Jīva Gosvāmī with his students
Jīva Gosvāmī with his students

By Satyanarayana Dasa

In Bhakti Sandarbha, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī discusses the supreme potency of bhakti. He writes that even a semblance of bhakti, bhaktyābhāsa, has the power to grant liberation (Anuccheda 153). To demonstrate this, he cites some stories from different Purāṇas. Because the stories are difficult to believe for non-devotees, Śrī Jīva Gosvamī first warns against the doubting mentality. Then he goes on to explain the effects of committing offenses. I believe this Anuccheda will be helpful for practitioners of bhakti because it is very practical knowledge. I have excluded the first part of Anuccheda 153 that describes stories related to bhaktyābhāsa. My main intention is to inform readers about the severity of offenses and their effects, so that serious practitioners can know where they stand and safeguard themselves.

Anuccheda 153 (Translation):

The glories of the name are well known from the examples of Ajāmila and others. The principles regarding the power of the name are discussed in books such as Śrī Bhagavān-nāma-kaumudī. The scriptures specifically warn against considering these glories as mere eulogies. To do so has been specifically mentioned in the Padma Purāṇa (Brahma-khaṇḍa 25.16) as one of the offenses against the Holy Name.

In the Kātyāyana Saṁhitā it is said:

“A person who considers the glories of the holy name as imaginary is the most sinful among men and certainly falls into hell.”

In the Brahma Saṁhitā (This is not the well-known book discovered by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu in South India), the Supreme Bhagavān tells Bodhāyana, “A person who hears the various results of chanting My names and not only does not believe in them, but considers them to be exaggerations, is cast by Me into the ocean of misery, his limbs tormented by a multitude of severe afflictions.”

It follows that it is an offense to consider as false the glories of other devotional activities, which include the pursuit of Bhagavān’s names.

One may not experience the fruit of various devotional activities in one’s present life, or one may hear from scripture of people in the past who did not attain the expected result. It should be understood in all such cases that the power of the name has been obstructed from manifesting its result by grave offenses, such as considering the glories of the name as imaginary or disrespecting Vaiṣṇavas. Therefore, Śrī Śaunaka said:

“Alas, the heart which does not melt while reciting the names of Bhagavān Hari is as hard as stone. When the heart melts, tears flow from the eyes and the hairs of the body stand on end in ecstasy.” (SB 2.3.24)

At present, it is generally the case that people don’t experience the result of chanting due to offenses. An example from scripture of someone who did not obtain the result of chanting due to an offense is found in the story of King Nṛga, who said:

“O Keśava, because I was devoted to the brāhmaṇas, munificent in offering charity, devoted to You and anxious to obtain a direct vision of You, the memory of my past life has not been lost, right up to the present.” (SB 10.64.25)

King Nṛga spoke these words after he was liberated from the body of a chameleon by the touch of Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet (the king was brought to Yamarāja’s abode and received the body of a chameleon as punishment from him for inadvertently offering the same cow in charity to two different brāhmaṇas). Given that king Nṛga was devoted to Kṛṣṇa as seen from the above verse, why would he be punished by Yama? In fact, his being sent to the abode of Yama contradicted the order of Yama himself:

“Bring me only the unrighteous whose tongues do not vibrate the name or qualities of Bhagavān, whose minds do not reflect on the lotus feet of Bhagavān, whose heads do not bow down even once before Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa and who do not perform any service to Bhagavān Viṣṇu.” (SB 6.3.29)

King Nṛga had heard the conclusions of scripture. It is to be concluded that he was guilty of considering the glories of bhakti as exaggeration. If this were not the case, he would not have attached so much importance to the mere act of giving charity and neglected Bhagavān’s service. Rather, like Ambarīṣa Mahārāja, he would have been exclusively absorbed in the execution of bhakti which truly possesses the greatness spoken of in scripture. If one commits such an offense, bhakti becomes stunted, as stated in the Nāmāparādha-bhañjana-stotra found in the Padma Purāṇa:

“It is indeed a fact that just one name appearing on a person’s tongue, in the mind or in the ear, whether enunciated correctly or incorrectly, and with or without the intervention of other syllables, certainly delivers that person. But if the same name is used by atheistic people who are greedy to enjoy the body, wealth, or followers, then, O vipra, it does not quickly manifest its result.”

