Have you heard the words aparādha (offense) and pāpa (sin)? What are pāpa and aparādha? Which of these two is more important and applicable in our lives?
Śrīla Gurudeva: What is pāpa?
Devotee: Sin. Any activity which is not beneficial for our progress and which we do not intentionally commit is called sin.
Śrīla Gurudeva: You don’t commit it on purpose?
Śrīla Gurudeva to Puṇḍarīka Prabhu in Hindi: What is sin?
Puṇḍarīka Prabhu: There are certain rules and regulations given in the Vedas for general people, as codes of conduct. If you don’t follow them in accordance with śāstra, then these transgressions are called sin. In Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā the terms akarma, vikarma, and karma have been explained. So any transgressions become pāpa. But offenses are completely different. It is very pertinent to Vaiṣṇavas.
Śrīla Gurudeva: Is this explanation alright? You heard? Then what is aparādha?
Devotee: Aparādha is any act of insult to Vaiṣṇavas, nāma, dhāma, etc. It bears a detrimental effect and hampers one’s advancement to pure bhakti. It can even cause one to leave the path of pure bhakti.
Śrīla Gurudeva: More?
Devotee: There are so many different kinds of aparādha, like sevā-aparādha, etc.
Śrīla Gurudeva: No, no, I don’t want this. I want you to define aparādha. [to audience] Can anyone say?
Śrīpāda Mādhava Mahārāja: Can I say?
Śrīla Gurudeva: Yes.
Śrīpāda Mādhava Mahārāja: Apa-rādha. Apa means to do away or inhibit and rādha means affection. Any behavior which inhibits one’s service to Śrī Hari, guru, and Vaiṣṇavas, and which hinders a devotee’s progress, is called aparādha. Aparādha is related to the soul while sin is related to the mind and the body.
Śrīla Gurudeva: Understand?
Śrīpāda Mādhava Mahārāja: Sin will go away easily, while aparādha tends to persist and is very difficult to get rid of.
Śrīla Gurudeva: Aparādha has two words: apa and rādha. Apa means which goes away and rādha means affection. Affection to whom? Rādha means ‘rādhanā rādha’. What are the activities of rādha that it is called as so? So what are the activities of rādha?
Śrīpāda Mādhava Mahārāja: Activities done to please Kṛṣṇa.
Śrīla Gurudeva: To serve Kṛṣṇa. So, if this is checked by any action, then it is called aparādha. Sin has a relation with the mind and body and aparādha has a relation with the soul. The soul is most affected by aparādha, while the victims of sin are the body and mind. So aparādha is counted or taken into consideration when the soul is affected. By what means does aparādha take place? Any malicious behavior towards Kṛṣṇa, His associates, and devotees who are chanting harināma, offense to Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, Śrīmatī Tulasī-devī, and especially Vaiṣṇavas, constitutes an aparādha. If any wrong is done against these personalities, then aparādha results. Certainly bhakti will be affected. By sin bhakti will not be affected. By sin you may have some mental problems, bodily inconveniences, and you may have to atone or repay for the sins, but by aparādha, you will lose bhakti. So we should be very careful in regards to committing an aparādha.
There are ten kinds of nāma-aparādha by which one’s love and affection for Kṛṣṇa, one’s honor and faith for the name, will go away. Everywhere it has been told, ‘Harer nāma, harer nāmaiva kevalam’ and Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has told: ‘parama vijayate śrī kṛṣṇa saṅkīrtanam.’ Everywhere such declarations have been made. If faith, honor and one’s bhakti go away by aparādha, then we will lose everything. So we should be very careful. Which is the first kind of nāma-aparādha, which is the most dangerous of all?
Devotee: Sādhu-nindā—blaspheming the devotees.
Śrīla Gurudeva: Why has guru-avajñā not been told as the foremost nāma-aparādha? Why?
