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Essence of Srivaishnavam Practices - Sin & offence, The difference.
Committing offences to the Sri Vaishnavas
There are three types of devotees. The kanishta - they are sometimes quarreling. The madhyamas - they are friendly to each other and merciful to kanishtas and other people. And the uttamas - the completely pure souls with love of God. This essay is for the benefit of all who like to attain the uttama platform.
SADHU-NINDA--THE GREATEST OFFENSE
The Gaudiya vaisnava dictionary defines aparadha (apa-againts; radha-Radharani) as activity which is not pleasing to Srimati Radharani and as radha-shunya (the firs a of aparadha means without or sunya) - "devoid of Radha". Out of ten offenses to the holy name, Srila Vyasadeva described the offense to the devotees to be the parama-aparadha - the greatest offense. In this regard an important opinion of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati is that 'if we disregard to worship Krsna's devotees, then we will be certainly subjected to manifold difficulties for our offense at the feet of the servants of God'. What are the different types of offenses; what are the consequences; and what did the previous acaryas said about sadhu ninda is the topic of this following compilation.
Srila Baktivinoda Thakura in his book Bhaktyaloka lists eight types of prajalpa (praja-talk; alpa-small) small talks: useless talk, arguments, gossip, debates, faultfinding in others, speaking lies, blaspheming devotees and worldly talks. As we see one of them is blaspheming the devotees. This is also one of the six types of offenses to the devotees: 1) to blaspheme a vaisnava. 2) to not offer obeisances to a vaisnava upon seeing him. 3) to not feel delight upon seeing a vaisnava.4) to think ill of a vaisnava. 5) to get angry on the vaisnava. 6) to kill a vaisnava. As a warning it should be mentioned that one have to be very careful with pride, arrogance and false ego because they are the cause of the above mentioned offenses to the devotees and useless talks.
THE RESULTS OF SADHU NINDA
The offenses have three degrees and are estimated according to which Vaisnava one made the offense - uttama, madhyam or kanishtha adikari and according to the heaviness of the offense. It can be also considered who makes the offense, a karmi or the kanistha, madhyam or uttama bhakta. Let see what happens to a devotee on the bhava bhakti stage (devotional service in ecstasy) if he commits a vaisnava-aparadha.
When he severely offends a devotee of the highly elevated bhava-bhakti platform, who is very dear to the Supreme Lord his spiritual asset becomes spoiled, with other words his bhava will become completely destroyed. This is explained in the NOI 6p where SP writes: "There are many dangerous things but none is considered as serious as offending a brahmana like Jada Bharata". And also Srila Jiva Gosvami in his Bhakti-sadarbha say: "One who criticizes Lord Visnu or His devotees loses all the benefits accrued in a hundred pious births. Such a person rots in the Kumbhipaka hell and is bitten by worms as long as the sun and the moon exist".
The intermediate offense results in ones developing desire for four types of mukti although he was on the level of the bhava-bhakti where liberation is completely disregarded. When somebody makes a small offense one's madhurya-bhava lovers to vatsalya bhava or if he was in vatsalya-bhava he slips down to dasya-bhava etc.
Therefore, as Caitanya Bhagavata (Madhya 22.55-57) declares: "Even if one is as strong as Lord Siva one will nonetheless fall down from his spiritual position if he tries to insult a Vaisnava. That is the verdict of all Vedic scriptures.
When a neophyte devotee makes an offense all his previous results of advancement will remain as mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita 2.40. The reaction for an intermediate offense is described in the Padma Purana: "If one commits offenses out of greed to enhance one's bodily comforts, wealth or followers, then such chanting will still give results but they will be delayed.One will become distanced from devotion". The reaction for a great offense is the most severe. The book Hari Bhakti Vilasa say: "One who derides an exalted devotee loses the results of his pious activities, his opulence, his reputation and his sons. Vaisnavas are all great souls. Whoever blasphemes them falls down to the hell known as Mahäraurava, accompanied by his forefathers. (Punishment in the hell called Mahäraurava is compulsory for a person who maintains his own body by hurting others. In this hell, ruru animals known as kravyäda torment him and eat his flesh.) Whoever kills or blasphemes a Vaisnava and whoever is envious of a Vaisnava or angry with him, or whoever does not offer him obeisances or feel joy upon seeing him, certainly falls into a hellish condition." Further, in his Bhakti-sandarbha (313), Jéva Gosvami quotes.
"One who criticizes Lord Visnu and His devotees loses all the benefits accrued in a hundred pious births. Such a person rots in the Kumbhipaka hell where he is cooked in boiling oil and is bitten by worms as long as the sun and moon exist. One should therefore not even see the face of a person who blasphemes Lord Visnu and His devotees. Never try to associate with such persons.