The implication is that the holy name does not manifest its result to atheistic people who are greedy for the pleasures of the body, wealth, and so on, and who commit the ten offenses beginning with disrespect of the guru.

In the Dvāraka Māhātmya of the Prahlādasaṁhitā section of the Skanda Purāṇa, it is stated:

‘If a person disrespects a Vaiṣṇava, then Bhagavān Viṣṇu, the Soul of the universe, is not pleased with him even if he worships Bhagavān for hundreds of lifetimes.”

Elsewhere in the Skanda Purāṇa in a dialogue between Mārkaṇḍeya and Bhagīratha it is said:

“If a person does not approach a Vaiṣṇava after seeing him from afar, Bhagavān Hari does not accept twelve years of worship offered by such a person. And if after seeing a devotee vipra one does not worship him by offering obeisance, Bhagavān Hari does not forgive the sins of such a person.”

Similarly, there are many other offenses described in śāstra. In the same vein, we find a story in the Viṣṇu Purāṇa of a king named Śatadhanu who took birth as a dog, although he was dedicated to the worship of Bhagavān, just because he had a brief conversation with a critic of the Vedas and Vaiṣṇavas.

Therefore, scripture ordains repetition of devotional practices, such as hearing and chanting, specifically because people generally succumb to offenses. The emphasis on repeated hearing, which gradually matures into faith and then taste, is indicated in verses such as this:

“O learned ones, by visiting or dwelling in a holy place, a person gets an opportunity to associate with great devotees and to render service to them. By such service a person awakens faith and an interest in hearing narrations about Bhagavān and thus develops a taste for such narrations.” (SB 1.2.16)

The injunction for repeated practice is also stated in the Brahma Sūtra: “Repetition [of the practices to obtain the Absolute] is necessary because the Upaniṣads repeatedly instruct one to do so.” (VS 4.1.1)

Repetition of Bhagavān’s name is recommended for those who commit offenses, as indicated in the instructions about the name given in the Nāmāparādha-bhañjana-stotra found in the Padma Purāṇa:

“Only the Name cleanses the sins of those who commit offenses against the Name. They should ceaselessly chant the Name because only that will bring about the result.”

It is only with this consideration that the injunction to repeat the eighteen-syllable mantra has been ordained in books such as Trailokya-Sammohana-tantra:

“O Goddess, now hear from me the process for reciting this pure mantra. By uttering this mantra ten times one is freed from calamities. By uttering it a thousand times one is freed from great sins, and by uttering it ten thousand times the most grievous type of sin, known as mahāpātaka, is destroyed.”

Similarly, in the Brahma Vaivarta Purāṇa we find the following statement about the name:

“The sin of killing a brāhmaṇa or drinking liquor willingly is absolved by chanting ‘Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa,’ day and night.”

The import here is that by repetition of Bhagavān’s name, or mantras consisting of the name, the present desires for sinful activity are destroyed along with the offenses which foster such sinful desires.

It is specifically in consideration of the impediment presented by such offenses that the Viṣṇu-dharma states:

“Bhagavān Madhusūdana does not manifest in a heart polluted by materialistic attachments, for a swan is never attracted to muddy water. Speech defiled by untruth is unfit to extol Bhagavān Keśava, for the moon cannot dispel darkness when covered by clouds.”

In the case of perfected devotees, repetition of the name or other aspects of devotion is undertaken simply because it produces unprecedented bliss at every step. The injunction to repeat such activities applies to those who have not attained such perfection only until they attain the result. This is based on the conjecture that as long as the result has not manifested, offenses must still be present that are causing obstacles.

There are various effects of offenses of which five are prominent: crookedness, faithlessness, absorption in objects that erode one’s faith in Bhagavān, slackness in devotion, and pride arising from one’s own devotional service. If one is unable to give these up in spite of being engaged in bhakti rooted in the association of great devotees, one should understand that all these are effects of offenses to the name in this life and symptoms of offenses committed in past lives as well. Each of these five effects of aparādha will now be considered separately.