Devotee: In the beginning of one’s devotional life, one may not have accepted a guru, so there is a chance of committing a vaiṣṇava-aparādha as the devotee has more of Vaiṣṇava association than guru’s association.
Śrīla Gurudeva: Can anyone else add or tell more? What about you, Prabhujī?
Devotee: I can’t tell.
Śrīla Gurudeva: Why?
Devotee: I can only speculate.
Śrīla Gurudeva: Can you tell?
Puṇḍarīka Prabhu: By the grace of sādhu we get a guru.
Śrīla Gurudeva: Navina?
Śrīpāda Mādhava Mahārāja: A devotee will not commit aparādha easily to the lotus feet of Gurudeva because he has so much respect for the lotus feet of Gurudeva, but for another devotee, he thinks, “I am also a Vaiṣṇava, he is also a Vaiṣṇava.” And in this way aparādha may result from this conception. (unclear)
Śrīla Gurudeva: If you have respect for Gurudeva and those who have given all these things, then you will be careful in this regard, as you will have sambhanda jñāna, a relationship with Śrī Guru and Vaiṣṇavas. In this way, there is very little chance to commit an aparādha to Gurudeva. One may think, “I am a Vaiṣṇava, he is a Vaiṣṇava, and all are Vaiṣṇavas.” In this way he will see everyone on the same level and he will care for none. So here, there is more chance to commit aparādha to the lotus feet of Vaiṣṇavas. This especially applies to those who have no clear vision when it comes to differentiating between a kaniṣṭha, madhyama, and an uttamā Vaiṣṇava. It is very essential to hear all these things. We have very little chance to associate with bona fide, rare sādhus who can help us, but who will teach us how to associate with them? We may have no faith in Guru and Guru does not have time to teach us. If Guru has no time to teach us, then how will we recognize a bona fide Vaiṣṇava? Very often, in our talks between one another, we may joke with each other and poke fun at a Vaiṣṇava and as a result we may end up being guilty of vaiṣṇava-aparādha. Very often this happens. So we should be very careful.
There may be a first class Vaiṣṇava, who is like our Gurudeva. But we have no chance to hear from him, hence we cannot see him like our Gurudeva and our faith towards him may not arise the same way it would towards our Gurudeva. In that way, we can end up offending him and our faith towards the holy name will slacken. Even if a Vaiṣṇava is not of the highest caliber, but nonetheless he is chanting the holy name, then that that person must be respected, or else Nāma Prabhu will think, “This devotee is chanting My name, but he is criticizing this other person.” In this way the offender will gradually lose his faith and will give up the line of bhakti.
The third offense is guru-avajñā (to disobey guru). Here guru-ninda (criticizing guru) has not been mentioned because apparently he will not do that, but he may do avajñā. What avajñā? An instance is when the disciple is in the temple, worshipping Ṭhākurajī, and Guru will come at that time. The disciple may think, “Gurujī has told me to worship Ṭhākurajī, so I am worshipping as he said, and after the worship I will see to his needs.” This is avajñā to guru. We should not do like this. When Gurudeva comes, then we must at once go and see to his needs and serve and then continue our worship. In arcana we cannot speak anything so we use this injunction to our benefit and think, “Oh, a Vaishnava has come, but I cannot receive him since I am doing arcana.” The Vaiṣṇava may even be our śikṣā-guru, but we may neglect him and offend him. We should not behave like this. The Vaiṣṇava may need something, but we continue with our arcana.
We may also observe that the Vaiṣṇava (dīkṣā or śikṣā-guru) is sleeping and using the bathroom just like we do. We may think, “There is no difference between the Vaiṣṇava and me; he may know more śāstra, that’s all, that is the only difference between him and me.” This will result in avajñā. There is every chance of this, though we may not do nindā (criticize), there is every chance of us doing avajñā. We may do avajñā not only to Gurudeva, but to śikṣā-guru, vartma-pradarśaka-guru, Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (is also a guru), and caitya-guru.
