Bhakti Sandarbha 300-303 : Offenses in Deity Worship, Vandanam
Radha Vrindavan Chandra
Offenses In Deity Worship
एवं तादृशव्रतेष्वपि तत्तदुपासकानां स्वस्वेष्टदैवतव्रतं सुष्ठ्वेव विधेयमित्यागतम्। तथास्मिन् पादसेवार्चनमार्गे, यानैर्वा पादुकैर्वापि गमनं भगवद्गृहे इत्यादिना आगमोक्ता ये द्वात्रिंशदपराधाः, तथा "राजन्नभक्षणं चैवम्" इत्यादिना वाराहोक्ता ये च तत्सङ्ख्यकाः, तथा "मम शास्त्रं बहिष्कृत्य ह्यस्माकं यः प्रपद्यते" इत्यादिना, तदुक्ता ये चान्ये बहवस्ते सर्वे—
It is thus understood that among all these vows, those that are specifically related to one’s own worshipful Bhagavān must be properly observed by the worshipers. On this path consisting of service to Bhagavān’s feet and worship of Bhagavān, one should avoid all offenses. This refers to the thirty-two offenses described in the Āgamas, such as the offense of entering a temple of Bhagavān wearing shoes or riding on a carriage. It also includes the thirty-two offenses described in the Varāha Purāṇa (116.5-36), beginning with eating the food of a king, and many other similar offenses spoken of by Bhagavān Varāha, such as the offense of seeking Bhagavān’s shelter while forsaking His scripture. That these offenses are to be avoided, is in accordance with this statement of the Varāha Purāṇa:
वैष्णवेन सदा ते तु वर्जनीयाः प्रयत्नतः॥
इति वाराहानुसारेण परित्याज्याः।
O Earth Goddess, the offenses I have described along the path of My worship, should always be conscientiously avoided by a Vaisnava.
इत्याशयेनाह (भा. ११.२७.१८)—
It is with this intent that Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa declared:श्रद्धयोपाहृतं प्रेष्ठं भक्तेन मम वार्यपि।भूर्यप्यभक्तोपहृतं न मे तोषाय कल्पते॥
श्रद्धाभक्तशब्दाभ्यामत्रादर एव विधीयते। अपराधास्तु सर्वेऽनादरात्मका एव, प्रभुत्वावमानतश्च आज्ञावमानतश्च। तस्मादपराधनिदानमत्रानादर एव परित्याज्य इत्यर्थः॥Even water, offered to Me with faith by a devotee, is precious to Me. Yet, even lavish gifts bring Me no satisfaction when offered by a non-devotee. (SB 11.27.17-18)
In this verse, the words “faith” (śraddhā) and “a devotee” (bhakta) both enjoin an attitude of reverence, whereas all offenses are rooted in the lack thereof, whether arising from disrespect for the Lord's divine mastery or for His orders. Therefore, the lack of reverence that is the breeding ground of all offenses must be thoroughly avoided.
Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji Maharaj
The thirty-two offenses or prohibitions described in Āgama are cited in Hari-bhakti-vilāsa (8.441-448). It is not known in which Āgama they are originally found. They are as follows:
- Entering the temple with shoes on.
- Entering the temple in a vehicle.
- Not observing the festivals of Bhagavān.
- Not offering obeisance to the Deity.
- Worshiping Bhagavān or praying before the Deity without washing the mouth and hands after eating, or with an unclean body.
- Offering obeisance to Bhagavān in an unclean state.
- Offering obeisance with one hand only. Therefore, to avoid this offense, before you pay obeisances, set down anything you are holding in your hand.
- Turning around in a circle while standing in front of the Deity. Some people in India do this because they consider it an equivalent to doing parikramā of the Deity.
- Spreading one’s legs and pointing one’s feet toward the Deity while sitting in front of Him.
- Sitting with one foot over the thigh in a half-lotus pose or with both knees folded together in front of the Deity.
- Sleeping in front of the Deity.
- Eating in front of the Deity.
- Telling lies in front of the Deity.
- Talking loudly in front of the Deity.
- Gossiping in front of the Deity.
- Grieving in front of the Deity.
- Punishing or blessing anyone in front of the Deity.
