Tag Archives: aparadha

Sins and Offenses to the Holy Name

Question: Sins are many, starting from unavoidable killing while cooking or walking, etc. There are also sins incurred in one’s lifestyle, in earning a livelihood, and in transportation, agriculture, medicine, and business. It is not possible to avoid these but they are classified as sins to be avoided under seventh offense to the holy name. 

Does nāma take care of these sins? Or can this offense be partially ignored or relaxed for the world we live in today? 

Answer: Please understand the meaning of the offense. The seventh offense is to commit sins on the strength of the name.

What this offense means is that I know a certain act is sinful and I can avoid it but I do not. Rather, I engage in the sin and then do nāma-japa to absolve it.

This offense is not talking about unavoidable sins such as violence while growing and preparing food, or violence due to travel where insects may be killed. All such sins are taken care of by the name, and one need not worry about them.

But if one knowingly commits a sin while being capable of avoiding it and thinks that the name will give him protection, then that is the seventh offense.

Question: Thank you. By agriculture, I meant genetically modified foods or milk from cows that will be killed. Some medicine may have ingredients that are not ideal. These situations do not involve the killing of insects but have a direct impact on nature, like global warming, and may also go against dharma. They are also unavoidable. Does chanting take care of these also?

Answer: Yes, chanting will take care of them; they are unavoidable.

Question: There are also sins that one may be capable of avoiding but due to vāsanās or previous saṁskāras, they are practically very difficult to avoid. In which category do these fall? 

Answer: If you commit a sin because of vāsanās or saṁskāras, it belongs to the avoidable category. Practical advice: Be aware of this and maintain the thought that I did not want this to happen and I do not want it to happen again. Do not relish the pleasure of the sinful activity. Continue with bhakti and pray for the strength to not fall prey to vāsanās.

Question: How can the neophyte devotee, who is accustomed to committing offenses, avoid such offenses? 

Answer: There are various types of offenses, such as sevāparādha, nāmaparādha, and dhāmaparādha. Among them, the most destructive are the nāmaparādhas which are ten in number. Among them also, the most dangerous is the vaiṣṇava-aparādha, and I include guru-aparādha in it because guru is also a Vaiṣṇava. There could be various reasons for committing aparādhas but mainly we commit offenses because we possess a sense of superiority. Thus, we find fault with others, including in our own gurudeva. Caitanya Mahāprabhu gave two pieces of advice regarding the avoidance of offenses—practice tolerance and humility! Neither are easy. But if we introspect on our own state of mind and focus on our sādhana, then tolerance and humility are possible.


Question: I have three questions about the tenth nāmāparādha:

śuniyāo kṛṣṇa-nāma-māhātmya apāra
ye prīti-rahita, sei narādhama chhāra
ahaṁtā mamatā yāra antare bāhire
śuddha kṛṣṇa-nāma tāra kabhu nāhi sphure

“One who hears the boundless glories of Krṣṇa-Nāma but remains devoid of love for Kṛṣṇa-Nāma—whose heart does not melt in love for Kṛṣṇa-Nāma—is an impenitent and estranged fallen soul, the very lowest of mankind (narādhama chhāra). The pure Holy Name of Kṛṣṇa (śuddha-Kṛṣṇa-Nāma) does not reveal Himself to such persons who resist the divine influence of the Holy Name—whose thoughts, words, and deeds are internally and externally consumed by incorrigible attachment to the mundane, egotistical illusion of “I, me and mine” (ahaṁtā mamatā).”

In aniṣṭhitā-bhajana-kriyā, the sādhaka faces stages like ghana-taralā, viṣaya-saṅgarā, etc., where irregularity in sādhana, material attachments, and a lack of taste appear. Are these considered the tenth nāmāparādha?

Answer: No, these stages are not aparādhas. It is common that in the beginning stage a practitioner does not have control over his mind. That is not an aparādha. If one is practicing sincerely, then fluctuation of mind cannot be an aparādha. Śrī Kṛṣṇa acknowledges the difficulty in controlling one’s mind and advises one to continue practice (Gītā 6. 35). 

Question: If a person gives up the path of bhakti after practicing for some time, is that an offense to the Holy Name?

Answer: It is not an offense but an outcome of some offense. Offense results in slackening of interest in bhakti, absorption in non-devotional objects and activities, pride, crookedness, and ultimately loss of śraddhā. When śraddhā disappears, one gives up the practice of bhakti.

Question: In one of your articles, you mentioned: “If a person has no faith in the Name, and thus commits the offense of artha-vāda, then he or she cannot get protection from the Name.” The context was King Nṛga falling to hell for the offense of artha-vāda. What about the devotee who commits the tenth nāmāparādha and then goes on to commit artha-vāda? 

Answer: It depends on what you mean by hell. If by hell you mean a place of suffering like a specific region of the universe, then he may get protection from that. But if hell means suffering, that will surely come due to the offense. Arthavāda means to not put trust in the power of the name. If one distrusts the name, then one should not expect protection from the name.




Nāma-aparādha (The Ten Offenses)

There is a very interesting and popular śloka related to Āyurveda—pathye sati gadārttasya kim auṣadha-niṣevaṇaiḥ / pathye’ sati gadārttasya kim auṣadha-niṣevaṇaiḥ. It says that if one follows a proper diet, then what is the use for a sick person to take medicine? And if one does not follow a proper diet, then what is the use for a sick person to take medicine? The beauty of this śloka is that both lines read the same although their meanings are different.

