I was just reading your article about Vaisnava aparadha and the fear inducing consequences of such an action. I would like to ask that this whole critisism and committing Vaishnava Aparadha thing, if we are to believe that every soul, every living entity is constitutionally a servant of the Lord, a devotee, even if they are not wearing Tilaka and the official dress of a devotee, surely this statement can cover critisism of any living entity as all living entities are essentially serving the Lord according to their own capacity. Every living entity is a Vaisnava by nature essentially, so really critisism of all and every being should be avoided, not just the critisism of the ones who appear externally to be in the dress of a Vaisnava.
So can this article that you have posted be quite far reaching and be a statement to not critisise at all, ever, any living entity, for whatever reason. So indeed to even critisise meat eaters or anyone else that "devotees" tend to be very critical of can be considered aparadha and can have dire consequences.
Shall I take from this article that critisism of anyone at all, whatever their nature, their social standing, their religious background, anyone at all, is a grave offense and so all critisism of all kinds should be thrown out the window and instead only positive aspects of every living entity should be focused upon if one is aspiring to chant the pure Holy Names.
Nityananda Gauranga Hare Krishna
Answer by Swami Gaurangapada:
Nityananda! Gauranga! Hare Krishna! Criticism of any soul due to malice is sinful. Constructive criticism can be helpful sometimes when done by those in a position to correct others or to save others from the wrong path but it should not due to envy of someone. Criticism of others on mundane non-spiritual matters is as much a sin as to talk such mundane gossip in the first place.
As per Shri Chaitanya Bhagavata, enviously criticising a devotee is 100 times more sinful than criticising a normal person as a devotee is dear to the Lord. And enviously criticising a pure devotee is millions of times more sinful as there is no atonement for that and since a pure devotee always resides in the heart of the Lord. Criticism basically arises from the root cause that we are envious of God and thus we end up becoming envious of His part and parcels, the individual souls. The only solution is to serve God, serve His devotees and serve all other souls by giving them the Holy Names. Steady service will remove envy and thus the criticising mentality.
Nityananda Gauranga Hare Krishna
The thing is it is stated in the scriptures that a Vaisnava never takes offense, so could it not be said that anyone who becomes offended is not a Vaisnava and not a pure devotee of the Lord. Anyone who feels offended at what others say must essentially not be understanding that other person and therefore not a pure devotee, in which case there is NEVER ANY DANGER of offending a pure devotee, because a pure devotee cannot be offended due to his understanding of the Lord and his parts and parcels. Chandrika Gauranga dasi
Answer by Swami Gaurangapada:
Nityananda! Gauranga! Hare Krishna! There are devotees who are still practicing chanting or who have just begun chanting and there are on the first level or second level of chanting. They may feel offended by criticism not fully purified of the false ego. Even these devotees are dear to Lord to the extent of their attachment to the chanting process. So to enviously criticize or offend them also has reactions.
In the case of a pure devotee, even though the pure devotee does not take any offense at those who enviously criticize him or her, the Lord does not forgive them and He personally punishes such envious blasphemers.
The thing I am thinking is that not all critisism is based on envy, there can be all sorts of reasons for critisising others.
What does the Lord do to those who critisise someone not based on envy, but due to a sincere desire to understand the Lord and how to serve him.
Is it still a punishable offense to critisise people even if there is no malicious envious intent only a desire to better understand and serve the Lord.
Also how does the Lord punish and reward aspiring devotees, how can we gauge whether the Lord is pleased or displeased with us? Nityananda Gauranga Hare Krishna
Nityananda! Gauranga! Hare Krishna! Lord Gauranga-Krishna punishes and rewards devotees by taking away and giving taste in the chanting of His Holy Names respectively. The Lord is pleased on us if we feel our taste and interest increasing in chanting, hearing, reading and discussing the Holy Names and Pastimes of the Lord.
Discussing some spiritual subject matter which involves non-envious pointing out of some philosophical mistakes commited by others in their spiritual path so that we can better understand and serve the Lord is not criticism. It is sad-upadesha according to Seventh Goswami Shrila Saccidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura. Ofcourse one should be very careful that the motive behind this constructive discussion is not the personal envy of any devotee or person.
