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Namabhasa, Improper Behavior of Gurus in Shastra
Questions & Answers

Namabhasa, Improper Behavior of Gurus in Shastra

Sage Vashistha writing on palm leaf


Question: Caitanya Caritāmṛta, Antya 3.65 states that nāmābhāsa is sufficient to give a jīva mukti. Mukti (liberation from material world) happens after citta-śuddhi. How can just one nāmābhāsa be sufficient to give a jīva mukti, when citta-śuddhi is not complete? 

Answer: How do you know that citta-śuddhi is not complete?

Question: Citta-śuddhi is not complete because people have sinful desires even after doing nāmābhāsa, although they may not be offenders. Muslims, for instance, keep saying “hārāma” but may still engage in some sin. 

Answer: From your statement, I conclude that Bhāgavata and Caitanya Caritāmṛta are wrong and that you are right. Is this correct?

Question: I’m sorry; my question is,

how to reconcile the two? On one hand, one nāmābhāsa is sufficient to give mukti. And on the other hand, we find that those who do nāmābhāsa may have sinful desires although their sins have been pardoned. How do they attain mukti

Answer: In your first question, you wrote: “How can just one nāmābhāsa be sufficient to give a jīva mukti, when citta-śuddhi is not complete?” Here you have already assumed that nāmābhāsa does not result in citta-śuddhi. So what can I say? You are making a wrong assumption. “Nāmābhāsa gives mukti” also means that it purifies the citta. But if a person is not free of offense, then such a person is not granted mukti. If you see a Muslim or whomever chanting nāmābhāsa and not getting mukti, then it means that such a person is not free of offense. Nāmābhāsa gives mukti to a person who is free of offense to the name. Such a person’s heart is purified by merely nāmābhāsa. However, if a person has offenses from the past or is committing offenses in the present, then nāmābhāsa does not give mukti. 


Improper Behavior of Gurus in Śāstra

Question: In Śrīmad Bhāgavata, Ninth Canto, Chapter 2, we see that Vasiṣṭha over-punished Pṛṣadhra by cursing him to become a lower-class person. But Pṛṣadhra humbly accepted the curse and transcended the curse by taking shelter of bhakti

We also see in Chapter 9 the story of Saudāsa. Here also, Vasiṣṭha over-punished Saudāsa without fully examining the involvement of Saudāsa. When Saudāsa was about to curse Vasiṣṭha back, his wife Madayantī forbade him. 

In Chapter 13, Mahārāja Nimi appointed another priest and performed the yajña, since he did not want to delay the yajña till Vasiṣṭha arrived. But Vasiṣṭha cursed Mahārāja Nimi. That time, Mahārāja Nimi cursed Vasiṣṭha back for his greed. (SB 9.13.5)

Although Vasiṣṭha was greedy for dakṣiṇā from both Indra and Nimi, how is it right on the part of Mahārāja Nimi to counter curse a brāhmaṇa (who was also his guru) to die? Nothing is mentioned about the mistake of Mahārāja Nimi. 

Answer: The simple answer is that unlike Saudāsa’s wife, Nimi’s wife was not swift enough to stop her husband from cursing Vasiṣṭha!!

Now the real answer: You have rightly pointed out that Vasiṣṭha was too quick to curse, without consideration of his disciple’s intention. It is true is that he was the guru, but he was not behaving like one. He was giving curses that were not in proportion to the mistake, as you have rightly pointed out.

So Nimi put an end to it. He could have avoided cursing, but then maybe Vasiṣṭha would have also cursed Nimi’s priest for replacing Vasiṣṭha. Vasiṣṭha was gone for 500 years. Do you think that Nimi should have waited that long? Does one have to wait for executing a religious/devotional act because of the guru’s greed? One should not delay an auspicious act unnecessarily. Gṛhīta iva keśeṣu mṛtyunā dharmamācaret–one should perform a dharmic act as if one is going to die at any moment. 

guror apy avaliptasya kāryākāryam ajānataḥ
utpatha-pratipannasya parityāgo vidhīyate

A guru who acts improperly should be given up. Bhīṣma fought with his own guru, Parśurāma, risking his life. Parśurāma was well known for vanquishing kṣatriya kings. Arjuna also fought with his own guru. In fact, he did not want to fight but Kṛṣṇa, the source and protector of dharma, instructed Arjuna to fight. Not only that, Kṛṣṇa was driving Arjuna’s chariot while Arjuna shot sharp arrows at Droṇa. It is the same Kṛṣṇa who says that He himself is manifest as the guru and that the guru should never be disrespected – acārya mām vijānīyāt nāvamanyeta karhicit. Dhṛṣṭadyumna also killed his own guru.


