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Ideal Householder Life
is classic essay on this subject By Shrila Sacchidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura,,
written in his Vaishnava Toshani magazine.
What is proper occupation? To know this, one should see the behavior of Shri Gauranga Mahaprabhu's followers. As far as possible I will try to briefly compile them in this essay. First I will write about the behavior and occupation of the grhastha, as found in the character of Shri Gauranga Mahaprabhu and His devotees.
As a support for his devotional service, a householder should find a suitable wife. In the Chaitanya-charitamrita (Adi 15.26-27) Lord Gauranga says:
grhastha ha-ilama, ebe cahi grha-dharma
grhini vina grha-dharma na haya sobhana
"Since I am remaining at home it is My duty to act as a grhastha. Without a wife, there is no meaning to householder life."
While maintaining religious family life with one's wife, sons and daughters are born in the form of Krishna's servants and maidservants; to nourish them is called maintaining the family. In these activities there is a need for piously accumulating wealth. In this regard Shri Gauranga Mahaprabhu has said in the Chaitanya-bhagavata (Antya 5.41) and Chaitanya-charitamrita (Madhya 15.96):
prabhu bale,-parivara aneka tomara
nirvaha kemate tabe haibe sabara?
'grhastha' hayena inho, cahiye sancaya
sancaya na kaile kutumba-bharana nahi haya
The Lord said, "There are so many members in your family. How will you maintain everyone? Being a householder, one needs to save some money. Because he is not doing so, it is very difficult for him to maintain his family."
One must be educated at a proper age. But he should not study atheistic literatures. In the Chaitanya-bhagavata (Adi 12.49 and Madhya 9.241-242) Lord Gauranga says:
pade kene loka?-krishna bhakti janibare
se yadi nahila, tabe vidyaya ki kare?
visaya-madandha saba kichui na jane
vidya-made, dhana-made vaishnava na cine
bhagavata padiyao ka 'ro buddhi nasa
"Why do people study? Education is only for understanding devotional service of Lord Krishna. If you miss this point, then what is the use of your education? Everyone is blinded by pride and sense gratification. Being proud of their education and wealth, they fail to recognize a Vaishnava. If one studies Shrimad-Bhagavatam improperly his intelligence is polluted."
Serving guests is the principle duty of a grhastha-this is Lord Gauranga's instruction. In the Chaitanya-bhagavata (Adi 14.21, 26) it is stated:
grhasthere mahaprabhu sikhayena dharma
atithira seva-grhasthera mula-karma
akaitave citta-sukhe ya 'ra yena sakti
taha karilei bali atithite bhakti
"In this way Lord Gauranga satisfied all His guests and taught the world how to behave as a perfect householder. The foremost duty of a householder is to serve his guests. If a householder happily serves his guests without duplicity and according to his ability he is considered hospitable."
A grhastha should act with simplicity in his dealings with people; he should not allow any kind of cheating or duplicity in his heart. In the Chaitanya-bhagavata (Adi 14.142) Lord Gauranga Himself says:
ataeva grhe tumi krishna bhaja giya
kutinati parihari' ekanta haiya
"Therefore go back to your home and worship Lord Krishna with full attention, giving up all duplicity."
It is the principle duty of a grhastha to serve senior persons. In the Chaitanya-charitamrita (Adi 15.21) Lord Gauranga says:
grhastha ha-iya kariba pita-matara sevana
ihate-i tusta habena laksmi-narayana
"Later I shall become a householder and thus serve My parents, for this action will very much satisfy Lord Narayana and His wife, the goddess of fortune."
A householder should take the principles of renunciation to heart; but he should not simply dress as a renunciate. As stated by Lord Gauranga in the Chaitanya-charitamrita (Madhya 16.237-239):
sthira hana ghare yao, na hao vatula
krame krame paya loka bhava-sindhu-kula
markata-vairagya na kara loka dekhana
yatha-yogya visaya bhunja' anasakta hana
antare nistha kara, bahye loka-vyavahara
acirat krishna tomaya karibe uddhara
"Be patient and return home. Don't be a crazy fellow. By and by you will be able to cross the ocean of material existence. You should not make yourself a showbottle devotee and become a false renunciant. For the time being, enjoy the material world in a befitting way and do not become attached to it. Within your heart you should keep yourself very faithful, but externally you may behave like an ordinary man. Thus Krishna will soon be very pleased and deliver you from the clutches of maya."
