Bhakti Sandarbha 265 : Offenses to the Holy Name
This is a lengthy section in which all ten aparadhas to the Holy Name are discussed.
The Ten Offenses Against the Name of Bhagavān
अत एव प्रथमस्कन्धान्तस्थितानां राज्ञः श्रेयोविविदिषावाक्यानामनन्तरं द्वितीयस्कन्धारम्भे सर्वोत्तममुत्तरं वक्तुम् (भा. २.१.८-१०)—
At the end of the First Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, King Parīkṣit expressed his desire to know the ultimate welfare for human beings. After this the Second Canto begins, and in order to give the best reply to the King’s question, the sage Śuka first describes the supreme glory of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa in these words:
परिनिष्ठितोऽपि नैर्गुण्य उत्तमश्लोकलीलया। गृहीतचेता राजर्षे आख्यानं यदधीतवान्॥
तदहं तेऽभिधास्यामि महापौरुषिको भवान्। यस्य श्रद्दधतामाशु स्यान्मुकुन्दे मतिः सती॥
At the end of the Dvāpara-yuga, I studied the Purāṇa known as the Bhāgavata, which is equal to the Vedas, from my father, Kṛṣṇa Dvaipāyana Vyāsa. O sage among kings, although I was firmly situated in Brahman, which is free from the material qualities, my heart became captivated by the enchanting pastimes of the glorious Bhagavān and therefore I studied this narration. Because you are a great devotee of Bhagavān, I will narrate it to you. Those who have faith in it quickly develop pure affection for Bhagavān Mukunda. (SB 2.1.8-10)
After this glorification of the Bhāgavata, Śrī Śuka begins the narration. From the very outset, although there are many limbs of devotion, he instructs the king that the singing of Bhagavān’s names is both the chief of all methods for attaining perfection and also the supreme goal for all:
योगिनां नृप निर्णीतं हरेर्नामानुकीर्तनम्॥
टीका च—"साधकानां सिद्धानां च नातः परमन्यच्छ्रेयोऽस्तीत्याह—एतदिति। इच्छतां कामिनां तत्तत्फलसाधनमेतदेव। निर्विद्यमानानां मुमुक्षूणां मोक्षसाधनमेतदेव। योगिनां ज्ञानिनां फलं चैतदेव निर्णीतम्। नात्र प्रमाणं वक्तव्यमित्यर्थः॥" इत्येषा।O King, it has been ascertained that for those yogis who are indifferent to material pleasures and who desire complete fearlessness, the best path is constant chanting of the holy name of the Lord. (SB 2.1.11)
Śrīdhara Svāmī comments: “Śrī Śuka speaks this verse just to make this clear that there is no method more beneficial than singing Bhagavān’s names, both for practitioners and for those who have already attained perfection. For those with desires (icchatām), i.e., those desiring material enjoyment singing Bhagavān’s names is the very means by which their desires can be fulfilled. For those who are indifferent to the world (nirvidyamānānām), i.e, those who seek liberation, this alone is the means to liberation. And for those who are yogis (yogīnāṁ), i.e., those who seek knowledge of the Absolute, this also has been determined as the goal. By saying that this has already "been ascertained" (nirṇītaṁ), it indicates that there is no need for further evidence in this regard.”
नामकीर्तनं चेदमुच्चैरेव प्रशस्तम्—"नामान्यनन्तस्य हतत्रपः पठन्" (भा. १.६.२७) इत्यादौ।
The singing of Bhagavān’s names is more effective when done loudly, as indicated in this verse:
Abandoning all inhibition, I began to sing the names of the unlimited Bhagavān. (SB 1.6.27)
हरेरप्यपराधान् यः कुर्याद्द्विपदपांसवः॥
नामाश्रयः कदाचित् स्यात् तरत्येव स नामतः।
नाम्नोऽपि सर्वसुहृदो ह्यपराधात् पतत्यधः॥ इति।
In the practice of singing Bhagavān’s names, one should avoid the ten offenses described in the 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. If a human being who has commited offenses even to Bhagavān Hari and who is thus no more than a two-legged animal, ever takes shelter of the holy name of Śrī Hari, the holy name alone delivers him from all such offenses. 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)
यतः ख्यातिं यातं कथमु सहते तद्विगर्हाम्।
शिवस्य श्रीविष्णोर्य इह गुणनामादिसकलं
धिया भिन्नं पश्येत् स खलु हरिनामाहितकरः॥
The offenses against the name are as follows:
1) To criticize the devotees of Bhagavān is a grievous offense against the Name. How can the Name tolerate criticism of those who are responsible for spreading Its glories?
