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Nāma-aparādha: The Second Offense

To Regard the Names and Qualities of Śiva as Independent of Viṣṇu

Among the devotees of Kṛṣṇa, Śiva has a very special place. Moreover, Śiva is also one of the guṇa-avatāras. In the Purāṇas, he is often portrayed as the Supreme Lord, Īśvara. There is also a large community of Hindus who accept Śiva as the Supreme Lord. If you read the second offense against the name, it appears very ambiguous. It seems to forbid any distinction between the names of Viṣṇu and Śiva. Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī clarifies the true meaning of the second offense in the following anuccheda.

Anuccheda 265.4

[In connection with the second offense,] the following conclusion is also heard:

Whatsoever in existence is glorious, opulent, or powerful, know that indeed to be manifested from but a portion of My splendor. (Gītā 10.41)

As Śrī Balarāma said: “Brahmā, Śiva, and even I Myself are but portions of His [Kṛṣṇa’s] portions” (SB 10.68.37).

Bhagavān Kapila also said:

Śiva became śiva, or “auspicious,” by accepting upon his head the sacred water of the Gaṅgā, which is the best of rivers, because it issued forth from the water that washed the feet of Bhagavān. (SB 3.28.22)

And as Brahmā said:

I evolve the universe as appointed by Him, and Śiva dissolves it under His supervision, while He Himself [Bhagavān Hari], endowed with the three potencies, preserves it in His form as the Puruṣa. (SB 2.6.32)

Similarly, we find these statements from the Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa, cited in Madhva’s commentary on Vedānta-sūtra (1.3.3):

Bhagavān Janārdana is called Rudra, because He dispels the disease of material existence (rujam), Īśāna, because He rules over all (īśana), and Mahādeva (the Great God), because of His supreme glory (mahattva). Bhagavān Viṣṇu is called Pinākī, because He is the support of those who drink (pibanti) the bliss of the transcendental abode (nāka), having become liberated from the ocean of material existence. He is called Śiva (benevolent), because He is the very embodiment of beatitude (sukhātmakatva), and Hara (the destroyer), because He is the annihilator of all. He is called Kṛttivāsa (He who is adorned with a garment of skin), because as the Immanent Self, He dwells in and impels the body, which is covered with skin (kṛtti). Viṣṇu Deva is called Viriñci, because He sets loose the creative energy (recana) in a most unique manner (vi, i.e., viśeṣa-prakāra). He is designated as Brahman (the Infinitely Expansive), because He is the source of all expansion (bṛṁhaṇa), and as Indra (the lord of heaven), because of His supreme majesty (aiśvarya). In this manner, only one Supreme Being (Puruṣottama), who performs extraordinary deeds, is glorified in the Vedas and the Purāṇas by many different names.

And in the Vāmana Purāṇa:

There is no doubt that Nārāyaṇa and other names are used for others as well, yet Bhagavān Viṣṇu alone is proclaimed as the one and only refuge of all other names.

And in the Skanda Purāṇa:

With the exception of the names that are unique to Him, such as Nārāyaṇa, Bhagavān Puruṣottama bestowed other names upon the devas, just as a king invests his ministers with administrative authority over his entire kingdom, excluding his private quarters.

And in the Brahma Purāṇa:

Bhagavān Keśava awarded even some of His own particular names to others. To Brahmā He gave the names Caturmukha (the four-headed one), Śatānanda (the delight of hundreds), and Padmabhu (the lotus-born); and to Śiva He gave the names Ugra (the fierce one), Bhasmadhara (he whose body is smeared with ashes), Nagna (the naked one), and Kapālī (he who wears a garland of skulls).

In this manner, it is well-known [from scriptures] that Bhagavān Viṣṇu is the Immanent Self of all the devas and of all living beings (sarvātmakatva). For this reason, if a person even thinks, or perceives, that the name, qualities, and other attributes of Śiva are distinct from those of Viṣṇu—in other words, that they are manifested by Śiva’s own independent potency—he is an offender.

If the sixth grammatical case [the genitive case] had been used in the verse with the intent to point out the nondistinction (abheda) between Śiva and Viṣṇu, then the word ca, “also,” should have been inserted after viṣṇoḥ. [If the word ca, “and,” had been placed after viṣṇoḥ, it would have given the exact opposite meaning. The translation would then have been as follows: “One who considers the name, qualities, and other attributes of Śiva ‘and’ Śrī Viṣṇu as different (bhinnam) displeases the name.” Śrī Jīva’s point here is that since the word ca is omitted from the statement, the verse’s intent is not to advocate absolute nondistinction (abheda) between Śiva and Viṣṇu.] To show the supremacy of Bhagavān Viṣṇu, the honorific śrī has been used only before the word Viṣṇu. Therefore, even in the compound śiva-nāmāparādhaḥ, “an offense to the auspicious name,” which appears in the statement of the ninth offense, the word śiva primarily indicates Śrī Viṣṇu. Accordingly, in the list of the 1000 names of Viṣṇu, the names Sthāṇu (the immovable one) and Śiva also refer to Viṣṇu.

Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa

The basic principle of all śāstra is that there is only one Absolute Truth. This is stated in the very beginning of Bhāgavata Purāṇa (1.2.11), which has been established by Jīva Gosvāmī in Tattva Sandarbha as the supreme authority in the matter of the ascertainment of the Absolute. This Absolute Truth is identified as Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who is designated as SvayaBhagavān, or God in His ownmost original and essential being (SB 1.3.28). No one is independent of Him (Brahma-saṁhitā 5.1, Gītā 10.8). This fact has been demonstrated in Kṛṣṇa Sandarbha (Anucchedas 1–29). This implies that no one is equal to Him, and thus there is no possibility of anyone being superior to Him. Arjuna confirms this in his prayers (Gītā 11.43). Kṛṣṇa Himself says that there is nothing superior to Him (Gītā 7.7).

Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī cites various verses to show that the original meaning of all names, such as Śiva, is Viṣṇu. This is also confirmed from the use of the word śiva for Viṣṇu in the description of the offenses (Padma PurāṇaBrahma-khaṇḍa 25.17), cited in this anuccheda. Thus, to consider the name and qualities of Śiva as equal to or independent of Kṛṣṇa is ignorance and also an insult to Kṛṣṇa. Being displeasing to the name, it is therefore an offense. This is analogous to addressing and respecting a minister as the emperor in the latter’s presence while disregarding the actual emperor and calling him a minister.

As regards the second offense, one should not misconstrue the meaning of the statement śivasya śrī viṣṇor ya iha guṇa-nāmādi sakalaṁ dhiyā bhinnaṁ paśyet sa khalu harināmāhitakaraḥ to mean “One who considers the name, qualities, and other attributes of Śiva as different (bhinnam) from the name, qualities, and other attributes of Bhagavān Viṣṇu, displeases the name.” Such a meaning could be expressed if the word viṣṇoḥ were understood to be in the sixth case. In such instance, the word “ca” should have been used in place of yaḥ. But according to the meaning given by Jīva Gosvāmī, the word viṣṇoḥ is in the fifth case, and this understanding is in harmony with the fact that Kṛṣṇa is the ultimate manifestation of Absolute Reality.

(to be continued)

Nāma-aparādha: The First Offense

To Criticize a Devotee

If we want to reach our destination, we need to follow the proper route and avoid the wrong route. We must know the distinction between them. Just as to follow a particular process we need to understand it clearly, in the same way, to avoid something we need to clearly understand what is to be avoided. In the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava community, much stress is given to nāma-japa and nāma-kīrtana. That is wonderful. Stress is also given to avoid offenses. That is also great. However, sufficient understanding of the offenses is not common knowledge. Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī expands on the meaning of the offenses against the name. In the following anuccheda, he elaborates on the first offense.

Anuccheda 265.3

From the first offense, “To criticize genuine devotees of Bhagavān (the sat) is a grievous offense against the name,” it is evident that to commit physical violence to a devotee is so offensive that it defies verbal description. Blasphemy of devotees and other related offenses are as described in a dialogue between Śrī Mārkaṇḍeya and Bhagīratha in Skanda Purāṇa:

Those fools who blaspheme the Vaiṣṇava saints fall into the hell called Mahāraurava along with their forefathers. There are six transgressions that lead to such falldown: to kill Vaiṣṇavas, to criticize them, to bear malice toward them, to fail to greet them, to become angry at them, and to not feel happiness upon seeing them.