A householder is duty-bound to work for the benefit of everyone. In the Chaitanya-charitamrita (Adi 9.41, 7.92) Lord Gauranga said:
bharata-bhumite haila manusya-janma yara
janma sarthaka kari' kara para-upakara
naca, gao, bhakta-sange kara sankirtana
krishna-nama upadesi' tara' sarva-jana
"One who has taken his birth as a human being in the land of India [Bharata-varsa] should make his life successful and work for the benefit of all other people. 'My dear child, continue dancing, chanting and performing sankirtana in association with devotees. Furthermore, go out and preach the value of chanting the Holy Name, for by this process You will be able to deliver all fallen souls.'"
In this practice of devotional service, duplicitous association has been prohibited. Even in street sankirtana one should chant and dance in the association of pure devotees. One should not chant in the association of nondevotees.
A householder should fully depend on the will of Lord Gauranga-Krishna in all his activities. Lord Gauranga says in the Chaitanya-bhagavata (Madhya 28.55):
suna mata, isvarera adhina samsara
svatantra haite sakti nahika kahara
"Listen, dear mother, the whole world is under the control of the Lord. No one has the power to become independent."
A householder should cautiously give up the association of nondevotees, women, and uxorious people. In the Chaitanya-charitamrita (Madhya 22.87) the Lord said:
asat-sanga-tyaga, -- ei vaishnava-acara
'stri-sangi' -- eka asadhu, 'krishnabhakta' ara
"A Vaishnava should always avoid the association of ordinary people. Common people are very much materially attached, especially to women. Vaishnavas should also avoid the company of those who are not devotees of Lord Gauranga-Krishna.”
By following his prescribed duties a grhastha Vaishnava should accumulate wealth for his maintenance. He should not accumulate wealth by sinful means. Lord Nityananda Prabhu has stated in the Chaitanya-bhagavata (Antya 5.685-688):
suna dvija, yateka pataka kaili tui
ara yadi na karis, saba nimu muni
parahimsa, daka, curi-saba anacara
chada giya, iha tumi na kariha ara
dharma pathe giya tumi laha hari-nama
tabe tumi anyere kariba paritrana
yata saba dasyu, cora dakiya aniya
dharma-pathe sabare laoyao tumi giya
"Now listen carefully, O brahmana. I will take responsibility for all your previous misdeeds if you do not repeat them. No more aggression, violence, looting, or murder; give them up forever. Lead a religious life and chant the holy names of the Supreme Lord. Then later you can also save others.
Go and meet other dacoits and murderers and bring them to the path of pure religious life."
A householder should not hanker for another's wife or prostitutes. This is exhibited in Lord Gauranga's dealings with Krishnadasa in the Chaitanya-charitamrita (Madhya 9.226-227):
gosanira sange rahe krishnadasa brahmana
bhattathari-saha tahan haila darasana
stri-dhana dekhana tanra lobha janmaila
arya sarala viprera buddhi-nasa kaila
"Shri Gauranga Mahaprabhu was accompanied by His servant, Krishnadasa. He was a brahmana, but he met with the Bhattatharis there. With women the Bhattatharis allured the brahmana Krishnadasa, who was simple and gentle. By virtue of their bad association, they polluted his intelligence."
Lord Gauranga protected that brahmana from the women's clutches by pulling him by the hair. The words sarala vipra mean a weak-hearted young brahmana.
He is a real householder who chants one hundred thousand names every day.
Pure devotees should accept prasada in the houses of such grhasthas. In the Chaitanya-bhagavata (9.121-2) Lord Gauranga said:
prabhu bale,-jana, 'laksesvara' bali kare?
prati-dina laksa-nama ye grahana kare
se janera nama ami bali 'laksesvara'
tatha bhiksa amara, na yai anya ghara
"Lord Gauranga replied: Do you know who is a laksesvara? He is someone who chants one laksa, or one hundred thousand, holy names everyday. I call such a person a laksesvara. I only take meals in that person's house, no one else."