First we will discuss kauṭilya or crookedness. It is due to the presence of offenses that Bhagavān does not accept the service of the crooked even if they offer Him many valuable items. This was seen in the case of Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa when He went to the capital of Duryodhana as a messenger on behalf of the Pāṇḍavas. Although Duryodhana tried to win Him over with a royal reception and great opulence, Kṛṣṇa rejected his hospitality because of his offensive attitude towards His devotees.

At present there are many people who make a show of devotion. In spite of having studied the scriptures, they remain internally disrespectful towards Bhagavān, their guru and other devotees due to having committed offenses. The external worship offered by such persons is nothing but crookedness. Therefore, śāstra describes that even foolish people, who are nonetheless free from crookedness, attain perfection even by a semblance of bhakti. In contrast, the crooked cannot even practice bhakti. This is evident in a statement by the sage Parāśara from the Skanda Purāṇa:

“In this world impious, foolish, and crooked people do not attain devotion to Bhagavān Govinda, and they cannot chant or remember Bhagavān.”

In consideration of this, the Viṣṇu-dharma states:

“Truth is destroyed by a hundred obstacles and penance by a thousand. The devotion of human beings to Bhagavān Govinda is destroyed by ten thousand obstacles.”

Therefore, Śrī Sūta Gosvāmī said:

“Who is that grateful person who will not serve Bhagavān who is very easily pleased by those who are simple-hearted and fully surrendered, but most difficult to be propitiated by the wicked?” (SB 3.19.36)

The meaning of this statement is clear.

(to be continued)

13 thoughts on “INFLUENCE OF OFFENSES (1)”

  1. 1. If both individuals chant the nāma filled with material desires, what is the difference between the pāṣaṇḍī or atheist (mentioned in this context) and the arthārthī (Bg. 7.16)?

    2. If at a distance and mentally I offer my obeisance to a vaiṣṇavī and at the same time I ‘m attracted to her because she manifests a great deal of Kṛṣṇa’s vibhūtis (Bg. 10.34), would such an act be considered aparādha or potentially offensive?

    3. I don’t like so much the japa-mālā but and I’m particularly pleased to walk and repeat: hari haraye namaḥ kṛṣṇa yādavāya namaḥ | yādavāya mādhavāya keśavāya namaḥ | gopāla govinda rāma śrī-madhusūdana | giridhārī gopīnātha madana-mohana. Can this be considered as aviśrānti-prayukta-nāma or incessant repetition of the holy name?

    Thank you.

    1. 1. As is mentioned in the text: “The implication is that the holy name does not manifest its result to atheistic people who are greedy for the pleasures of the body, wealth, and so on, and who commit the ten offenses beginning with disrespect of the guru.”
      This is the key principle, whether someone is a pasandi is artharthi, the Holy Name does not manifests its power as long as the person has offenses. If someone is a pasandi, then it naturally he has more offenses than an artharthi. A pasandi will not make any efforts to avoid offenses, while an artharthi will do that, otherwise he will not get his artha.

      2. Offense is an act which is displeasing to the Name. There are ten of them. So please analyze the state of your own mind, whether you are committing any one of these ten offenses. I cannot answer your question unless I know the state of your mind. If you are attracted to her only as a vibhuti of Krsna, that is not an offense but if you have some other motive, then I cannot comment unless I know.

      3. Yes, the Holy Name is the Holy Name. It does not say that you only have to chant the Mahamantra.
      This cleansing of offense by continuous chanting of the name is possible if you are not continuing to commit offense. Otherwise, on one side you are doing a good thing that you are chanting the Name, and the Name is pleased with that, but simultaneously you may be causing displeasure. For that reason it is very important to understand the ten offenses and avoid them carefully.

  2. Thanks Babaji Maharaj for dwelling on a topic which is so very important for practitioners.

    I have a few questions which you may like to elaborate upon in your subsequent posts.

    Firstly how is a Vaisnava to be understood. Is he/she a person who just casually practices spirituality or someone who is completely engrossed in spiritual practices or someone who inspires others towards Bhakti.

    Secondly how is disrespect towards Guru which is a grave offence to be understood. In most cases people get exposed to spiritual organisations and get to know of Bhakti. But then may not be able to learn the Sastras from the Gurus there because of Guru’s time being utilised in managing organisational affairs. Thus they may move on to learn Sastras and get doubts clarified on Bhakti from someone else who may not be in that organisation. Would this be an offence because a person’s moving away/out of the organisation may not be liked by the Guru.