- Admonishing anyone or using harsh words in front of the Deity.
- Wrapping oneself in a blanket while serving the Deity.
- Criticizing anyone in front of the Deity.
- Glorifying someone else in front of the Deity.
- Using obscene words in front of the Deity.
- Breaking wind in front of the Deity.
- Offering useless articles to the Deity, though capable of offering better ones.
- Not offering seasonal fruits and vegetables.
- Eating without offering one‘s food to Bhagavān.
- Giving a portion of an offering to someone else before the Deity.
- Sitting with one‘s back toward the Deity.
- Offering obeisance to someone else in front of the Deity.
- Remaining silent when questioned by one’s guru.
- Praising oneself in front of the Deity.
- Criticizing the devas in front of the Deity.
- Eating food from kings or materialistic businessmen.
- Touching the Deity in the dark.
- Approaching the Deity without observing proper etiquette.
- Opening the door to the Deity’s temple without first clapping or ringing a bell.
- Offering food to the deity that has been seen by a dog or other animals.
- Breaking silence while worshiping the deity.
- Interrupting one‘s worship to go out and pass stool or urine.
- Offering incense without first offering fragrance or scented garlands.
- Offering forbidden flowers. These are those which are old, shriveled, rotten, already used for other purposes, unclean, and red-colored, except for roses.
- Serving the deity without cleaning the teeth or without bathing after having sexual union.
- Worshiping without bathing after touching a woman in her menstrual cycle, or a dead body.
- Worshiping while wearing red, blue or unclean clothes.
- Worshiping without bathing after seeing a dead body, visiting a crematorium, passing wind, or after applying oil on one’s own body.
- Worshiping while angry or in a state of indigestion, which leads to burping or while passing gas.
- Taking up the worship of deity without respect for devotional scriptures.
- Preaching non-devotional scriptures.
- Chewing betel or chewing gum in front of the Deity.
- Worshiping the Deity with flowers kept on the leaves of castor-oil plants.
- Worshiping at forbidden times, such as at midnight.
- Worshiping while sitting on the bare floor or on a wooden seat.
- Touching the Deities with the left hand while bathing Them.
- Worshiping with stale flowers or flowers that had previously been promised to someone else.
- Spitting while worshiping.
- Boasting about one‘s acts of worship.
- Putting on a curved or horizontal tilaka mark.
- Entering the temple without washing one‘s feet .
- Offering food cooked by a non-devotee.
- Worshiping in front of non-devotees.
- Bathing the Deity with water touched by the fingernails.
- Worshiping while the body is perspiring.
- Crossing over the articles offered to Bhagavān.
- Taking an oath in the name of Bhagavān
The basic criterion of an offense is that it causes displeasure to the Deity. The Deity is to be seen as Bhagavān. The list of offenses should be taken as a guideline. One has to use common sense, and follow the basic principles of etiquette that one observes while relating with a highly honorable person such as the king or the president of a country. Some of the rules are related to Vedic culture specifically, such as spreading one’s legs before the deity or eating in front of the deity.
Offense Against a Great Devotee is More Grievous Than Against a Deity
महतामनादरस्तु सर्वनाशक इत्याह (भा. ४.३१.२१)—
Disrespect of a great devotee, however, brings total ruin, as Śrī Nārada told the Pracetas:न भजति कुमनीषिणां स इज्यांहरिरधनात्मधनप्रियो रसज्ञः।श्रुतधनकुलकर्मणां मदैर्येविदधति पापमकिञ्चनेषु सत्सु॥
Bhagavān Hari, who knows the flavors of love, who cherishes those whose wealth lies not in this world but in the realm of the spirit, does not accept the worship of those whose intelligence has gone astray due to the pride of education, wealth, lineage or accomplishments, and who commit sins to saintly devotees who cling to nothing. (SB 4.31.21)अधनाश्च ते आत्मधनाश्च ते प्रिया यस्य सः। रसज्ञो भक्तिरसिको हरिः। के कुमनीषिण इत्यपेक्षायामाह—श्रुतेति। पापमपराधम्॥
"He who cherishes those whose wealth lies not in this world but in the realm of the spirit" means that both those who are without any material wealth (adhana) and those whose wealth is that of the Self, i.e., Bhagavān, (ātma-dhana) are dear (priya) to Him. "He who knows the flavors of love" (rasa-jña) is another adjective for Bhagavān Hari, meaning He who relishes the flavors of devotion. Precisely what is meant by intelligence gone astray is portrayed in the second half of the verse. The word "sin" (pāpa) in this context refers to offenses.
Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji Maharaj
Disrespect or offense towards a great devotee is more grievous than such behavior towards the deity. Bhagavān can tolerate against Himself but not against His devotee. Disrespect to a devotee is included among the nāmāparādhas described earlier (Bhakti Sandarbha 265 : Offenses to the Holy Name). There is no atonement prescribed for it; one either has to supplicate the offended devotee or undergo the reaction. Offenses towards a devotee are so dangerous that one can even lose one’s bhāva-bhakti or be demoted in one’s bhāva (BRS 1.3.54).
Śrī Nārada hints at the root cause of the offensive mentality. He says that it is pride, which may arise due to various reasons such as high birth, education, wealth and beauty. Therefore, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu gives the golden formula to avoid offenses: humility, tolerance, giving respect to others and not hankering for respect, .
Sin (pāpam) means to engage in a forbidden act stated in the Veda or Smṛti scriptures. It is related to the law of karma. Offenses (aparādha) are also forbidden acts but are related to bhakti. Because bhakti is directly related to Bhagavān, an offense is directly displeasing to Him. Therefore, an offense is more harmful to its executor than mere sin. Although these are two different things, sometimes the word pāpam is also used for an offense.
Disrespect to a Great Devotee Results in Ruination
न विक्रिया विश्वसुहृत्सखस्यसाम्येन वीताभिमतेस्तवापि।महद्विमानात् स्वकृताद्धि मादृङ्नङ्क्ष्यत्यदूरादपि शूलपाणिः॥
Moreover, King Rahūgaṇa told Śrī Bharata:
You are a friend of He who is the friend of the entire cosmos, and you are devoid of all ego. This has given you an expansiveness of vision that allows you to approach every situation with the same spirit, and thus there are no tremors in you resulting from the irreverence of others. Yet I have direspected you, and even a king like me, who wields the scepter of power like the trident-bearer, Śiva, will be instantly destroyed by an offense to such a great devotee. (SB 5.10.25)
॥ ५.१०॥ रहूगनः श्रीभरतम्॥३०२॥
Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji Maharaj
Offenses to a great devotee should be avoided at all cost. This does not mean that one can be disrespectful to those who are not great devotees. One should avoid offense to any devotee. It is not easy to decide who is great and who is small. A humble-looking devotee may actually be a great devotee or may be on the way to being one. In fact, one should not disrespect anyone, devotee or non-devotee, knowing well that Paramātmā resides within all beings.
Solution to Offenses and Process of Vandanam
अथ तथापि प्रामादिके भगवदपराधे पुनर्भगवत्प्रसादनानि कर्तव्यानि। यथा स्कान्दे अवन्तीखण्डे श्रीव्यासोक्तौ—
द्वात्रिंशदपराधांस्तु क्षमते तस्य केशवः॥ इति।
Bhagavān Keśava forgives the thirty-two types of offenses of a person who daily reads a chapter of the Gītā.
अपराधसहस्रेण न स लिप्येत् कदाचन॥ इति।
And from the section known as the Dvārakā-māhātmya in the same Purāṇa:
A person who daily recites or even hears the glories of the thousand names of Viṣṇu is never tainted even by thousands of offenses.
द्वात्रिंशदपराधानि क्षमते तस्य केशवः॥ इति।
In the same Purāṇa from the Revā-khaṇḍa:
Bhagavān Keśava forgives the thirty-two types of offenses of a person who remains awake throughout the night of Dvādaśī and recites the prayers to Tulasī.
अपराधसहस्राणि क्षमते पुरुषोत्तमः॥ इति।
Elsewhere in the same Purāṇa:
One should sow Tulasī, especially in the month of Śrāvaṇa. Bhagavān forgives the thirty-two types of offenses of a person who does so.