There is no difference between smartas and Vaishnavas regarding following the codes of religion. Lord Gauranga has said in the Chaitanya-bhagavata (Antya 9.388-9):
adhama janera ye acara, yena dharma
adhikari vaisnaveo kare sei karma
krishna krpaye se iha janibare pare
e saba sankate keha mare, keha tare
"Sometimes an exalted Vaishnava exhibits the same activities as a materialistic person. One can understand this by the mercy of Krishna; otherwise in this dilemma one may be liberated or destroyed."
The purport is that the conviction in the heart of a Vaishnava is independent. If one is a Vaishnava, then he can understand the conviction in the heart of another Vaishnava who is engaged in the same activities as those of the smartas. One who cannot understand this cannot respect
Vaishnavas, and he thereby goes to hell.
Lord Gauranga has explained the duties of householders in the Chaitanya-charitamrita (Madhya 15.104):
prabhu kahena, -- 'krishna-seva', 'vaishnava-sevana'
'nirantara kara krishna-nama-sankirtana'
Shri Gauranga Mahaprabhu replied, "Without cessation continue chanting the holy name of Lord Krishna. Whenever possible, serve Him and His devotees, the Vaishnavas." (Please note that Hare Krishna, Radha Krishna, Nityananda, Gauranga etc. are all Holy Names of Lord Krishna.)
It is the duty of a grhastha to constantly chant the holy names of the Lord and serve the Vaishnavas and the Lord with the help of his relatives and by the wealth he has earned through his pious life. Regarding serving the Vaishnavas, one should know that there are three types of nonduplicitous devotees. Serving such Vaishnavas is called vaishnava-seva. There is no need to gather many Vaishnavas by invitation. Whenever a Vaishnava comes for any
purpose he should be properly served with care. By gathering many Vaishnavas, one may commit offenses. As stated in the Chaitanya-charitamrita (Madhya 15.198):
bahuta sannyasi yadi aise eka thani
sammana karite nari, aparadha pai
"If all the sannyasis come together, it would not be possible for me to pay them proper respects. Therefore I would be an offender."
It is the duty of a grhastha Vaishnava to show mercy on the poor and fallen. As stated in Chaitanya-charitamrita (Antya 3.238):
dine daya kare, -- ei sadhu-svabhava haya
"It is a characteristic of all saintly persons to be kind toward the poor and fallen."
A grhastha Vaishnava should not desire to give up his body merely out of some sentiment or anger. As stated by Lord Gauranga in Chaitanya-charitamrita (Antya 4.57):
deha-tyagadi yata, saba -- tamo-dharma
tamo-rajo-dharme krsnera na paiye marma
"Acts such as suicide are influenced by the mode of ignorance, and in ignorance and passion one cannot understand who Krishna is."
There is no consideration of superior or inferior status due to social position in regard to worshiping Gauranga-Krishna. In worldly occupations there are different activities according to the different social divisions, which are due to superior and inferior grades of intelligence. There are no such distinctions in the process of devotional service. As confirmed by Lord Gauranga in Chaitanya-charitamrita (Antya 4.66-67):
nica-jati nahe krishna-bhajane ayogya
sat-kula-vipra nahe bhajanera yogya
yei bhaje sei bada, abhakta -- hina, chara
krishna-bhajane nahi jati-kuladi-vicara
"A person born in a low family is not unfit for discharging devotional service to Lord Krishna, nor is one fit for devotional service simply because he is born in an aristocratic family of brahmanas. Anyone who takes to devotional service is exalted, whereas a nondevotee is always condemned and abominable. Therefore in the discharge of devotional service to the Lord, there is no consideration of the status of one's family."
Also in the Chaitanya-charitamrita (Antya 5.84) it is said:
sannyasi pandita-ganera karite garva nasa
nica-sudra-dvara karena dharmera prakasa
"To vanquish the false pride of so-called renunciants and learned scholars, He spreads real religious principles, even through a sudra, or lowborn, fourth-class man."
A grhastha Vaishnava should feel satisfied with whatever food and clothing he gets without difficulty. As stated in the Chaitanya-bhagavata (Antya 4.293):
saba' haite bhagyavanta-shri saka, vyanjana
punah punah yaha prabhu karena grahana
"The different varities of spinach and vegetables are the most fortunate of all, for Lord Gauranga accepts them again and again."
