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Chapter 4 - Blasphemy of Vaishnavas
gadadhara-prana jaya jahnava-jivana
jaya sitanatha shrivasadi bhakta-gana
Shri Chaitanya said: "O Haridasa, now describe in detail the offenses to the holy name." Haridasa answered, "By Your power I will say what You make me say.
"Offenses to the holy name are analyzed as ten, according to scripture. One should be fearful of committing these offenses. They are as follows:
1. To blaspheme or criticize the Vaishnavas.
2. To consider that other living entities, such as the demigods, are independent of Krishna.
3. To disobey or disrespect the guru.
4. To disrespect scriptural authority.
5. To interpret the meaning of the name and to think that the glories of the name are imaginary.
6. To commit sinful activity on the strength of the holy name.
7. To give the name to the unfaithful who are not ready to accept.
8. To consider the holy name as karma and pious activity.
9. To be inattentive while chanting the holy name.
10. After having taken correct knowledge, being aware of the glories of the name, to remain attached to the material world of "I and mine," and ultimately reject the name."
These shall be described one after another. The first offense, known as sadhu-ninda, criticism of Vaishnavas, is very harmful for those wanting to progress in spiritual life. First let us define what sadhu or Vaishnava is. In the Eleventh Canto of the Shrimad-Bhagavatam, Krishna enumerates to Uddhava the characteristics of a sadhu:
droha-sunya-vrata—penance without injury to the body,
parahita-rata—engaged in the welfare of mankind,
kame akshubhita-buddhi—intelligence free from lust,
akincana—devoid of concept of ownership,
parimita-bhoji—regulated eating and other habits,
aniha—apathy to materialism,
vijita-shadguna—conquering over the six gunas, (hunger, thirst, lamentation, envy, old age and death),
amani—not expecting honor from others,
manada—giving respect to others,
jnani—knowledgeable of the scriptures.
By these characteristics one can know who is a sadhu. However, here there are two types of characteristics: principal and marginal. The principal characteristic is exclusive surrender to Krishna, while all others are dependent upon it. By some good fortune one may get the association of Vaishnavas, and then attain a taste for the name, chant the name and take shelter of Krishna's lotus feet. This becomes the chief characteristic, and by continuing to chant the name, all the other characteristics make their appearance. Therefore they are called marginal or accompanying. Though secondary to the principal characteristic, they will certainly appear in the body of a true Vaishnava or sadhu, as an effect of proper chanting of the holy name.
On the other hand, the status of grihastha, brahmacari, vanaprastha and sannyasi, sudra, vaisya, kshatriya and brahmana of the varnasrama system, and their respective habits and qualities, are external distinctions which in no way determine who is a sadhu. The chief characteristic of a sadhu is his complete surrender to Krishna, which is not dependent on a certain varna or asrama.
Through the example of Raghunatha dasa, Shri Chaitanya taught how the grihastha Vaishnava should act. The married man should enter household life with a mind steadily fixed on service to Krishna, not enamored by sense gratification, and in this way the householder can gradually cross the ocean of material existence. Instead of playing as a false renunciate (markata vairagi), enjoying with the senses in the cloth of a sannyasi, it is better to take only those things necessary for survival in the material world, while cultivating nonattachment. One should always be internally fixed on Krishna, though externally one may act according to one's social custom in varna and asrama. Krishna quickly delivers such grihastha Vaishnavas.
When Raghunatha dasa gave up household life, the Lord gave him instruction on the life of renunciation:
"One should neither listen to materialistic conversations, nor speak materialistic topics to others. One should not eat fancy food, or wear fancy clothing. One should always chant the holy name, respecting all, without expecting honor, and meditate on eternal service to Radha and Krishna in Vraja within one's mind."
"The principal characteristic is one, namely, surrender to Krishna's name, which will prevail in all sadhus, no matter what varna or asrama, grihastha or sannyasi. However, according to asrama or varna, the secondary characteristics will differ to some degree. And even if there appears some bad element or fault in a person, if he has the chief characteristic, surrender to Krishna, he must be considered a sadhu, and to be respected and served by all. This is Krishna's statement in Bhagavad-gita.