2) One who considers the name, virtues and other attributes of Śiva as independent of the name, virtues and other attributes of Bhagavān Viṣṇu, displeases the Name.
2) One who considers the name, virtues and other attributes of Śiva as independent of the name, virtues and other attributes of Bhagavān Viṣṇu, displeases the Name.
नाम्नो बलाद्यस्य हि पापबुद्धिर्न विद्यते तस्य यमैर्हि शुद्धिः॥
3) To disrespect one’s spiritual teacher;
4) to blaspheme the Vedic literature;
5) to consider the scriptural praises of the name as exaggeration; and
6) to ascribe one’s own imaginary meaning to the Name are all offenses.
7) One who commits sins on the strength of the Name, cannot be purified by following any rules and regulations.
8) It is an offense to equate the Holy Name with all the other auspicious activities recommended in scripture, such as prescribed duties, vows, renunciation and sacrifices.
9) It is an offense to the Holy Name to instruct a faithless person who is averse to Bhagavān and not interested in listening.
श्रुत्वापि नाममाहात्म्ये यः प्रीतिरहितोऽधमः।
अहंममादिपरमो नाम्नि सोऽप्यपराधकृत्॥ इति।
तस्यापराधकोटीस्तु क्षमाम्येव न संशयः॥ इति।
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 this statement from the Viṣṇu-yāmala:
I forgive millions of offenses of a person in this world who chants My names with faith. There is no doubt about this.
From the first offense, “To criticize the devotees of Bhagavān is a grievous offense against the Name,” it is evident that to commit physical violence towards a devotee is so offensive that it cannot be described in words. Blasphemy against devotees and other similar offenses are described in a dialogue between Śrī Mārkaṇḍeya and Bhagīratha in the Skanda Purāṇa:
पतन्ति पितृभिः सार्धं महारौरवसंज्ञिते॥
हन्ति निन्दन्ति वै द्वेष्टि वैष्णवान् नाभिनन्दति।
क्रुध्यते याति नो हर्षं दर्शने पतनानि षट्॥ इति।
Those fools who blaspheme the Vaiṣṇava saints fall into the hell called Mahāraurava along with their forefathers. There are six activities that cause one to fall in this way: to kill a Vaiṣṇava, to criticize one, to bear malice against a Vaiṣṇava, to fail to greet one, to become angry at a Vaiṣṇava and to not feel happiness upon seeing one.
तन्निन्दाश्रवणेऽपि दोष उक्तः (भा. १०.७४.४०) —
ततो नापैति यः सोऽपि यात्यधः सुकृताच्च्युतः॥ इति।
To just hear criticism of a Vaiṣṇava is also an offense, as Śuka said:
One who hears criticism of God or His devotees and does not leave the area loses all his piety and goes 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 or she should cut out the tongue of the critic, and if unable to do so, they should give up their life, as the goddess Satī spoke:
जिह्वां प्रसह्य रुषतीमसतीं प्रभुश्चे-
If frivolous people criticize one's worshipful Bhagavān, who is the protector of religious principles, and one does not have the power to silence them, one should cover one’s ears and leave that place. If, however, one has the ability, she should forcibly cut out the tongue of the blasphemer, or even give up her own life. This is appropriate conduct. (SB 4.4.17)
श्रूयतेऽपि (गीता १०.४१) —
तत्तदेवावगच्छ त्वं मम तेजोंऽशसंभवम्॥ इति।
[Regarding the second offense that one should not consider the names and virtues of Śiva as independent of Bhagavān Viṣṇu] it is heard:
Whatever objects are glorious, brilliant and powerful, know them to be but partial manifestations of My glory. (Gītā 10.41)
