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TEN OFFENSES AGAINST THE HOLY NAME (NAMAPARADHA);
BLASPHEMY OF THE DEVOTEES (SADHU-NINDA)
IS THE FIRST OFFENSE
Introductory note by Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura:
|"Namabhasa was described in the previous chapter; the next ten chapters deal with the ten offenses to the holy name, and Chapter Fourteen explains offenses to the Deity (sevaparadha). The nama and seva aparadhas initially arise from anarthas that cause namabhasa. If these aparadhas are not corrected and become intentional, they not only impede one's spiritual progress, but remove one from devotional service entirely, placing him in hell. The first of these offenses is the subject of this chapter. Criticism or harmful intent to a qualified sadhu is a serious offense to the holy name. How can the Lord tolerate criticism of those who spread the glories of His name?"]
All glories to Lord Shri Gauranga, the life of Shri Gadadhara Pandit; all glories to Lord Nityananda, the heart of Shrimati Jahnavadevi; all glories to Shri Advaita Acarya, the Lord of Mother Sita; all glories to Shrila Shrivasa Pandit and all the devotees of Lord Chaitanya.
Lord Chaitanya said, "Haridasa, now describe in detail the offenses against the holy name." Shrila Haridasa replied, "My Lord, whatever I say will be on Your prompting alone. I am a mere puppet.
The ten offenses against the holy name
"The scriptures enumerate ten offenses against the holy name. I am very fearful of these offenses. I will list them one by one. As I do, please give me the strength to avoid them, my Lord."
1) Blasphemy of the devotees of the Lord.
2) To consider demigods to be independent of the Supreme Lord, and to similarly think Lord Krishna's name, form, qualities and pastimes are separate from Him.
3) To disobey the spiritual master who reveals the truth about the holy name.
4) To criticize the scriptures that describe the glories of the holy name.
5) To think the excellences and divine qualities of the holy name are imaginary, and to so interpret the scriptural glorification of the holy name.
6) To commit sinful activities on the strength of the holy name.
7) To instruct the faithless on the glories of the holy name.
8) To equate chanting of the holy name with auspicious ritualistic activities recommended in the karmakanda sections of the Vedas.
9) To be inattentive while chanting the holy name.
10) To not develop love for the holy name after learning the the name's glories because of maintaining attachments to the body and things related to the body.
To blaspheme devotees is the first offense
To blaspheme a devotee of the Lord is the first offense against the holy name, and it completely disrupts one's spiritual life. The good qualities of a devotee have been personally described by Lord Krishna in His instructions to Uddhava, as recorded in the Eleventh Canto of Shrimad Bhagavatam.
The devotee is merciful; is tolerant; is equal to all; does penance without injuring the body; is truthful; is pure-hearted; is compassionate; is free from lust in his intelligence; is master of the senses; makes no claims of ownership; is gentle; is clean; is regulated in eating; is peaceful; is apathetic to materialism; is patient; is steady; takes Lord Krishna as his only shelter; is free from illusion; is grave; has conquered over hunger, thirst, lamentation, envy, old age and death; does not expect honor from others; offers respect to others; is expert; is not a cheater; is knowledgeable.
Qualities are of two kinds - svarupa and tathasta
These qualities can be divided into two categories: svarupa, or the direct and indigenous quality of any substance, and tathasta, qualities that are ornamental and visible when the substance comes in contact with something else. The devotee's acceptance of Lord Krishna as his only shelter (Krishna eka sarana) is his svarupa-laksana, and all the other qualities are tathasta.
If by some good fortune one associates with a Vaishnava, he may develop a taste for the holy name and takes complete shelter at Krishna's lotus feet. Thus he develops the svarupa-laksana, and then through continued chanting he will gradually develop all the other laksanas or symptoms. The other symptoms are tathasta but nevertheless are essentially present in a Vaishnava.
Saintliness depends not on external designation but on svarupa-laksana
External designations such as the four social and religious orders of brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, sudra and bramacari, grihastha, vanaprastha, sannyasi are not the symptoms of a devotee. The scriptures say the quality of complete surrender to Lord Krishna is the hallmark of a devotee, and he alone can chant Krishna's name purely.
Through Raghunatha das Goswami's example, Shri Chaitanya taught everyone how the proper grihastha Vaishnava should behave. Shrila Raghunatha das Goswami appeared not in the brahmana caste but in the inferior kayastha caste of the village of Saptagrama. The Lord instructed him not to be impatient and impulsive, but to return to his household life and remain there.
One is purified in degrees by following this orderly process. There is no need to prematurely pretend that one is detached and renounced just to impress people. Renunciation has to take place within the heart. Wearing the dress of a renunciate when the senses are still uncontrolled is called monkey renunciation or markatavairagya.
The householder should regularly fulfill his duties. Detatchment from matter will naturally arise within his heart as he internally cultivates firm faith in Krishna while conducting normal external social dealings among the people in general. Very quickly Lord Krishna will personally liberate him.
