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OFFENSES IN DEVOTIONAL SERVICE (SEVAPARADHA)
All glories to Shri Gadadhara Pandit and Lord Shri Gauranga; all glories to Lord Nityananda, the life and soul of Shrimati Jahnavadevi; all glories to Mother Sita and Shri Advaita Acarya; all glories to Shrila Shrivasa Pandit and all the devotees of Lord Chaitanya.
Shrila Haridas Thakura is Namacarya
Lord Chaitanya said, "My dear devotee Haridasa, the conditioned souls of Kaliyuga will greatly benefit from this elaborate explanation of the offenses against the holy name that you have given. You are indeed a great spiritual master and acharya."
Shrila Haridas Thakura is Namacharya, or the foremost spiritual authority on the chanting of the holy name of Krishna. He practiced everything he preached. He taught the jivas about suddhanama, namabhasa, and the glories of Krishna's name; he also instructed how one may stop comitting namaparadha all this by his own example.
Lord Chaitanya continued, "I much relished your dissertation on the holy name. As an acarya, you are exemplary and as a preacher, you are profound. You are always ornamented by the priceless gem of the Lord's pure holy name. Ramananda Raya taught me the sublime science of transcendental mellows, and now you have revealed the glories of the holy name. Kindly tell me something about the different kinds of offenses made in the execution of devotional service to the Deity."
Shrila Haridasa Thakura replied, "You are asking about a subject that is known to a servant of the Deity. All my time is taken up in serving the holy name. I don't know how to reply, yet I cannot disregard Your instruction. I will speak whatever you make me say."
Varieties of sevaparadha
Offenses in devotional service (sevaparadha) are numerous. In some scriptures, thirtytwo such offenses are listed, and in others, fifty. By definition, sevaparadha is always related to Deity worship. Learned devotees identify four classifications of sevaparadha, which are: those pertaining to persons engaged in Deity worship; those pertaining to the installation of Deities; those pertaining to persons taking darsana of the Deity in the temple; and those that generally apply in all cases.
The list of thirtytwo offenses in Deity worship is as follows: 1) entering the temple with shoes on; 2) alighting from a vehicle before the Deity; 3) not observing the festival days; 4) forgetting to offer obeisances and prayers to the Deity; 5) offering worship to the Deity in an unclean or contaminated state; 6) offering obeisances on one hand; 7) circumambulating before the Deity; 8) extending the feet towards the Deity or sitting on one's haunches before the Deity; 9) sleeping or reclining in the presence of the Deity; 10) eating before the Deity; 11) speaking lies before the Deity; 12) speaking out loudly before the Deity; 13) talking with others before the Deity; 14) using abusive language before the Deity; 15) giving charity or giving thanks to others before the Deity; 16) quarrelling before the Deity; 17) Crying, howling or shedding false tears before the Deity; 18) criticizing someone before the Deity; 19) covering oneself with a blanket or quilt before the Deity; 20) praising someone before the Deity; 21) using obscene language before the Deity; 22) belching or passing air before the Deity; 23) offering substandard paraphernalia in the service of the Deity in spite of having better; 24) eating or drinking unoffered food; 25) not offering seasonal fruits and vegetables; 26) offering the Deity contaminated food, or food first eaten by someone else; 27) sitting with one's back to the Deity; 28) acting immodestly before the Deity, as by sitting directly in front of the Deity; 29) respecting or worshiping someone else before the Deity; 30) not glorifying and offering obeisances to one's spiritual master before the Deity; 31) glorifying oneself before the the Deity; 32) slandering the demigods before the Deity.