  • Ravi June 20, 2021

    Hare Krsna. My humble obeisances to you. I want one clarification. Mukti- is defined as liberation from material world. Does this mean entering into Vaikuntha planets or floating in Brahma Jyothi which is said to be outside the spiritual Vaikuntha loka. Please reply when you find time. Thank you

    • Babaji June 21, 2021

      It includes both. The first one is called personal mukti and the second one impersonal. In the first, a devotee maintains one’s identity distinct from Bhagavān. In the second mukta, the person identifies with Brahman.

  • Scooty Ram June 20, 2021


    King Nimi is a glorious character in SB. His lineage continued by mere churning of His mortal body which gave a series of Greatest devotees up-til King Janaka unto whom Srimati Sita was born.

    Rishi Vasista also is a great devotee.

    It is mentioned “accepted the curse and transcended the curse by taking shelter of bhakti. “. I feel accepting the curse and bhakti are not separate things.

    1. Vasista is mentioned along with Sri Narada and Sri Suka as perfected beings roaming earth to bestow knowledge.
    2. Vasista took the so called “lowly” post of being a priest esp to be a priest for Sri Ramachandra and serve Him that way.
    3.Vasista is one among the eternal seven sages praised in vedas.
    4.Prsadhara accepted the curse of Sri Vasista with folded arms and achieved krishna. Blessings also come via brahmana’s curse who are agents of krishna’s mercy.
    5. Sri AmbharIsa stood respectfully when cursed by Sri DurvAsa for one year and then ate mahaprasad after feeding the rishi.
    6.As much as SB introduces Sri Durvasa as “bhagavAn” , it does so for vasista as SB 9.1.13. Sri vAmana finally instructs SukrAcarya to guide King bali(usana bhagavAn) in completion of sacrifice.
    7. In my understanding , devotees must respect Brahmanas and what to speak of eternal rishis. This applies even on occasions when they have sinned (SB 10.64.41). In many incident within SB, Parikshit, 4 kumaras, Ambharisa and other such episode the character of vaishnava esp in respecting a brahmana and never expecting worship is key. How can cursing back a brahmana or rishi be permissible at all?
    brAhmaNa-mAtrasya vandanAc ca itara-vaiShNavais tu tat sarvathA na mantavyam
    8.In most stories ,Sri Vasista is a kulAcharya or family priest and not a spiritual master.

    I do not know the final attainment of King Nimi and if it was similar to King Prshdra .

    Conceptually in relation to a spiritual Guru, I agree that if one accepts a not so advanced Guru, he/she will be in a dead lock since rejecting Guru will be offense.

    Question seems to be “is it right on the part of Mahārāja Nimi to counter curse a brāhmaṇa”?

    Krishna’s instruction in 10.64.41 is clear that one must not treat a brAhmana harshly even if he has sinned but must be given physical respect/obeisances. Cursing back seems an impossibility.

    Kindly help me understand why Vasista fits rejection and perhaps even abuse in the form of curse.


    • T. Krsna dasa June 21, 2021

      How was it proper for Arjuna, a Vaisnava, to kill Dronacharya, who was his guru and a brahmana? How was it proper for Arjuna to shoot arrows at Dronacharya? He should have laid down his arms, and allowed himself to be killed, since clearly ‘accepting the curse’ is bhakti in your opinion (how does ‘accepting a curse’ fit the definition of bhakti?). How is it proper for Arjuna to kill Bhisma, who is one of the twelve mahajanas and a great Vaisnava? Why did Krsna Himself tell him to do all these things, contradicting His own teachings about respecting brahmanas and also respecting Vaisnavas.
      For reference, verse 9.13.5 is: nimiḥ pratidadau śāpaṁ gurave’dharma-vartine |tavāpi patatād deho lobhād dharmam ajānataḥ ||
      viśvanāthaḥ : adharma-vartine lobhāt indrato matto’pi dakṣiṇākāṅkṣā-rūpāt ||5||

    • Scooty Ram June 22, 2021

      My opinion is No. Neither VCT approves it. He comments on adharma vartine.

      Durvasa and Sukracharya were prescribing adharma.
      Ambarisa did not skip dwadasi jala parana, neither King Bali stopped himself from donating 3 steps. They did not follow the rishis words BUT they did so without showing off and perhaps also taught us how to conduct oneself in such occasions.They truly were embarrassed and it was an act of Hari and that is how I see bhagavan title associated with them in such episodes.!