    Thirdly you have nicely explained about Nrga’s becoming a chameleon. What’s the instructional part in Bharat Maharaj’s becoming a deer.

    Thanks once again for the superlatively good work that you and your team have undertaken.

    1. 1. The very derivation of the word Vaisnava means “one who accepts Visnu as one’s worshipable deity and worships Him.” You have to apply this definition to a person to check if that person is a Vaishnava or not. This is the most basic definition. Then there are different levels of Vaisnavas.

      2. Please understand the meaning the word offense. Offense refers to any act which brings displeasure. Therefore it is you who have to know whether by your action of clearing your doubts from someone other than your own guru or from a person who does not belong to the organization of your guru is displeasing to your guru or not.

      3. The lesson to be learnt is that by being compassionate to others, do not give up your devotional practice and do not become materially attached to the object of your compassion. In other words, the act of compassion should not be seen as independent from a devotional act to Krsna.

  3. Pranam

    The reason for yamaloka gamana is deducted as King Nrga’s namAparadha. Had He possessed full faith in vishnu, there would have been no chance of him entering yamaloka.

    However this deduction is not seemingly direct.

    Reading this chapter in bhagavatam , it appears this story has come into place to warn devotees of Krishna about importance of respecting brahmanas. Verse 10.64.43 stresses that one must not take this story as arthavada and hence krishna is stating that even unknowing acts of disrespect to brahmana would lead to falldown.Obviously this instruction is direct towards devotees of krishna who have no material desires.

    If we take the story to indicate that Kind nruga was a karmi involved in kAmya karmas , being born in the dynasty of ikshvaku , offended a brahmana and thus entered yama loka, then the converse – consequence of “had he been a staunch vaishnava, what would have happened if he unknowingly disrespected a brahmana” would have not been clear to followers of bhakti. Ofcourse a true devotee never disrespects any living being , leave alone the brahmanas.

    While we known bhakti is most powerful in destroying all sins of all sizes, like timingala which swallows bigger fishes, we also know the power of vaishnava aparadha which swallows even the bhakti – like timingalatimingala – the whale which swallows other whales.hence extreme caution is required in respecting brahmanas.

    Therefore , to me , the story seems to be more towards teaching the followers of bhakti on how detrimental is even an unconscious disrespect to brahmanas. In case of King Ambharisha, he showed vaishnava charcter in staying in same place for a long time until Sage durvAsa returned after being chased by sudarshan chakra.

    if we merely deduct the reason for King Nrga’s entrance to Yamaloka as namAparadha, then the question of what would happen to a person who has faith in name , unknowingly disrespects brahmanas needs explanation.Does nAma absolve that sin ?


    1. Sorry, I forgot to post Babaji’s relpy on your comment. Hope this settles it:

      “If Nrga had taken shelter of the name and not of varnasrama system, and he would have offended the brahmaṇa, then he would not go to Yamaloka, although he would have to suffer the consequences of disrespecting a brahmaṇa. When it is said that nama absolves one of the sins, it has to be kept in mind that taking this facility of protection by the name, if one commits sin at the same time, is an offense against the name.”

  4. Dear Babaji, you qoute from Skanda Purāṇa in a dialogue between Mārkaṇḍeya and Bhagīratha where it is stated…..

    “If a person does not approach a Vaiṣṇava after seeing him from afar, Bhagavān Hari does not accept twelve years of worship offered by such a person. And if after seeing a devotee vipra one does not worship him by offering obeisance, Bhagavān Hari does not forgive the sins of such a person.

    Question: Can approach also mean respect from a distance ,because it is not very practical every time you see a vaisnava from afar to approach him ,especially in the Dham where we see vaisnavas everywhere. And what means obeisances to a vipra devottee.? it is enough to do ‘Namaskar‘ i, which also means paying obeisance or we have to bow down on the floor?

    1. Dear Prem, you know that it is all a matter of Prema, it is not a question of going down on the ground and hitting your nose on the road. You have to just be respectful in your heart. And you have to be conscious that the Vaisnava does not feel neglected or disrespected. It is not practical to fall on the ground and pay obeisances all the time. Ultimately it is a matter of bhava.