[The third offense is to criticize the śāstras]
Śrīla Gurudeva: We may see that in one śāstra there is a contradicting claim when compared to another śāstra. In Viṣṇu-Purāṇa, there is something different from Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, and in the Padma-Purāṇa there is another contradiction. What to do? Don’t do avajñā or nindā of śāstra for this shortcoming of yours, where you are unable to reconcile. The instructions of the śāstras are told for several persons of varying qualifications and different classes. Different instructions are told for different devotees, so there is no contradiction. We should be very careful. In some śāstras it has been told to not do avajñā of the demigods, but another śāstra states to not place the demigods on an equal level with Kṛṣṇa. Unable to reconcile, we may do avajñā. What to do in such an instance? Whom should we follow? We should follow both the instructions. We should not do nindā or avajñā for any demigods but we should not consider them equal with Kṛṣṇa. For instance, we should offer our respects to Vaiṣṇavī-devī but we should not consider Vaiṣṇavī-devī to be on the same level as Kṛṣṇa. So we should not criticize any demigods or śāstra.
Śrīla Gurudeva: What is artha-vāda?
Śrīla Gurudeva: In śāstra it has been told that by only one name all sins will go away and prema will come. But we think, “Prema is not coming!” So we may doubt the glories of the name. Actually the name we chant is not bona fide. By uttering the name purely even once, indeed, all sins will go and prema will come. On the other hand, we think the name we are uttering is śuddha-nāma, though it may be nāma-aparādha or nāma-ābhāsa. So weighed down by this conception we think, “Why is prema is not coming?” We should be of the firm conviction that one śuddha-nāma will bestow all the fruits needed for perfecting our bhakti and for developing prema-bhakti. Then harināma kalpanam. Kalpanam means?
Devotee: One feels the glories of the holy name are imagination.
Śrīla Gurudeva: The glories of the holy name mentioned in the scriptures are actually not in full. The glories have only been told partly, not fully. The glories of the holy name are not merely imagination. But one may think, “I have become poor due to chanting the holy name.” The reason is that opulence is an hindrance to Vaiṣṇavism. Another reason for one’s poverty may be that Kṛṣṇa thought, “Oh, My devotee has some attachment to this opulence, so I should remove it, or he may become attached,” as we see in the case of Ajāmila. Then?
Śrīpāda Mādhava Mahārāja:
nāmno balād yasya hi pāpa-buddhir
na vidyate tasya yamair hi śuddhiḥ
[Those who commit sin relying on the purifying power of chanting harināma to overcome the negative reactions are the worst offenders; no amount of penances, yoga, dhyāna, etc., can absolve their offense.’]
Śrīla Gurudeva: One may think, “The nāma is so powerful, so I will do sin and aparādha, and later I will utter harināma and nullify the sins and offenses.” In this way, doing sin again and again and thinking to rectify it by chanting the holy name, offense comes as a fruit. Another offense is giving the name to those who are not qualified. For the unqualified, you should give hari-kathā, so that their faith in kṛṣṇa-nāma increases, and once this is seen, harināma should be given to them. You can chant ‘Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa’ to plants and grasses and other beings. There is nothing wrong in this. We are moving about and chanting very loudly, so that the inanimate beings can listen. This chanting is not aparādha. But giving harināma and initiation to the unfaithful is an offense. One many tell another to chant one lakh of harināma, study the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam and do arcana, but despite receiving these instructions, the disciple does not follow and gives up, then this instance leads to offense as harināma was given to the unfaithful. So first make the aspiring devotees śraddhāluḥ (faithful) by explaining the glories of harināma.
If you are chanting and hearing again and again that, “You are not this body, you are the soul, the part and parcel and servant of Kṛṣṇa,” you may consider yourself a Vaiṣṇava, and you may even be initiated to support your claim, and you may be chanting the holy name, but still you maintain a bodily conception that, “I am this body.” You may have so many attachments and you may be attracted to ladies so much. These conceptions and mentalities lead to offenses.