      Please help me understand why it was right for King Nimi to “curse” his own Guru whose background I had shared. Question is not if it was right for King Nimi to perform yagna in Rishi VASISTA’s absence who informed King Nimi that he already got committed to Indira prior and kept to his word and came back to Nimi’s place as promised.

      If you are answering on behalf of Babaji maharaj,thank you!

    • Babaji June 22, 2021

      I agree that Nimi should not have cursed his guru Vasistha.

      But I also want to point out that you are very much biased in your praise of Vashistha. Vashistha is great. There is no doubt about it. But sometimes great people also make mistakes. They may not be punished for that, but that does not mean that they did not make the mistake. Vashistha did not behave like a great guru in the instances of cursing Nimi, Prisadhra or Sudasa.
      Nimi should not have cursed back his guru. He could have remained tolerant. But as I point out in my article, he may have done this to protect his priest.
      It is quite possible that Vashsitha would have cursed Nimi’s priest for no fault of his.

      Somehow, you want to overlook Vashsistha’s wrong action and only see his greatness because of him being a guru and brahmana.
      It is true that a brahmana and a guru must be respected but a brahmana and guru should also behave like one.
      Otherwise, it leads to corruption. So much misuse of power has been done in our society by the upper class because they are supported by sastra.
      And it is still going on. In modern times, people are not willing to take such abuse.

      You should also pay attention to the examples I have given in the article. Why did Dhristdyumna kill his guru Drona? Why did Rama kill Ravana, Kumbhakarna, etc? They
      were brahmanas and sons of a sage. You may say that Ravana kidnapped Rama’s wife. Well, Rama could have gotten back his wife and spared their lives and set an example of respecting a brahmana. After all, Ravana kidnapped Sita because Laksmana disfigured Shuparnakha by cutting her nose. Is that a very valiant act? The poor girl was attracted to their beauty and wanted to marry Rama. Also, Ravana was supposed to be a great scholar of Veda.
      Why were Hiranyakasipu and Hiranyaksa killed? Both were brahmanas and sons of sage Kashyapa. Why did Bhisma fight with Parshurama, his guru?
      So if Nimi is wrong, and I agree, why are these people, who killed brahmanas, not wrong for the same very reason?

    • Scooty Ram June 24, 2021

      Pranams Babaji maharaj
      Thank you for the response
      I see we both are in agreement by principle. I agree Great personalities also make mistakes.It is natural among discussions like this a precedent established BECOMES a new rule.This is not so in vedic stories. Precedent of rishis or King Nimi’s wrong act does not pave or teach a “higher” rule that can be followed by mortals.
      SB 10.33.29/30 and esp 31/32 mentions
      1. one must not take a cue from great people’s actions which are adharmic as a precedent but stick to their sastra
      2.When their actions and Sastra are inline,then that is strongest instruction/action to be followed and becomes a precedent for mortals to follow it as a rule.Not all of their actions become a precedent.
      This principle of giving importance to instruction against actions contradictory to sastra can be applied to all incidents across ramayana and SB to determine what one must adhere to.

      I did not praise vasista by my own choice of words. I shared what was in SB. He is a Rishi and amsa too(1.3.27) and guru undeniably. Even mahabhagavatas like pandavas respect such rishis holding such positions. There has been precedent of Vasista’s curse turning as blessing as well and give him a credit but this does not give precedent for all to curse in general.It is definitely unique to see power of a curse actually doing good and it shows the tapas and daya of such rishs who are amsa of lord. Hence I feel it was wrong on Nimi’s part to curse ones own Guru/Rishi.
      By your strength of imagination , one can also imagine a what IFs wrt King Nimi’s future past or action as well. I dont know if that thinking or imagination is needed and if needed, should it be imposed on these personalities without a prAmanic support?I think this will lead to many “researchers and critical thinkers” like Sheldon who approached Ramayana to show how oppressive Upper classes were and Rama was. However If there are any such pramana of applying actions to make a precedent that is contradictory to sastra, happy to learn from it.

