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3. Avoiding Offenses
Living a Positive Spiritual Life
Question: How can offenses be avoided?
Answer: In order to become free from offenses, one should ulti¬mately begin to lead a positive spiritual life. One who is always afraid of committing offenses, thus continuously meditating on them, will not really advance in chanting. The following story illustrates this point:
In a forest, a millipede could dance wonderfully. A toad that was observing his dancing became envious and decided to stop the millipede. However, she did not want to just come along and clumsily trample him down; so she conceived of a devious plan. The toad wrote a letter to the millipede. "My dear millipede, you are certainly the best dancer in the entire forest, and in your dancing all the fine arts of the whole universe are reflected. I have, however, a question: when you are dancing, do you lift first the 52nd foot and then shift to the other side with the 56th foot, or do you begin by softly rolling your 200* foot and then go back to the 150th foot? How exactly do you perform your dance? That is my question. Yours sincerely, the toad from the bog."
The millipede read the letter carefully, and the next time when he came to the dancing place where all the forest animals had already gathered, he became embarrassed. Instead of just dancing as usual, he thought, "Do I start with the 52nd foot, or do I roll slowly from the 200th foot ahead? How do I exactly perform my dancing?"
As he was fully entangled in his thoughts, he could not dance anymore. He began to stagger and to stumble. "What is the matter?" asked the forest animals in amazement. The toad had attained her objective.
What actually was the matter is called "paralysis through analysis"—being paralyzed by thinking too much. One who is continu¬ously absorbed in various thoughts, always living with the fear to commit offenses, will not be able to chant properly. This principle, by the way, affects the whole life: To be always afraid of negative things, thus meditating on all kinds of possible mistakes, makes it very difficult to follow the path of krishna consciousness. The injunction is: Think of krishna! Only that will bring us out of mayal Therefore, it is essential for every devotee to live a positive spiritual life, beyond the constant anxiety of how to avoid offenses. The best is to reverse the offenses and consider them in a positive light.
For instance: Instead of constantly thinking of how to avoid blaspheming Vaisnavas, we should develop high appreciation for them and serve them. Instead of only theoretically accepting the holy name as identical with krishna and as the Supreme, we should always chant with great joy and devotion. Instead of meditating on not being able to follow the orders of the guru, we should recognize the guru as our best friend—and appreciate how nice it is to surrender our lives to him. Referring to the fourth offense, it is not enough to just avoid defiling the Vedic scriptures. We should rather read the scriptures every day and try to absorb each transcendental word of the sastras into our daily life. We should generally free ourselves from the concept of "sin"—and lead a saintly life instead.1
Realizing krishna while Chanting
Question: I have heard that one who chants with offenses, only hears the syllables of the holy name externally, that the Lord does not enter personally in the form of His sound vibration. Is this true?
Answer: Yes. Srlla Bhaktivinoda Thakura actually states: Namaksara bahir haya natna nahi haya.2 Simply reciting mechanically the syllables or the holy name does not really mean chanting the holy name. We need krishna's mercy so that He will appear, being attracted to our sincere loving chanting. Srlla Prabhupada writes that it is only the mercy of the Lord that enables one to perform devotional service properly:
This process of devotional service is a great transcendental science and begins with the process of hearing and chanting the name, fame, glory, etc. of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Revival of the dormant affection or love of Godhead however does not depend on the mechanical system of hearing and chanting, but it solely and wholly depends on the causeless mercy of the Lord. When the Lord is fully satisfied with the sincere efforts of the devotee, He may en¬dow him with His loving transcendental service.1 This means that only through the mercy of the Lord will the holy name actually appear on the tongue.
The Power of the paiica-tattva-maha-mantra
Question: It is said that simply by chanting the panca-tattva-maha-mantra all offenses against the chanting of the holy name are nullified. How can this be understood?
Answer: It is indeed the mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and the panca-tattva, that enables even the most fallen living entities in kali-yuga to chant the holy name of the Lord, thereby overcoming offenses. Of course, one should not continue to commit new offenses as soon as the old ones have been forgiven. This is evidently expressed by the story of Jagai and Madhai. Before forgiving these two offenders and accepting them as His associates, Lord Caitanya made two conditions: first that they should constantly chant the holy name, and second that they should never commit offenses again. If somebody continues to commit offenses in spite of the mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His associates, the panca-tattva, he may chant for a long time without achieving the desired result, love of krishna.