Question: Is it possible for a man in this age to attain ‘enlightenment’?
Thank you for writing with your question. The scriptures state that although this present age is the most degraded of the four ages, still it is the best because in this age the process for self-realization is the simplest. In the Satya, Treta and Dvapara yugas the yuga-dharma (process for self-realization) was ashtanga-yoga, yajna and puja respectively. Each of these processes required strict discipline and sacrifice. In the case of ashtanga-yoga, the rishis would meditate for thousands of years before attaining enlightenment. And in the case of the fire sacrifices (yajna), one needed to offer gold and other valuables into the fire – not just butter or ghee. Such processes for enlightenment, although good in and of themselves, are not practical or suitable for the modern age. In the present age of Kali, the scriptures prescribe a very special process by which one may attain enlightenment:
harer nama harer nama harer namaiva kevalam
kalau nasty eva nasty eva nasty eva gatir anyatha
“In the age of Kali the only way by which one may attain the ultimate goal of life is by chanting the names of Hari. There is no other way, no other way, no other way.”
This verse states three times that there is no other way to attain enlightenment. The significance is that one may consider the yuga-dharmas of the other ages (ashtanga-yoga, yajna and puja), and in reply each is being caste aside one by one – “There is no other way.”
Meditation, sacrifice and puja are certainly beneficial to the sadhaka, but with out the performance of nama-sankirtana one will not be able to attain enlightenment in this age of darkness.