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Idle Talking

Srila Prabhupada Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura An Excerpt from Sri Bhaktyaloka

Talking with one another is called jalpana or prajalpa. Nowadays in this world godlessness is so prominent that conversing with others means godless talk. Therefore it is not profitable for a practicing devotee to engage in jalpana. There can, however, be many kinds of jalpana in the cultivation of devotional service. They are all auspicious for the devotees. Srila Rupa Gosvami has written in his Karpanya-panjika-stotra:

tathapy asmin kadacid vamadhisau nama-jalpini avadya-vrnda-nistari namabhasau prasidatam

Devotees recite the purport of this verse in the following words:

tathapi e dina-jane yadi nama-uccarane namabhasa karila jivane sarva-dosa-nivarana duhun-nama-sanjalpana prasade prasida dui jane

“While chanting the holy name of the Lord, if a wretched person in his lifetime achieves namabhasa, or a glimpse of offenseless chanting, then all his faults are destroyed and Their Lordships become pleased with him.”

Kirtana, offering prayers, and reciting the scriptures are all jalpana; but when these are performed with a favorable mood and devoid of material desire, then they are all cultivation of Krsna consciousness. Therefore the conclusion is this: All prajalpas that are unfavorable to Krsna’s service are adverse to devotional service. The practitioner should carefully give up prajalpa. There is no fault in the activities of the mahajanas. The mahajanas have respectfully engaged in prajalpa (favorable to devotional service), and this is our only duty. Sometimes puffed-up devotees advise that all types of prajalpa should be given up. But we are followers of Srila Rupa Gosvami; being followers of Rupa Gosvami we will always stick to the path shown by the sadhus who are following his instructions. In the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, as quoted from the Skanda Purana, it is said:

sa mrgyah sreyasam hetuh panthah santapa-varjitah anavapta-sramam purve yena santah pratisthire

“One should strictly follow the easy path that the previous mahajanas have accepted. That path bestows great auspiciousness and is devoid of all misery.”

Our mahajana’s path is that which was shown by Srila Vyasadeva, Sukadeva Gosvami, Prahlada Maharaja, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and His associates. We are not to leave aside that path to follow the instructions of new puffed-up devotees. All the mahajanas have respected that prajalpa which nourishes devotion to Hari. We will discuss this in the appropriate place.

Godless prajalpas are impediments to devotional service. They are of many types. Useless talks, arguments, gossip, debates, fault-finding in others, speaking falsehoods, blaspheming devotees, and worldly talk are all called prajalpa.

Useless talk is extremely detrimental. Practicing devotees should discuss topics of Lord Hari in the association of other devotees and remember Hari’s name, form, qualities, and pastimes in a secluded place without uselessly wasting time. In the Bhagavad-gita (10.8-9) it is said:

aham sarvasya prabhavo mattah sarvam pravartate iti matva bhajante mam budha bhava-samanvitah mac-citta mad-gata-prana bodhayantah parasparam kathayantas ca mam nityam tusyanti ca ramanti ca

“I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who perfectly know this engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts. The thoughts of My pure devotees dwell in Me, their lives are fully devoted to My service, and they derive great satisfaction and bliss from always enlightening one another and conversing about Me.”

Also in the Gita (9.14) it says:

satatam kirtayanto mam yatantas ca drdha-vratah namasyantas ca mam bhaktya nitya-yukta upasate

“Always chanting My glories, endeavoring with great determination, bowing down before Me, these great souls perpetually worship Me with devotion.”

In this way the practicing devotee should cultivate unalloyed devotion. If they spend their days and nights uselessly talking with materialists, then the Lord’s instruction, “always chanting My glories,” will not be followed. In newspapers there is so much useless talk. For the practicing devotee to read newspapers is a great loss. But if there are topics about pure devotees described in the newspaper, then that can be read. After finishing their meal, mundane people normally smoke and engage in useless talk with other godless people. It is certainly difficult for them to become followers of Srila Rupa Gosvami. Reading novels is the same. But if one gets a novel with a story like that of Puranjana in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, then reading that is not an impediment, rather it is beneficial.

