bhaktir bhavati naiṣṭhikī
By regular attendance in classes on the Bhāgavatam and by rendering of service to the pure devotee, all that is troublesome to the heart is almost completely destroyed, and loving service unto the Personality of Godhead, who is praised with transcendental songs, is established as an irrevocable fact.
Here is the remedy for eliminating all inauspicious things within the heart, which are considered to be obstacles in the path of self-realization. The remedy is the association of the Bhāgavatas. There are two types of Bhāgavatas, namely the book Bhāgavata and the devotee Bhāgavata. Both the Bhāgavatas are competent remedies, and both of them or either of them can be good enough to eliminate the obstacles. A devotee Bhāgavata is as good as the book Bhāgavata because the devotee Bhāgavata leads his life in terms of the book Bhāgavata and the book Bhāgavata is full of information about the Personality of Godhead and His pure devotees, who are also Bhāgavatas. Bhāgavata book and person are identical.
The devotee Bhāgavata is a direct representative of Bhagavān, the Personality of Godhead. So by pleasing the devotee Bhāgavata one can receive the benefit of the book Bhāgavata. Human reason fails to understand how by serving the devotee Bhāgavata or the book Bhāgavata one gets gradual promotion on the path of devotion. But actually these are facts explained by Śrīla Nāradadeva, who happened to be a maidservant's son in his previous life. The maidservant was engaged in the menial service of the sages, and thus he also came into contact with them. And simply by associating with them and accepting the remnants of food left by the sages, the son of the maidservant got the chance to become the great devotee and personality Śrīla Nāradadeva. These are the miraculous effects of the association of Bhāgavatas. And to understand these effects practically, it should be noted that by such sincere association of the Bhāgavatas one is sure to receive transcendental knowledge very easily, with the result that one becomes fixed in the devotional service of the Lord. The more progress is made in devotional service under the guidance of the Bhāgavatas, the more one becomes fixed in the transcendental loving service of the Lord. The messages of the book Bhāgavata, therefore, have to be received from the devotee Bhāgavata, and the combination of these two Bhāgavatas will help the neophyte devotee to make progress on and on.
Generally, people do not understand the need for making spiritual progress and cleansing the heart of all dirty things (abhadrāṇi). Material life means dirty life, uncivilized life, yet people think that having nice clothes and a nice apartment and a nicely washed body means they are civilized. They do not know how the contamination within their hearts has attacked them.
In the name of civilization, people have created so many unnecessary things, called anarthas. For example, thousands of years ago, in the Vedic age, when there was no so-called advancement of civilization, people used to eat from utensils made of silver or gold, or at least some kind of metal. Now people are using plastic, yet they are still proud of their advanced civilization. Actually, the plastic utensils are unnecessary. Another example: two hundred years ago in India there was no industry, but people were so happy. They did not have to travel two hundred miles or five hundred miles away from home to earn their livelihood. In Europe and America I have seen that some people are daily flying by airplane to the place where they earn their livelihood. From Toronto they are flying to Montreal—almost five hundred miles. Nearly everyone has to travel at least fifty miles. In New York many people come from a distant place on Long Island, cross the river, and then take a bus to reach their place of employment. All this travel is simply unnecessary.
Cāṇakya Paṇḍita asks, "Who is happy?" He answers, "The man who does not work away from home and who is not a debtor—he is happy." Very simple. Yet now we see that practically everyone works away from home and everyone is a great debtor. So how can they be happy? In America the banks canvass, "Borrow money from us, purchase a motorcar, purchase a house, and as soon as you get your salary, give it to us." Or they offer, "Take this bank card." It should be known as a bankrupt card. If you take the card and deposit your money in the bank, then you can purchase whatever you like with the card. But soon you are without any money, and all you have left is that card.