As Śrī Balarāma said: “Brahmā, Śiva and I Myself are but parts of His (Kṛṣṇa’s) parts.” (SB 10.68.37)
तीर्थेन मूर्ध्नाधिकृतेन शिवः शिवोऽभूत् इति।
Bhagavān Kapila also said:
Śiva became auspicious (śiva) by accepting on his head the sacred water that flows through the river emanating from Bhagavān's feet. (SB 3.28.22)
विश्वं पुरुषरूपेण परिपाति त्रिशक्तिधृक्॥
And as Brahmā said:
Being impelled by Him [Bhagavān Hari], I create the cosmos, Śiva annihilates on His order, and Viṣṇu, who possesses three potencies, maintains the cosmos in His form as the puruṣa. (SB 2.6.32)
तथा माध्वभाष्यदर्शितानि वचनानि ब्रह्माण्डे—
पिबन्ति ये नरा नाकं मुक्ताः संसारसागरात्। तदाधारो यतो विष्णुः पिनाकीति ततः स्मृतः॥
शिवः सुखात्मकत्वेन सर्वसंरोधनाद्धरः। कृत्त्यात्मकमिमं देहं यतो वस्ते प्रवर्तयन्॥
कृत्तिवासास्ततो देवो विरिञ्चिश्च विरेचनात्। बृंहणाद्ब्रह्मनामासौ ऐश्वर्यादिन्द्र उच्यते॥
एवं नानाविधैः शब्दैरेक एव त्रिविक्रमः। वेदेषु च पुराणेषु गीयते पुरुषोत्तमः॥ इति।
Similarly, we find these statements from the Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa, cited in Madhva’s commentary on Vedānta-sūtra:
Bhagavān Janārdana is called Rudra, because He drives away misery (rujam), Īśāna, because He is the controller (Īśa), and Mahādeva (the great God), because of His greatness. Bhagavān Viṣṇu is called Pinākī (he who bears a trident), because He is the support of those who have become liberated from the ocean of material existence and drink the bliss of the spiritual world. He is called Śiva (benevolent), because He is the embodiment of happiness, and Hara (the destroyer), because He is the annihilator of all. He is called Kṛttivāsa (having a garment made of skin), because as the Supreme indwelling Soul, He resides in the body which is made of kṛtya, or fruitive actions. Bhagavān Viṣṇu is called Viriñci (one who arranges), because He places the living beings into matter, Brahman (the expansive one), because He is ever-expanding, and Indra (the chief of the administrative gods), because of His opulence. In this way, both in the Vedas and in the Purāṇas only one Supreme Bhagavān, who performs wonderful acts, is glorified by different names.
अन्यनाम्नां गतिर्विष्णुरेक एव प्रकीर्तितः॥ इति।
And in the Vāmana Purāṇa:
There is no doubt that Nārāyaṇa and other names of the Supreme Bhagavān are used for others also, because Bhagavān Viṣṇu is the only shelter of all other names.
अदादन्यत्र भगवान् राजेवर्ते स्वकं पुरम्॥ इति।
And in the Skanda Purāṇa:
With the exception of the names that are unique to Him, such as Nārāyaṇa, Bhagavān, the Supreme Person, gave other names to other gods, just as a king invests his ministers with administrative authority over his entire kingdom, excluding his private quarters.
उग्रो भस्मधरो नग्नः कपालीति शिवस्य च।
विशेष्नामानि ददौ स्वकीयान्यपि केशवः॥ इति।
And in the Brahma Purāṇa:
Bhagavān Keśava gave some of His specific names to others. To Brahmā He gave the names Caturmukha (four-headed one), Śatānanda (delighting hundreds) and Padmabhu (born of the lotus); and to Śiva He gave the names Ugra (the fierce one), Bhasmadhara (whose body is smeared with ashes), Nagna (the naked one) and Kapālī (keeping the skulls of men as begging bowls or as a garland).
In this way, it is well-known [from scriptures] that Bhagavān Viṣṇu is the essence of everything. Thus if a person even thinks that the name, virtues and other attributes of Śiva are different from those of Viṣṇu—in other words, that they constitute an entirely separate energy—he is an offender.