A grhastha Vaishnava should perform devotional service with undeviated attention, knowing Gauranga-Krishna as the Lord of all. He should not disrespect the demigods worshiped by the smarta-sampradaya. As stated in Shri Chaitanya-bhagavata (Antya 2.243):
na mane' chaitanya-patha, bolaya 'vaishnava'
sivere amanya kare vyartha ta 'ra saba
"If one claims to be a Vaishnava, but he disrespects Lord Siva and does not strictly follow the path exhibited by Lord Gauranga, all his efforts are futile."
It is the duty of a grhastha to work for the benefit of others even by giving up his own self-interest. In the Chaitanya-bhagavata (Antya 3.365) it is said:
apanara bhala hau yete jana dekhe
sujana apana chadiyao para rakhe
"Some people expect only benefits for themselves, but a gentleman cares for others while giving up his own interest."
A grhastha Vaishnava should respect and worship tulasi. As stated in Shri Chaitanya-bhagavata (Antya 8.159-160):
sankhya nama laite ye sthane prabhu vaise
tathai rakhena tulasire prabhu pase
tulasire dekhena, japena sankhya-nama
e bhakti-yogera tattva ke bujhibe ana?
"Wherever Lord Gauranga sits to chant His prescribed rounds, He keeps tulasi before Him. He gazes at tulasi while He chants His rounds. Who can understand the science of devotional service?"
A householder with devotion is glorious, while a householder without devotion is insignificant. Whatever social dealings a householder has to perform should be done while taking shelter of the holy name of Gauranga-Krishna. Regarding the character of the mahajana Shri Kalidasa, the Chaitanya-charitamrita (Antya 16.6-7) states:
maha-bhagavata tenho sarala udara
krishna-nama-'sankete' calaya vyavahara
kautukete tenho yadi pasaka khelaya
'hare krishna' 'krishna' kari' pasaka calaya
"Kalidasa was a very advanced devotee, yet he was simple and liberal. He would chant the holy name of Krishna while performing all his ordinary dealings. When he used to throw dice in jest, he would chant Hare Krishna while throwing the dice."
Everyone is prohibited from corrupt earning or spending, and workers are prohibited from accepting bribes. As stated by Lord Gauranga in the Chaitanya-charitamrita (Antya 9.90, 142-144):
rajara vartana khaya, ara curi kare
raja-dandya haya sei sastrera vicare
'vyaya na kariha kichu rajara mula-dhana'
rajara mula-dhana diya ye kichu labhya haya
sei dhana kariha nana dharme-karme vyaya
asad-vyaya na kariha, -- yate dui-loka yaya"
"One who serves the government but misappropriates the government's revenue is liable to be punished by the king. That is the verdict of all revealed scriptures. Do not spend any of the King's revenue. First you should pay the revenue due the King, and then you may spend the balance for religious and fruitive activities. Don't spend a farthing for sinful activities for which you will be the loser both in this life and the next."
A grhastha should accept a spiritual master who is full of devotion and of pure character. As stated in Shri Chaitanya-bhagavata (Madhya 21.65):
guru yatha bhakti-sunya, tatha sisyagana
"As the guru is without devotion, so are the disciples."
A householder should be particularly careful not to commit offenses against the Vaishnavas. In the Chaitanya-bhagavata (Madhya 22.33) Lord Gauranga says:
ye vaishnava-sthane aparadha haya ya 'ra
punah sei ksamile se ghuce, nahe ara
"When someone offends a Vaishnava, he is not relieved until he is forgiven by that same Vaishnava."
Serving devotees is a householder's main duty. As stated in the Chaitanya-charitamrita (Antya 16.57, 60):
vaisnavera sesa-bhaksanera eteka mahima
kalidase paoyaila prabhura krpa-sima
bhakta-pada-dhuli ara bhakta-pada-jala
bhakta-bhukta-avasesa, -- tina maha-bala
"Taking the remnants of the Vaishnavas' food is so valuable that it induced Shri Gauranga Mahaprabhu to offer Kalidasa His supreme mercy. The dust of the feet of a devotee, the water that has washed the feet of a devotee, and the remnants of food left by a devotee are three very powerful
In the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (11.20.27-8) Lord Krishna describes how a householder should act until his natural propensity for enjoying sense objects is overcome and he fully attains the characteristics of a pure devotee:
veda duhkhatmakan kaman
parityage 'py anisvarah
tato bhajeta mam pritah
jusamanas ca tan kaman
duhkhodarkams ca garhayan
"Having awakened faith in the narrations of My glories, being disgusted with all material activities, knowing that all sense gratification leads to misery, but still being unable to renounce all sense enjoyment, My devotee should remain happy and worship Me with great faith and conviction. Even though he is sometimes engaged in sense enjoyment, My
devotee knows that all sense gratification leads to a miserable result, and he sincerely repents such activities."
