Sravanam – where devotion begins

Sravanam literally means hearing. Absorbing messages and impressions about spiritual topics by hearing or reading about them provides the basis for our spiritual journey. 

Sravanam is considered the first step into the spiritual realm. Just image how important this is. Therefore, in bhakti-yoga, there is a whole culture of sravanam to make sure you get this first step right.

We all collect messages and impressions about our surroundings all the time. Humans have expanded their propensity for this in incredible ways. We are able to know what is going on all around the planet, and even remote parts of the universe. 

Newspapers, books, radio, television, youtube, facebook, the whole internet… we are consuming tons of audio-visual information every day. When this propensity is directed to spiritual matters it is called sravanam.

On the spiritual platform we require the same kind of orientation and stimulation as in the material context. We need explanations, instructions, recipes, examples, success stories. We need to hear people sharing their experiences.

If sravanam is performed properly you’ll feel confidence and unlimited enthusiasm rising up inside you to dive deep into self realization.

“By regularly hearing Srimad-Bhagavatam, all that is troublesome to the heart is almost completely destroyed, and loving devotion unto the Supreme Lord, who is praised with transcendental songs, is established as an irrevocable fact.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.18)

How to get it right

The most important thing is this: The source of the message must be genuine… and the receiver of the message must be sincere. Then the proper transmission can take place.

As with a radio message, they have to work on the same frequency, which means: Their interest and aspiration should be purely spiritual. Sravanam is the transfer of a message from one heart to another. That could mean hearing personally from the speaker of the message (like in the old tradition of guru and disciple) or reading a book or an article.

Your qualification as a receiver is your genuine interest in the topic. The speakers qualification is his or her deep understanding of bhakti as well as selflessness in transmitting the knowledge.

The point is that the Absolute is completely spiritual and thus identical with His name, qualities and activities. His messages are spiritual. The messages of a person who has actually experienced the Supreme and wants to genuinely transmit his or her experience are thus spiritually surcharged and able to transcend the receiver of that message.

Messages about the Absolute transmitted in pure spirits manifest the same power as the actual presence of the Absolute Himself.

They have a transcending effect on each and every listener. However, the magnitude of that impact also depends on the qualification of the listener. It depends on the listener’s sincerity and openness.

Your job is to be as authentic as possible. Most important is to find the right source of information and recognize it as genuine. Your sincerity of purpose will help you because the Supreme Himself knows exactly about the situation of your heart and guides you to fulfill your purpose.

Genuine sources for sravanam

  1. Bhagavad-gita – Any translation and commentary done by a bhakta, someone who practices bhakti himself or herself. You can find some specific suggestions at the bottom of this page. There are various interpretations of the Gita, and they are quite different. If you want to nourish your bhakti, the commentator must have a deep understanding of the devotional nature of the Gita.
  2. Srimad-Bhagavatam – Any edition is fine (This book practically doesn’t allow any other interpretation as bhakti). We have listed some suggestions at the bottom of this page.
  3. Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu – For beginners and intermediates only the first nineteen chapters are relevant, the rest is advanced stuff. 

The Bhagavad-gita provides a very good foundation of knowledge for people on a spiritual path. 

The Srimad-Bhagavatam is for someone who really wants to understand bhakti. It is the most essential literature for a bhakta and it is both entertaining and educating. It is a long reading and goes through many stages of devotional understanding and development. Interwoven stories take you deeper and deeper into the world of bhakti.

More than twenty years ago, when I became curious about spiritual life, I read lots of books from all kinds of traditions, and most of them carried valuable and much appreciated information. But when I started reading the Srimad-Bhagavatam, I immediately got personal spiritual experience. It was not just theoretical. It was as if I was there… I was able to touch and feel the spiritual realm. I knew – this was the place I wanted to be forever!.

The criterion for potent sravanam is this: You should feel the calming, soothing, and nourishing effect of bhakti on your heart. You should feel confidence and inspiration (even jubilation) raising up in you. You should feel alive!

It is not just informational. You should feel something. Real sravanam transforms our heart.

Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu is a complementary reading and provides you with a vision of what advanced bhakti is about.

We are also constantly publishing new articles on this page to facilitate your sravanam practice. Here you can ask questions and clarify doubts about any aspect of bhakti.

Your sravanam practice

As with any other important activity, it is conducive to create the right atmosphere. Choose the right time of the day, your favorite place, and enter into the proper mood: You are going to experience your spiritual dimension, the most secret essence of your being.

Light some candles and also incense if you like. Put away your mobile phone, or better switch it of. Sravanam is part of a bhakti sadhana. Like with other kinds of yoga, it is important to practice regularly to be able to enter deeper and deeper into the spiritual realm.

Be practical! If your favorite place is not available, or you cannot light up a candle, you can practice sravanam while traveling by train, or in your tent on the camping site, or in the metro or bus while commuting. The transcendental power of your practice will transform any place!!

Sravanam can also be done with like-minded friends, and that may contribute well to a profound experience.

Enjoy life – with bhakti!!!


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