द्वयोरभेदतात्पर्येण षष्ठ्यन्तत्वे सति श्रीविष्णोश्चेत्यपेक्ष्य चशब्दः क्रियेत। तत्प्राधान्यविवक्षयैव श्रीशब्दश्च तत्रैव दत्तः। अत एव शिवनामापराध इति शिवशब्देन मुख्यतया श्रीविष्णुरेव प्रतिपादित इत्यभिप्रेतम्। सहस्रनामादौ च स्थाणुशिवादिशब्दास्तथैव।
If the sixth grammatical case [the genitive case] was being used in the verse to show oneness between Śiva and Viṣṇu, then the word ca, “also,” should have been used after viṣṇoḥ. To show the supremacy of Bhagavān Viṣṇu the honorific śrī has been used only before the word Viṣṇu. Therefore, even in the phrase śiva-nāmāparādhaḥ, “an offense to the auspicious name,” which appears in the ninth offense, the word Śiva primarily indicates Śrī Viṣṇu. Similarly, in the list of the 1000 names of Viṣṇu, the words sthāṇuḥ (immovable) and Śiva also refer to Viṣṇu.
4) अथ श्रुतिशास्त्रनिन्दनम्—यथा पाषण्डमार्गेण दत्तात्रेयर्षभदेवोपासकानां पाषण्डिनाम्।
The fourth offense, śruti-śāstra-nindanam, or blasphemy of the Vedic scriptures, refers to heretics like those who worship Dattātreya and Rṣabhadeva through paths that contradict the conclusion of the Vedas.
5) तथा अर्थवादः स्तुतिमात्रमिदमिति मननम्।
The fifth offense, artha-vādaḥ, means to consider the glories of the name as mere eulogy.
ज्ञानापवादो नास्तिक्यं तस्मात् कोटिगुणाधिकम्॥ इति।
The sixth offense, hari-nāmni kalpanam, means to give an interpretation to the name that minimizes its glory, as expressed in the Vyāsa-gītā from the Kurma Purāṇa:
Antagonism toward one’s guru is millions of times worse than antagonism towards the deity. To contradict the wisdom of scripture is atheism, and it is millions of times worse than antagonism toward one’s guru. (KP 2.16.18)
यत् तु श्रीविष्णुपार्षदेभ्यः श्रुतनाममाहात्म्यस्याप्यजामिलस्य "सोऽहं व्यक्तं पतिष्यामि नरके भृशदारुणे" (भा. ६.२.२९) इत्येतद्वाक्यं, तत् खलु स्वदौरात्म्यमात्रदृष्ट्या। नाममाहात्म्यदृष्ट्या त्वग्रे वक्ष्यते, "तथापि मे दुर्भगस्य" (भा. ६.२.३२-३३) इत्यादि द्वयम्।
Even after hearing the glory of the name from the associates of Bhagavān Viṣṇu, Ajāmila spoke these words: “A sinner such as I will surely fall into a dreadful hell.” (SB 6.2.29) Yet this statement is in no way an expression of doubt about the power of the name to deliver him. Rather, it is spoken out of an acute sense of his own impropriety. A few verses later, he asserts his understanding of the glory of the name in these words:
Although I am most unfortunate [being implicated in horrible sins], I must have performed some great piety [in my previous birth] by which I have been blessed with the audience of these exalted devotees, which is filling my heart with delight. Otherwise [if I had not performed any piety in my past life], it would not be possible for me, an impious husband of a prostitute, a man on the verge of death, to grasp the name of Bhagavān Viṣṇu upon my tongue. (SB 6.2.32-33)
7) नाम्नो बलादिति। यद्यपि भवेन् नाम्नो बलेनापि कृतस्य पापस्य तेन नाम्ना क्षयः, तथापि येन नाम्नो बलेन परमपुरुषार्थस्वरूपं सच्चिदानन्दसान्द्रं साक्षाच्छ्रीभगवच्चरणारविन्दं साधयितुं प्रवृत्तः, तेनैव परमघृणास्पदं पापविषयं साधयतीति परमदौरात्म्यम्। ततः कदर्थयत्येव तं तन्नाम चेति तत्पापकोटिमहत्तमस्यापराधस्यापातो बाढमेव।
The seventh offense, to commit sins on the strength of the name, is understood as follows. It is a fact that the name absolves one even of those sins that are committed on the strength of the name. Yet, originally it was by the power of the name that one had been striving to directly attain the lotus feet of the Supreme Bhagavān, who is the condensed essence of existence, consciousness, and bliss, and the supreme goal of human life. Now instead, one uses the same power of the name merely to acquire sinful objects that are despicable. This is an abomination. Thus, such a person grossly misuses the name. Consequently, it is proper that he incurs an offense millions of times more severe than the sin he commits.