The symptoms of a renounced sadhu
When Shrila Raghunatha das Goswami at last left his household and embraced a sannyasi's life, the Lord personally instructed him about the proper path of renunciation. The sannyasi should not engage in nor give audience to frivolous materialistic conversations. The wearing of fine clothes and the tasting of delicacies must be rejected. Being always ready to offer respect to others, demanding no respect for oneself, the sannyasi should constantly chant the holy name. He should render intimate service to Shri Radha and Krishna in the mood of the residents of Vraja.
The svarupa-laksana of both the householder and sannyasi is the same
The svarupa-laksana or principal symptom (i.e. surrender to Lord Krishna) must prevail in a devotee regardless of his varna or asrama. The tathasta-laksana or marginal symptoms will naturally vary according to the varnas and asramas, while undeviating surrender to Lord Krishna remains as the fixed symptom of devotional service in all cases.
Once he has this symptom, gradually but unfailingly the marginal symptoms appear in the devotee's character. Even if the marginal symptoms haven't reached full maturity in a surrendered devotee, and instead some serious discrepancies are visible in his character, he is still to be respected as a sadhu or saintly soul. This is the verdict of the scriptures as expressed in Lord Krishna's own words in the Bhagavad Gita, and it must be given full respect.
It is offensive to criticize a devotee on the basis of his past sins
When one has developed a real taste for chanting, then a single utterance of the holy name can eradicate all previous sins. Some vestiges of sinful reaction may still remain in a particular individual, but these will steadily be removed by the process of chanting. As these last traces of sin disappear, he emerges a pure devotee. Of course, the lingering traces of sin are seen by ordinary people as actual sin; if a devotee is criticized because of the traces of almostextirpated sin in his character, that is a grievous offense. If criticism is made against a devotee for sins committed prior to his surrendering to Krishna, that is likewise another serious offense. Such a faultfinder surely invites the wrath of Lord Krishna.
A few words on the principal symptom of a devotee
One who has fully surrendered to Lord Krishna will naturally only chant Lord Krishna's name. By the grace of the Lord, such a person is entitled to be called a sadhu. Only a devotee of Lord Krishna is eligible to be respected as a sadhu, and none other. One who proclaims himself a sadhu is but a charlatan and a braggart; one who humbly says he is a poor soul surrendered to Lord Krishna and who constantly chants Krishna's name is a real sadhu. He, considering himself lower than a blade of grass and more tolerant than a tree, offers all respects to others without expecting any for himself. The holy name of Krishna grants such a sadhu pure love of Godhead.
A Vaishnava firmly fixed in the holy name is the real sadhu; criticizing him is nama-aparadha
Hearing such a sadhu chant the holy name, one should offer him all respects, knowing him to be a perfect Vaishnava. A Vaishnava is the spiritual master of the world, a true friend of every being, and is always an ocean of compassion. Anyone who criticizes such a Vaishnava goes directly to hell and suffers untold pains birth after birth. The doors of bhakti are closed to such an offender because devotional service is the merciful gift of a Vaishnava to the living entities. The Vaishnava is an abode of Lord Krishna's spiritual potencies; others receive Krishna-bhakti only by his confidential association.
This pure bhakti potency is distributed by a perfected pure devotee to the aspirant devotee, and that devotee, becoming perfect, distributes it to another aspirant. Thus the bhakti potency expands. The three great touchstones of bhakti sakti are the mercy of the pure devotee in the form of his eatable remnants, the water from his foot bath, and the dust from his lotus feet.
How a Vaishnava imbues his potency in others: By remaining in the presence of a Vaishnava for some time, one absorbs the bhakti energy flowing from the body of that saintly person. If one is sufficiently faithful, he can bind that energy within his own heart and experience immediate ecstasy. By just a moment's association with a Vaishnava, bhakti is invoked in the heart of a pious person, who will immediately be inspired to chant Lord Krishna's name; gradually, the holy name will award him all good qualities.
[Footnote 1 by Bhaktivinoda]
The potency or sakti of pure devotion is a blend of hladini (Krishna's pleasuregiving potency) and samvit (Krishna's knowledgegiving potency). Bhakti reposes in the heart of the transcendentalist and uses him as a vehicle for further movement. When a jiva becomes free from envy and is inclined to devotional service, the bhakti potency is then transferred from the pure devotee's heart into that jiva's heart, where it takes shelter of his soul and acheives perfection there. This is a great mystery. [End of footnote 1]
There are four kinds of blasphemy of a devotee
The offender criticizes a Vaishnava about his caste, or some unpremeditated accidental fall-down, or the last traces of his previous sins, or his sinful activities prior to his surrendering to Lord Krishna. Such an offender will never develop a taste for chanting the holy name.
One who has taken complete shelter of the pure devotional process is considered a pure Vaishnava. The four abovementioned faults may be present in him, but he is totally free from all other shortcomings. Hence, criticizing him spells doom for the offender. The glories of the holy name are propagated by the Vaishnava, and Lord Krishna does not tolerate any criticism against him. One may discard all other activities like religiosity, yoga, sacrifices, fruitive activities, empirical knowledge and so on; if one simply chants the holy name, that is the quintessence of spiritual culture.
