“Bhagavad-gita is the narration or the philosophy or the science of God, spoken by Krishna Himself. Shrimad-Bhagavatam is the narration about the activities and transcendental pastimes of Krishna. Both are Krishna-katha. It is the order of Lord Chaitanya that Krishna-katha should be spread all over the world, because if the conditioned souls, suffering under the pangs of material existence, take to Krishna-katha, then their path of liberation will be open and clear.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Introduction)Download this episode (right click and save)
Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu descended to this world to reveal the highest transcendental mellow, madhurya-rasa, wherein the individual associates with the Supreme Personality of Godhead in a mood of sweetness. As a combined incarnation of Radha and Krishna, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu personified this mood in His actions. He also gave valuable instructions on how to remain in the highest occupation that is bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, and make further advancement towards the pinnacle.
One of those instructions pertains to gramya-katha. This is discussions or discourses about ordinary matters. It can be equated with gossip and village talk. Upon first glance, this seems like an odd thing to warn against, as practically all talk within society would have to be categorized as gramya-katha. The instruction is especially relevant for those who are in the renounced order of life, sannyasa, as for them there is no family life. You’re given a golden opportunity to stop gossiping, since due to your constant travel you really have nothing to gossip about. Nevertheless, the recommendation has relevance for people of all orders.
1. It doesn’t really give you knowledge
“The couple next door is getting divorced. Yup, I heard it from the wife. I think she found out that her husband was cheating on her. She wants to keep the kids. I’m not sure if the reality of the situation has hit the husband yet. Can you believe it? I thought they were the perfect couple.”
The family is one of the pillars of material life, as through the union of man and woman the population within the temporary world remains. In material life things are always changing. Therefore news of the temporary doesn’t have much value. Today the neighbors are getting divorced, but tomorrow they may get back together. Today a politician made a terrible remark about people of a certain ethnicity, and tomorrow they are apologizing and meeting with people from that group.
Gramya-katha is more a way to pass the time. It doesn’t increase knowledge of value. In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna declares knowledge to be a number of different qualities. Village talk doesn’t necessarily lead to humility, freedom from pride, or equanimity in both happiness and distress.
2. It creates enemies
If I talk about someone else, the law of karma says that others will talk about me. The Sanskrit word for meat is mamsa. The two words that make up this word mean “me” and “he.” So the literal meaning is that I am eating something that will come back and eat me in the future. Thus the very definition of the word provides a warning against those considering consumption. Better to avoid meat and spare yourself from bad karma in the future.
In the same way, if I reveal confidential information about others within society, the same is sure to happen to me. Then one of two things happens. The people I talk about will become upset with me if they find out what I said. I may also become upset by others discussing things about me. In this way enemies get created and peace becomes difficult to maintain.
3. A wise person gives respect to everyone
Every living thing is a spirit soul at the core. Though they may be inhabiting different kinds of bodies, the experience through the material world is the same. There is hardship, difficulty, fear, and impending death slated for everything that is living.
Also within each living being is another, superior soul. This is God Himself, expanding as the Supersoul. Though He appears to be divided, He is still one. That is why the Supersoul is also known as the Supreme Consciousness. It is one consciousness within all bodies, despite being separated physically.
Since every living being has God’s expansion residing within, I should give respect. I should not slander anyone and I should know that even their little mistakes are just that, trivial. In the long run, they may correct themselves. Thus there is no need for me to ruin their reputation by gossiping about them.
4. It is another form of procrastination
Athato brahma-jijnasa. “Now is the time for inquiring about Brahman.” Brahman is spirit, and this call to rise is exclusively for the human being. They have the chance to know about God and the spiritual energy. They have the chance to serve Him with intelligence, to become a jnani and then follow devotion without interruption. Such a person is most dear to God.
teṣāṁ jñānī nitya-yukta
priyo hi jñānino 'tyartham
ahaṁ sa ca mama priyaḥ
“Of these, the wise one who is in full knowledge in union with Me through pure devotional service is the best. For I am very dear to him, and he is dear to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.17)
Acquiring brahma-jnana is difficult. It requires a concerted effort, with dedication from the individual and help from the spiritual master. A knowledgeable person then takes the next step of connecting with God the person. This connection is yoga. Yoga requires concentration, which is difficult to maintain in a hectic world. Gramya-katha is a way to procrastinate, to avoid the important engagement that is yoga.
5. The ears are meant for Hari-katha
Hari is a name for God. It is synonymous with Krishna. Therefore Hari-katha and Krishna-katha are the same. The ears are a gift from God for the purpose of hearing. It is not that we should avoid hearing and discussing altogether. We make the best use of the ears by hearing about the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Though He is difficult to see and almost impossible to be known in truth, there is still endless discussion of Him available.
Vedic literature is voluminous, and the entirety is glorification of God the person, who has gunas, or transcendental qualities. A person who practices bhakti-yoga under the guidelines of authority can advance to the point where they can deliver Hari-katha themselves. Thus even if no one else is around to speak, the individual can still continuously hear about God and His glories. From tasting the nectar that is Hari-katha, the tendency towards gramya-katha soon vanishes.
Cops arrested neighbor last night,
Married couple to divorce they might.
Such village talk gramya-katha to say,
By Chaitanya advised to stay away.
Through law of karma to see,
Same gossip and slander to me.
For higher purpose human life is meant,
In Hari-katha better the time to be spent.