Even just to hear criticism of a Vaiṣṇava is an offense, as Śuka said:

One who hears criticism of Bhagavān or His devotees and does not leave the area loses all his piety and descends to hell. (SB 10.74.40)

When it is said that a person should leave the place where criticism of Bhagavān or His devotees is perpetrated, this applies specifically to one who is incapable of retaliation. If one is able, he should cut out the tongue of the critic, and if unable to do even this, he should give up his life, as the goddess Satī spoke:

 If a criticism is made of one’s worshipful Lord (Īśa), the protector of dharma, by human beings of frivolous nature, and one is incapable of retaliation, she should cover her ears and leave that place. If, however, she has the ability, she should forcibly cut out the foul tongue of the blasphemer, or even give up her own life. This is the way of virtue (dharma). (SB 4.4.17)

Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa

The name is not a material sound but a conscious and blissful entity (caitanya-rasa-vigrahaḥ), nondifferent from Kṛṣṇa Himself (abhinnatvān nāma-nāminoḥ, BRS 1.2.233). Just as chanting is pleasing to the name, so too offenses displease the name. If examined carefully, offenses are understood to be those actions that contravene the sentiment of love. For example, the first offense is to criticize the devotees of Bhagavān. It is common knowledge that if you love someone, you should not criticize those who are dear to your beloved. Bhagavān or His name loves His devotees. If someone criticizes the devotees, the name will not be pleased with that person.

If such is the case even with criticism, then it goes without saying that harming a devotee in any way is an exceedingly grave offense and immensely displeasing to Bhagavān. This is understood from the story of King Ambarīṣa and sage Durvāsā, described in chapter four and five of the Ninth Canto. Many stories in Bhāgavata Purāṇa, such as those of King Citraketu, Vṛttrāsura, King Indradyumna, Ajāmila, and Dakṣa, are described to explain the intricacies of offenses to the name. In fact, the whole of the Bhāgavata can be seen as an attempt to educate spiritual aspirants about the offenses to the holy name, the importance of chanting the name, and pure devotion to Kṛṣṇa. This is so because in Kaliyuga, chanting of the name is the prescribed yuga-dharma (SB 11.5.31–32), and Bhāgavata Purāṇa was manifested specifically to provide vision for the people of Kali, who are blinded by ignorance (SB 1.3.44).

Just as it is an offense to criticize a devotee, so too it is an offense to hear criticism without raising an objection. For this reason, Satī recommends three possible retaliatory courses of action. The first is to cut out the critic’s tongue. If one is unable to do that, then one should give up one’s own life. If this too is not possible, then one should immediately cover one’s ears and leave the area. Out of these three, the first two recommendations are not to be taken literally, at least not in the context of the modern moral view. Rather, they are meant to impress upon us the severity even just of hearing criticism of Vaiṣṇavas and the need for appropriate action. Consequently, one should either try to verbally refute the critic or leave the place. But one should not remain neutral and should certainly not relish the criticism or support it.

When Draupadī was being insulted in the assembly of the Kauravas, great personalities like Bhīṣma did not object to it. Thus, all those people who did not raise an objection or leave the assembly became implicated in the offense. Similarly, when Dakṣa criticized Śiva for not honoring him, those who supported Dakṣa were subjected to the consequences of the offense. Among them, those such as Bhaga and Pūṣā received special punishment. Bhaga lost his eyes and Pūṣā his teeth.

In this context, it is noteworthy that when King Parīkṣit went on his world conquest and saw a bull being beaten by Kali personified in the guise of a barbarian (mlecchā), he understood that the bull was not ordinary but some divine being in the form of a bull. When he asked the bull about its plight, it did not blame Kali. It replied that there are many conflicting opinions among theorists as to the cause of a living being’s suffering—such as the self, providence, karma, and acquired nature—and it was thus unable to pinpoint the cause of its own plight. Hearing this strikingly objective reply, King Parīkṣit made a telling statement that instructs us in the matter of the non-assignment of blame upon others. He spoke the following words:

O You who have realized the essence of dharma (dharma-jña)! What you speak is perfectly in line with dharma [for in spite of knowing your assailant, you do not identify him and speak as though undecided about the matter]. Thus, you are dharma personified in the guise of a bull. [And what is the fault in identifying an offender? The dharma-śāstras say] that the outcome that an offender must reap is also obtained by his accuser. (SB 1.17.22)

In the same vein, Kṛṣṇa advised Uddhava to neither praise nor condemn the nature and actions of others (SB 11.28.1–2).

(to be continued)

Different Ways of Chanting, Focus during Japa

The Most Powerful Chanting

Sri Vinod Bihari Gosvami

Question: I would like to know which chanting is more powerful, in the mind or audibly.

1) Srila Jiva Gosvami writes in his Krama sandarbha: “The names of God should be chanted loudly.”

2) Baladeva Vidyabhusana explain in the Stava malabibhusana bhasya, “If one chants the Hare Krsna mantra loudly, Krsna personally dances on his tongue.”

3) In Caitanya-bhagavata Adi Khanda, with purports of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, it says that loud chanting is best.