ततो यमैर्बहुभिर्यमनियमादिभिः कृतप्रायश्चित्तस्य क्रमेण प्राप्ताधिकारैरनेकैरपि दण्डधरैर्वा कृतदण्डस्य तस्य शुद्ध्यभावो युक्त एव। नामापराधयुक्तानामित्यादि वक्ष्यमाणानुसारेण पुनरपि सततनामकीर्तनमात्रस्य तत्र प्रायश्चित्तत्वात्। "सर्वापराधकृदपि" इत्याद्युक्त्यनुसारेण नामापराधयुक्तस्य भगवद्भक्तिमतोऽप्यधःपातलक्षणभोगनियमाच्च।
As a result, the verse appropriately states that such a person cannot be purified even if he undergoes extensive atonement by following innumerable rules and regulations (yamas). Alternatively, the word yamaiḥ may refer to the god who administers punishment to the sinful. In that case, the verse means that such a person cannot be purified even if punished by many Yamas, each acquiring the seat of authority one after the other, and thus carrying the rod of chastisement. The person who sins on the strength of the name can atone only if he again continuously engages in singing the name, as indicated in this upcoming statement of the Padma Purāṇa (Brahma-khaṇḍa 25.23): “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.” Furthermore, according to the Padma Purāṇa (Brahma-khaṇḍa 25.12,13) verse quoted earlier in this Anuccheda, an offender of the name, even if endowed with devotion to Bhagavān, has to fall down and suffer.
तत इन्द्रस्याश्वमेधाख्यभगवद्यजनबलेन वृत्रहत्याप्रवृत्तिस्तु लोकोपद्रवशान्तिं तदीयासुरभावखण्डनं चेच्छूनामृषीणामङ्गीकृतत्वान्न दोष इति मन्तव्यम्।
Indra's action of killing Vṛtrāsura [a great devotee in the guise of a demon], however, committed on the strength of his worship of Bhagavān in the form of a horse sacrifice, was carried out on the order of the sages, who wanted to relieve the calamities of the world and to rid Vṛtrāsura of his demoniac mentality by slaying him. Therefore, it should not be considered an offense.
अथ धर्मव्रतत्यागः इति धर्मादिभिः साम्यमननमपि प्रमादः, अपराधो भवतीत्यर्थः। अत एव च—
तावन्ति हरिनामानि कीर्तितानि न संशयः॥
इत्यतिदेशेनापि नाम्न एव माहात्म्यमायाति।
8) The eighth offense, to equate the holy name with the auspicious activities recommended in scripture, means that it is an affront even to think that prescribed duties, vows and so on are equal to the name. Therefore, even by analogy the name is glorified, as in this statement:
Whenever the twice-born utter the syllables of the Vedas, they actually recite the names of Bhagavān Hari. Of this, there is no doubt.
Thus it was said earlier, quoting from the Skanda Purāṇa:
O best of the Bhṛgu dynasty, of all that is sweet, the holy name of Kṛṣṇa is sweeter still. Of all that is auspicious, the holy name stands supreme. It is the transcendental fruit of the wish-fulfilling tree of the entire Vedas and the embodiment of absolute consciousness. If anyone chants the holy name of Kṛṣṇa even once, either with faith or indifferently, the holy name delivers her or him from the ocean of material existence.
अधीतास्तेन येनोक्तं हरिरित्यक्षरद्वयम्॥
And in the Viṣṇu-dharma:
One who has uttered the two syllables “Ha-ri” has studied the Rg Veda, Yajur Veda, Sāma Veda and Atharva Veda.
गोविन्देति हरेर्नाम गेयं गायस्व नित्यशः॥
In the Skanda Purāṇa, Pārvatī has also said:
My dear boy, do not study the Rg Veda, Yajur Veda and Sāma Veda. Always sing "Govinda," the name of Bhagavān Hari.
And in the Rāmāṣṭottara-śata-nāma-stotra from the Padma Purāṇa, it is said:
The ninth offense, to instruct a faithless person in the glories of the name, is addressed to the instructor of the name.
