"Narada, who happened to be the son of a maidservant, had no education, nor was he born into a high family. But when his mother was engaged in serving great devotees, Narada also became engaged, and sometimes, in the absence of his mother, he would serve the great devotees himself. Narada personally says, 'Once only, by their permission, I took the remnants of their food, and by so doing all my sins were at once eradicated. Thus being engaged, I became purified in heart, and at that time the very nature of the transcendentalist became attractive to me.' (Bhag 1.5.25)"
Bhagavad-gita 9.2 Purport
"By hearing the narration of the pastimes of the Lord, one contacts directly the Personality of Godhead, and, as explained before, by hearing about the Personality of Godhead, from within, all accumulated sins of the mundane creature are cleared. Thus being cleared of all sins, the hearer gradually becomes liberated from mundane association and becomes attracted to the features of the Lord. Narada Muni has just explained this by his personal experience. The whole idea is that simply by hearing about the Lord's pastimes one can become one of the associates of the Lord. Narada Muni has eternal life, unlimited knowledge and unfathomed bliss, and he can travel all over the material and spiritual worlds without restriction. One can attain to the highest perfection of life simply by attentive hearing of the transcendental pastimes of the Lord from the right sources, as Sri Narada heard them from the pure devotees (bhakti-vedantas) in his previous life. This process of hearing in the association of the devotees is especially recommended in this age of quarrel (Kali)."
Srimad-bhagavatam 1.5.26, Purport
Srimad-bhagavatam, 1st Canto, Chapter 6:
"Sri Narada said: The great sages, who had imparted scientific knowledge of transcendence to me, departed for other places, and I had to pass my life in this way."
"In his previous life, when Naradaji was impregnated with spiritual knowledge by the grace of the great sages, there was a tangible change in his life, although he was only a boy of five years. That is an important symptom visible after initiation by the bona fide spiritual master. Actual association of devotees brings about a quick change in life for spiritual realization. How it so acted upon the previous life of Sri Narada Muni is described by and by in this chapter."
Text 5 and Purport
"I was the only son of my mother, who was not only a simple woman but a maidservant as well. Since I was her only offspring, she had no other alternative for protection: she bound me with the tie of affection.
She wanted to look after my maintenance properly, but because she was not independent, she was not able to do anything for me. The world is under the full control of the Supreme Lord; therefore everyone is like a wooden doll in the hands of a puppet master.
When I was a mere child of five years, I lived in a brahmana school. I was dependent on my mother's affection and had no experience of different lands.
Once upon a time, my poor mother, when going out one night to milk a cow, was bitten on the leg by a serpent, influenced by supreme time.
I took this as the special mercy of the Lord, who always desires benediction for His devotees, and so thinking, I started for the north.
After my departure, I passed through many flourishing metropolises, towns, villages, animal farms, mines, agricultural lands, valleys, flower gardens, nursery gardens and natural forests.
I passed through hills and mountains full of reservoirs of various minerals like gold, silver and copper, and through tracts of land with reservoirs of water filled with beautiful lotus flowers, fit for the denizens of heaven, decorated with bewildered bees and singing birds.
I then passed alone through many forests of rushes, bamboo, reeds, sharp grass, weeds and caves, which were very difficult to go through alone. I visited deep, dark and dangerously fearful forests, which were the play yards of snakes, owls and jackals.
Thus traveling, I felt tired, both bodily and mentally, and I was both thirsty and hungry. So I took a bath in a river lake and also drank water. By contacting water, I got relief from my exhaustion.
After that, under the shadow of a banyan tree in an uninhabited forest I began to meditate upon the Supersoul situated within, using my intelligence, as I had learned from liberated souls.
As soon as I began to meditate upon the lotus feet of the Personality of Godhead with my mind transformed in transcendental love, tears rolled down my eyes, and without delay the Personality of Godhead Sri Krsna appeared on the lotus of my heart.
O Vyasadeva, at that time, being exceedingly overpowered by feelings of happiness, every part of my body became separately enlivened. Being absorbed in an ocean of ecstasy, I could not see both myself and the Lord.
