To hear is to understand

Sravanam means to hear, to hear with the purpose of understanding. It is a derivative of 'sru' which means 'flow'. When sru becomes 'sruti' it means sound or that which is heard. One of the main means of getting to know Krishna is 'sravanam' hearing, by hearing about him.
 
Learning about Krishna begins with hearing. The Gita states this in text 7.1: 'Now hear, O son of Prtha, how by practicing yoga in full consciousness of Me, with mind attached to Me, you can know Me in full, free from doubt.' the whole process begins with hearing.
Hearing with the purpose of understanding requires humility on the part of the listener. Often we learn that the approach is of 'submissive inquiry'. The emphasis on such meekness is not a sadistic or authoritarian necessity of the speaker. It is far more the necessity of the listener, that I may hear and understand not interpret.


Understanding another person requires that we are present and simultaneously somewhat set apart. As Gadamer posited: 'It is the tyranny of hidden prejudices that makes us deaf to what speaks to us in tradition.' An insincere or non-reflexive listener, forces personal interpretation upon what is heard before it has actually been truly heard. The speaker has thus been refused justice or an inquisitive ear. The 'setting apart' requires that I am committed in my attempt to understand exactly what the speaker is trying to convey to me.
Way back in 1966 in New York, Srila Prabhupada made this point to his early followers who new little or nothing about Krishna: 'Therefore śravaṇam. Śravaṇam is the... Śravaṇam means hearing. Hearing is the first stage. And hearing is so powerful that simply by hearing from authoritative source, you can become completely perfect, simply by hearing. Submissive hearing, of course. Submissive. Jñāne prayāsam udapāsya namanta eva. This is a verse from Bhāgavata, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Jñāne prayāsam udapāsya namanta eva. Don't be upstart. Don't try to understand the supreme knowledge, the Absolute Truth, by your strength. You are very poor. Your senses are imperfect. You cannot understand. This, this process, you should give up. Jñāne prayāsam. Attempt to know the Supreme by ascending process. "Oh, I shall know. I'll manufacture my own way." This is the way going on nowadays. Everyone is thinking that "Why shall I accept any authority? I shall think myself what I am and what is my duty." This is going on. But this is not the Vedic process. The Vedic process is to śravaṇam. So simply if we give up this foolish process of understanding the Absolute Truth by my own attempt, we, if we give up and we become submissive... Yes. Submissive means we must know our imperfectness.' 


Therefore in the beginning of student life in Krishna Consciousness or in any Vedic path it meant approaching the teacher with humility and a service spirit. The typical metaphor for this is of the students coming with firewood in hand. This firewood is of humility, faith and the mood of service not domination or forced interpretation. Understanding Krishna begins with hearing, and the very best hearing is from one who knows him.

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