Following this declaration, the tenth offense is directed towards the recipient of instructions about the name. This offense states that because of a person’s complete absorption in the concepts of “I” and “mine”, he or she is devoid of respect for the name.
"नामैकं यस्य वाचि स्मरणपथगतम्" (प.पु. ४.२५.२४, §१५३) इत्यादौ देहद्रविणादिनिमित्तकपाषण्डशब्देनन् च दशापराधा लक्ष्यन्ते पाषण्डमयत्वात् तेषाम्।
Previously, this verse was quoted from 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. (Brahma-khaṇḍa 25.24)
तथा तद्विधानामेवापराधान्तरमुक्तं पाद्मवैशाखमाहात्म्ये (प.पु. ५.९६.६३) —
ते यान्ति नरकं घोरं तेन पापेन कर्मणा॥ इति।
In addition, the Vaiśākha Māhātmya of the Padma Purāṇa mentions another offense that is applicable to such people:
Those who go away, disrespecting the singing of Bhagavān's names, go to a terrible hell because of this sinful act. (PP 5.96.63)
अविश्रान्तप्रयुक्तानि तान्येवार्थकराणि च॥ इति।
The only atonement for all these offenses is also stated 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. (PP Brahma-khaṇḍa 25.23)
If, however, one commits an offense towards a devotee, one should continuously sing the names of Bhagavān specifically to appease that devotee, for it is seen in the history of King Ambarīṣa that an offense can be forgiven only by the devotee who is offended. In the Nāma-kaumudī also, it is said: “An offense to a great devotee is removed either by suffering the result or by the mercy of that devotee.”
Therefore, because of an absence of any other means, it was appropriately said in the beginning of this Anuccheda:
O King, scriptures and learned authorities have concluded that singing and repeating the names of Bhagavān Hari is the peerless method of success for all, including those desiring material enjoyment, those disinterested in material pleasure and aspiring for liberation, and those seeking knowledge of the Absolute. (SB 2.1.11)
मनवोऽपि मुनीन्द्राश्च कथं तं क्षुण्ण धीर्भजे॥ इति॥
Śrī Nārada made a similar statement in the Bṛhat Nāradīya Purāṇa:
Even the great sages and Manus cannot fathom the glory of the name of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. So how can I, of petty intelligence, worship Him.
Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji Maharaj
Śrī Śukadeva, the first speaker of Bhāgavata Purāṇa, begins his speech in the first chapter of the Second Canto. In the last chapter of the previous canto, King Parikṣit asked him about the general life duty of a person, and specifically that of one who is about to die (1.19.37). The verses cited at the beginning of this Anuccheda are part of Śukadeva’s response. He first speaks about the greatness of Bhāgavata Purāṇa based on his own experience. Then he states that he will speak this purāṇa to him and in doing so, he gives its most essential recommendation as the chanting of the name of Bhagavān. There are various processes of turning one’s awareness towards Bhagavān but among them chanting of the name is most effective. This message is conveyed repeatedly in Bhāgavata Purāṇa.
Although chanting of the name is a universal process that is specifically recommended in the Kaliyuga. Śrī Śukadeva told King Parikṣit:
The age of Kali, which is a mine of all vices, has one great virtue: that by merely doing kīrtana of Kṛṣṇa’s names one becomes liberated and attains the supreme goal of life. (SB 12.3.51)
In Nārada Purāṇa sage Sanaka, while predicting the conduct of people in Kali, tells Nārada (Pūrva-khaṇḍa 41.15): “My very life is only the name of Hari, name of Hari, name of Hari. In the Kaliyuga there is no other process, there is no other process, there is no other process.”
Sanaka repeats his words three times to give stress. He makes first the positive statement about the name and then recommends it by denying any other process. Similarly in Padma Purāṇa, Pārvatī asks Śrī Śiva about the remedy of vices of Kailiyuga. Śiva recommends (Pātala-khaṇḍa 80.2a,3):
The only remedy is name of Hari, name of Hari, name of Hari alone. Those who chant regularly the auspicious names Hare Rāma Hare Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa are not influenced by Kaliyuga.
