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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.