"Similarly, Srila Prabhupada said: "Actually, if you insult His devotee, Krsna will never tolerate. Then you are finished. Just like a big man. If you insult him, he may think "All right, let him." But if you insult or do something harm to his child, he will never tolerate. (Lec. LA. 2.12.1973)
And as the holy name and the Supreme Lord are one and the same, the holy name too does not tolerate and forgive the criticism of the great souls. Vaisnava-ninda (offending and blaspheming a Vaisnava) is so serious that even one who hears it will certainly fall down from the path of bhakti. Lord Caitanya said: "My holy name, which is the kalpa-vrksa tree, destroys anyone who once blasphemes My servant". (Cb. Madhya 19.209) Whoever once criticizes My devotee Murari will be not delivered even by millions of baths in the Ganga and by chanting of the holy name." (Cb. Madhya 10.29-30) Even an advanced person like a sannyasi is getting reactions for offenses. Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu said: "If a sannyasi blasphemes an innocent person, the sannyasi will fall down. All of his piety will perish." An offending vaisnava is stopped from attaining ecstatic love for Lord Krsna. When one offends a dear devotee of Krsna, Krsna will not anymore accept his offerings of puja. His tongue will never utter the holy name of Krsna. Life after life he will be put into hell and suffer there. He will lose all his education, the results of his austerities, sadhana, and anything else he acquired. Even to a very powerful person who has attained Krsna prema everything willl be finished. Lord Caitanya said one who blasphemes the vaisnavas will suffer from leprosy, after which he will be punished by the agents of Yamaraja again and again for 84.000 births. And not only he will go to hell but his ancestors and forefathers as well.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SIN AND OFFENSE
The sinful reactions of many lifetimes of the greatly sinful person can be washed off very easily but the sinful reactions caused by vaisnava-aparadha cannot be washed off.
HOW TO AVOID OFFENSE
One should not be jealous, whether he is born in a family of gosvamis or has the title of gosvami awarded to him. As soon as anyone becomes envious, he falls from the platform of paramahamsa. If we consider the bodily defects of a Vaiñëava, we should understand that we are committing an offense at the lotus feet of the Vaiñëava.Bodily defects should be also overlooked. A devotee may sometime perform some abominable activity still because of his engagement in loving devotional service he should be considered a sadhu. (NOI p6)
In his Bhakti-ratnakara Srila Narahari Cakravarti writes:
1) "Be careful in your dealings with devotees and never create any ill feelings in their hearts.
2) Creating ill feelings with devotees will create impediments on one's path of spiritual life.
3) Please be very careful in dealing with the Vaisnavas. Beg their forgiveness for any offense with your heart and soul.
4) Be careful not to see a vaisnava's faults, and always sing their glories.
5) All of the previous great devotees have said, "No one can understand the behavior of the vaisnava.
6) Hold the devotees lotus feet to your head and always dive in the nectar of pure devotional service.
Actually, any vaisnava on any platform don't approve blasphemy of the Lord or His devotees.
We should always remember that we recruit members from people in general. It is not expected that every one of our members should be immediately to the standard qualification. The best thing for you is to set the example by your personal behavior and try to reform the others, not by criticizing but by friendly behavior. (SP-Letter 14 Oct 1971)
DEALING WITH SUPERIOR VAISNAVA
It is also an offense to consider an empowered Vaisnava an object of disciplinary action.to try to give him advice or to correct him.The advanced Vaisnva is always situated as the spiritual master, and the neophyte is always considered his disciple.
Those who blaspheme good people are sinners. They will suffer birth after birth. Even the mother of Lord Caitanya was punished for offending a vaisnava." Krsna so much likes his devotees that it is easily understandable why He dont like their offenders. Krsna says: Since I am not able to repay my devotees for their devotional service I perform atonement by following them to take their dust of their lotus feet for my purification. (SB 11.14.16) I am completely under the control of my devotees. Indeed, I am not at all independent. Because my devotees are completely devoid of material desires, I sit within the cores of their hearts. What to speak of my devotee, even those who are devotees of my devotee are very dear to me. So, if someone commits an offense at the lotus feet of such a vaisnava what will happen? It causes devastation similar to a mad elephant destroying a beautiful garden while running through it.
COUNTERACTING THE OFFENSES
Jiva Goswami in his Bhakti - sandarbha writes: In order to be free from the offenses to the great souls, one should please that same personality through constantly engaging in the process of bhakti beginning with the chanting of the holy name. Nama-kaumidi confirms this in the following way: "Offenses to great devotees can be relieved either by experiencing the calamities they bring or by attaining the favor of the devotee." It should be understood that begging for and acquiring forgiveness for an offense is not the same as achieving the blessings and favor of the offended vaisnava. If one actually achieves the favor of the offended vaisnava then one will be protected from Krsna's displeasure.
This is wonderfully exemplified in the story of Pundarika Vidyanidhi and Gadadhara Pandita. Upon seeing the material opulence of Srila Pundarika Vidyanidhi, doubts about his highly elevated position as pure devotee came to the mind of Gadhadara Pandita. Later when he realized the exalted position of Vidyanidhi Mahasay, Gadhadara felt great remorse and felt it necessary to take initiation from Pundarika in order to become free from what he considered to be his offense. (Cb. Madhya 7.44-113)
THE PROMISS OF LORD CAITANYA
I will personally deliver anyone who avoids criticizing others and once chants 'Krsna! I vow that this is the truth.
Compiled by Sri Sri Nitai Das Prabhu.