There are many sevā aparādhas, but they are not so powerful that if committed, you may lose your bhakti. Vaiṣṇavas are so merciful, and they will not take into consideration your offense. But Nāma Prabhu and His foot dust will take offense. The Vaiṣṇavas, being so merciful and liberal, will not consider one’s offences, but Nāma Prabhu will. Offenses are so dangerous. If you have done any wrong to the lotus feet of Śrī Guru, Vaiṣṇavas, śāstra, and all other related things, then you should go to them and beg for forgiveness. They may tell you, “Go away, I will not forgive you.” In actuality they have forgiven, but we may think, “Oh, what if he doesn’t forgive me? I will chant and nullify the offense.” But your chanting will not nullify the offense. Once the offense has been committed to the Vaiṣṇava, irrespective of your unawareness of the offense, the fruit of the offense will be that ruci (taste) will not arise for the holy name. This will be the fruit of aparādha.
If you are neglectful when an aparādha is being committed, then everything is finished. Sins are not as seriously detrimental as an aparādha, but aparādhas committed can seriously harm our bhakti. Aparādhas are so dangerous, especially the ones committed in the holy dhāmas like Śrī Vṛndāvana, Śrī Navadvīpa, and Śrī Jagannātha Purī-dhāma, and in the places where Śrī Hari, Guru, and Vaiṣṇavas reside. Such offenses are bhayankara (fearsome in their consequences).
The second offense:
śivasya śrī-viṣṇor ya iha guṇa-nāmādi-sakalaṁ
dhiyā bhinnaṁ paśyet sa khalu hari-nāmāhita-karaḥ
[It is an offense to consider the most auspicious names, beauty, qualities, and pastimes of the Supreme Lord, Śrī Viṣṇu, as mundane and different from Him. It is also offensive to equate devas like Lord Śiva with the Supreme Godhead, Śrī Viṣṇu, or think that they are independent of the control of Śrī Viṣṇu.’]
This offense is also very dangerous. Śaṅkara is not a demigod. He is a bona fide Vaiṣṇava. We should not think that the demigods are the same as Kṛṣṇa. Rāma and Kṛṣṇa are the same, but Śaṅkara, Brahmā, Rāma, and Kṛṣṇa are not the same. There are differences amongst them, so we should be very careful. We should view Śaṅkara and Brahma in the light of being our gurus. We should think they are part and parcels of Kṛṣṇa, if they are jīva-tattva. Sometimes they are not jīva-tattva, for Kṛṣṇa Himself becomes Brahma and Śaṅkara. At that time there is no bheda (difference), but if they are jīva-tattva, then there is bheda (difference). But yet, even if Śaṅkara and Brahmā belong to jīva-tattva, know that they are very bona fide Vaiṣṇavas, who are like our gurus. Vaiṣṇavānāṁ yata śambhu. Brahmā is our Ādi-Guru. So we should not think that Brahmā and Śaṅkara are the same as Kṛṣṇa, but we should know them as Vaiṣṇavas. Thus we see that there are many kinds of aparādhas; if you are serious in avoiding them, then you can advance in Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Nowadays, we are not afraid of committing aparādhas. We are engaged in committing aparādhas so much so that it seems as if it is an irrevocable dictate of our minds. That is why so many disciples of Svāmījī, who despite having so much of his association, are falling away from the path of bhakti and are involved in activities totally unfavorable to their bhakti. So we should be careful and not entangle ourselves in these things. We should also be careful to not criticize the persons who have fallen away from the path of bhakti, otherwise their offenses, sins, and misdoings will also come and enter us.
Brajanātha Prabhu: What if anyone offends one’s guru? Does this temperament of not criticizing apply here?
Śrīla Gurudeva: Even then don’t criticize. Silence them with scriptural knowledge. We will answer them on the basis of śāstra. If you feel you are powerful like Hanumān, then you can also give them a slap and tell them to not do such offenses. If you are not so powerful, then silence them with your words. The scriptures should be the basis of your words. If you are unable to do anything, then just chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra and go take a bath in the Gaṅgā or Yamunā.