      “much misuse of power has been done in our society by the upper class because they are supported by sastra.” I do not know how this is related to the question in the article “If nimi’s curse against guru is right?”
      Is Nimi a precedent to teach people how to fight back , revolt and perhaps if possible curse and kill such upper class aristocratic boisterous people hiding behind sastra for their abominable character/acts?
      I see both interpreters are hiding behind sastra to justify what they want to convey.
      Same is the case when once accepts a guru who is envious of other vaishnavas. Nothing can be said about this situation. But definitely there is common trend to find a precedent to give up dharma or reject guru or disrespect brahmana.And people resort to SB to support ones standpoint.
      Ultimately ,these discussion should not make one to open SB or any divine literature with a mindset to find cases where rishis have error-ed and still enjoy upper class status.
      Just listening to cOra-jAra leelas or jada bharata’s lifestyle and Nimi-Vasista episode makes listeners free from enmity/anger/vengeance/vices. They are not to be followed.Path of mortal crows are different from path of Garuda.
      If my response indicated attempts to showcase and defend for abominable acts of upper class people, it was/is never my intent and I apologize for such confusion if any.
      Thank You once again for your valuable time.

    • Babaji June 24, 2021

      Scooty Ji
      I agree with you that Nimi was wrong in cursing Vashistha.
      My point is that we should also not redeem Vashistha because that also sends a wrong message to brahmanas to take advantage.
      I have practical experience of it. I live in Vrindavan and I speak from experience.
      Many unqualified brahmanas demand/expect respect and exploit innocent people.
      We should respect brahmanas and not cite sastra to demean them.
      But brahmanas also must act properly.
      This is the point I want to stress.

    • Scooty Ram June 25, 2021

      Pranams Babaji Maharaj
      People hide behind punaric stories to project themselves as good brahmanas/pure vaishnavas or to hide their bad deeds. A case of mild form of pastoral abuse! Such gesture/betrayal of trust automatically makes the victim identify the abuser with community or gender or country he/she belongs to. Chinese are cunning , Americans are evil, Indians are cheap! . A girl abused will think all men are evil.This generalization by victim IS a natural survival phenomenon.Education or awareness against such corruption is IMPORTANT and I am happy you are striving for it helping identify the good and bad brahmana/vaishnava.

      I also have first hand experience, not so brutal. I had called an unknown young priest for a ritual. He enthusiastically performed an elaborate ritual for 1 hour not knowing I am aware of what the ritual is. He asked extra money at the end.I gave him the dakshina he asked with a smile because his living is dependent on this. They do not have monthly salary.He was young too and needs to make money to be qualified for marriage. Even if a priest makes a lakh a month, girls do not want to marry a priest. So it was not a brutal experience for me.I had nothing to lose and still respected him for his profession.
      Indeed there are organized cheating going as well in such profession by various means. Those are hopeless!

      I might be wrong but King nrga’s story is no different. One Brahmin denied accepting 1000 cows in place of one cow that was taken away from him by mistake.Other Brahmana denies returning the one donated to him wrongly. Will a true brahmana fight for a cow which was not his own but donated to him in the first place?King Nrga fell down.Krishna supports such brahmanas?

      Today, “occupation based on varna” is nil except for few in Brahmin class.Kshatriya/vaishya remain only in last name!But 1% of 4% brahmins in india remain in brahmnical jobs in fragmented portions either by choice or poverty. Few evil pockets in their community IS making the life of rest of good brahmanas/vaishnavas worse to worst.
      New-Age spiritual revolutionists invent new forms of social system that puts the lifeline/jobs of these few handful good brahmanas into jeopardy. Many people come to spirituality first time in their generation and their innocence is exploited and they turn back away from spirituality because of such people. This is most painful when foriegners visit india/dhAmas reading “puranas” and end up seeing No palace/Kings/elephants/Rishis but mainly beggars/cheaters. New-Age gurus/preachers promote their invented “short and sweet” path to eternity to such people who have lost faith in vedic karmas, saying this is kaliyuga there are no brahmanas but there are Vaishnavas(I always thought vaishnavas are rare to find).Both of these hide behind the sastras.
      Amidst these situation , your service to students,dhAm and sadhu/brahmana community is sincerely appreciated.

      Swami Desikan says cheating brahamanas/Vaishnavas put good ones to shame
      जातिमात्रशरणा बहिष्कृताः केचिदादृतजघन्य वृत्त्य:|
      रोषणा विपरिधाविनो मुहुर्हेपयन्ति जनमुज्झितहिय: ||
      Bad people take shelter of birth, who are ex-communicated , who do evil only, who are angry with those who question them, and who have left all shame. These people make good people bend their heads down in shame. “Thus indicating, presence of bad mannered people is the shame of virtuous”.

      We must always strive to help and support the community at large either individually or collectively.