When a householder has faith, he should take initiation into the chanting of the Holy Name. As stated in the Chaitanya-charitamrita (Madhya 22.64):
sraddhavan jana haya bhakti-adhikari
'uttama', 'madhyama', 'kanistha' -- sraddha-anusari
"A faithful devotee is a truly eligible candidate for the loving service of the Lord. According to one's faith, one is classified as a topmost devotee, an intermediate devotee or an inferior devotee."
A grhastha Vaishnava must gradually acquire all the qualities mentioned in Chaitanya-charitamrita (Madhya 22.78-80):
krpalu, akrta-droha, satya-sara sama
nidosa, vadanya, mrdu, suci, akincana
sarvopakaraka, santa, krishnaika-sarana
akama, aniha, sthira, vijita-sad-guna
mita-bhuk, apramatta, manada, amani
gambhira, karuna, maitra, kavi, daksa, mauni
"Devotees are always merciful, humble, truthful, equal to all, faultless, magnanimous, mild and clean. They are without material possessions, and they perform welfare work for everyone. They are peaceful, surrendered to
Gauranga-Krishna and desireless. They are indifferent to material acquisitions and are fixed in devotional service. They completely control the six bad qualities-lust, anger, greed and so forth. They eat only as much as required, and they are not inebriated. They are respectful, grave,
compassionate and without false prestige. They are friendly, poetic, expert and silent."
A grhastha Vaishnava should be eager to associate with advanced devotees. In the Chaitanya-charitamrita (Madhya 22.83) it is stated:
krishna-bhakti-janma-mula haya 'sadhu-sanga'
"The root cause of devotional service to Lord Gauranga-Krishna is association with advanced devotees."
Out of all the processes of devotional service, one should give earnest attention to the five limbs mentioned in Chaitanya-charitamrita (Madhya 22.128-129) as follows:
sadhu-sanga, nama-kirtana, bhagavata-sravana
mathura-vasa, shri-murtira sraddhaya sevana
sakala-sadhana-srestha ei panca anga
krishna-prema janmaya ei pancera alpa sanga
"One should associate with devotees, chant the holy name of the Lord, hear Shrimad-Bhagavatam, reside at Mathura and worship the Deity with faith and veneration. These five limbs of devotional service are the best of all.
Even a slight performance of these five awakens love for Krishna."
Gradually one should diminish the following of prescribed rules out of obligation and cultivate spontaneous attachment. When spontaneous attachment to Lord Gauranga-Krishna is awakened, many prescriptions are automatically discarded and atonement becomes needless.
The difference is described in the Chaitanya-charitamrita (Madhya 22.140, 142-143) as follows:
kama tyaji' krishna bhaje sastra-ajna mani'
deva-rsi-pitradikera kabhu nahe rni
vidhi-dharma chadi' bhaje krsnera carana
nisiddha papacare tara kabhu nahe mana
ajnane va haya yadi 'papa' upasthita
krishna tanre suddha kare, na karaya prayascitta
"If a person gives up all material desires and completely engages in the transcendental loving service of Gauranga-Krishna, as enjoined in revealed scriptures, he is never indebted to demigods, sages, or forefathers.
Although the pure devotee does not follow all the regulative principles of varnasrama, he worships the lotus feet of Gauranga-Krishna. Therefore he naturally has no tendency to commit sin. If, however, a devotee accidentally becomes involved in a sinful activity, Gauranga-Krishna purifies him. He does not have to undergo the regulative form of atonement."
A grhastha Vaishnava should not endeavor for any knowledge or renunciation other than knowledge of one's relationship with the Lord in devotional service and renunciation born from devotional service. If one begins the
worship of Gauranga-Krishna with special care and eagerness, then he achieves all auspiciousness. As stated in the Chaitanya-charitamrita (Madhya 22.145):
jnana-vairagyadi -- bhaktira kabhu nahe 'anga'
ahimsa-yama-niyamadi bule krishna-bhakta-sanga
"The path of speculative knowledge and renunciation is not essential for devotional service. Indeed, good qualities such as nonviolence and control of the mind and senses automatically accompany a devotee of Lord Gauranga-Krishna."
