Śraddhā in śastra is the foundation of spiritual life. On the path of bhakti, this includes having śraddhā in the power of the name of Kṛṣṇa. There are hundreds of statements in śastra that state that even if one chants the name incidentally, one is freed of all one’s sins. But this does not give one the license to commit sins. The offense of committing sins on the strength of the name of Kṛṣṇa is discussed in the following subsection of Bhakti Sandarbha by Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī.
The seventh offense, to commit sins on the strength of the name, is understood as follows. It is a fact that the name absolves a practitioner even of those sins that are committed on the strength of the name. Yet, it was by the power of the name that he was first engaged with the intent to attain the lotus feet of Śrī Bhagavān Himself, who is the condensed essence of being, consciousness, and bliss, and the supreme goal of human life (parama-puruṣārtha). Now instead, on the strength of the same name, the practitioner strives to accomplish his sinful aims, which are despicable. This is an instance of extreme ill-heartedness (parama-daurātmyam). By such action, the practitioner grossly misuses the name. Consequently, it is certain indeed that he incurs an offense millions of times more severe than the sin committed.
As a result, the Padma Purāṇa verse concludes that for such an offender the means of purification through rules (yamaiḥ) simply does not exist (na vidyate tasya yamair hi śuddhiḥ). The word yamaiḥ, lit., “by rules,” means “by the numerous prescribed moral restraints (yamas) and ethical codes (niyamas).” Even after undergoing atonement by extensive application of such rules, the offender’s purification remains nonexistent (śuddhi-abhāva). Alternatively, the word yamaiḥ can mean “by a whole series of Yamas,” [the deva who administers punishment to the sinful after death]. In that case, the statement would mean that even after being punished by many Yamas, each acquiring the seat of authority one after the other, the offender’s purification remains nonexistent. This conclusion is certainly appropriate for the following two reasons.
First of all, for the person who commits sins on the strength of the name, atonement is possible only if he again continuously engages in singing the name [and not by yamas], as indicated in this upcoming statement of Padma Purāṇa: “The divine names alone can cleanse the sins of those who commit offenses against the name. Only when these names are sung ceaselessly will they bring about the intended result” (PP, Brahma-khaṇḍa 25.23). Secondly, according to the Padma Purāṇa verse quoted earlier in this anuccheda (sarvāparādha-kṛd api, PP, Brahma-khaṇḍa 25.12–13), an offender of the name, even if endowed with devotion to Bhagavān, must reap the consequences in the form of a fall down (adhaḥ-pāta).
Indra’s action of killing Vṛtrāsura, however, executed on the strength of his worship of Bhagavān in the form of a horse sacrifice, was approved by the sages, whose intent was that the world would thereby be relieved of [asuric] oppression and that [upon being slain] Vṛtrāsura would be purged of his ungodly temperament (asura-bhāva). Therefore, it should not be considered an offense.
Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa
The name is all-powerful and can free a person who takes shelter of the name from all sinful reactions to previous deeds. If a practitioner has faith in this principle and then commits some misdeed, thinking that he will be absolved of sinful reaction by chanting the name, then this is an offense. The reason for this is that although such a person has faith in the power of the name, he misuses it to wipe away his sins. Instead of serving the name, he engages it in his own service. Moreover, he uses the purest name to clean some abominable sins. This is like making an emperor clean one’s toilet.
The name has the power to award divine love, which is the highest goal attainable in human life. Instead, one uses it only for the insignificant task of purging sins. Moreover, such a person does not have faith that the name can bestow whatever material benefits are attainable by other methods. Such a person can be purified only by taking full shelter of the name. No other pious act of atonement can relieve him of the offense, just as an offense perpetrated against an emperor can be absolved only by the grace of the emperor.
Indeed for a patient it is more crucial to know what is prohibited than what is prescribed because if he eats the prohibited item that may end his life. Similarly, it is more important to know the offenses than the limbs of bhakti, because an offense can bring an end to devotional life.
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