  5. Scooty Ram.

    I’m not sure, but probably the slight fault you suggest can be exonerated in the same way as the serious crime that the Brahma-vaivarta-purāṇa hypothetically indicates: hanan brāhmaṇam atyantaṁ kāmato vā surāṁ piban | kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇety ahorātraṁ saṅkīrtya śucitām iyāt ||.

    And I’m referring to a slight fault because you just suggest an “unknowingly disrespect”.

  6. Thank you Babaji. _/\_

    Recently I was reading the Paramatma Sandarbha. It is providing deep and enlightening insights abour reality. I have to ask two questions regarding it:

    1. It says that Paramatma is aware of the Jiva’s sufferings but He doesn’t have the direct experience of the sufferings, being transcendental to material nature. Also, Lord Brahma is a guna-avatar of the Lord, and we know that Brahmaji experiences the material modes. Doesn’t Paramatma have the experience of human sufferings because his guna-avatar has the experience?

    2. Lord Rama, a lila-avatar of Krishna, performed pastimes in the human plane. Was he transcendental to human experiences or did he felt the human emotions?

    Thank you very much!

    1. 1. No, Paramatma does not have the experience. The experience of the guna-avatara is no reason for Him to experience.

      2. Yes, he was transcendental.

  7. Vayu
    1.Any number of pramana you may produce are mere arthavada in the presence of ‘committing sins on the strength of Holy name’ offense. Infact this very anuccheda is presented after explaining the glory of name, why not stop with just stating glories alone?
    2 . I didn’t say unknowingly being disrespectful to brahmanas is dangerous, Krishna said it. And krihna does not seem to call it a slight fault – at all.!! If we take a pramana that states unknowingly chanting name has power of giving liberation, then we must equally take Krishnas words in nrga story that states unknowingly being disrespectful is hellish. If we don’t take both with same faith , that is an incorrect study of scripture which is like walking on razors edge. And in this context the story of satadhanu is quoted in bhakti sandarbha- to warn about deceitful or lazy or lethargic attitude. And nama aparadha is listed after quoting this verse in HBV. Therefore all pramana you quote on naama comes handy to a person who may have committed so many sins before hearing the glory of Holy name. For those who have heard the glories of name, the nrga story is part of that teaching to warn about unknowingly being disrespectful to brahmanas. I am guessing jagai madhai story too falls into this category.
    3. Hypothetically let’s say a vaishnava is killed consciously, won’t naama absolve the murderers sin if he sincerely repents and abstains from such sins. Or do you suggest eternal damnation like church?

  8. Scooty Ram.

    1. Who would settle himself down in the offensive stage of committing intentional sins on the strength of the nāma? Perhaps only a pāṣaṇḍī or mūrkha, he who continuously deny Hari and mocks vaiṣṇavas.

    2. Regarding the Kṛṣṇa’s conclusion (SB.
    10.64.43), Śrīdhara-svāmī says: ajānantamityukteḥ kimu jānantamiti bhāvaḥ. Kṛṣṇa uses the damage caused by an inadvertent fault to highlight the potential danger of any intentional crime.

    Nṛga committed a double fault—an unconscious offense against the brāhmaṇas and a conscious offense against the nāma. After his first fault, Nṛga did not appeal to the nāma; after his second one, later on he did it (SB. 10.64.27). So, it is understood that the nāma is the only refuge for the inadvertent and intentional offenses against the brāhmaṇas or the nāma itself.

    If the nāma cannot control the mad elephant of the vaiṣṇavāparādha running in the heart of a sincere devotee, who can do it?

    3. The nāma could absolve him because of his internal disposition, but ultimately we depend on the nāma’s grace and not on our merits. Bhakti is not our severe judicial system but the source of the free and undeserved favor of Hari.

    And the “eternal damnation” is perhaps also on Kṛṣṇa’s personal agenda: tān ahaṁ dviṣataḥ krūrān saṁsāreṣu narādhamān kṣipāmy ajasram (Bg. 16.19).

    All this is just a tentative participation since the issue has many facets. Perhaps Bābājī may want to clarify our vision.

    Thank you.

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