    • Babaji June 25, 2021

      Scooty Ji,
      Thank you very much for your nice observation. Dharma and Dambha do not match but unfortunately, Dambha puts on the dress of dharma
      and exploits. This is the story of Putana who came dressed as a Gopi to kill Krsna, the Dharma personified.
      Can you send me the verse by Acarya Desikan with reference?

    • Scooty Ram June 26, 2021

      That is from SubhAshita Neevi .
      Durvritta paddhati/4th paddhati/11th verse.
      A kavya written by Swami Desikan . Few verses can be interpreted 20 ways it seems.

      स्तन्येन कृष्ण ; सह पूतनाया: प्राणान् पपौ लुप्तपुनर्भवाया:|
      यदद्भुतम् भावयतां जनानां स्तनन्धयत्वं न पुनर्भभूव ||

      Another nAtaka by Swami Desikan is Sankalpa sUryodaya in response to prabhoda candrodaya where the characters in the form of husband/wife have the name MahAmOha/durmati ,Damba/Kuhana , Darpa/aSuya etc
      Being a nAtaka , it naturally has all emotions, rasas etc. It also has nyaya/philosophy concepts embedded. Dialogue esp is a class apart
      डम्भ tells कुहना : – अहह अरे त्वां धर्मपत्नि | कुहने! संबोधयामि! त्वं हि मे तारेव बृहस्पतेः, अहल्येव गौतमस्य , अस्पृष्टपुरुषान्तरा क्षणविरहाक्षमा सहधर्मचारिणी |
      कुहना(swami desikan writes in prAkrta language as well, per nAtaka rules ) – यद्ब्राह्मणेश्वरो भणति | तथापि लज्जामि निर्दिष्टान्निदर्शनात् | अरुन्धतीव वसिष्टस्येति वचनीयं गृहस्वामिना | यदाहं तस्करै: कितवैर्ग्रामणॆभिर्नरेन्द्रामात्यै: पाषण्डि भिरन्यैरपि तादृशै:प्रार्थितास्मि , तदापि तान् त्वामेव स्मृत्वा सेवे |

      Indeed very tough to even begin to feel the presence of such vices in oneself, what to say about finding them and then avoiding them!
      Thank you for engaging in such conversations.


    • Babaji June 26, 2021

      Thank you for the reference and also for the interesting Nataka by Swami Desikan.

    • T. Krsna dasa June 22, 2021

      the verse itself calls Vasishtha a guru who was acting adharmically – adharma-vartine. Sri Visvanatha comments that the word lobha in the verse indicates how Vasistha acted thus because he wanted dakshina from both Indra and Nimi.

      The examples of Arjuna and Nimi show that a person should be treated according to their actions. Was Arjuna trying to show off when he fought with Dronacharya? If Arjuna did nothing wrong, then Nimi also did not do anything wrong.

      Also the fact that Vasistha died because of the curse shows that he is not depicted as being eternal in this context.

  • Vraja Kishor June 21, 2021

    wow these examples at the end are INCREDIBLY POWERFUL

  • Deepak June 21, 2021

    Dear Babaji

    In the discussion on namabhasa, you mention that it only works on a person who is free of offense.

    1) In the context of bhakti, what does it mean to be that one is free of offense? Is that one is no longer committing offense or is it something else?

    2) Also to be free of offense, one should first know what an offense is and through practice avoid committing offense which would require some advancement in bhakti. Please explain how only if a person is free from offense will namabhasa work as to be free from offense requires some advancement in bhakti. Or this there to demonstrate the strength of the holy name?

    3) Does not committing offense only come through the grace of Guru and Krishna by performing and not by one’s own endeavour?

    • Babaji June 22, 2021

      1) In the context of bhakti, what does it mean to be that one is free of offense? Is that one is no longer committing offense or is it something else?  

      A: Yes, one is not engaged in offenses and does not carry any offenses from the past. 

      2) Also to be free of offense, one should first know what an offense is and through practice avoid committing offense which would require some advancement in bhakti. Please explain how only if a person is free from offense will namabhasa work as to be free from offense requires some advancement in bhakti. Or this there to demonstrate the strength of the holy name? 

      A: It is only to demonstrate the power of namabhasa.  When they test a new medicine, they keep all other conditions fixed and only see the effect on the particular disease.  If other things are not kept fixed, then you do not know if it was an effect of medicine or something else.  Similarly, to show the power of bhakti, it is said that the person engaged only in namabhasa and did not do any other spiritual activity, but still he got mukti.

      3) Does not committing offense only come through the grace of Guru and Krishna by performing and not by one’s own endeavour?” 

      A: Both are needed. 

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