Gaura Premānande! Hari Haribol!
What if a person has not committed any aparādha but is also not inclined to harināma and hari-kathā? This will not do. So for serving harināma and hari-kathā, following these instructions is most essential.
What if a guru orders his disciple to carry out instructions which are not in line with bhakti? What should a disciple do then? The disciple should not criticize, but should contemplate and deeply think if his spiritual master’s orders are in accordance with the injunctions of śāstra. When the disciple submits his predicament to the guru, the guru may say, “What I am ordering you to do, you should do without any doubt.” What should a disciple do then? No harm will befall the disciple if he rejects the guru. The disciple should tell the ‘guru’, “Please be merciful to me, for I am rejecting you.” Even if the ‘guru’ is held in high esteem by the disciple, the disciple should do the needful. If the ‘guru’ is telling many silly things, which are not in line with śāstra and bhakti, then you should understand that he is certainly not a guru who is following śāstra and guru-paramparā. So such a ‘guru’ is fit to be rejected.
If the guru does not know any śāstra, then the guru should not be rejected, but instead should be respected. But if the ‘guru’ is committing offenses against śāstra, guru, and Vaiṣṇavas, then he should be rejected at once, without a moment’s delay. But if Gurudeva has not read any śāstra and cannot satisfy his disciple with scriptural evidence, but on the contrary, he is chanting so much and has so much attachment to harināma, he is a true devotee from his heart, then what should one think? Then you should think that even though he does not know so much śāstra, he should be deeply respected. The disciple should then request his Gurudeva, “Gurudeva, can I go to such and such Vaiṣṇava for a deeper understanding of bhakti?” His Gurudeva will then reply, “Certainly, I too will accompany you.”
If the guru does not even know A, B, C, or D, no harm, like Śrīla Haridāsa Ṭhākura, and Śrīla Gaura Kishora dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja may seem to be not so learned from the material perspective, but yet they were mahā-bhāgavata devotees of the highest caliber. Love, affection, and honor for Śrī Guru and Vaiṣṇavas are most important. If you do anything contrary to the orders of such a guru, then offense will be committed.
Special circumstances call for special considerations. You know the history of Bhīṣma and Paraśurāma? Paraśurāma told Bhīṣma, “You should marry, for you have conquered the opposing princes and captured Ambā, Ambikā, and Ambālikā, so you should obey my orders and marry.”
Bhīṣma replied, “I have made a vow to never marry, so I cannot.”
Paraśurāma then challenged Bhīṣma to a fight and Bhīṣma even defeated Paraśurāma in the duel. Then Brahmā and others came and made a compromise between Paraśurāma and Bhīṣma. Bhīṣma-pitāmaha was a tattvajña and very great devotee.
Before you choose a guru, you should spend time with him and try to realize if he can solve all your doubts, and if he is a bona fide guru. We should not be hasty and nañve and accept a guru who is ineligible, or who is attached to ladies and money. If we do so, we will repent. The guru may even say, “Oh, I need money for the service of Śrī Guru and Vaiṣṇavas, I also need to build a temple.” So in this way the guru may try to deceive his disciple for in actuality the money is only filling his pockets for his own sense gratification. When the disciple realizes the truth, then he will think, “Oh, my Guru is fallen, what should I do now, what should I do?” So we should be careful.
The disciple must search and pray for the association of a bona fide guru who can help him; even kula gurus (family gurus) who have deviated must be rejected.
Accepting a guru is not a matter for only a few years or for even one life. Accepting a bona fide guru is not a child’s play and this relationship with a bona fide guru is for eternity. So we should be very careful in accepting a guru.
Gaura Premānande! Hari Haribol!
[Transcribed by Govardhana dasa, edited by Rasik Mohan das. Original file name: SANFRAN19960705 137]