"When one has developed a taste for chanting the pure name, it is said that chanting just one time will destroy the influence of all past sins. Some remnants of those sins may still remain, but they will completely vanish by the influence of the holy name. Since these traces of sin will quickly go, that person is known as the most righteous person. Of course, if the materialist sees those traces of sin in a Vaishnava sadhu, he may consider that the sadhu is just like a materialistic sinner. If he should criticize the sadhu because the sadhu has a trace of sin coming from previous sinful activity, he is committing sadhu-ninda. He is to be considered a rascal because of his fault of criticizing a Vaishnava; and by this nama-aparadha (offense unto one who has surrender to the name) he falls directly under the wrath of Krishna.
"It is concluded that one who is solely devoted to Krishna and sings His name is known as a sadhu. Other than the devotees of Krishna, no one else is considered to be a sadhu. One who considers himself a sadhu is filled with material pride. But one who thinks himself to be the lowest rascal, humbly takes shelter of Krishna and sings Krishna's name, is the real sadhu. Knowing himself to be less than a blade of grass, considering himself like a tree of tolerance, not expecting honor for himself and giving honor to all other living entities, he chants the name and attains attraction for Krishna.
"If a person of the above qualities chants the holy name even once, he is considered a Vaishnava, and should be respected. The Vaishnava is the friend and spiritual leader of the universe; he is an ocean of mercy to all living entities. Whoever criticizes such a Vaishnava goes to hell birth after birth; for there is no path for real liberation other than bhakti, and bhakti is obtained only by the mercy of the Vaishnavas.
"In the pure Vaishnava resides Krishna's energies of bhakti, hladini and samvit. Thus by contacting a Vaishnava one can also receive Krishna bhakti. For this reason also, the food remnants, the foot water and the foot dust from the pure Vaishnavas are three powerful articles for creating bhakti. If one stays near a pure Vaishnava for some time, one can receive the bhakti energy flowing from his body. If one can bind that energy within one's heart, after having developed strong faith, bhakti will develop and one's body will begin to tremble in ecstasy. Thus, by living close to a Vaishnava, soon devotion will appear in one's heart. First, such a person will begin chanting the holy name, and then, by the power of the name, he will receive all good qualities. This is the particular power of the uttama adhikari.
"A Vaishnava may be criticized on four counts: his caste by birth, previous sins or faults in this life, an unpremeditated accidental act of sin, and present traces of previous sinful activity. Though all these conditions may be present in a Vaishnava, they are insubstantial grounds for criticism of a Vaishnava. One who so blasphemes a Vaishnava will be punished by Yamaraja. Because the Vaishnava is spreading the glories of the Lord's name, the Lord does not tolerate such criticism of a Vaishnava. Giving up dharma, yoga, sacrifice and jnana for the name of Krishna, the Vaishnava is the topmost person. Criticism is a serious offense. Furthermore he does not criticize the scriptures or the demigods, but simply takes shelter of the name.
"One should rather eagerly take the dust from the feet of a Vaishnava, regardless of whether he is a grihastha or sannyasi. One will treat him only according to his advancement as a Vaishnava, which is based upon his degree of attraction to the holy name. Such things as caste or asrama, wealth, learning, youthfulness, beauty, strength or number of followers are not factors.
"It goes without saying that one who has taken shelter of the name will not indulge in sadhu-ninda. One who criticizes a sadhu is not situated in bhakti, but in aparadha against bhakti. A serious person therefore would not indulge in criticism, but associate with, hear from and serve the sadhu.
"Because association with those who are not devotees is bound to produce disrespect for devotees (sadhu-ninda), the devotee is careful to avoid such association. Materialistic association or asat-sanga is of two types: association with women and association with those devoid of devotion to the Lord. Association with women means associating with women not according to Vedic tradition. This association with women which is not authorized by scripture is divided into association with women outside of marriage for the purpose of sex life and association within marriage where one is controlled by one's wife. Thus, only if one is married according to prescribed rules and is following the rules for married life, in which the wife is submissive to the husband and the husband acts as a sadhu, is the
association considered bona fide. Other types of association are considered asat.