The gradations of devotion to Lord Gauranga-Krishna are stated in the Chaitanya-charitamrita (Madhya 23.10-13). One should cultivate them as follows:
sadhu-sanga haite haya 'sravana-kirtana'
sadhana-bhaktye haya 'sarvanartha-nivartana'
anartha-nivrtti haile bhaktye 'nistha' haya
nistha haite sravanadye 'ruci' upajaya
ruci haite bhaktye haya 'asakti' pracura
asakti haite citte janme krsne prity-ankura
sei 'bhava' gadha haile dhare 'prema'-nama
sei prema 'prayojana' sarvananda-dhama
"When one is encouraged in devotional service by the association of devotees, one becomes free from all unwanted contamination by following the regulative principles and chanting and hearing. When one is freed from
all unwanted contamination, he advances with firm faith. When firm faith in devotional service awakens, a taste for hearing and chanting also awakens. After taste is awakened, a deep attachment arises, and from that
attachment the seed of love for Gauranga-Krishna grows in the heart. When that ecstatic emotional stage intensifies, it is called love of Godhead. Such love is life's ultimate goal and the reservoir of all pleasure."
A grhastha Vaishnava should constantly chant the holy names while carefully giving up the ten offenses. As stated in the Chaitanya-charitamrita (Antya 4.70-71):
bhajanera madhye srestha nava-vidha bhakti
'krishna-prema', 'krishna' dite dhare maha-sakti
tara madhye sarva-srestha nama-sankirtana
niraparadhe nama laile paya prema-dhana
"Among the ways of executing devotional service, the nine prescribed methods are the best, for these processes have great potency to deliver Gauranga-Krishna and ecstatic love for Him. Of the nine processes of devotional service, the most important is to always chant the holy name of the Lord. If one does so, avoiding the ten kinds of offenses, one very easily obtains the most valuable love of Godhead."
A householder should accept pure devotional service that is not based simply on religious sentiments. In the Chaitanya-bhagavata (Madhya 23.41) Lord Gauranga states:
mora nrtya dekhite uhara kon sakti?
payah pan karile ki mote haya bhakti?
"What qualification does he have to watch My dancing? By drinking milk can one attain devotion for Me?"
The mood of servitude is proper for a living entity, and the mood of being lord is detrimental. As stated in the Chaitanya-bhagavata (Madhya 23.480, 482):
udara-bharana lagi' ebe papi saba
laoyaya 'isvara ami'-mule jaradgava
kukkurera bhaksya deha-ihare laiya
balaye 'isvara' visnu-maya mugdha haiya
"All sinful persons claim to be God in order to fill their bellies,
although factually they are idiots. Accepting the material body, which is meant to be eaten by the dogs, they call themselves God under the influence by Lord Vishnu's external energy."
A grhastha Vaishnava should model his character after that of Lord Gauranga and His followers. A householder should follow the ways of life and obtain his means of livelihood as exhibited by Lord Gauranga and His followers.
If one desires Gauranga-Krishna in all his activities, then those activities are auspicious. By endeavoring to gratify one's senses and attain irrelevant fruits, one becomes a materialist. For a devotee, to remain a householder or to become a renunciate is the same thing. Shrila Ramananda Raya, Shri Pundarika Vidyanidhi, Shri Shrivasa Pandita, Shri Sivananda Sena, Shri Satyaraja Khan, and Shri Advaita Prabhu were all grhasthas and have shown us the way of faultless living. The difference between a householder and a renunciate is due to their different means of livelihood. If the home is favorable for a devotee's devotional service, then he should not leave. It is his duty to remain a grhastha with detachment. But when the home becomes unfavorable for his service, he then becomes eligible to leave home. At that time the detachment he develops for his house through his devotional service is accepted. For this reason, Shrivasa Pandita did not leave home. For this reason, Svarupa Damodara took sannyasa. All genuine
devotees have remained either at home or in the forest due to this consideration. Whoever has left home due to this consideration is called a genuine renunciate. He is always careful not to commit offenses against the Holy Name.