After explaining the importance of chanting of the name, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī says that chanting should be done without committing the ten offenses stated in Padma Purāṇa. For a serious practitioner it is highly important to carefully understand and avoid the offenses because they block the power of the name just as a cloud can cover the sun.
The name is not a material sound but a conscious and blissful being, caitanya-rasa-vigrahaḥ. Just as chanting is pleasing to the name, offenses bring displeasure to Him. If studied carefully, then, offenses are those actions that go against the sentiment of love. For example, the first offense is to criticize the devotees of Bhagavān. It is well-known that if you love someone then you should not criticize those your beloved loves. Bhagavān or His name loves His devotees. If someone criticizes the devotees then the name will not be pleased with that person.
If such is the case with criticism, then it can be extrapolated that harming a devotee in any way will be a very grave offense and immensely displeasing to Bhagavān. This is understood from the story of King Ambarīṣa and the sage Durvāsā described in the chapter four and five of the Ninth Canto. Many stories in Bhāgavata Purāṇa, such that of King Citraketu, Vṛttrāsura, King Indradyumna, Ajāmila, 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 it, and pure devotion to Kṛṣṇa.
Just as criticizing a devotee is an offense, so also it is an offense to hear criticism without raising an objection. Satī, therefore, recommends three actions against the critic. The first is to kill such a person. If one is unable to do that, then one should cut the critic's tongue. If that too is not possible, then one should immediately cover one’s ears and leave that place. Out of these three, the first two will lead to a criminal action against oneself and so it is not advisable to indulge in them. One should either try to verbally refute the critic or leave the place. But one should not remain neutral, and 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 got the result of the offense. Among them those who supported Dakṣa such Bhaga and Puṣā got special punishment.
In this context it is notable that when King Parikṣit went on his world conquest and saw a bull being beaten by Kali personified in the guise of a mlecchā, he understood that the bull was not an ordinary one but some divine being. When he asked the bull about the its’s plight, it did not blame Kali. It replied that it did not understand the cause of its suffering. Hearing this King Parikṣit made a very important statement that teaches how not to criticize anyone. He said, “You are dharma personified in the guise of a bull. Thus you know what is dharma, and are speaking what is right. [You do not inform your prosecutor ] because [you know that] the outcome which an offender gets is also attained by his critic.” (1.17.22). Thus Kṛṣṇa advised Uddhava not to criticize the nature and actions of others (11.28.1,2).
Kṛṣṇa is svayam Bhagavān. 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. There is no possibility of someone 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 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 Purāṇa, Brahma-khaṇḍa 25.17) cited in this Anuccheda. Thus to consider the name and qualities of Śiva as equal to or independent of Kṛṣṇa is also displeasing to the name and thus an offense.
The third offense is to show disrespect to the guru. This is similar to the first offense except that disrespect or criticism of one’s guru is most grievous. The guru is the very foundation of one’s spiritual life. In this regard Śrī Kṛṣṇa instructs: “Know the ācārya or guru to be Myself. Never disrespect him, Never be envious of him considering him to be a mortal being because the guru is the personification of all the devas.”
The fourth offense is criticism of the scriptures. The scriptures give us knowledge about ourselves and Bhagavān. They inform us about the process to realize this knowledge. They are the sound manifestation of Bhagavān (62.16.51 ). By becoming learned in the scripture one attains the Supreme. Uddhava calls the Veda the eye of the pitṛs, devas, and human beings by which they know about the process and the goal to be achieved to become perfected in life (11.20.4).
The fifth offense is to not have faith in the description about the glories of the name and to consider them mere exaggeration. Sometimes there are statements in the Veda whose purpose is to encourage disinterested people to take to religious practice. They pronounce some material fruits. The real purpose of such descriptions is not in their primary meaning. Such statements are termed as artha-vāda. However this is not applicable to the descriptions of fruits related to the holy name. The name is all-powerful and can grant anything. In this regard one may refer to the story of Capala Gopal described in Caitanya Caritāmṛta.
The next offense is to give imaginary interpretations to the glories of the name, and thus to minimize them. This shows a lack of faith in the name. There are various statements which say that just chanting the name once one becomes free of all sins. This is exempified in the story of Ajāmila. Such a person does not deserve to be punished by Yama (6.3.26). Thus for a devotee to think that he or she will go to hell shows lack of trust in the name. Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī writes that the statement of Ajāmila that he will go to hell is made out of humility and not due to lack of trust in the power of name. Therefore, that was not considered an offense.