Answer: Both are powerful and both are recommended. I have practiced both. My personal experience is that manasic japa is superior in focusing the mind on the mantra. But it must be learned from one who knows. If audible chanting helps one to focus, that is good for him/her. However, Jiva Gosvami or Baladeva Vidyabhusana are not forbidding mansic japa. Manasic japa is the same as smaranam, and Jiva Gosvami has written about smaranam and its importance.

A famous quote from Padma Purana says that the essence of all rules and regulations is to remember Krsna and never to forget him. Narada also says in the first chapter of the Seventh Canto that somehow or other one should fix the mind on Krishna – which is smaranam.

As far as the Chaitanya Bhagavata story is concerned, that is to glorify the Name. I do not disagree with it. CB is also not forbidding mansic japa. It only says that vacika is 100 times superior to manasic. The reason for this is that by vacika, the plants and animals also benefit. But if the chanter himself is not making progress, how will the plants? This may be true in the case of people like Haridasa Thakura who chant purely. But others must be free from offence themselves to benefit others. The Holy Name does not manifest His power otherwise. One who chants for the benefit of others must be pure to think like that. Normal people are not able to concentrate while chanting. In the list of offences inattentiveness is also counted. So if one can chant with attention loudly, that is good. But to come to that stage, you may have to go through manasika japa.

In regards to 100 times, there are slokas which say that manasic chanting is 1000 time superior to vacika. Of course one may say that it is applicable only to Vedic mantras and not to the Name. Vedic mantras should not be chanted loudly. But when chanted like a mantra, the Name should follow the rules for Vedic mantras. Loud chanting is kirtan and manasic japa is smaranam and both have their glory. Mahaprabhu glorifies kirtana – kirtaniya sada hari, and also smaranam  – smarane na kala.


Focus During Japa

Question: When chanting, should I associate the sound of the Lord’s name with His form or the sound of His name with the written representation of His name? I have heard different views about this. And if my association should only be in respect to one of the two, then is that not contradictory to the statement that the Lord’s name is non-different from His form?

Answer: You associate the sound with the letters. That is recommended. It is not contradictory because although the Lord is non-different, He is also different in some sense. Otherwise we would not have separate two words for them.

In Bhakti Sandarbha Sri Jiva Gosvami writes that one should begin hearing and chanting the Name. This will purify the heart and then form, qualities and pastimes will manifest in the pure heart. He says that one can follow any order but he recommends to begin with the Name.

Beads and Japa

Question: I read that the individual beads that make up our mala, which we use to chant with, is meant to represent the 108 gopis – is that accurate? If not, what is the purpose of the beads – to focus our attention?

Answer: The purpose is to keep your mind on the mantra and also to chant a certain amount regularly. Otherwise one will be irregular. The beads are made of Tulasi, so it also keeps in touch with Tulasi Devi who is dear to Krsna. 108 is a mystical number. You can interpret it as gopis or Upanisads, or related with the number of breaths. According to numerology, it is the complete number, 1 plus 8 is equal to 9, so it brings completeness, or it links you with the Complete Person.


The Meaning and Purpose of Chanting

There is an interesting verse in Srimad Bhagavatam in regards to chanting: sanketyam parihasyam va stobham helanam eva va vaikuntha-nama-grahanam aseshagha-haram viduh: “One who chants the holy name of the Lord is immediately freed from the reactions of unlimited sins, even if he chants indirectly [to indicate something else], jokingly, for musical entertainment, or even neglectfully. This is accepted by all the learned scholars of the scriptures.” (SB 6.2.14). I was wondering if Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakur has said something further on its meaning.

Answer:  He adds that none of these things should be offensive. Otherwise he only explains the meaning of these terms.

Question: As you know, many devotees of Krsna are lecturing and doing kirtan at various yoga studios in the USA and Europe. Some conservative devotees feel that we shouldn’t compromise our Vaisnava philosophy one iota while others are more liberal and are encouraging yogis to chant even if it has the above mentioned flaws. Any thoughts on this matter, specifically in regards to the above mentioned verse?

Answer: Well, the real thing is to know the purpose behind chanting. Its primary purpose is devotion to the Lord – to do it for His pleasure. It is not a means of entertainment, which is usually the case. Even many conservative devotees fall prey to this tendency.

The above mentioned verse is not an injunction to chant in this manner but an explanation of the power of the Name. You can chant in Yoga centers or wherever, if your intention is proper, and ultimately you should let it be known. Sometimes I also chant but I also explain the meaning and purpose of chanting.