Argument is a prajalpa that is adverse to devotional service. All the arguments of the followers of nyaya and vaisesika are simply godless quarrels. They do not yield any result other than wasting the mind’s strength and increasing one’s restlessness. In the Vedas (Katha Upanisad 1.2.9) it is said: naisa tarkena matir apaneya “This intelligence cannot be attained by argument.” The living entity’s proper discretion is eternally established in his natural intelligence. That discretion naturally flows towards the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord. But by arguing about directions, places, mistakes, and illusions, the heart becomes tough. Then natural discretion no longer remains. By accepting the Vedic Dasamula instructions and arguing accordingly, one’s mind does not become wicked. What is good, what is bad-when such deliberations are based on the Vedas, that is no longer prajalpa. That is why in the Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya 25.153) Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has given the instruction:

ataeva bhagavata karaha vicara

“Study Srimad-Bhagavatam very scrutinizingly.”

Discussions to establish the knowledge of one’s relationship with the Lord are not prajalpa. Those who conquer the assembly by useless arguments do not reach any conclusion; therefore it is certainly one’s duty to give up such logician’s association. This is confirmed in the Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya 12.183) by Sri Vasudeva Sarvabhauma, who said:

tarkika-srgala-sange bheu-bheu kari sei mukhe ebe sada kahi ‘krsna’ ‘hari’

“In the association of the jackals known as logicians, I simply continued to bark a resounding ‘bheu bheu.’ Now, from the same mouth I am chanting the holy names ‘Krsna’ and ‘Hari.’”

Those who are accustomed to discuss spiritual matters should remember the words of the Varanasi sannyasi as found in the Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya 25.43):

paramartha-vicara gela, kari matra ‘vada’ kahan mukti paba, kahan krsnera prasada

“The atheists, headed by the Mayavadi philosophers, do not care for liberation or Krsna’s mercy. They simply continue to put forward false arguments and counter-theories to atheistic philosophy, not considering or engaging in spiritual matters.”

Useless arguments arise from envy or pride, aversion or attachment to sense gratification, or foolishness or self-pride. Quarrelsome people also become intoxicated by useless arguments. While discussing topics of the Lord and His devotees the practicing devotee should always be careful to avoid useless arguments.

Talking without reason about other people is extremely adverse to devotional service. Many people talk about others to establish their own reputation. Being envious, some people are accustomed to discuss others’ character. The minds of those who are busy in such topics can never be fixed on the lotus feet of Krsna. Talking about others should be rejected in all respects. But in the practice of devotional service there are many favorable topics that are faultless, even though they are about others. In order to completely renounce talking about others, one needs to live in the forest. The two different types of practicing devotees are the householders and the renunciates. Because the renunciates have no business whatsoever with sense enjoyment, they can give up talking about others in all respects. But because a householder is engaged in earning, saving, protecting, and maintaining the family, he cannot completely give up talking about others. It is best for him to live in a Krsna conscious family. When all ones material activities are related with Krsna, then even his unavoidable talk about others becomes sinless and a part of devotional practice in relation to Krsna. He should not talk about others in a way that is detrimental to anyone. He should talk about others only whatever little is necessary in his Krsna conscious family. He should not talk about others without reason. Moreover, when a guru enlightens his disciple on some topic, then unless he occasionally talks about others, his instruction may not be clear. When previous mahajanas have talked about others in this way, there is merit in such talk, not fault. As Sukadeva Gosvami said in Srimad-Bhagavatam (2.1.3-4):

nidraya hriyate naktam vyavayena ca va vayah diva carthehaya rajan kutumba-bharanena va dehapatya-kalatradisv atma-sainyesv asatsv api tesam pramatto nidhanam pasyann api na pasyati

“The lifetime of such an envious householder is passed at night either in sleeping or in sex indulgence, and in the daytime either in making money or maintaining family members. Persons devoid of atma-tattva do not inquire into the problems of life, being too attached to the fallible soldiers like the body, children and wife. Although sufficiently experienced, they still do not see their inevitable destruction.”

Although Sukadeva Gosvami talks about the materialists in order to instruct his disciple, he is not considered a prajalpi. Therefore such activities should be considered beneficial. Again, in order to instruct His own disciples, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu spoke about pseudo-renunciates in the following words from the Caitanya-caritamrta (Antya 2.117, 120, 124):

prabhu kahe, – “vairagi kare prakrti sambhasana dekhite na paron ami tahara vadana ksudra-jiva saba markata-vairagya kariya indriya carana bule ‘prakrti’ sambhasiya” prabhu kahe, – “mora vasa nahe mora mana prakrti-sambhasi vairagi na kare darsana

“The Lord replied, “I cannot tolerate seeing the face of a person who has accepted the renounced order of life but who still talks intimately with a woman. There are many persons with little in their possession who accept the renounced order of life like monkeys. They go here and there engaging in sense gratification and speaking intimately with women. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, “My mind is not under My control. It does not like to see anyone in the renounced order who talks intimately with women.”