The transcendental form of the Lord, as it is, satisfies the mind's desire and at once erases all mental incongruities. Upon losing that form, I suddenly got up, being perturbed, as is usual when one loses that which is desirable.
I desired to see again that transcendental form of the Lord, but despite my attempts to concentrate upon the heart with eagerness to view the form again, I could not see Him any more, and thus dissatisfied, I was very much aggrieved.
Seeing my attempts in that lonely place, the Personality of Godhead, who is transcendental to all mundane description, spoke to me with gravity and pleasing words, just to mitigate my grief.
O Narada [the Lord spoke], I regret that during this lifetime you will not be able to see Me anymore. Those who are incomplete in service and who are not completely free from all material taints can hardly see Me.
O virtuous one, you have only once seen My person, and this is just to increase your desire for Me, because the more you hanker for Me, the more you will be freed from all material desires.
By service of the Absolute Truth, even for a few days, a devotee attains firm and fixed intelligence in Me. Consequently he goes on to become My associate in the transcendental world after giving up the present deplorable material worlds.
Intelligence engaged in My devotion cannot be thwarted at any time. Even at the time of creation, as well as at the time of annihilation, your remembrance will continue by My mercy.
Then that supreme authority, personified by sound and unseen by eyes, but most wonderful, stopped speaking. Feeling a sense of gratitude, I offered my obeisances unto Him, bowing my head.
Thus I began chanting the holy name and fame of the Lord by repeated recitation, ignoring all the formalities of the material world. Such chanting and remembering of the transcendental pastimes of the Lord are benedictory. So doing, I traveled all over the earth, fully satisfied, humble and unenvious.
And so, O Brahmana Vyasadeva, in due course of time I, who was fully absorbed in thinking of Krsna and who therefore had no attachments, being completely freed from all material taints, met with death, as lightning and illumination occur simultaneously.
Having been awarded a transcendental body befitting an associate of the Personality of Godhead, I quit the body made of five material elements, and thus all acquired fruitive results of work [karma] stopped.
At the end of the millennium, when the Personality of Godhead Lord Narayana lay down within the water of devastation, Brahma began to enter into Him along with all creative elements, and I also entered through His breathing.
After 4,300,000,000 solar years, when Brahma awoke to create again by the will of the Lord, all the rsis like Marici, Angira, Atri and so on were created from the transcendental body of the Lord, and I also appeared along with them.
Since then, by the grace of the almighty Visnu, I travel everywhere without restriction both in the transcendental world and in the three divisions of the material world. This is because I am fixed in unbroken devotional service of the Lord.
And thus I travel, constantly singing the transcendental message of the glories of the Lord, vibrating this instrument called a vina, which is charged with transcendental sound and which was given to me by Lord Krsna.
The Supreme Lord Sri Krsna, whose glories and activities are pleasing to hear, at once appears on the seat of my heart, as if called for, as soon as I begin to chant His holy activities.
It is personally experienced by me that those who are always full of cares and anxieties due to desiring contact of the senses with their objects can cross the ocean of nescience on a most suitable boat--the constant chanting of the transcendental activities of the Personality of Godhead.
It is true that by practicing restraint of the senses by the yoga system one can get relief from the disturbances of desire and lust, but this is not sufficient to give satisfaction to the soul, for this [satisfaction] is derived from devotional service to the Personality of Godhead.
O Vyasadeva, you are freed from all sins. Thus I have explained my birth and activities for self-realization, as you asked. All this will be conducive for your personal satisfaction also.
Suta Gosvami said: Thus addressing Vyasadeva, Srila Narada Muni took leave of him, and vibrating on his vina instrument, he left to wander at his free will.
All glory and success to Srila Narada Muni because he glorifies the activities of the Personality of Godhead, and so doing he himself takes pleasure and also enlivens all the distressed souls of the universe."