"The second type of asat association, association with nondevotees, is of three types: association with mayavadis, association with pretenders, and association with atheists. Mayavadis believe that the Lord and the jivas are both temporary entities, and that the Lord's murti form is material. The pretenders, though without genuine devotion or renunciation, pretend to be devotees to make a living. The atheists do not believe in any form of God. Now these people may claim to be devotees, and may be accepted by the public as such, but if one rejects such people, it is not considered sadhu-ninda. Furthermore, one who criticizes a person who gives up these asat people should also be rejected and avoided. Therefore, the serious devotee who gives up asat-sanga, which causes sadhu-ninda, and exclusively takes shelter in the name, will certainly receive the treasure of prema.
"It may be observed that in order to proceed properly to prema, one must be able to distinguish the devotee from the nondevotee. For one must avoid the aparadha of criticizing the devotee and seek his association, and simultaneously reject the nondevotee completely. One must furthermore be able to distinguish the types of Vaishnavas according to their spiritual advancement. These are of three types: the materialistic Vaishnava or Vaishnava-praya (almost a Vaishnava) is he who has mediocre faith in Krishna but has no service attitude to sadhus. Actually, such a person is not a Vaishnava but the dim image of a Vaishnava, Vaishnava-abhasa. However, if he is not a Vaishnava, how will he be permitted to associate with Vaishnavas, who do not associate with non-Vaishnavas? Therefore, this person is considered to be at the beginning stage of a Vaishnava, kanishtha Vaishnava, upon whom the actual fixed-up Vaishnavas will bestow mercy so that he becomes purified.
"The next higher stage of Vaishnava is the madhyama-bhakta, who can recognize the important position of the Lord's devotees and thus always associates with them. In faith he is convinced of Krishna's position as the Lord, the jivas as His eternal servants, the process as bhakti and the goal as prema. He shows mercy to the innocent, those who have a little faith, the kanishtha-bhaktas, by giving them sambandha-jnana. And he avoids the enemies, asat-sanga, understanding the different effects of the different types of association. Even at this stage of madhyama-bhakta, one is considered a pure Vaishnava, with the qualification of taking the real holy name, not namabhasa. As a real Vaishnava he is able to distinguish a Vaishnava from a non-Vaishnava, so that he may avoid asat-sanga and sadhu-ninda and serve the advanced devotees. Actually he must do this for his own advancement.
"He who experiences Krishna as the life and soul of everything, and thus sees Krishna situated in everything, and consequently does not make distinction between Vaishnava and non-Vaishnava, but simply engages in relishing the nectar of the holy name, is called the uttama Vaishnava, the most advanced devotee.
"The kanishtha-bhakta performs his devotional service at the stage of namabhasa, whereas the madhyama Vaishnava is actually qualified for the real holy name, and can understand and discern the various offenses in chanting the holy name. The uttama adhikari is above committing offense, as he sees Krishna expanded everywhere.
"It can be seen that it is important for the practitioner of bhakti—whether a kanishtha or madhyama bhakta—to understand in his performance of sadhana, his own position in devotional service according to his internal purity. By doing this one can avoid nondevotees (asat-sanga), and by this one can advance further. Therefore it is important that one come to the position of madhyama bhakta, one who is qualified to make these distinctions. The typical activities of a real devotee (madhyama bhakta) are to avoid sadhu-ninda and to take association of sadhus, serve sadhus and give knowledge to the innocent jivas, while performing nama-sankirtana.
"Being overcome with the material modes, if one commits the offense of blasphemy against a devotee, one should sincerely feel repentent and cry at the feet of that devotee for mercy and forgiveness. The devotee, who is by nature very merciful, will forgive the offender."
Haridasa concluded, "According to Your order, Lord, I have discussed the first offense. This I offer to Your lotus feet."
That person who, like a bumble bee, lingers at the lotus feet of Haridasa, will receive the touchstone of the holy name as his life and soul.