The name is all-powerful and can make one who takes shelter of name free of all sinful reaction to previous actions. If one has this faith and then commits some misdeed thinking that he will absolve it by chanting the name, then this is an offense. The reason for this is that although one has faith in the name he is misusing it to wipe out his sins. Instead of serving the name, one is using it in his own service. Moreover, he is using the most pure name to clean some abominable sins. It is like making an emperor clean one’s toilet. The name has the power to give love, which is the highest goal that can be achieved in one’s life. Instead one uses it only for some insignificant purging. Moreover, one does not have the faith that whatever material benefit one gets by whatever actions one can get that and more by the grace of name. Such a person can be purified only by taking full shelter of the name. No other pious activity can relieve him of the offense.
To use the name for religious rituals is an offense. It is similar to the previous offense. One has faith in the name but uses it for some religious acts. Or one thinks that chanting of the name is equivalent to some pious deed. When it is said that if one chants the name of Hari then one has recited the Vedas, then its implied meaning is to show the glory of name. It does not mean that when there is a requirement to chant some Vedic Sūktas in a yajña one should chant "Hari."
One should not give instructions about the name to a person who has no faith in it, who is a non-devotee, and who has no interest in hearing about it. If one is not interested in hearing and is forced to hear, then he will only disrespect the name, which is an offense. The instructor will also become implicated in the offense because he is the cause of making the disinterested person offensive. The conclusion is that if one becomes instrumental in making another person commit an offense, then he is also an offender.
Even after hearing the glories of the name, if one does not take an interest in surrendering to it but remains entangled in materialistic ways, then such a person is being disrespectful to name. It is like one has a terminal disease and one comes to know about a sure remedy but does not show interest in it. Or if one rejects the kindly person who mercifully offers the cure. Will the person who compassionately offers a cure not be hurt by the rejection of his selfless offer of help?
The main point to understand is that the name is a person with all good qualities and powers. It is not an inert sound. Thus one has to be careful while dealing with the name just as one follows a certain respectable behavior with an honorable gentleman. One should try to use one’s common sense besides what has been described in these ten offenses. For example one should not despise or create obstacles for those who are doing kīrtana. On the other hand, one should not do loud kīrtana if that is disturbing to the neighbors because that will be inciting them to commit offenses, which as stated above, also falls into the category of offensive behavior.
If a devotee is offended, then one should try to pacify him. It is not that one just chants the name but does not try to appease
the offended devotee. Durvāsā offended Ambarīṣa, a great devotee, by creating a hobgoblin to kill him. However, Viṣṇu’s disc came to the protection of Ambarīṣa and Durvāsā had to run away. He went to various devas such as Śiva for help but everyone expressed their inability. Finally he approached Viṣṇu. Viṣṇu recommended him to go back to Ambarīṣa and take shelter of him. He told Durvāsā that no one else can help him. Thus, if one commits an offense to a devotee, then either one should please that devotee or face the consequences. There is no third solution. If, however, one does not know the cause of one’s offenses then one should continuously chant the name while avoiding further offenses.
DISCLAIMER: All the posts related to Bhakti Sandarbha are not the final product. This version will be refined by other readers and editors, including Babaji himself. Please do not use this material without reference to this disclaimer.
Bhakti Sandarbha 263-264 : Kirtan of the Holy Name
Bhakti Sandarbha 260-262 : More Glories of Hearing the Bhagavatam
Bhakti Sandarbha 257-259 : Hearing the Bhagavatam
Bhakti Sandarbha 254-256 : Hearing Lila
Bhakti Sandarbha 251-253 : Hearing About Bhagavan's Attributes and Pastimes
Bhakti Sandarbha 248-250 : Introduction to Śravaṇam
Bhakti Sandarbha 246-247 : Honor Should be Given to All Vaiṣṇavas
Bhakti Sandarbha 243-245 : More Benefits of Sat-sanga
Bhakti Sandarbha 240-242 : The Power of Sat-saṅga to Grant Love for Krishna
Bhakti Sandarbha 239: Sat-saṅga Brings Bhagavān Under Control