More offenses listed in other scriptures
Other scriptural sources have listed additional offenses:
It is offensive to eat the food of materialists; to touch the Deity of Hari in darkness; to touch the Deity without proper rituals; to open the altar doors without an accompanying performance of music and song for the pleasure of the Lord; to offer food to the Lord that has been seen by a dog; to speak during Deity worship; to leave the altar during Deity worship; to offer arati without putting a flower garland on the Deities; to worship Lord Krishna with unattractive or nonfragrant flowers; to offer worship to Lord Krishna without first cleansing the face and mouth; to offer worship to the Deity after sexual relations; to touch a woman during her menstrual period; to touch fire during Deity worship; to pass air before the Deity; to offer worship wearing dirty or contaminated clothes; to offer worship while angry; to offer worship directly after having been at a cremation grounds, or having touched a dead body or seen a dead body's face; to offer worship while suffering from indigestion or dysentery; to eat garlic and onions; to chew betel and tobacco; to touch the Deity after having had a massage with oil; to offer flowers from an unclean pot; to worship at an inauspicious time; to worship while sitting on the bare floor; to touch the Lord with the left hand while bathing the Deity; to offer old or already offered fruits or flowers; to boast during worshiping; to spit habitual (r)ly; to worship the Deity after having applied smudged or horizontal (i.e. threelined) tilaka; to enter temple without washing the feet; to offer the Deity food cooked by a non-Vaishnava; to do puja in front of a non-Vaishnava; to not worship Visvaksena (in place of Ganesa) before the puja; to see or speak to a Siva or Durga worshipper; to bathe the Deity with water touched by the fingernails; to use water for worship into which sweat has fallen; to make oaths before the Deity; to step over the Deity's prasada.
Sevaparadha is to be avoided those serving the Deity; namaparadha is to be avoided by all devotees
One who is engaged in Deity worship must carefully avoid the sevaparadhas, and all Vaishnavas must strictly abstain from the namaparadhas and relish the taste of pure devotional service to Lord Krishna. The devotee himself is the best judge of which offenses in seva to be vigilant about, according to the service he is engaged in. But the responsibility of avoiding namaparadha is applicable to every Vaishnava at all times.
On the path of bhava-seva, or spontaneous devotional service, namaparadha must be nonexistent
Especially, that devotee who worships the Lord in a secluded place in the ecstacy of separation from the Deity must be free of the ten offenses against the holy Name. In bhavaseva, service is performed in the mind; there is not even opportunity for sevaaparadha. Only when the devotee on this path is completely free of namaparadha can he attain bhava, spontaneous loving devotional service to Krishna.
Constant meditation upon the holy name of the Lord is the sadhana practice in bhava-seva, the offenseless stage of devotional service. By the grace of the Lord, each of the nine limbs of sadhanabhakti finally culminates in the prema of the pure holy name. One who has ascended to this stage of realization may then fully submerge himself in the nectar of chanting the holy name, leaving aside other services.
Lord Chaitanya instructed Shrila Raghunatha das Goswami on the worship of Shri GovardhanSila thusly (as recorded in Chaitanya Caritamrita, Antya 6.294-304):
'"This stone is the transcendental form of Lord Krishna. Worship the stone with great eagerness. Worship this stone in the mode of goodness like a perfect brahmana, for by such worship you will surely attain ecstatic love of Krishna without delay. For such worship, one needs a jug of water and a few flowers from a Tulasi tree. This is worship in complete goodness when performed in complete purity. With faith and love, you should offer eight soft Tulasi flowers, each with two Tulasi leaves, one on each side of each flower."
'After thus advising him how to worship, Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu personally offered Raghunatha das the Govardhana-Sila with His transcendental hand. As advised by the Lord, Raghunatha das worshiped the Sila in great transcendental jubilation. Svarupa Damodara gave Raghunatha das two cloths, each about six inches long, a wooden platform and a jug in which to keep water.
'Thus Raghunatha das began worshiping the stone from Govardhana, and as he worshiped he saw the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, the son of Nanda Maharaja, directly in the stone. Thinking of how he had received the Govardhana-Sila directly from the hands of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Raghunatha das was always overflooded with ecstatic love. The amount of transcendental bliss that Raghunatha das enjoyed simply by offering water and Tulasi is impossible to achieve even if one worships the Deity with sixteen kinds of paraphernalia.
'After Raghunatha das had thus worshiped the Govardhana-Sila for sometime, Svarupa Damodara spoke to him as follows: "Offer the Govardhan stone eight kaudis worth of the first-class sweetmeats known as khaja and sandesh. If you offer them with faith and love, they will be just like nectar."' [End of editor's footnote]
It is on the strength of Shrila Haridas Thakura's instruc tions that a lowly person without means can recite the Harinam Cintamani.