So, all these anarthas can immediately be finished if you take up the process of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, or bhakti-yoga: anarthopaśamaṁ sākṣād bhakti-yogam adhokṣaje [SB 1.7.6]. A good example is our students in the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. Many are from America or Europe, and they knew very well how to increase anarthas. But as soon as they joined our Society they no longer had to pay the cinema bill, the gambling bill, and so many other bills. Even the medical bills were decreased almost to nil. Does a person die without smoking? No. It is an anartha. One becomes habituated to smoking due to bad association: saṅgāt sañjāyate kāmaḥ. Because of bad association one learns how to smoke, how to gamble, how to eat meat, and how to take intoxicants. In America the government is spending millions of dollars to stop this intoxication habit among the young people. But the government does not know how to stop it. Here is the remedy: Kṛṣṇa consciousness. It is practical. Anyone who seriously takes up the process of Kṛṣṇa consciousness can immediately give up all bad habits, including intoxication. But still the government will not patronize the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. They'd rather spend lavishly on some useless program.
Because the modern people do not know how to get out of the clutches of all these unnecessary things, the learned Śrīla Vyāsadeva wrote the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam: lokasyājānato vidvāṁś cakre sātvata-saṁhitām. Take shelter of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and you will perfectly learn how to diminish your unnecessary things. The simple process is given in the previous verse (SB 1.2.17):
śṛṇvatāṁ sva-kathāḥ kṛṣṇaḥ puṇya-śravaṇa-kīrtanaḥ
hṛdy antaḥ-stho hy abhadrāṇi vidhunoti suhṛt satām
If you simply hear about Kṛṣṇa from the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam or the Bhagavad-gītā, Kṛṣṇa Himself will cleanse away your anarthas. In the Bhagavad-gītā Kṛṣṇa is directly speaking about Himself. But don't misinterpret His words. Simply hear them as Arjuna did. Someone may say, "Arjuna heard the Bhagavad-gītā directly from Kṛṣṇa, but now Kṛṣṇa is absent. So how can we hear it as Arjuna did?" Because Kṛṣṇa is absolute, He is nondifferent from His words. So if you read the Bhagavad-gītā as it is, receiving it through disciplic succession, then your reading is as good as Arjuna's hearing directly from Kṛṣṇa. But if you give your own interpretation of the Bhagavad-gītā, or hear the interpretation of a nondevotee, you'll remain a rascal.
Sanātana Gosvāmī has forbidden us to hear about Kṛṣṇa from nondevotees:
avaiṣṇava-mukhodgīrṇaṁ pūtaṁ hari-kathāmṛtam
śravaṇaṁ naiva kartavyaṁ sarpocchiṣṭaṁ yathā payaḥ
"One should not hear anything about Kṛṣṇa from a non-Vaiṣṇava. Milk touched by the lips of a serpent has poisonous effects; similarly, talks about Kṛṣṇa given by a non-Vaiṣṇava are also poisonous." Sometimes, in India, people who do not follow the principles of Vaiṣṇava behavior become professional reciters of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and hold seven-day public readings, called bhāgavata-saptāha. Such hearing of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is forbidden. The present verse recommends nityaṁ bhāgavata-sevayā, "regular hearing of the Bhāgavatam," not saptāhaṁ bhāgavata-sevayā, "one-week's hearing of the Bhāgavatam." Is the Bhāgavatam such a thing that you can understand everything just by hearing it for one week? You will not understand one word by reading the Bhāgavatam for only a week, what to speak of all eighteen thousand verses. The whole of Vedic knowledge is contained in the Bhāgavatam (nigama-kalpa-taror galitaṁ phalam [SB 1.1.3]), so what will you understand by only a week's reading?
The real prescription is given here: nityaṁ bhāgavata-sevayā. Every day you should hear the Bhāgavatam, and at every moment you should remember the Bhāgavatam. Then naṣṭa-prāyeṣv abhadreṣu: [SB 1.2.18] the dirty things in your heart will be eradicated. This is the essence of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement—to provide you with an opportunity to hear about Kṛṣṇa patiently so that the dirty things within your heart will be cleansed away. What those dirty things are will be mentioned in the next verse: lust, greed, and other effects of the modes of passion and ignorance (rajas-tamo-bhāvāḥ [SB 1.2.19]).