Unless one speaks in this way while instructing and while concluding a subject, there is no benefit for oneself or others. Therefore when the previous acharyas have personally set example and taught others, how will we be benefitted by acting contrary to their instruction? And if one discusses in this way the improper behavior current in a religious sect or amongst the general public, then such talk is not adverse to devotional service. Even if one sometimes talks about a particular person, there is no fault. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam (4.14.29) Maitreya Muni, the foremost devotee, spoke about Vena Maharaja in this way:

maitreya uvaca ittham viparyaya-matih papiyan utpatham gatah anuniyamanas tad-yacnam na cakre bhrasta-mangalah

“The great sage Maitreya continued: Thus the King, who became unintelligent due to his sinful life and deviation from the right path, became actually bereft of all good fortune. He could not accept the requests of the great sages, which the sages put before him with great respect, and therefore he was condemned.”

Sri Maitreya Rsi needed to speak about others in this way; he spoke to his audience to instruct them. This is not prajalpa. The practicing devotee normally discusses ancient history in the association of devotees. Occasionally they talk about nondevotees. Such talk is always auspicious and favorable to devotional service. But those who talk about others while influenced by devotional impediments like envy, hatred, pride, or distinction are offenders at the feet of Bhaktidevi.

Debate arises only from a desire for conquest. It is extremely abominable. Fault-finding arises only from imposing one’s own bad habits on others. This should be given up in all respects. Speaking falsehoods is another form of useless talk. Worldly talk is completely rejected by renounced devotees. Householders may accept some worldly talk that is favorable to devotional service. If topics like archeology, zoology, astrology, and geography are devoid of God consciousness, they should be rejected. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam (12.12.49-50) Sri Sukadeva Gosvami has said:

mrsa giras ta hy asatir asat-katha na kathyate yad bhagavan adhoksajah tad eva satyam tad u haiva mangalam tad eva punyam bhagavad-gunodayam tad eva ramyam ruciram navam navam tad eva sasvan manaso mahotsavam tad eva sokarnava-sosanam nrnam yad uttamahsloka-yaso ‘nugiyate

“Words that do not describe the transcendental Personality of Godhead but instead deal with temporary matters are simply false and useless. Only those words that manifest the transcendental qualities of the Supreme Lord are actually truthful, auspicious and pious. Those words describing the glories of the all-famous Personality of Godhead are attractive, relishable and ever fresh. Indeed, such words are a perpetual festival for the mind, and they dry up the ocean of misery.”

Speech in the form of blaspheming sadhus is the source of great inauspiciousness. If one wants to attain devotion to Lord Hari, then he should make a vow like this: “In this life I will never blaspheme sadhus.” Devotees are sadhus. By blaspheming them, all one’s virtues are destroyed. By blaspheming the supremely pure Lord Mahadeva, Prajapati Daksa, the best of ascetics, met with severe inauspiciousness. As stated in Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.4.46):

ayuh sriyam yaso dharmam lokan asisa eva ca hanti sreyamsi sarvani pumso mahad-atikramah

“My dear King, when a man persecutes great souls, all his benedictions of longevity, beauty, fame, religion, blessings and promotion to higher planets will be destroyed.”

The conclusion of this essay is this: Whatever prajalpa is not favorable for devotional service should be carefully given up by Vaisnavas who are cultivating Bhakti. Amongst these instructions, the instruction to tolerate the urge to speak mentioned in the first verse-vaco vegam-is only a conditional urge. By giving up prajalpa, the urge to speak is permanently regulated. In order to pass one’s life without sin, one should not speak anything more than whatever little is necessary. One need discuss only whatever is auspicious for oneself and others. If one wants to discuss topics of others, it will simply be useless speech. Therefore in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.28.2) Lord Krsna instructed Uddhava as follows:

para-svabhava-karmani yah prasamsati nindati sa asu bhrasyate svarthad asaty abhinivesatah

“Whoever indulges in praising or criticizing the qualities and behavior of others will quickly become deviated from his own best interest by his entanglement in illusory dualities.”

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