द्वात्रिंशदपराधांश्च क्षमते तस्य केशवः॥ इति।
In the same Purāṇa from the Kārtika-māhātmya:
Bhagavān Keśava forgives the thirty-two types of offenses of a person who worships the sacred Śālagrāma stone with tulasī leaves.
अपराधसहस्राणि नित्यं हरति केशवः॥ इति।
Elsewhere it is said:
Bhagavān Keśava always absolves thousands of offenses of a person who worships Bhagavān Hari while adorning the body with Kṛṣṇa’s insignia of conch, disc, club and lotus.
कृतोपवासः स्नानेन गङ्गायां शुद्धिमाप्नुयात्॥
मथुरायां तथाप्येवं सापराधः शुचिर्भवेत्।
अनयोस्तीर्थयोरेकं यः सेवेत सुकृती नरः॥
सहस्रजन्मजनितान् अपराधान् जहाति सः॥ इति।
It is said in the Ādi Varāha Purāṇa (177.25.26):
A person who in the course of a year fasts and bathes in the Gaṅgā at the holy place related to the boar incarnation Varāha becomes purified. One who does the same in Mathurā is purified even if plagued by offenses. A virtuous person who renders service to any one of these holy places becomes free from offenses committed in thousands of births.
शौकरके शूकरक्षेत्राख्ये। महदपराधस्तु चाटुकारादिना वा, तत्प्रीत्यर्थकृतेन निरन्तरदीर्घकालीनभगवन्नामकीर्तनेन वा तं प्रसाद्य क्षमापनीय इत्यवोचामैव। तत्प्रसादं विना तदसिद्धेः।
The holy place related to the boar incarnation is known as Śaukaraka-tīrtha or Śūkara-kṣetra. It was already stated that an offense to a great person is absolved by propitiating her or him and obtaining forgiveness, either through humble supplication or by continuously chanting the Holy Name for an extensive period in order to please the offended party. This is because without pleasing the offended person one cannot become free of the offense.
अत एवोक्तं श्रीशिवं दक्षेण (भा. ४.७.१५) —
क्षिप्तो दुरुक्तिविशिखैर्विगणय्य तन्माम्।
दृष्ट्यार्द्रया स भगवान् स्वकृतेन तुष्येत्॥ इति।
Thus Dakṣa told Bhagavān Śiva:
I was blind to the truth of your being and thus I wounded you in the assembly with the arrows of harsh speech, yet you disregarded my offense. I had plunged into the darkness of unawareness by offending you, the best of the honorable, but by your compassionate glance you uplifted me. May you be at peace with me out of your own graciousness. (SB 4.7.15)
The same conclusion can be understood from subsequent discussion.
Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji Maharaj
Earlier while discussing pātra in Anucchedas 287-294, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī said that among all beings humans are the best, and of them, the devotees, i.e., the Vaiṣṇavas, are supreme. Thereafter, he concluded that the worshipable deity of the Vaiṣṇavas is the supermost pātra. The Vaiṣṇavas and Bhagavān, being the supreme object of honor, should not be displeased by a practitioner. Therefore, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī warns against it. Offenses are bound to happen because of our ignorance, as well as our physical and mental limitations. In this anuccheda he gives different solutions to counteract the offenses against the Deity as well as against a devotee. Unless one becomes free of offenses, one will not experience the full potency of bhakti.
If one commits an offense against a devotee, one does not become free of it then the offended party is pacified, . In this context Śrī Jīva gives the example of Dakṣa who offended Śiva by his sharp criticism, Later he realized his mistake and begged pardon from Śiva. Even after an offense is forgiven, the tendency to commit new offenses remains, just as one can annul the ill-effect of a sinful deed by atonements but still remain inclined to repeat it again. This is seen from the example of Dakṣa who offended Śrī Nārada in his next life where he was also named Dakṣa. Therefore, one has to be very careful not to repeat the offense. As one assiduously engages in devotion, all the while taking care to avoid offenses, the tendency to commit such offenses will also fade away.
अथ वन्दनम्। तच्च यद्यप्यर्चनाङ्गत्वेनापि वर्तते, तथापि कीर्तनस्मरणवत् स्वातन्त्र्येणापीत्यभिप्रेत्य पृथग् विधीयते। एवमन्यत्रापि ज्ञेयम्।
Now we will examine vandanam, or offering praises to Bhagavān. Although offering praises also falls under the category of arcana, it has been prescribed separately in order to show that it stands as an independent process, like singing and remembering the glories of Bhagavān. This same principle applies in the case of other devotional practices as well.
वन्दनस्य पृथग्विधानं चानन्तगुणैश्वर्यश्रवणात् तद्गुणानुसन्धानपादसेवादौ विधृतदैन्यानां नमस्कारमात्रे कृताध्यवसायानामर्थे।
Vandanam is prescribed separately for devotees who, after hearing about the unlimited virtues and opulence of Bhagavān, feel themselves unfit to render service to Bhagavān's feet, to meditate on His qualities or to engage in other practices. They exert their full attention simply in offering obeisance to Bhagavān.
स एव नमस्कारस्तस्यार्चनत्वेनाप्यतिदिष्टः, यथा नारसिंहे—
This offering of obeisance is sometimes recommended even in place of Bhagavān’s worship, as in the Nṛsiṁha Purāṇa:
नमस्कारेण चैकेन साष्टाङ्गेन हरिं व्रजेत्॥ इति।
The sacrifice of offering obeisance to Bhagavān is the best of all types of sacrifice. Merely by once bowing down to Bhagavān with eight limbs of the body, one attains Bhagavān Hari.
तदेतद्वन्दनं यथा (भा. १०.१४.८)—
तत् तेऽनुकम्पां सुसमीक्षमाणोभुञ्जान एवात्मकृतं विपाकम्।हृद्वाग्वपुर्भिर्विदधन् नमस्तेजीवेत यो मुक्तिपदे स दायभाक्॥
An example of vandanam is found in Brahmā’s statement to Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa:
Therefore, a person who perceives Your full grace in every situation, who embraces the fruits of their own past deeds, and who lives, regularly performing obeisance to You with heart, speech and body, is the inheritor of the abode of liberation. (SB 10.14.8)यस्माद् "गुणात्मनस्तेऽपि गुणान् विमातुम्" (भा. १०.१४.७) इत्यादिना तादृशत्वमुच्यते।
This is because the Bhagavān of such virtue was described in the verse immediately previous to this: "O Bhagavān, You are the embodiment of all virtue, and You appear in this world for the welfare of all. Who can measure the extent of Your qualities?" (SB 10.14.7)
तत् तस्मात्। नमो नमस्कारम्।
[In SB 10.14.8] the pronoun tat is used adverbially in the sense of “therefore,” [thus connecting this statement with the preceding one, i.e., “Because Bhagavān’s qualities are immeasurable, the devotee therefore bows to Him with heart, speech and body in every situation.”]. Namaḥ, [though normally an indeclinable, is taken here to be a noun in the accusative case, object of vidadhan,] "obeisance."
मुक्तिपदे नवमपदार्थस्य मुक्तेरप्याश्रये परिपूर्णदशमपदार्थे। यद्वा, मुक्तिरिह पञ्चमस्थगद्यानुसारेण प्रेमैव, तत्पदे तद्विषये परिपूर्णभगवल्लक्षणे त्वयि दायभाग् भवति। भ्रातृवण्टन इव त्वं तस्य दायत्वेन वर्तस इत्यर्थः, त्वं तस्य सुवशो भवसीत्यर्थः।
In the compound mukti-pade, “the abode of liberation,” mukti refers to the ninth subject out of the ten topics of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, and pada refers to, He who is the shelter even of liberation, the complete manifestation of the tenth subject.
Alternatively, the word mukti in this verse can mean love, according to the prose of the Fifth Canto. In this case mukti-pade would mean, “He who is the receptacle of the devotee’s love.” Brahmā is saying that such a devotee inherits You [Kṛṣṇa], the complete manifestation of the Supreme Bhagavān, the abode of love and liberation. Just as a parent’s property is inherited by their children, You become the property of such a devotee. In other words, Bhagavān becomes fully captivated by this devotee.
