Nārada assures us that everyone can speedily advance by practicing bhakti-yoga—because it is the easiest way. This is an extremely important qualification, especially for us in the present age, the Age of Kali. As stated in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.1.10),
prāyeṇālpāyuṣaḥ sabhya kalāv asmin yuge janāḥ
mandāḥ su-manda-matayo manda-bhāgyā hy upadrutāḥ
"O learned one, in this iron age of Kali men have but short lives. They are quarrelsome, lazy, misguided, unlucky, and, above all, always disturbed."
The characteristics of the people of this age are all disqualifications for spiritual life. In previous millennia the human condition was much more favorable for spiritual advancement. In the Satya-yuga almost all people were in the mode of goodness, and society was peaceful and religious. At that time the recommended form of religion was meditation. The sage Vālmīki is said to have meditated sixty thousand years before writing the Rāmāyaṇa, and Kardama Muni meditated ten thousand years. As the millennia proceeded from Tretā to Dvāpara, human society degraded more and more. Five thousand years ago, when Lord Kṛṣṇa recommended aṣṭāṅga-yoga to Arjuna, Arjuna rejected it, saying it was impractical and impossible for him. We should not maintain grandiose conceptions of what we are able to perform nowadays but should face the facts of our near-bankrupt condition of spirituality. "Here is the easiest path," says Nārada, and we should grab at his offer as a drowning man grabs for a life raft.
Even in former ages, when more difficult processes were recommended, the goal was always bhakti, or devotion to the Supreme Lord. In this age the most accessible form of bhakti is saṅkīrtana, or congregational chanting of the holy names of God. It is recommended as the yuga-dharma, or religion of the age. As stated in the Bṛhan-nāradīya Purāṇa, "In the Age of Kali no effective means of God realization is possible except the chanting of the holy names." The same thing is recommended in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, where the nine sages known as the Yogendras declare that in Kali-yuga intelligent persons will take to the process of saṅkīrtana. And Śukadeva Gosvāmī tells Mahārāja Parīkṣit that the chanting of the holy names is the saving grace of this age:
kaler doṣa-nidhe rājan asti hy eko mahān guṇaḥ
kīrtanād eva kṛṣṇasya mukta-saṅgaḥ paraṁ vrajet
"My dear king, although Kali-yuga is full of faults, there is still one good quality about this age: simply by chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra, one can become free from material bondage and be promoted to the transcendental kingdom" (SB 12.3.51).
In ignorance and defiance of the recommended yuga-dharma, unauthorized teachers make a business of teaching yoga and meditation. But since almost no one is qualified to practice the severe austerities of meditation, streamlined versions are taught, which are mostly a form of cheating. Even if a person seriously takes up the path of karma-yoga, jñāna-yoga, or aṣṭāṅga-yoga, he will meet with many difficulties. For example, the jñānī may become very attached to accumulating knowledge for its own sake, up to the point where he tries to merge with the Absolute Truth. The karma-yogī, or man of action, too often forgets to dedicate his activities to God and instead becomes attached to the fruits of his work or to fame. The aṣṭāṅga-yogīs, if they are able to progress at all in the eightfold system, are liable to get sidetracked by the siddhis, or powers, that come to them. But bhakti, by its very nature, purifies one's senses, actions, and motives. Moreover, one doesn't have to go painfully and slowly through every single step on the yoga ladder from karma to jñāna to bhakti. At any moment, whenever one decides to surrender, and wherever one gets the association of pure devotees, one can take the express elevator of bhakti-yoga. As Lord Kṛṣṇa recommends,
daivī hy eṣā guṇa-mayī mama māyā duratyayā
mām eva ye prapadyante māyām etāṁ taranti te
"This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it" (Bg. 7.14).