Supreme. By so doing, Narada traveled all over the earth, satisfied, humble and unenvious. In this way, he remained fully absorbed in thinking of the Supreme Being. Then, with no material attachments, Narada finally met with death, as lightning and illumination occur simultaneously. He thus quit the body made of the five elements, and then attained a spiritual body, fit for his transcendental consciousness, and befitting an associate of the Supreme.
Finally, at the end of the creation, all of the elements of the material manifestation were drawn into the form of the Lord as Garbhodakashayi Vishnu, the expansion of Vishnu in each universe. This is described as the night of Brahma. Then when Lord Brahma again awoke from his night, he started the process of universal creation again. When the great sages reappeared in the world, so did Narada Muni. Since that time, Narada is the singing sage who travels everywhere without restriction, fixed in the devotional service of the Supreme Being, using his vina to accompany his songs. In conclusion to his story, Narada explains directly the benefit of the process of meditation that he now uses:
"The Supreme Lord Sri Krishna, whose glories and activities are pleasing to hear, at once appears on the seat of my heart, as if called for, as soon as I begin to chant His holy activities. It is personally experienced by me that those who are always full of cares and anxieties due to desiring contact of the senses with their objects of attraction can cross the ocean of nescience [illusory darkness] on a most suitable boat--the constant chanting of the transcendental activities of the Personality of Godhead. It is true that by practicing restraint of the senses by the yoga system one can get relief from the disturbances of desire and lust, but this is not sufficient to give satisfaction to the soul, for this [satisfaction] is derived from devotional service to the Supreme Personality." (Bhagvatam.1.6.33-35)
Herein Narada Muni described the benefit of the hearing and chanting of the activities and names of the Supreme Being. Such names and pastimes of the Supreme are often put into the form of verses and mantras. Thus, mantras can also give one the easiest means and benefits that are often too difficult to attain by the attempt at controlling the mind to enter a deep state of meditation. So in the following chapter we will look more closely into the ways and benefits of using mantras for our meditation.
OM SHANTI SHANTI SHANTI