The intended meaning of the śloka is that it is more important to avoid an improper diet than to take medicine to cure one’s illness. A similar thing can be said about the chanting the name of Kṛṣṇa, which is the panacea for all material diseases. More important than chanting the name is to avoid offenses to the name, nāma-aparādha. In Anuccheda 265 of Bhakti Sandarbha, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī gives an elaborate explanation of the ten offenses. My translation and commentary of the subsections will be presented in the upcoming weeks.

Anuccheda 265.2

The Ten Aparādhas to the Name

In regard to the practice of singing Bhagavān’s names, one should avoid the ten offenses described in Padma Purāṇa, as in the words of Sanat Kumāra:

Even a person who has committed all kinds of offenses is redeemed by taking shelter of Bhagavān Hari. Thus, if a human being commits offenses even to Bhagavān Hari, he is no more than a two-legged animal. If ever such a person takes shelter of the holy name of Śrī Hari, he is certainly delivered from all offenses by the name. Therefore, the holy name is the best friend of all. But if one offends the name, his falldown is inevitable. (PP Brahma-khaṇḍa 25.12–13)

The offenses against the name are as follows:

satāṁ nindā nāmnaḥ paramam aparādhaṁ vitanute
yataḥ khyātiṁ yātaṁ katham u sahate tad-vigarihām

1) To criticize genuine devotees of Bhagavān (the sat) is a grievous offense against the name. How can the name tolerate criticism of those who are responsible for spreading its glories?

śivasya śrī viṣṇor ya iha guṇa-nāmādi sakalaṁ
dhiyā bhinnaṁ paśyet sa khalu harināmāhitakaraḥ

2) One who considers the name, qualities, and other attributes of Śiva as independent (bhinnam) of the name, qualities, and other attributes of Bhagavān Viṣṇu, displeases the name.

guror avajñā śruti-śāstra-nindanaṁ tathārtha-vādo harināmni kalpanam 

3-6 ) To disrespect one’s spiritual teacher; to criticize the Vedic scriptures; to consider the scriptural praises of the name as mere commendations (arthavāda); and to ascribe one’s own imaginary meaning to the name are all offenses.

nāmno balād yasya hi pāpa-buddhir na vidyate tasya yamair hi śuddhiḥ 

7) For one who intentionally commits sins on the strength of the name, the means of purification through rules simply does not exist.

dharmavrata-tyāga-hutādi sarva-śubha-kriyā-sāmyam api pramādaḥ 

8) It is an offense to equate the holy name with all the other pious works (śubha-kriyā) recommended in scripture, such as prescribed duties, vows, renunciation, and sacrifices.

aśraddadhāne vimukhe’py aśṛṇvati yaś copadeśaḥ śiva-nāmāparādhaḥ 

9) It is an offense to the auspicious (śiva) holy name to instruct a person who is devoid of faith, oblivious to Bhagavān, and disinterested in hearing.

śrutvāpi nāma-māhātmyaṁ yaḥ prītir ahito’dhamaḥ
ahaṁ-mamādi paramo nāmni so’py aparādha-kṛt

10) A person of low character who, in spite of hearing the glories of the name, remains devoid of affection for the name, being immersed instead in the conceptions of “I” and “my” in regard to the body, is also an offender against the name. (PP Brahma-khaṇḍa 25.15–18)

Regarding the statement, “Even a person who has committed all kinds of offenses is redeemed by taking shelter of Bhagavān Hari,” which precedes the list of the ten offenses, one should also consider the following from the Viṣṇu-yāmala:

I forgive even millions of offenses of a person in this world who chants My names with faith. There is no doubt about this.

Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa

After explaining the importance of nāma-kīrtana, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī underlines that chanting should be performed without committing the ten offenses stated in Padma Purāṇa. For a serious practitioner, it is critically important to carefully understand and avoid the offenses, because they impede the power of the name, just as a cloud can obstruct the vision of the sun.

It was said in SB 6.2.10 (Anuccheda 262) that uttering the name attracts Bhagavān’s attention toward the utterer. Śrīdhara Svāmī comments in this regard: “The words idam eva suniṣkṛtam mean ‘this alone [i.e., the utterance of the name] is the best form of atonement’ (śreṣṭhaṁ prāyaścitam). The reason for this is that when a person utters Viṣṇu’s name, Viṣṇu’s attention (mati) is drawn toward him (tad-viṣayā), the utterer of the name (nāmoccāraka-puruṣa), and Viṣṇu thinks, ‘This person is My very own (madīya), and as such, he is to be protected by Me in every way.’”

If, however, one commits an offense to the name, it is particularly displeasing to Bhagavān. Even if Bhagavān Himself is the object of an offense, He at once forgives the offender if the latter chants His name, but if the offense is to the name, there is no remedy or atonement for such a transgression. A powerful medicine can offer tremendous relief from a patient’s ailment, if consumed as prescribed. The same medicine, however, can prove to be extremely perilous if taken in an unprescribed manner. Instead of alleviating the disease, it could even kill the patient. Similarly, the name can award the highest benefit of prema to the chanter, but if offended, it can also intensify the person’s objectionable attitude. Therefore, just as it is important to understand the greatness of the name, it is even more important to understand the offenses to be avoided. In Āyurveda, for a medicine to be effective, the patient has to follow the prescription and also avoid the forbidden food. Similarly, for Holy name to be effective one has to chant it and also avoid the offenses listed in this anuccheda.


Editor’s Note: This excerpt is from our new edition of Bhakti Sandarbha in two volumnes, which is currently in print.