मुक्तिमात्रं तु सकृन् नमस्कारेणैवासन्नं स्यात्। यथा विष्णुधर्मे—
To interpret mukti as liberation here is inconsistent with the meaning of the verse, because liberation is available simply by bowing down once, as stated in the Viṣṇu-dharma:
एकः कृष्णे नमस्कारो मुक्तितीरस्य दैशिकः॥ इति।
For those who are wandering in the impassable forest of material existence, simply bowing once to Kṛṣṇa leads one to the bank of the river of liberation.
Commenting on SB 10.14.8, Śrīdhara Svāmī says that anukampāṁ susamīkṣamāṇaḥ, “one who deeply perceives Bhagavān’s mercy,” means, “one who awaits Bhagavān’s mercy.” Expanding on this idea, the verse can also be understood in this way. At every moment the devotee witnesses Bhagavān showering His unmotivated grace. And fully perceiving this grace in every situation that arises, the devotee is inundated with bliss. Su-samīkṣamānaḥ, or complete witnessing of Bhagavān’s mercy, means to meditate deeply on His mercy. One who does so and offers obeisance to Bhagavān with her heart, or by speech or by body, inherits the wealth of love for Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
नमस्कारेऽप्यपराधाश्चैते परिहर्तव्याः विष्णुस्मृत्यादिदृष्ट्या। ये खलु एकहस्तकृतत्ववस्त्रावृतदेहत्वभगवदग्रपृष्ठ-वामभागात्यन्तनिकटगर्भमन्दिरगतत्वादिमयाः।
In offering obeisances one should avoid the following offenses, as described in the Viṣṇu-smṛti: to bow down with one hand, to offer prostrated obeisance while the body is fully clothed, to offer obeisance directly facing Bhagavān, with one’s back turned towards Bhagavān, to the left side of Bhagavān, or too close to or inside the sanctum sanctorum are all offenses.
Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji Maharaj
After completing, the discussion of arcanam Śrī Jīva takes the next limb of devotion, vandanam. The word vandanam is derived from the root vadi which means to salute and to praise (abhivādana-stutyoḥ). Thus it has both the meaning of reciting prayers and of paying obeisances.
Vandanam is actually a part of arcanam, since any description of arcanam in scripture includes reciting prayers and paying obeisances. Yet it has been counted as an independent limb of bhakti because some devotees exclusively engage only in this practice. Such devotees feel unqualified to do Deity worship out of humility and just pray and bow down to Bhagavān.
Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī writes that one should not bow down with one hand. Sometimes some devotees may be holding something such as a religious book or a japa-mālā and thus bow down with only one hand touching the ground. This should be avoided. One should set aside whatever is one is holding in one’s hand and use both to bow down.
Obeisance is done in two ways, with the full body laying flat on one’s belly, and with one’s forehead, hands and knees touching the ground. The first one is called sāṣṭāṅga or that which uses eight limbs: two hands, two legs, two knees, chest and forehead. The second is called pañcāṅga or that in which one uses only five limbs of the body. If one is doing the first type of obeisance then one should not have any cloth on the upper body. Women are forbidden to do this type of obeisances. Women and those wearing a cloth on the upper body should do the second type of obeisance.
While bowing down to the Deity one should keep Him to one’s left side and not pay obeisances from the front or with the Deities to their right. One should not pay obeisances too close to the deities, such as inside the sanctum sanctorum. One should also avoid paying obeisances to someone else in front of the Deity.
Bhakti Sandarbha 299 : Limbs of Arcana – Janmāṣṭamī, Kārttika vows, Ekādaśī, Bathing in Māgha
Bhakti Sandarbha 296-298 : More on Arcana and Eligibility for It
Bhakti Sandarbha 295 : Adhiṣṭhānas of the Deity
Bhakti Sandarbha 287-294 : Eligibility for Honor
Bhakti Sandarbha 286 : Other Important Aspects of Arcana
Bhakti Sandarbha 285 : The Gods Named in Āvaraṇa-pūjā are Bhagavān's Associates
Bhakti Sandarbha 284 : The Difference Between Mantra and Name
Bhakti Sandarbha 283 : Pāda-sevā (Concluded) and Arcanam
Bhakti Sandarbha 280-282 : Service to Bhagavān (Pāda-sevanam)
Bhakti Sandarbha 275-279 : Smaranam