INFLUENCE OF OFFENSES (2)

Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa (on Anuccheda 153, see previous post):

After showing the purifying power even of a semblance of bhakti, Śrī Jīva goes a step further to say that a semblance of bhakti that is even offensive in nature has the power to free one from sins. This is certainly most amazing. Usually an offensive act is displeasing, so how can a person who behaves in an displeasing manner get blessings? This is possible if the person is innocent and not crooked. In this regard, Śrī Jīva gives the example of a man-eater who attacked a brāhmaṇa. The brāhmaṇa chanted a mantra containing the name of Bhagavān to protect himself. This purified the man-eater. The man-eater heard the mantra not as an act of devotion and his intention was to eat the brāhmaṇa. Yet, he got purified in the process.

The second example is found in the 167th chapter of the Viṣṇu-dharmottara Purāṇa. There was a female mouse in a Viṣṇu temple who was accustomed to stealing the ghee wick from the lamp in front of the deity. One day when she was about to steal it, she heard the cry of a cat and became scared. Out of fear she ran with the ghee wick in her mouth. The nearly extinguished wick became inflamed again by her running. The burning wick got stuck in her teeth and the mouse jumped up and down from the pain and eventually died. Her jumping around with the wick amounted to offering the ghee lamp to Bhagavān. As a result she was born as a daughter of the king of Vidarbha named Citraratha and was later married to the king of Kāśī. She was very devoted to offering a ghee lamp to Bhagavān, and upon dying, she went to Vaikuṇṭha.

All these stories explain the inconceivable potency of bhakti. No other process is remotely comparable to bhakti. Śrī Jīva says that on the path of jñāna, one aims at identity with Brahman, but one incurs sin if one even speaks about this identity when not fully renounced. This is in contrast to bhakti where even a semblance of bhakti confers the benefit of bhakti upon a person who is not even a devotee (that is, not even consciously engaged in an act of bhakti). Then how much more is the power of bhakti when one identifies oneself as a devotee?

In his famous work Śrī Bhagavān-nāma-kaumudī, Lakṣmīdhara Paṇḍita has established that the glories of bhakti are not mere exaggerations. Śrī Jīva also cites Padma Purāṇa, Brahma-saṁhitā and Katyāyayana-saṁhitā, which forbid any such thoughts about the glories of bhakti.

A pertinent doubt is raised here. If bhakti has such potency, then why is such an effect generally not experienced by people practicing bhakti? Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī replies that offense to bhakti is the only thing that blocks bhakti’s manifestation of power. Here, he makes the interesting comment that this is the situation with most contemporary devotees of his time (and our time by extension). He gives the example of king Nṛga. Nṛga was a very charitable king and also a devotee but he became a lizard in his next life. He donated a cow to a brāhmaṇa but this cow ran away and merged back into the herd of the king. The king mistakenly donated the same cow to another brāhmaṇa. The previous brāhmaṇa spotted the cow with another brāhmaṇa and claimed her for himself. This led to a big argument between them and they approached the king. The king asked the brāhmaṇa to accept another cow but he refused. The king then offered as many cows as the brāhmaṇa wanted. But the brāhmaṇa was adamant. He got angry and left. Because of this mistake, the king became a lizard. The king was also engaged in bhakti but because he considered the glories of bhakti as exaggeration, he put more faith in karma-kāṇḍa. Bhakti did not protect him because of this offense.

The conclusion is that although bhakti is supremely powerful just like Bhagavān, bhakti becomes covered by offenses. There are primarily two types of offenses, namely sevāparādha and nāmaprādha. They will be discussed later. A bhakta must avoid them very attentively. Unless one is free of offenses, one will not experience the potency of bhakti as described in the śāstra.