The sadhu takes complete shelter of the holy name
Never criticizing demigods or other scriptures, the Vaishnava simply chants the holy name. Regardless of whether such a sadhu is a householder or a sannyasi, one should eagerly take the dust from his lotus feet. The purity of a Vaishnava is judged by how much attraction or rati he has for the name. His purity has nothing whatsoever to do with his official status as a Vaishnava, or his wealth, erudition, youth, pleasing appearance, strength or following.
One who aspires to take shelter of the holy name must shun the propensity to criticize devotees. Pure devotion in the chanting of the holy name depends on association with the pure devotee and his pure devotion. Without this assocation, everything becomes perverted and spoilt. Bhakti immediately recedes at the first indication of sadhuninda, which immediately becomes nama-aparadha. Let the aspirant devotee reject sadhuninda and associate with and serve the pure devotees.
There are two types of bad association, the first being association with women
The proper Vaishnava behavior is to avoid asatsanga or bad company that influences a person to disrespect a sadhu. Bad association is of two kinds. The first is association with a woman, which means either to have illicit connection with a woman other than one's wife, or to be excessively fond of one's own wife. The scriptures permit a husband only a properly regulated relationship with his spouse. Keeping company with a licentious or henpecked man also falls within this first category of asat sanga or bad association.
Non-devotees are of three kinds
The second type of bad association is to mix with nondevotees. There are three kinds of non-devotees: the Mayavadi, the dharmadhvaji (pretender), and the nirisvara (atheist). Mayavadis never accept the Supreme Lord's form as being eternal. They say the Deity form of the Lord is material, and that the jiva is also a product of maya. A dharmadhvaji is a person who has no devotion or attachment in the heart but makes a show of it externally. He wears the clothes of a devotee to accomplish materialistic ends. A nirisvara is a nonbeliever who rejects God outright. A serious aspirant or sadhaka must shun such bad association. If anyone argues that avoiding such nondevotees is sadhuninda, their company must also be shunned. One has to keep away from such bad association and take complete shelter of the holy name. Only then is love of Godhead ensured.
There are three kinds of devotees; the lowest is the kanistha devotee
The neophyte devotee (kanistha Vaishnava) displays a faith that is formal and worldly. He worships the Deity but has no service attitude towards the devotees of the Lord. He is almost a Vaishnava (Vaishnavapraya), but is not a real Vaishnava yet; hence, he is not able to take full advantage of sadhusanga. Such a neophyte will have to receive the blessings of a pure devotee to advance further.
The madhyama devotee
The madhyama devotee knows well the importance of the Lord's devotees, and remains always in their association. He is convinced of Krishna's position as the Lord, the jivas as His eternal servants, the means of advancement as bhakti and the goal as prema. He is compassionate to the innocent and avoids the company of atheists.
The madhyama stage of devotee marks the beginning of pure Vaisnavism because at this stage one become eligible to chant the pure name. The madhyama devotee knows well the different effects of different types of association. He distinguishes between the Vaishnavas and the non-Vaishnavas, for he is especially required to serve the advanced devotees and avoid asatsanga and sadhu nindha. Indeed, this is his necessity. If he neglects to differentiate between the grades of devotees and between Vaishnavas and nonVaishnavas, then he stands to commit Vaishnava aparadha.
The uttama devotee
A pure devotee of the highest order sees Lord Krishna manifest everywhere and knows that everything rests in Him. He sees Krishna is his very life and soul. He is unconcerned with distinctions of who is a Vaishnava and who is not thus for him there is no regulation to serve a Vaishnava. His whole life revolves around the holy name, which he considers to be the essence of everything.
The scriptures declare that a kanistha devotee, being ignorant of the proper attitudes towards Krishna, the devotees and the holy name, is only capable of namabhasa chanting. A madhyama devotee is worthy of chanting the pure name: therefore he must always carefully avoid offenses to other devotees, so that his chanting will be pure. The uttama Vaishnava can never commit any offense, because he perceives Lord Krishna everywhere.
Every sadhaka should consider these points calmly and reflect upon his real position. First, he must stop sadhuninda. Then he should chant with firm faith, according to his status as a Vaishnava. He should aspire to become fixed on the madhyama platform through association with equal devotees, service to superior devotees, avoidance of nondevotees, compassion for all living entities and constant chanting of the holy name.
The remedy for sadhuninda
If anyone offends a devotee in a moment of delusion or madness, he must fall at the devotee's feet and repent bitterly and, weeping and full of contrition, beg forgiveness. He should declare himself a fallen wretch, in need of that devotee's grace. A devotee is very merciful; his heart will soften and he will embrace the offender, thus exonerating him from his offenses.
Concluded Thakura Haridasa, "I offer this explanation of the first of ten nama-aparadhas at Your lotus feet."
One who is like a bumble-bee lingering the lotus feet of Shrila Haridasa Thakura will find his life and soul in this Harinama Cintamani.