Shrila Thakura Bhaktivinoda writes in Vaishnava-ninda, Sajjana Toshani 5/5:
The deliberation (alocana) on the faults of others with the right motive (samuddeshya) is not considered as criticism as per the scriptures. The right motive is any of these three kinds: If the deliberation is done on someones sinful or faulty activities with the motive of benefitting the person concerned then that kind of deliberation is auspicious. If deliberation on others faults is done to benefit or protect the interests of human society in general, then that kind of deliberation is counted amongst auspicious activities done for the benefit of everyone.? When the disciple prayerfully inquires from the spiritual master about the identity of true Vaishnavas, the guru may point out persons who are dressed as Vaishnavas but are not following the Vaishnava principles (sadacara), and name them as avaishnavas? This action on the part of the guru is for the benefit of the disciple (because if the disciple unknowingly associates with these pretenders then his spiritual life is ruined) and for the benefit of the whole world (when the pretenders are identified, the sanctity of the pure Vaishnava-dharma is protected in the world). The bonafide guru does not do so because of envy or malice towards any individual but he acts for the benefit of everyone. Thus it is not sadhu-ninda?(criticism of devotees) or vaishnava-aparadha?(offense to the devotees) to instruct others to reject the association of those pretenders (dharmadhvajis) who have taken shelter of the exalted position of Vaishnavas but are engaged in performing activities against the Vedic scriptures.? Ofcourse as pointed out previously, such prerogative is not for everyone but for advanced devotees who have accepted the role of guiding others in spiritual life and have a very clear conception of what is rasa?(pure mellow of bhakti) and what is rasabhasa?(perverted mellow of bhakti). If unqualified persons posing as advanced devotees take shelter of these statements of Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and maliciously criticize others without becoming free from envy in their hearts, then their falldown is guaranteed. So one has to be very cautious in this regard in view of the strong scriptural statements on Vaishnava-aparadha, which is compared to spiritual suicide. So better is to tend towards the zero side then to take such a risk especially when criticizing devotees.
What should the disciple whose spiritual life is ruined by such bad association do.
Get good association and give up the bad association. No life is ruined more then what the chanting of the Holy Names cannot cure.
Why does the Lord not protect aspiring devotees from such bad association.
The Lord wants to protect but He does not interfere when the soul consciously or subconsciously desires bad association.
Why does He ruin their spiritual lives as a result of such association?
It is not the Lord but it is we who do it due to our choice. The Lord will always help us to raise ourselves from this situation.
I mean it seems a dichotomy, on the one hand we have to be so careful of bad association and so have to remain critical, but on the other hand there is a danger in being critical of offending a pure devotee. So what hope is there when you cant be critical but have to be critical.
We can remain discriminating in our minds about the bad philosophy and ways of people so that we do not fall into their bad ways. This is not criticism but proper discrimination. We do not hate anyone but simply discriminate within our minds in order to get proper association. So that is quite different from criticising a pure devotee.
Nityananda! Gauranga! Hare Krishna! and what about this case: Let's suppose somebody is giving speeches in the temple. I don't feel he is transparent inside and don't agree with the manner he gives the speeches neither. I share it with another devotee... Do I commit in such way a vaishnava-aparadha? Matus
There are many factors to consider in such a situation:
(1) Is one sure that the speaker spoke deviating philosophy or some envious criticism or some spiritual unpalatable thing in the lecture? One can cross-check with one's seniors to confirm about it if there is any doubt.
(2) If that is the proven case, then one can stop attending the speeches of such a person so that there will be no need to again have to judge such a person.
(3) If the person's speeches are in any way provenly and repeatedly offensive to the Lord, Holy Names, devotees, scriptures etc. etc. then you can warn others not to attend the speeches so that they do not have to hear the offenses. In this way you will be protecting them from hearing Vaishnava aparadha. But this kind of warning should be done with great caution under superior guidance when it is related to devotee speakers and should not be influenced by envy. In all cases, the warning should be about not hearing the wrong philosophy of the person who is speaking it and not attacking the person himself or herself.
(4) Some devotee may prefer to act in the most safest manner in this case by avoiding to attend any future lectures of such a person but not criticising his preaching in front of anyone and leaving it for the Lord to decide how to deal with such a situation.
(5) One can point out to others to save them from hearing wrong things but ultimately if we are not in a position of authority to correct the person who is speaking improperly, it is better we leave the situation to the Lord and seek better association elsewhere. This is the safest path.
There can be many more considerations but I think these should suffice for now.