To show the seriousness of offenses, Śrī Jīva refers to the story of king Śatadhanu from the Viṣṇu Purāṇa (third part, 18th chapter). The king and his queen Śaivyā both observed the Kārtika vow in the Kārtika month. Once they both went to the river Ganga to take a holy dip. There the king saw a heretic who also happened to be a friend of his teacher of military arts. Out of respect for his teacher, the king treated the heretic in a friendly manner and conversed with him. But the queen kept silent knowing well that it was highly improper to speak with a heretic while observing her vow. She looked at the sun to counter the sin of seeing the heretic. They later returned to their palace and worshipped Viṣṇu observing proper rules. The king died in due course of time. The chaste queen burned herself along on his funeral pyre. The king was born a dog in the next life as a consequence of talking to a heretic while following Kārtika vow. The queen, however, was born as a daughter of the king of Kāśī. She was very beautiful, learned, and intelligent. When she became of age, the king wanted to marry her to a qualified prince but she refused. She remembered her past life and by her divine vision could understand the plight of her previous husband. She traced the husband in the form of a dog and gave him nice food to eat. The dog was happy and was wagging his tail in front of her. She felt ashamed to see her former husband, a great king, now looking in a flattering manner at her. She respectfully told the dog about the past life and why he became a dog. The dog could then remember his past life and became very dejected. He went out of the city and gave up his life by jumping from a mountain. Next he became a jackal and the queen again traced him and reminded him of his previous human birth as a king. The jackal gave up his body by fasting. In the following lives, he was born as a wolf, a vulture, a crow, a crane and then a peacock. Each time the princess would trace him and remind him about his past lives. While he was a peacock, king Janaka performed an Aśvamedha yajña and at its conclusion, the king took the ritual bath and put some of the sanctified water on the peacock. As a result of this, the peacock was born as a son of king Janaka. When the son came of age, the princess married him. They attained Vaikuṇṭha at the end of that life. This is a very telling story. As much as we feel happy to read the glories of bhakti, we must also be extremely careful not to commit any offense knowingly. For that we must learn about the types of offenses as well.

Although a single act of bhakti is sufficient to give perfection, the offenses create obstacle. Therefore, a practitioner needs to engage in bhakti regularly. This will mitigate the reaction of an offense. Why is the offense so powerful that it can block one’s bhakti? Bhakti is that which gives pleasure to Bhagavān. An offense is a displeasing act. If both are performed simultaneously, the offense will naturally not allow bhakti to manifest. It is like trying to light a fire while pouring water over the twigs. If the twigs are dry, a single match-stick is sufficient to light them. But if they were wet, then first, matchsticks would be needed to make them dry, and only then they would catch fire. Similarly the practice of bhakti first clears the offenses. A single act of devotion will bring perfection once a person is free of offenses. We can also understand from the analogy that if we do a favorable service to others, but simultaneously irritate them by abusing them, getting angry at them or criticizing them to their face, then they will give more weight to the abusive behavior than to our service. To please them, we have to stop any displeasing act and continue serving favorably. Then sooner or later, they will forgive our behavior and become happy with us

Therefore, a sincere devotee should avoid offenses very carefully and execute devotion meticulously. Then one can experience the glory of bhakti. Just as the plate that is used to offer food to the deity is not to be used for any other purpose, the mind, body, and senses that are used for the service of Bhagavān and dedicated to him should not be used for any sinful acts. The tongue that is used to recite the names of Bhagavān should not be used to tell lies or cheat and misguide others.

Next Śrī Jīva gives very practical knowledge of the five effects of offenses. This knowledge can help one introspect and act for rectification. Just as sādhana-bhakti leads to love of Bhagavān, offenses bring indifference to bhakti and ultimately averseness to bhakti. Practice of sādhana-bhakti makes one firm on the path, brings humility, gives taste and complete absorption. Offenses do just the opposite.

How can one know if one’s offenses are from the past or from this life? If after engaging in bhakti and especially after getting the association of a great devotee, one still experiences the effects of offenses, such as crookedness, then one can understand that one is implicated in some serious offense. One must become very alert and engage in bhakti continuously with effort, especially in chanting the name. If one is in knowledge of the offense, then one should try to mitigate it with proper action. For example, if one has offended a devotee, then one should try to please him or her.

Next Śrī Jīva begins elaborating on the major effects of offenses. Crookedness, the effect of the first offense, means to be dishonest in one’s behavior, that is, to act and speak while maintaining a hidden motive. Śrī Jīva gives the example of Duryodhana. Duryodhana made very elaborate arrangements to receive Kṛṣṇa when He came to Hastinapur (the capital of the Kauravas) as a peace messenger of the Pāṇḍavas. Duryodhana erected beautiful welcome gates and engaged brāhmaṇas in chanting Vedic mantras along the path. He prepared a big feast in Kṛṣṇa’s honor. When Kṛṣṇa entered the city and saw all the arrangements, he immediately understood Duryodhana’s crookedness. Duryodhana wanted to impress Kṛṣṇa so that Kṛṣṇa would favor him and abandon the Pāṇḍavas. Duryodhana was not honestly devoted to Kṛṣṇa. Therefore, Kṛṣṇa did not go to his palace but arrived at the simple hut of Vidura for lunch.

Bhagavān does not accept the service of a crooked person. He knows everyone’s true intentions and thus it is not possible to cheat Him. He accepts even a leaf or water given with sincerity but does not look at a big feast if offered with a hidden motive. Śrī Sūta says that Bhagavān is worshiped without any difficulty because bhakti is the most natural activity for a living being. But bhakti appears difficult because of our crooked nature and we are not attracted to it. This is because of our attachment to the pleasures of tongue and genitals and the objects that facilitate these pleasures. Bhagavān is our creator, maintainer, and well-wisher. We should be grateful to Him, but because of our attachment to sense pleasures, we serve other crooked beings and suffer kicks from them. Stories like that of the mouse and the ghee wick are true. The protagonists in these stories were not crooked even though sinful, and therefore bhakti manifested its results. One does not get the effect of bhakti when one is crooked. Then where is the possibility of getting benefit from just a semblance of bhakti.

Sri Jiva Gosvami continues to explain the effect of crookedness in the next anuccheda.

(to be continued)

 

 

Comments ( 11 )
  1. deepak

    Dear Babaji:
    “The king asked the brāhmaṇa to accept another cow but he refused. The king then offered as many cows as the brāhmaṇa wanted. But the brāhmaṇa was adamant. He got angry and left. Because of this mistake, the king became a lizard. The king was also engaged in bhakti but because he considered the glories of bhakti as exaggeration, he put more faith in karma-kāṇḍa.”

    To me the king’s behaviour appears to be good as he genuinely tried to appease the brahaman. Please explain what is in conduct resulted in him considering the glories of bhakti as exaggeration and what in his action was seen as him putting more faith in karma-kanda.

    Outwardly one may misunderstand that offense against bhakti is greater than bhakti itself since it blocks the effect of bhakti. Hows does one refute this then?

    • Babaji Post author

      Dear Deepak,
      From the summary of the story itself, this cannot be really understood, but in Anu 153 itself (which is the first part of the posting), Sri Jiva says: “It is to be concluded that he was guilty of considering the glories of bhakti as exaggeration. If this were not the case, he would not have attached so much importance to the mere act of giving charity and neglected Bhagavān’s service.” If he had faith in the glories of the name, he would not be so attached to daily charity of a cow to a brahmana, which is part of karma-kanda, and not bhakti. He thought that it is good karma in the form of charity that will give him protection, and not bhakti.

      His behaviour towards a brahmana is good but that is not the point of discussion here. The point discussed is whether he was offensive to the name or not. Did he believe in bhakti or karma-kanda? What was his intention behind giving charity? There is nothing wrong in giving in charity of cows. What is wrong is that he thought that it is the charity that will save him and not bhakti, because he did not believe that the glories of bhakti are real. He thought they are overstated to attract people to bhakti.

  2. Stoka Krsna Das

    Babaji Maharaj,

    Altruism and Philanthropy can lead one to Bhakti because Bhakti is the ultimate good that one can hope to do towards Bhagavan and His Creation.

    With the examples of Nrga or Bharat Maharaj, are the Sastras dissuading us from altruism/philanthropy and just focus only on Naam Japa and Sravan, Kirtan, Smaran etc.

    Looks a little confusing because Vedas themselves are talking of Yagyas, Karma Kanda, Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga and of course Bhakti Yoga.

    So how to reconcile these because knowing King Nrga’s example one may be dissuaded from any Charity lest it becomes offensive or other social behaviour as cited for King Satdhanu. So please inform as to how we can avoid offences in Bhakti while still being charitable and also respectful towards strangers/ acquaintances?

    • Babaji Post author

      The confusion arises because of not understanding that the different recommendations of various paths prescribed in the Vedas are not applicable to a single person but to different sadhakas. This is the confusion that Arjuna has in chapters 3 to 5 and keeps on asking Sri Krsna about it.
      Sri Krsna Himself clearly states the eligibility for the different paths to Uddhava in verses 11.20.6-9 of Srimad Bhagavata Purana. Please read them carefully. One must be clear about one’s eligibility (adhikara) and not try to do for what one is not qualified.

      Another cause of confusion is that we identify with a person whose mentality matches with our own but we think we belong to a different path. For example, many people who read first chapter of the Gita think that Arjuna is right, and cannot really understand why Sri Krsna is asking Arjuna to fight. This is because most of us have the same mentality as the Arjuna of first chapter. Yet we may conveive of ourselves as devotees and thus cannot disregard Sri Krsna’s teachings.

      The purpose of Nrga story is not to dissuade one from charity but to understand the subtlety of bhakti. You can do charity but you must be clear of your position. You must know to which path you belong and follow that path. If you are a devotee, follow the code of conduct for a bhakta and not that of a karma-yogi or jnana-yogi, else you will get into trouble. Sri Krsna says this clearly in the Gita, para-dharmo bhayavaha, doing other’s dharma is dangerous.That is the intention of the story of Nrga or king Shatadhanu.

      Sri Jiva Gosvami has done a lengthy analysis whom to give charity if you are devotee. A devotee is one who is devoted to Krsna. He gives charity to the deity and His devotees. If he does charity to others, he does this in relation to Krsna and not independently. If he does charity with the mentality of thinking himself as independent, then he gets into trouble because that does not fit into bhakti-yoga. If he thinks that charity will deliver him, then he becomes offensive to bhakti. It is for this reason Sri Krsna says, sarva-dharman parityjya mama ekam sharanam vraja – Give up all dharma and take shelter of Me.
      Bhakti is not easy to understand because of our attachment to karma-yoga or jnana-yoga. Bhakti is an independent process. It does not need the help of any other yoga. It is not easy to grasp or put faith in it. That is the meaning behind these stories.
      So first we should understand very clearly what bhakti is and not confuse it with other type of yogas.

  3. marky

    Thank you for these important articles, Bābājī.

    I had some questions, if you desire to answer them…there’s quite a few of them. Sorry, they’re a bit scatterbrained, too.

    (1)

    Is repeated practice useful to overcome even Vaiṣṇavāparādha?

    And what if one is unaware that they’ve committed an offense to a devotee? What do we do then? Do we just assume that this is so based on the 5 symptoms, SB 2.3.24 (quoted in the last article), and so forth, and just carry on with our repeated practice, trying our best to avoid offenses later?

    (2)

    I understand how repeated hearing can remove the effects of aparādha (because it informs the aparādhī of what they’ve possibly done and the necessity of avoiding it for the sake of love), but how exactly does repeated chanting remove nāmāparādhas if aparādha creates those 5 prominent symptoms, which will likely lead to more aparādhas? Logically, it would seem a not-so-positive feedback loop of offenses would occur until hearing śāstra takes place.

    (3)

    Is it some kind of śruti-śāstra-nindanam to consider the aforementioned (in your previous article) physical results of aparādha, like being cast into hell and tormented or Bhagavān saying He won’t be pleased with anyone who worships Him for hundreds of lifetimes after offending a devotee, as exaggerations?

    In other words, does Bhagavān really personally cast people into hell for offending His name, reject lifetimes of worship performed after offending a devotee, reject 12 years of worship after not respectfully approaching a Vaiṣṇava, and so on? Or are these statements primarily meant to make us understand the importance of avoiding aparādha?

    Because if they’re literal, it seems Bhagavān won’t accept even our remedial measures of repeated practice and I’ll be doomed to be here forever, unless I get kṛpā-siddhi. Hmm, and are such verses also meant highlight the necessity of grace?

    (4)

    What is the best way to react to someone who is seemingly a Vaiṣṇava, but says offensive things about legit sādhus?

    I was put into a situation some months ago, where I had to reject the association of someone I thought to be a Vaiṣṇava, because he criticized you and many others in the name of “speaking satya”.

    It seems this is a common refutation when the apparent aparādhīs are confronted about there verbal offenses toward devotees…well, that and “you aren’t ready for the truth. That is why you are upset with what I’m saying.” Haha. I’ve heard both these things. Then, they quote some cherry-picked verses about speaking the truth according to śāstra or following in the footsteps of the previous ācāryas, ever-so-carefully neglecting the verses that refute their own behavior and utter lack of etiquette.

    (5)

    Could you clearly define what exactly constitutes nindā? Is it more a mentality than some words or gestures?

    In the same vein, when is verbalized proper discrimination considered nindā?

    (6)

    In Caitanya-Bhāgavata there are some verses that describe how to react to seeing one Vaiṣṇava criticize another. Unfortunately, it’s been a while since I read this – so I don’t remember the location of the exact verses – but here’s a translation of one of those verses that I was able to find:

    nitya-shuddha gyan bastu baishnab sakal,
    tobe je koloho dekho sob kutuhol.
    iha na bujhiye kono kono buddhi nâsh,
    eke bonde, âr ninde, jaibeko nâsh

    “All Vaishnavs are eternally pure and have pure knowledge, when you see them quarrel it is only in play. Some foolish people don’t understand
    this and take sides. They praise one and criticize the other – they will surely perish.”

    How do we think like this while simultaneously maintaining proper discrimination?

    (7)

    Also, in the madhya-khaṇḍa of Caitanya-Bhāgavata, I recall Mahāprabhu saying that anyone who offends His devotees will receive all the sinful reactions of Jagai and Madhai. I would find the verse, but I don’t have a copy of CB on me. I know it is there though.

    Are verses like this to be taken literally, or to show the severity of Vaiṣṇavāparādha, or both?

    (8)

    I’ve heard that if we don’t study śāstra, specifically the works of our ācāryas, it is guror-avajñā. Is this true? I cannot recall if I heard this from you or just somewhere else.

    • Babaji Post author

      (1) yes / yes

      (2) If you understand that you have committed offenses, then stop further offense and continue chanting. Chanting is not some mundane sound. It is Krsna Himself. So if you continuously chant with humility and beg the name to forgive offenses, then the name can clear the offenses because the name is a person. Just as if you offend someone, you can beg pardon repeatedly with sincereity and then that person may forgive your offense.

      (3) “Is it some kind of śruti-śāstra-nindanam to consider the aforementioned (in your previous article) physical results of aparādha, like being cast into hell and tormented or Bhagavān saying He won’t be pleased with anyone who worships Him for hundreds of lifetimes after offending a devotee, as exaggerations?”

      Yes, if you do not beleive these statements then it is an offense.

      “In other words, does Bhagavān really personally cast people into hell for offending His name, reject lifetimes of worship performed after offending a devotee, reject 12 years of worship after not respectfully approaching a Vaiṣṇava, and so on? Or are these statements primarily meant to make us understand the importance of avoiding aparādha?”

      Better not to give any interpretation to the statements related with the name.

      “Because if they’re literal, it seems Bhagavān won’t accept even our remedial measures of repeated practice and I’ll be doomed to be here forever, unless I get kṛpā-siddhi. Hmm, and are such verses also meant highlight the necessity of grace?”

      You have to consider the other verses also that say that repeated chanting of the name is the only solution. When there is a contradiction between two sastric statements, then you have to apply the principles of hermeunitics and see which statement overrides the other. This is a quite common methodology.

      (4) Better to shun the association of such critics.

      (5) Ninda is trying to relish others faults which or may not bemay be there. Knowing another’s improper behaviour is not ninda. We need to discriminate if we have to avoid bad association. But to take pleasure in knowing the flaws of other devotees is ninda, whether you verbalize it or not. Of course verbalization is more serious than just relishing it within oneself.

      (6) If you cannot do this, then have proper discrimination but do not engage in ninda. There are various levels of Vaishnavas, and sastra describes their characteristics so that we can understand where we stand and know what we want to be.

      (7) In such cases, take it literally, and guard against offenses.

      (8) This depends on the mood of one’s guru. I cannot give a categorical answer to this. Better to know it from one’s own guru.

  4. Vāyu.

    1. What is the deepest root of every kind of aparādha? a) our own anādi-karma or immemorial reactions; b) an ādhidaivika design or arranged caused by fate; c) the triguṇas o modes of material nature; d) the āsurī-sampat or demoniac qualities within ourselves; e) our anādyaparādha—if I may say so—or offenses without beginning; f) a mysterious dynamism in that inscrutable region called hṛt, i.e., our own heart.
    .
    2. Is it possible to establish an intimate relationship with a vaiṣṇavatara or vaiṣṇavatama which would be free from all vestiges of offenses?

    • Babaji Post author

      1. The root cause is anadi-avidya.
      2. This is a very strange question. It is like asking if it is possible to have a heart to heart relationship with Vayu-sakha. Who can answer that question with certainty other than Vayu-sakha? Others can only give guesses. So my guess is that yes, it is possible but I can be wrong. Afterall, a Vaisnava is a human being and has a mind of his/her own. Indeed the behavior of a Vaisnava is not easily predictable. There are hundreds of varieties of Vaisnavas. Indeed, no two Vaisnavas are completely alike.

  5. Stoka Krsna Das

    Thanks Babaji Maharaj.

    I am still a novice, and trying to understand Bhakti so I try to clear out whatever doubts I have in your postings. With guides like you and your student, I am sure that I would have clarity sooner rather than later.

    I suppose one should aspire to be a genuine Bhakta and try doing everything in Bhakti, then charity, being good, being knowledgeable etc would be in relation to Sri Krishna and not independent of Him.

    In regard to Bhagavatam verses you told to study, hopefully Sri Rupa in BRS has said that anyone and everyone is qualified for Bhakti just like everyone is qualified for taking bath in Yamuna in the January cold, so I hope I too would have an Adhikar for Bhakti and if any immaturities are there, they would soon be ironed out with your help.

  6. marky

    Thank you for these nice answers, Bābājī.

    I have some short follow-up questions:

    (1) Does SB 2.3.24 mean that if one doesn’t have bhāva/prema, then suspect offenses?

    (2) What exactly does it mean to “chant with humility”?

    What is meant by “continuously”? That PP verse, “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,” seems to literally mean “all the time”.

    And, regarding the application of “begging the name to forgive offenses”, how does this look in practice? I remember hearing from you that chanting should be done while focusing on the name only, not anything else. Is it like the mood of the chanting, not so much begging pardon with words while chanting?

    (4) Should we immediately shun the association of such people, or give ear to their words and try to refute their criticisms first, if possible?

    Does it depend on the individually assessed nature of the critic? Like, some people are more innocently offensive and open to change, while others are more steady in their criticisms and unshakable against change.

    (8) Categorical answers aside, if you don’t mind me asking, would you personally consider it disrespect?

    • Babaji Post author

      (1) Does SB 2.3.24 mean that if one doesn’t have bhāva/prema, then suspect offenses?

      A: yes.

      (2) What exactly does it mean to “chant with humility”?

      A: Not be proud of one’s qualifications.

      What is meant by “continuously”? That PP verse, “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,” seems to literally mean “all the time”.

      A: Give up all other engagements and just chant.

      And, regarding the application of “begging the name to forgive offenses”, how does this look in practice? I remember hearing from you that chanting should be done while focusing on the name only, not anything else. Is it like the mood of the chanting, not so much begging pardon with words while chanting?

      A: You can beg for forgivable as if you would do to a person.

      (4) Should we immediately shun the association of such people, or give ear to their words and try to refute their criticisms first, if possible? Does it depend on the individually assessed nature of the critic? Like, some people are more innocently offensive and open to change, while others are more steady in their criticisms and unshakable against change.

      A: It depends on your own mood. Maybe you are not interested in getting into any arguments, or maybe you want to try to change their opinion.

      (8) Categorical answers aside, if you don’t mind me asking, would you personally consider it disrespect?

      A: No

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