The third offense, to disrespect one’s guru, has not been elaborated by Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī, because it is considered as a special case of the first offense, i.e., to disrespect or criticize the genuine devotees (the sat).
Spiritual life is based on knowledge given by śāstra, which begins with faith, śraddhā. If we have faith in śastra, then we act according to śastric injunctions. We should avoid all which goes against śastra. The next three offenses are related to śastra. Their explanation, as presented by Śrī Jiva Gosvāmī, is given below.
4) The fourth offense, śruti-śāstra-nindanam, “to criticize the Vedic scriptures,” refers to heretics (pāṣaṇḍīs), such as those who worship Dattātreya and Ṛṣabhadeva through paths that contradict the conclusion of the Vedas.
5) The fifth offense, artha-vādaḥ, means to consider the glories of the name as mere eulogy (stuti-mātra).
6) The sixth offense, hari-nāmni kalpanam, “to ascribe one’s own imaginary meaning to the name,” means to interpret the name in an alternate manner [i.e., one that contradicts the conclusions of śāstra] in order to minimize its glory. The fault of kalpanam, inventing unauthorized or contradictory meanings, is as expressed in the Vyāsa-Gītā from Kurma Purāṇa:
Hostility toward one’s guru is millions upon millions of times worse than hostility toward the deity. To contradict the authorized conclusions of scripture (jñāna-apavāda) is atheism (nāstikyam), and to do so is millions of times worse than hostility toward one’s guru. (KP 2.16.18)
It is noted, however, that even after Ajāmila heard the glory of the name from the associates of Bhagavān Viṣṇu, he 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 exclusively 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 [i.e., although in this life I am a great sinner (yadyapy aham asmin janmani durbhagaḥ pāpīyān)], it is to be inferred that I must have performed some auspicious act in a past life by which I have been blessed with the vision of these exalted devotees. By seeing them, my heart has become filled with joy. If it were not so, then it would not have been possible for my tongue to utter the holy name of Bhagavān Viṣṇu in that helpless state while dying, for I am a most impure man and the husband of a prostitute. (SB 6.2.32–33)
Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa
The third offense is to disrespect one’s guru. This can be understood as a particular instance of the first offense—to disrespect the sādhus in general. For this reason, Śrī Jīva does not bother to elaborate the third offense. It is to be noted, however, that to disrespect or criticize one’s own guru among all sādhus is an especially grievous offense. The guru is the very foundation of one’s spiritual life. In this regard, Śrī Kṛṣṇa instructs Uddhava: “One should know the preceptor (ācārya) to be Myself. One should never disregard or envy him, thinking him to be a common mortal, because the guru is the embodiment of all the devas” (SB 11.17.27).
The fourth offense is to criticize the scriptures. The scriptures give us authentic knowledge about our true self and Bhagavān. They inform us about the practical means to realize this knowledge. They are the sound manifestation of Bhagavān, śabda-brahma (SB 6.16.51). By becoming well-versed in the scriptures, one attains the Supreme. Uddhava refers to the Veda as the most excellent eye of the pitṛs, devas, and human beings, by which they may come to know about the means of attainment (sādhana) and the ultimate goal to be attained (sādhya) to become perfected in life (SB 11.20.4). According to the verse cited from Kūrma Purāṇa, criticism of śāstra is even more grievous than criticism of one’s guru. This is due to the fact that the guru derives his own authority from the authority of śāstra, and it is śāstrathat defines the characteristics of a genuine guru.
The fifth offense is to not have faith in the descriptions of the glories of the name and to consider them as mere commendations (arthavāda). There are some statements in the Vedas whose purpose is simply to encourage disinterested people to take to religious practice. They promise some material fruits only to entice people to adopt the injunctions of śāstra, rocanārthā phala-śrutiḥ (SB 11.3.46). The real purpose of such descriptions is not contained in their primary or literal meaning. Such statements are termed as arthavāda. This strategy of enticement through eulogy (arthavāda), however, is not applicable to the descriptions of the fruits related to the holy name. The name is all-powerful and can grant anything up to liberation and beyond. In this regard, one may refer to the story of Gopāla Cāpāla, described in Caitanya Caritāmṛta (Antya-līlā, Chapter 3).
The sixth 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 numerous statements asserting that by uttering the name just once, one becomes free of all sins. This is exemplified in the story of Ajāmila. A person who does so is no longer a candidate for the punishments of Yama (SB 6.3.26). Thus, for a devotee to think that he or she will go to hell for their unlawful acts betrays a lack of trust in the name. Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī writes that the statement of Ajāmila that he would surely fall into a dreadful hell was made out of humility and not due to a lack of trust in the power of name. On this account, it was not considered an offense.
(to be continued)
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