Chapter 6 Purports by His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada:
"As stated in the Bhagavad-gita, there are three divisions of the material spheres, namely the urdhva-loka (topmost planets), madhya-loka (midway planets) and adho-loka (downward planets). Beyond the urdhva-loka planets, that is to say above the Brahmaloka, are the material coverings of the universes, and above that is the spiritual sky, which is unlimited in expansion, containing unlimited self-illuminated Vaikuntha planets inhabited by God Himself along with His associates, who are all eternally liberated living entities. Sri Narada Muni could enter all these planets in both the material and spiritual spheres without restriction, as much as the almighty Lord is free to move personally in any part of His creation. In the material world the living beings are influenced by the three material modes of nature, namely goodness, passion and ignorance. But Sri Narada Muni is transcendental to all these material modes, and thus he can travel everywhere unrestricted. He is a liberated spaceman. The causeless mercy of Lord Visnu is unparalleled, and such mercy is perceived by the devotees only by the grace of the Lord. Therefore, the devotees never fall down, but the materialists, i.e., the fruitive workers and the speculative philosophers, do fall down, being forced by their respective modes of nature. The rsis, as above mentioned, cannot enter into the transcendental world like Narada. This fact is disclosed in the Narasimha Purana. Rsis like Marici are authorities in fruitive work, and rsis like Sanaka and Sanatana are authorities in philosophical speculations. But Sri Narada Muni is the prime authority for transcendental devotional service of the Lord. All the great authorities in the devotional service of the Lord follow in the footsteps of Narada Muni in the order of the Narada-bhakti-sutra, and therefore all the devotees of the Lord are unhesitatingly qualified to enter into the kingdom of God, Vaikuntha." (Text 31)
"The process of devotional activities from the beginning to the stage of transcendence is all duly explained to satisfy the inquiries of Vyasadeva. He has explained how the seeds of devotional service were sown by transcendental association and how they gradually developed by hearing the sages. The result of such hearing is detachment from worldliness, so much so that even a small boy could receive the death news of his mother, who was his only caretaker, as the blessing of God. And at once he took the opportunity to search out the Lord. A sincere urge for having an interview with the Lord was also granted to him, although it is not possible for anyone to see the Lord with mundane eyes. He also explained how by execution of pure transcendental service one can get rid of the fruitive action of accumulated work and how he transformed his material body into a spiritual one. The spiritual body is alone able to enter into the spiritual realm of the Lord, and no one but a pure devotee is eligible to enter into the kingdom of God. All the mysteries of transcendental realization are duly experienced by Narada Muni himself, and therefore by hearing such an authority one can have some idea of the results of devotional life, which are hardly delineated even in the original texts of the Vedas. In the Vedas and Upanisads there are only indirect hints to all this. Nothing is directly explained there, and therefore Srimad-Bhagavatam is the mature fruit of all the Vedic trees of literatures." (Text 36)
"Every living being is anxious for full freedom because that is his transcendental nature. And this freedom is obtained only through the transcendental service of the Lord. Illusioned by the external energy, everyone thinks that he is free, but actually he is bound up by the laws of nature. A conditioned soul cannot freely move from one place to another even on this earth, and what to speak of one planet to another. But a full-fledged free soul like Narada, always engaged in chanting the Lord's glory, is free to move not only on earth but also in any part of the universe, as well as in any part of the spiritual sky. We can just imagine the extent and unlimitedness of his freedom, which is as good as that of the Supreme Lord. There is no reason or obligation for his traveling, and no one can stop him from his free movement. Similarly, the transcendental system of devotional service is also free. It may or may not develop in a particular person even after he undergoes all the detailed formulas. Similarly, the association of the devotee is also free. One may be fortunate to have it, or one may not have it even after thousands of endeavors. Therefore, in all spheres of devotional service, freedom is the main pivot. Without freedom there is no execution of devotional service. The freedom surrendered to the Lord does not mean that the devotee becomes dependent in every respect. To surrender unto the Lord through the transparent medium of the spiritual master is to attain complete freedom of life." (Text 37)
"Sri Narada Muni plays on his instrument to glorify the transcendental activities of the Lord and to give relief to all miserable living entities of the universe. No one is happy here within the universe, and what is felt as happiness is maya's illusion. The illusory energy of the Lord is so strong that even the hog who lives on filthy stool feels happy. No one can be truly happy within the material world. Srila Narada Muni, in order to enlighten the miserable inhabitants, wanders everywhere. His mission is to get them back home, back to Godhead. That is the mission of all genuine devotees of the Lord following the footsteps of that great sage." (Text 38)
Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada.