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Bhaktiyoga - practical I.

Ajnata Sukrti
Vaisnava aparadha and general criticism
Artha and Kama vs. Yoga

Ajnata Sukrti

nrnam janma sahasrena bhaktih sukrtinam bhavet
kalau bhaktih kalau bhaktir bhaktya krsnah purah sthitah

Those persons who have accumulated sufficient sukrti (special pious activities) for thousands of births achieve bhakti because by execution of bhakti alone, one is able to situate himself in the abode of the Supreme Lord Krsna. (Padma Purana, Uttara Khanda 194.20)

svayam phala-rupeti brahma-kumarah

But the son of Brahma says that bhakti is its own fruit. (Narada Bhakti Sutra 30)

tasyah sadhanani gayanty acaryah

Standard authorities have described the methods for achieving devotional service. (Narada Bhakti Sutra 34)

tat tu visaya-tyagat sanga-tyagac ca

One achieves bhakti by giving up sense gratification and mundane association. (Narada Bhakti Sutra 35)

avyavrtta-bhajanat

One achieves bhakti by worshiping the Lord ceaselessly. (Narada Bhakti Sutra 36)

loke 'pi bhagavad-guna-sravana-kirtanat

One achieves bhakti by hearing and chanting about the Supreme Lord's special qualities, even while engaged in the ordinary activities of life in this world. (Narada Bhakti Sutra 37)

mukhyatas tu mahat-krpayaiva bhagavat-krpa-lesad va

Primarily, however, one develops bhakti by the mercy of great souls, or by a small drop of the Lord's mercy. (Narada Bhakti Sutra 38)

mahat-sangas tu durlabho 'gamyo 'moghas ca

The association of great souls is rarely obtained, difficult to understand, and infallible. (Narada Bhakti Sutra 39)

labhyate 'pi tat-krpayaiva

The association of great souls can be attained - but only by the Lord's mercy. (Narada Bhakti Sutra 40)

tasmins taj-jane bhedabhavat

[One can attain bhakti either by the association of the Lord's pure devotees or directly by the Lord's mercy because] the Lord and His pure devotees are nondifferent. (Narada Bhakti Sutra 41)

SB 10.47.24 lists activities ranked among ajnata sukrti.

bhaktistu bhagavad-bhakta-
sangena parijayate
sat-sangah prapyate pumbhih
sukrtaih purvasancitaih

"Devotional sentiments are evoked by the purifying association of advanced devotees. The jiva can come into close contact with a pure devotee only by accruing the pious results of many previous births." (Brhan-naradiya Purana)

"Malyavan replied, 'Oh lord, it was by the extreme mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krsna (Vasudeva) and also by the powerful influence of the Jaya Ekadasi, that we were released from our suffering condition as pisacas. This is the truth, Oh master: Because we executed devotional service to Lord Visnu (even performed unknowingly - by ajnata sukrti) by observing the day most dear to Him, we have happily been restored to our former status." (Bhavisya-uttara Purana, on glories of Magha-sukla, or Jaya Ekadasi)

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura in his Jaiva Dharma elaborates on the topic of sukrti. In the discussion between Babaji and Vrajanatha, ch. 17, he makes the following statements:

Vrajanatha: Guruji, you say that sukrti brings a person in contact with a saintly soul; what is sukrti? Is it a part of karma (fruitive activity) or jnana (knowledge)?

Babaji: According to the scriptures, pious auspicious activities are called sukrti. They are of two varieties: bhakti-pravartaka (which invokes devotional service), and avantaraphala-pravartaka (which be gets irrelevant extraneous results). Fruitive activities enunciated in the naimittika-dharma or the quasi-permanent religious duties, the empirical knowledge of sankhya philosophy, etc. are examples of sukrti which brings extraneous results. Saintly association, visiting spiritually elevating pilgrimages (dhamas), observing devotional vows (Ekadasi, etc.) and so on, are bhakti-pravartaka sukrti. Bhakti-pravartaka sukrti, when accumulated, becomes a force and it generates devotion to Krsna; whereas the avantaraphala-pravartaka sukrti rewards temporary material results and then exhausts itself.

All meritorious deeds such as: giving in charity, performing austerity, etc. dispenses sense-gratificatory boons. Realization of Brahman through monistic empirical knowledge is a sukrti which brings one liberation (mukti). However none of these sukrtis are capable of adding up to give attachment for devotional service. The company of pure devotees; observing vows conducive to devotional service like Ekadasi, Janmastami, Gaura Purnima; offering service to Tulasidevi, to Lord Visnu's temple; honoring mahaprasada (remnants of a pure devotee); circumambulating and worshiping the holy dhamas are all bhakti-pravartaka sukrti.

V: A person, afflicted by the pangs of material existence desires to end his suffering caused by nescience, earnestly approaches the shelter of Lord Hari's lotus feet, wanting to surrender himself; will he not be awarded devotional service?

B: If a person becomes conscious, through his power of discrimination, of the distress inflicted upon him by nescience, he comprehends that material life is unreal and contaminated. When he realizes that the Supreme Lord's lotus feet and His unalloyed, intimate devotees are his only sole sanctuaries and he single-mindedly endeavors to surrender to the Lord, first he finds the protective association of the saintly souls who are engrossed in love of Godhead. This sublime association results in acquiring the prime sukrti of human life, - which in turn rewards him the greatest benediction of attaining the lotus feet of the Lord.

His initial mood of renunciation and state of awakened consciousness act as indirect, secondary stepping stones toward his devotional goal. Saintly association (sadhu-sanga) is an indispensable hence a principle means to attain pure devotional service at the lotus feet of Krsna.

V: Even if we place karma, jnana, vairagya (renunciation) and viveka (awakened conscience) as the secondary causes for bhakti, why not call them bhakti-pravartaka sukrti?

B: We have strong reservations regarding this opinion. The results of these performances are extraneous to the real goal and most often, after awarding the results they become redundant and ineffectual. Karma, after pushing the jiva into the pool of material enjoyment, dries up and leaves. Vairagya and viveka (renunciation and empirical queries) often elevates jiva to realize non-dual Brahman and no further, due to their own inadequacy. The monistic, nondual Brahman realization usually deprives jiva from receiving shelter at the Supreme Lord's lotus feet. Therefore, they cannot be assertively termed bhakti-pravartaka sukrti; but in rare instances someone may be carried up by them to the portal of bhakti - these instances are exceptions, not the rule. Whereas sadhu-sanga has no irrelevant results as side effects, it elevates the person to the highest realization - love of Godhead (prema), as confirmed in the Srimad Bhagavatam:

satam prasangan mama virya-samvido
bhavanti hrt-karna rasayanah kathah
taj-josanad asv apavarga-vartamani
sraddha ratir bhaktir-anukramisyati

(In the association of pure devotees, discussion of the pastimes and activities of the Supreme Lord is very pleasing and satisfying to the ear and the heart. By cultivating such knowledge one gradually becomes advanced on the path of liberation, and thereafter he is freed, and his attraction (for the Lord) becomes fixed. Then real devotion and devotional service begins. SB 3.25.25)

V: Thus sadhu-sanga is established as being the only bhakti-pravartaka sukrti. About the procedure, is hearing spiritual topics from sadhus followed by attaining devotional service?

B: All right, I will explain to you the step by step development, listen carefully. While wandering through different life species a jiva is born as a human. He must perform, for whatever reasons, providential or otherwise, bhakti-pravartaka sukrti in the form of any one of the limbs of pure devotional service. For example - fasting on Ekadasi and other devotionally potent and important spiritual occasions; visiting and respecting holy places of the Supreme Lord's pastimes; hearing kirtana from the lips of a renounced and humble Vaisnava sadhu. But those persons who desire sense gratification (bhukti) and liberation (mukti) will not get the result of bhakti-pravartaka sukrti by participating in any of these.

If innocent persons, even devoid of philosophical understanding, perform these activities; either by accident, or by arrangement of circumstance or because of social etiquette, but without thinking of bhukti and mukti, then they will certainly obtain the result of bhakti-pravartaka sukrti. And when such sukrti accumulates over many lifetimes, they transform into sraddha, or faith in the process of pure devotional service. Sraddha then gives birth to the desire to associate with pure devotees. Pure association inspires steady cultivation of regulative devotional practices (sadhana), meditation and chanting (bhajana).

Regular bhajana destroys the unwanted, material desires in heart (anartha). When anarthas are uprooted the initial sraddha is transformed into unflinching faith (nistha). Nistha, through gradual purification increases taste for devotional service (ruci). Ruci reveals the sublime beauty of bhakti and it becomes converted to strong attachments for bhakti (asakti). When asakti fully blossoms, loving spiritual emotions (bhava, rati) floods the heart. All the different bhavas in concert creates spiritual humor (rasa), leading to love of Godhead (prema).

The point to note is, that from seeing a pure sadhu person person with sukrti develops the inclination to associate with him and emulate his examples. The conclusion is that the first time contact with a sadhu, immaterial of what brought it about, it created sraddha in the heart. Sraddha then inspired the person to approach a pure devotee seeing him in a new light - this is the second stage of sadhu-sanga. Another term for sraddha is surrender or saranapatti. The first stage of sadhu-sanga is characterized by the influence, due to proximity, of the Supreme Lord's favored place, festive days, objects, paraphernalia and recipient of mercy (pure devotee). The Bhagavad-gita describes the symptoms of saranapatti, which is the result of the first stage of sadhu-sanga, in the following verse:

sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja
aham tvam sarva-papebhyo moksayisyami ma sucah

(Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear. BG 18.66)

The purport of this verse is, that all varieties of religion include: smarta, astanga-yoga, sankhya, jnana, vairagya etc.(naimittika religion). The act of abandoning must be conducted on the basis of proper comprehension that the practice of these religions does not tantamount to the execution of the prime necessity of human existence (prayojana). Supreme Lord Krsna, the ever youthful hero of Vraja, the embodiment of eternality, absolute knowledge and bliss, is the sole goal of human existence. Knowing this the jiva must relinquish the desire for bhukti and mukti and surrender to Krsna - this is real sraddha. And when such a level of sraddha is enthroned in jiva's heart, he sheds tears of remorse (for lost time) and applies himself with gusto in following a pure Vaisnava sadhu. This time sadhu-sanga helps him to find the shelter of a spiritual master (guru).

"The soul travels through many lifetimes in different bodies and at last gets a chance at the rare human birth, which is auspicious in every respect. The soul has rotated through 8,400,000 different species. It is by ajnata sukrti or unintentional pious activities that the soul finally attains a human body. A birth in the human form is most uncommon, because only in that body are spiritual activities possible to perform, unlike any other species." (Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Harinama Cintamani, ch. 6)

Srila Prabhupada: "The beginning of contact with Krishna Consciousness is the beginning of good fortune. That some people may come and others may not, this is also due to association. Suppose a man accidentally comes in contact with our society and gives some service willingly or unwillingly, that is the beginning of his fortunate life. We go from door to door canvassing people to join Krishna Consciousness movement means that we are trying to make them fortunate. Anyone who gives some service to this Krishna Consciousness movement is fortunate proportionately. At least the seed of his fortunate life is sown there. Whether he gives service of some sort, willingly or even unwillingly, the seed is sown, and the fortune will come proportionately. Even if somebody looks shabby and unclean, if he simply says this Krishna Consciousness is very nice thing, even he is not able to take full advantage of it at the time, still he is far more fortunate than any Rockefeller." (Letter to: Tosana Krsna -- Los Angeles 13 November, 1968)

Morning Walk, Mayapur, March 14, 1976, 760314MW.MAY:

Panca-dravida: Srila Prabhupada, what is our fortune that we've come in contact with a qualified guru? What have we done to qualify to come in contact with you?

Revatinandana: In other words, why do some come and others not come?

Prabhupada: It is the ajnata-sukrti, say. Ajnata-sukrti. You might have done something, very pious activities, which you do not know, but on the effect of...

Madhudvisa: So it seems like it's up to chance, then.

Prabhupada: No chance. Just like a sinful man. Some saintly person comes to him and he gives some money to him. He does not know that "I am doing very pious activity," but because he has given, he becomes pious.

Revatinandana: If not even a blade of grass moves unless Krsna sanctions it, then why does someone have the opportunity to perform such ajnata-sukrti, another person not?

Prabhupada: Yes, Krsna wants... Suppose a saintly person comes to a very sinful man. He needs some money. Immediately Krsna says, "Give him some money. He requires." So he says, "All right, sir, take it." So Krsna's desires, he gives. Unless Krsna dictates from within, how he can give?

Harisauri: So then where is the question of free will? If I want to give or not give...

Prabhupada: No, no, free will under Krsna. You can become free will and become a big man immediately. Your free will sanctioned by Krsna. You are not so free that whatever you like, you can do.

Madhudvisa: So even if I want to perform some ajnata-sukrti, it is only by Krsna's mercy that I will do it.

Prabhupada: Yes. That is stated by Caitanya Mahaprabhu. (CC Madhya 19.151)

brahmanda bhramite kona bhagyavan jiva
guru-krsna-krpaya paya bhakti lata bija

As soon as he gives to a saintly person, bhakta, he immediately acquires some asset of future development. Immediately.

Acyutananda: If someone gives to a person for spiritual..., consciously for spiritual improvement...

Prabhupada: There is no question of...

Acyutananda: ...and the person misuses the money, does he benefit?

Prabhupada: Eh?

Acyutananda: If a man says, "I am giving you this donation because it is a spiritual organization," but if the money is misused, does that man benefit?

Prabhupada: If money is misused, then both of them become implicated. If it is not used for Krsna, then both of them becomes under the laws of karma.

Acyutananda: But that man is sincere.

Prabhupada: Well, this word sincere, there is no meaning unless he is a devotee. Ei bala ei manda sab mano dharma: "These are all mental concoction." There is no meaning. "This man is good. This man is sincere. This man is bad. This man is..." They are all mental concoction. Only good is he who is Krsna conscious. Others all rascals.

Harisauri: So if Krsna has given the dictation, then is He dictating every sinful man to give?

Prabhupada: Hm?

Harisauri: Is he dictating every sinful man to give?

Prabhupada: Why do you question like that? Krsna is so foolish that He will dictate to give to a foolish, er, sinful man? It is odd question.

Harisauri: This is that point that does one come to..., does one get contact with a pure devotee and advance like that from his own free will, from accepting the mercy of the spiritual master or not?

Prabhupada: What does he say? Hm?

Harisauri: The point.... The point...

Prabhupada: Somebody answer.

Jayadvaita: Not every sinful man is dictated to give money; otherwise they'd all be giving us money. They're all sinful. We'd be getting money from everyone.

Revatinandana: But then the question is why some and not others also?

Trivikrama: Krsna is in everyone's heart.

Gurukrpa: But some are innocent.

Prabhupada: That is Krsna's dictation.

Revatinandana: Yes.

Prabhupada: Yes. And you cannot bind Krsna to dictate in a similar way. If He likes, He can ask a sinful man, "Do this." If He doesn't like, He may not act. That is Krsna.

Revatinandana: So ultimately it is simply by the mercy of Krsna...

Prabhupada: Yes.

Revatinandana: ...that he comes back to Krsna.

Prabhupada: Yes. So it is Krsna's business where to show mercy, where not to show. You cannot oblige Him that "You show mercy everywhere." No. Naham prakasah sarvasya yoga-maya-samavrtah. Krsna.... You cannot oblige Krsna, "You do this." That is not Krsna. That is not Krsna. If one is obliged to act to your dictation, then he is not Krsna. Therefore whatever Krsna likes, He'll do. You cannot oblige Him that "You have to do it." No. That is karma-mimamsa, that "If good work gives good result, so why should we care for Krsna? We shall do the good work." That is... Ordinary people, they think like that. Karma-mimamsa. "If I do good work, Krsna will be obliged to give me good effect. Why shall I care for Krsna?" That is karma-mimamsa. "Work is final. Do good work, that's all." They say like that. But we say, even if you do good work, if Krsna does not want it, then it will not produce good result. That is Krsna.

Trivikrama: We don't have the mercy of Krsna yet, so...

Prabhupada: No, no. Everyone has got the mercy, but that mercy is not obligatory. If He likes, He can give you mercy; if He does not like, He may not.

Trivikrama: But everyone has it.

Prabhupada: Everyone... He is giving mercy. That is general. But if He does not like, He may not give you. You cannot make Him obliged.

Panca-dravida: So why is it, then, if it's a question of ajnata-sukrti... The Indians, from their birth they're watering Tulasi, they're chanting Hare Krsna, they're doing so many activities, but mostly your disciples are foreigners?

Prabhupada: So that... No, means that is temporary. They may come again. It will never go in vain. Just like this cloud. Cloud is meant for raining. Now it is not raining, but when there is sufficient cloud, it will rain. You cannot say there is no rain. There is, but it is not sufficiently collected. When it is sufficiently collected, then.

Giriraja Swami, Nectar of Devotion course, Vrindavan 1994(?):

Well, there's something called ajnata-sukrti, which means some activity that's favorable to Krsna consciousness in which the person is not aware of the fact that he is doing devotional service. So, in a broad definition of bhakti, just like someone sees a devotee and he just appreciates that the devotee is nice, so that appreciation... one makes advancement by that appreciation, but he doesn't know that the person is a devotee and that he is engaged in devotional service, but he just appreciates the person, so the person makes advancement. Now whether we want to say that's devotional service or something preliminary to devotional service, it would depend, because definitions can be more broad or more narrow and when Srila Prabhupada is in a more generous mood, he may call it devotional service, but when he's discussing in a more strict way, it becomes like a preliminary activity and when enough of such preliminary activities accumulate, then one can engage in devotional service. But you see it can't be considered pious activity, because devotional service isn't caused by anything material, so no amount of pious activity can cause devotional service to manifest. But these activities, they're like devotional service, but they're not exactly devotional service.

...they're favorable to the devotee, the devotee is related to Krsna, so therefore they're favorable to Krsna and Krsna will be pleased, that "O, he's appreciating My devotee..."

Bhaktivinoda Thakura has said that there are two types of fortunate activities. One which leads to bhakti and one which doesn't lead to bhakti and the type that doesn't lead to bhakti is not really fortunate. So activities like giving in charity may help or they may not help, but ajnata-sukrti, which means activities favorable to Krsna consciousness done without knowledge, that will definitely lead to Krsna consciousness. Just like when Srila Prabhupada went to New York - at one of the programs he wanted to sell his books after the program, so he asked someone in the audience to help him sell his books. So the person didn't know what is Krsna consciousness, who is Srila Prabhupada, what is devotional service, but he did unknowingly something. So that's ajnata-sukrti and when such ajnata-sukrti accumulates, then one becomes very open to Krsna consciousness.

Pious activity, especially in relation to pure devotees, makes one fortunate. But we cannot say that... I'll give an example: the same topic was discussed with Srila Prabhupada. And Srila Prabhupada was saying, that you cannot say that bhakti is caused by karma, because that would mean that bhakti is subservient to karma; that means that Krsna has to give bhakti. So this is the karma-mimamsa theory: that everything is karma and if one does good karma, God has to give the result. So don't care for God, just care for karma. So that's the karma-mimamsa theory. So if bhakti were, if one could get bhakti by karma, then where is Krsna, where is Krsna's independence. So Srila Prabhupada gave the example that ajnata-sukrti, it accumulates. Like sometimes we see many pious people in India, people who are more pious than we were. They chant, they pour water on Tulasidevi and they're vegetarian and so many things. But they don't actually take to devotional service. But Srila Prabhupada said "Yes, but whatever they are doing is not going in vain. It's all

So Raghubir Prabhu also made a good point, that with a moment's association, you can get some ajnata-sukrti and ultimately the ajnata-sukrti could lead to bhakti.

Question: Does ajnata-sukrti only come in the association of devotees or ...the Deities in the temple.

GS: That also counts.

GS: Well, there are degrees of benefit in ajnata-sukrti, but if one performs one of the 64 items of devotional service, even by accident, he gets ajnata-sukrti. So if he by accident performs one of the five potent forms of devotional service, then he'll get more benefit. But although one can get ajnata-sukrti without association with the pure devotee, one can't get the seed of bhakti without the mercy of the pure devotee except in rare cases where one gets it directly from Krsna.

Question: The seed then sprouts into the creeper of devotion. Isn't that the idea of the bhakti-lata? But then if one commits offenses, serious offenses, then the creeper may be vanquished, then what about the seed or the root, sort of at its most basic level of existence?

GS: If we commit offenses, then the growth of the plant can be curtailed. If we commit the mad elephant offense, then all of the growth can be completely trampled and destroyed, but the seed is not destroyed.

Domanda: Qual'e' il primo passo verso il servizio devozionale?

Risposta: Usualmente il primo passo si chiama ajnata-sukriti, o l'atto di pieta senza conoscere che fai qualcosa pio. Questo non c'e la pieta normale che la gente generalmente fa (nutrire gli infamati, aprire i ospedali e cosi via) pero gli atti conneti con il servizio devozionale come l'apprezzazione delle attivita dei devoti, visitare il tempio e partecipare nella programma, partecipare nel varii festivali, sentire e cantare la mahamantra, dare la offerta, mangiare il prasadam, leggere il libro, qualunque aiuto a devoti, venire in contatto con il pure devoto, ascolto e rispetto verso puro devoto.

Tutto questo sono risultati di misericordia di Krishna e i Suoi devoti che offrono queste possibilita alle anime condizionate. Krishna nel nostro cuore ci da la idea di comportarsi appropriamente nelle queste situazioni e dipende da noi se Li ascolteremo...

Influence of sin and aparadha on ajnata-sukrti

Jayapataka Swami: Sukrti is quite esoteric and not a lot is written about it. However, in CC Madhya-lila Vaisnava aparadha has been termed as "matal-hati" or the mad-elephant offense. IN CC it states: "upare va cinde tar sukhe jai pata" - that the creeper of devotional service is pulled out of the ground or torn to shreds and as a result the leaves dry and fall of the tree in due course (my literal translation). Whereas a weed only competes or stunts the growth of the devotional creeper, a Vaisnava aparadha talks about uprooting it! Wouldn't you consider uprooting to be a serious diminishment due to aparadha? Taking the words literally it seems like an almost total sukrti bankruptcy.

You are certainly correct in saying that due to sin or "papa" one can't destroy sukrti, but only cover it. I don't find anything contradictory by that statement.

In CC it states that after one accepts a bona fide spiritual master if one commits the great offense of rejecting him, one cannot get another bona fide spiritual master for 10 million births! Isn't that an extraordinary amount of time to be covered for? The point is that aparadha can seriously affect our sukrti.

Whether sukrti is diminished or covered, the point is that aparadha is what does it. I don't want to split hairs. There isn't a lot spoken about sukrti as compared to karma (pious and impious reactions). Even though we may have accumulated a lot of sukrti we should never think that we can commit aparadha against any Vaisnava, the guru, the holy name, the Deity, etc. with impugn, i.e. that nothing can affect us. It can seriously affect us and therefore we should be careful.

Karma-unmukhi-sukrti - virtue or merit from pious acts
Jnana-unmukhi-sukrti - virtue or merit from the cultivation of knowledge
Bhakty-unmukhi-sukrti - virtue or merit from devotional activities

Jan: The difference between papa (material sin) and aparadha (spiritual sin) is dealt with in chapter 2.4 of the well-known book Le Matin des Magiciens (The Morning of the Magicians) by Pauwels and Bergier (approximately in the middle of the book). It's a passage quoted from the introduction to the novel The White Nation by Arthur Machen, member of the English esoteric society Golden Dawn founded in 1867 and linked to Rosicrucians and Freemasons.

Vaisnava aparadha and general criticism

yo hi bhagavatam lokam upahasam nrpottama
koroti yasya nasyanti artha dharma yasah sutah
hanti nindati vai dvesti vaisnavan na abhinandati
krudhyate yati no harsam darsane patanani sat

(Hari Bhakti Vilasa 10.310,312, from Skanda Purana, conversation between Markandeya Rsi and King Bhagiratha)

Oh King, anybody who makes fun out of the devotee of the Supreme Personality to Godhead, his religiosity, wealth, fame and family members all reach ruination or are destroyed. Any person who kicks a Vaisnava, criticizes him, angers him, envies him, who is not pleased to see him or disrespects him, Mother Nature becomes very angry with him and is not happy with him. They are sent to the hellish planets. These six things are meant for his degradation. (Therefore one should avoid these six demonic activities).

pujito bhagavan visnur janmantara satair api
prasidati na visvatma vaisnave ca apamanite

(Hari Bhakti Vilasa 10.315, from Dvaraka Mahatmya, conversation between Prahlada Maharaja and Bali Maharaja)

Any person who has criticized a Vaisnava, such sinners, even if they worship Lord Sri Visnu, the source of the whole world for hundreds of births, with such insulters of Vaisnavas, Lord Hari does not remain happy.

Skanda Purana lists six kinds of Vaisnava aparadhas (offenses):

hanti nindati vai dvesthi
vaisnavan na abhinandati
krudhyate yati no harsam
darsane patanani sat

(1) Killing or physically harming a devotee

(2) Criticizing or blaspheming a devotee for

(a) having a body born in a low family (listed in Upadesamrta)
(b) having a body with a bad complexion (listed in Upadesamrta)
(c) having a deformed body (listed in Upadesamrta)
(d) having a diseased or infirm body (listed in Upadesamrta)
(e) having traces of sins or imperfectness listed in previous sinful life(s) (listed in Harinama Cintamani)
(f) having an accidental or momentary falldown (listed in Harinama Cintamani)

(3) Being envious towards a devotee

(4) Not offering obeisances to a devotee

(5) Become angry towards a devotee

(6) Not becoming happy on seeing a devotee

on aparadhas and remedies (Satvata tantra 7.24-55):

kali-kAla-malaM cApi
sarva-pAtakam eva ca
hitvA nAma-paro vipra
viSNulokaM sa gacchati

24 O brAhmaNa, a person devoted to chanting the holy name becomes free from all of Kali-yuga's sins and goes to the realm of Lord ViSNu.

tasmAn nAmaika-mAtreNa
taraty eva bhavArNavam
pumAn atra na sandeho
vinA nAmaparAdhAtaH

25 Therefore, a person who without offense once chants the holy name crosses the ocean of repeated birth and death. O brAhmaNa, of this there is no doubt.

tad yatnenaiva puruSaH
zreyas-kAmo dvijottama
viSNor na kuryAn nAmnas tu
daza pApAn kathaJcana

26 O best of brAhmaNa, a person who desires auspiciousness should not commit the ten offenses to Lord ViSNu's holy name.

zrI-nArada uvAca
zruto bhagavato vaktrAd
dvatriMzad-aparAdhakam
viSNor nAmnAM daza tathA
etad varNaya no prabho

27 ZrI NArada said: From the mouth of the Supreme Lord you have heard the 32 offenses to Lord ViSNu and the ten offenses to Lord ViSNu's holy name. O Lord please describe them to us.

zrI-ziva uvAca
zruyatAm aparAdhAn vai
viSNor vakSyAmi nArada
yAn kRtvA nArakaM yAti
mAnavaH satataM mune

28 ZrI Ziva said: O NArada, please listen and I will describe these offenses to Lord ViSNu. O sage, a person who always commits them goes to hell.

asnatvA sparzanaM viSNor
vinA zaGkhena snApanam
azauce sparzanaM sAkSAd
bhuktvA pAdodaka-grahaH

29 These offenses are: 1. touching Lord ViSNu without having first taken a bath, 2. bathing the Lord without a conchshell, 3. touching the Lord when one is in an unclean state, 4. after one has finished his meal, drinking the water that has washed the Lord's feet,...

vinA zabdena pUjA ca
vinA naivedye pUjanam
uccAsana-stha-pUjA ca
zite vyAjana-vAtakam

30 ...5. worshiping the Lord without making a sound, 6. worshiping the Lord without also offering food, 7. worshiping the Lord while one sits on a throne or a raised platform, 8. fanning the Lord when the weather is cold,...

udakyA-darzanaM caiva
ghaNTAya bhU-niveSaNam
pauSe ca candana-sparzo
grISme cAsparzanaM tathA

31 ...9. worshiping the Deity after one has seen a woman in her period, 10. entering the temple without ringing a bell, 11. anointing the Lord with sandal paste in the winter, 12. failing to anoint the Lord with sandal paste in the summer,...

puSpaM toyena saMsparzaM
vinA homaM mahotsavaH
pUjAM kRtvA pRSTha-dArzam
agre ca bhramaNaM tathA

32 ...13. offering the Lord a flower that was not washed with water, 14. observing a great festival without performing a fire-sacrifice, 15. turning one's back to the Lord when the worship is completed, 16. walking in front of the Lord when the worship is completed,...

bhojanaM bhagavad-vAre
abhuktvA ca viSAdatA
padukArohanaM viSNor
gehe kambAla-veSaNam

33 ...17. eating in the temple of the Lord, or worshiping the Lord when one is morose because of not having eaten, 18. wearing shoes into the temple of the Lord, 19. wearing a woolen cAdar into the temple,...

vAma-pAda-pravezaz ca
kurdanaM pAka-bhojanam
zleSma-prakSepanaM caiva
tat-tRNair danta-dhAvanam

34 ...20. taking the first step into the temple with the left foot, 21. jumping and playing in the temple, 22. eating food not first offered to the Lord, 23. spitting in the temple, 24. brushing the teeth with a banyan or palAza twig,...

devAgre vahanAroho
naivedye dravya-buddhitA
zAlagrAme sthirAyaM ca
zileti pratimeti ca

35 ...25. appearing before the Deity as one rides on a palanquin or other vehicle, 26. thinking the food offered to the Lord is material, 27. thinking the zAlagrAma-zilA is only a stone, 28. thinking the Deity of the Lord is a stone statue,...

hari-kIrter asaMzlAghA
vaiSNave nara-samyatA
viSNau ca devatA-samyaM
anyoddeza-nivedanam

36 ...29. not chanting the glories of Lord Hari, 30. thinking the devotees of the Lord are ordinary persons, and 31. thinking Lord ViSNu is one of the many demigods, and 32. offering to Lord ViSNu what has already been offered to another deity.

ete 'parAdhA dvatriMzad
viSNor nAmnAm atha zRNu

37 These are the 32 offenses to Lord ViSNu. Now please hear the offenses to Lord ViSNu's holy names.

satAM nindA zive viSNau
bhidAcAryAvamanatA
veda-nindA nAmni-vAdaH
pApecchA nAma-sAhasAt

38 These offenses are: 1. blasphemy of the great devotees, 2. thinking Lord Ziva is separated from Lord ViSNu, 3. to disrespect the spiritual master, 4. blasphemy of Vedic literature, 5. to give some interpretation on the holy name of the Lord, 6. to desire to commit sins, confident that the holy name will forgive,...

nAmno dharmaiH samya-buddhir
dAnaM zraddhA-vivarjite
zrutvApi zraddhA-rAhityaM
kIrtane cApy aham-matiH

39 ...7. to think the holy name is equal to the performance of religious ceremonies, 8. to give the holy name to the faithless, 9. to not have faith in the holy name, even after hearing the glories of the holy name, 10. to be proud as one chants the holy name.

ete nAmnAM dvija-zreSTha
hy aparAdhA mayeritaH
varjanIya nRbhir yatnair
yato nAraka-kAraNaH

40 O best of brAhmaNas, I have now told you the offenses to the holy name. One should carefully avoid them, for they lead one to hell.

zrI-nArada uvAca
viSayAsakta-cittAnAM
prAkRtAnAM nRNAM prabho
aparAdhA harer Azu
varjyA naiva bhavanti hi

41 ZrI NArada said: O Lord, it is not possible for materialists, whose hearts are attached to sense gratification, to suddenly abandon these offenses to Lord Hari.

ato yena prakAreNa
taranti prAkRtA api
aparAdhAn kRtAn deva
tAn mamAkhyAtum arhasi

42 O Lord, please tell me a way the materialists can become free from these offenses.

zrI-ziva uvAca
pradakSiNaM zataM kRtvA
daNDavat praNamed bhuvi
aparAdha-zataM tasya
kSamate svasya kezavaH

43 ZrI Ziva said: Lord KRSNa forgives a hundred offenses of one who circumambulates Him a hundred times and offers daNDavats.

pradakSiNaM zataM kRtvA
yo na jAnu-ziro namet
niSphalaM tad bhavet tasya
tasmAt pratyekazo namet

44 A hundred circumambulations performed without bowing one's head and knees brings no result. Therefore with each circumambulation one must bow down.

jagannAtheti te nAma
vyahariSyanti te yadi
aparAdha-zataM teSAM
kSamate nAtra saMzayaH

45 If one calls out, "JagannAtha!" (O Lord of the universes), the Lord forgives a hundred of his offenses.

nAmno 'parAdhAMs tarati
nAmna eva sadA japet
vinA bhaktAparAdhena
tat-prasAda-vivarjitaH

46 Without offending the devotees and thus being excluded from the Lord's mercy, one should always chant the holy name. In that way one will cross beyond the offenses to the name.

sarvAparAdhAMs tarati
viSNu-pAdAmbujAzrayaH
viSNor apy aparAdhAn vai
nAma-saGkIrtanAt taret
viSNu-bhaktAparAdhAnAM
naivAsty anyA pratikriyA

47 A person who takes shelter of Lord ViSNu's lotus feet crossess beyond all offenses. By chanting the holy name one crosses beyond offenses to Lord ViSNu. There is no remedy for they who offend the Lord's devotees.

zrI-nArada uvAca
bhaktAparAdhAn me brUhi
yathA teSAM pratikriyA
anugrahAya lokAnAM
bhagavan mama cApi hi

48 ZrI NArada said: O Lord, to show kindness to both the people in general and to me also, please tell me the remedy for offenses to the devotees.

zrI-ziva uvAca
viSNu-bhaktasya sarvasva-
hAraNaM dvija-sattama
bhartsanaM cottame bhakte
svapne cApi prahAraNam
ete 'parAdhA bhaktAnAM
zRNu caiSAM pratikriyA

49 ZrI Ziva said: O best of the brAhmaNas, the offenses to the devotees are: 1. stealing the property of a devotee of ViSNu, 2. insulting a great devotee, and 3. violently attacking a devotee, even in a dream. These are the offenses to the devotees. Now please hear the remedy for them.

tad-dhanaM dvi-guNaM dattvA
kRtvA pAdAbhivandanam
kathayen me kSamasveti
tad-doSaM dhana-karSaNam

50 (For the first offense one should) return the wealth twicefold, offer obeisances to the offended devotee's feet, and say, "Please forgive my offense".

yAvat tad-bhartsanaM kRtvA
tAvan mAsAn samAhitaH
nirmatsaraH paricaret
tat-prasAdena zuddhyati

51 (For the second offense) one should spend some months, according the gravity of the insults, being self-controlled and avoiding envy and hatred. Then by the offended devotee's mercy one will become purified of the offense.

yAvaj jIvaM prahAre tu
paricaryed atandritaH
tat-prasAdena tat-pApAt
niSkRtir nAnyathA bhavet
akRtvA niSkRtIn etAn
nArakAn nAsti niSkRtiH

52 (In the third offense) for as long as one lives one should diligently serve the devotee that had been attacked. By his mercy one will become free of the offense. There is no other remedy. Without performing these remedies for offenses there is nothing to rescue one from going to hell.

ajJAnataH kRte vipra
tat-prasAdena nazyati
jJAnAt tu dvi-guNaM kuryAd
eSa dharmaH sanAtanaH

53 O brAhmaNa, when one unknowingly commits an offense the mercy of the offended devotee destroys the effect of the offense. When one knowingly commits an offense he should make amends twicefold. These are the eternal principles of religion.

putre ziSye ca jAyAyAM
zAsane nAsti dUSaNam
anyathA tu kRte doSo
bhavaty eva na saMzayaH

54 It is not an offense to punish a child, a disciple, or one's wife. It is an offense to punish others. Of this there is no doubt.

kezAkarSe padAghAte
mukhe ca cArpate kRte
na niSkRtiM prApazyAmi
tasmAt tan na samAcaret

55 I do not see any remedy for the offense of pulling a devotee's hair or kicking him in the face. For this reason one should never act in that way.

Caitanya Bhagavata by Vrindavan Das Thakur on Vaisnava Aparadha

"Any person who sides with a Vaisnava against another Vaisnava and criticizes him is destined to be destroyed." (Madhya 3.160)

"If Vaisnavas are offended even by an assembly of renunciates, sannyasis, such an assembly is more irreligious than a group of drunkards. For the drunkards there is still a chance of salvation, but for those who are critical of Vaisnavas there is no hope of liberation." (M 3.41-43)

"Lord Caitanya absorbed the sin of Jagai and Madhai into His own body. He then said, "Begin kirtana, then this black shroud of sin will lift from My body and enter the bodies of those who criticize the devotees of the Lord." (M 3.302-303)

"One never advances in spiritual life by finding faults in other Vaisnavas, in fact only sinful reactions are increased, so give up all your faultfindings." (M 3.313)

"The Vaisnava devotees of the Lord are eternally pure and realized souls. Sometimes there are differences of opinion amongst them which might appear like an argument, but in fact, it is an amazing relationship between devotees. Foolish rascals who do not understand this exchange, praise one Vaisnava and denounce the other. Such a mentality will lead to destruction of faith and knowledge." (M 5)

"To criticize and find faults in pure devotees of the Lord is the most grievous offense against the holy name. O holy name! How can you bear the criticism against your pure devotees through whom your glories have been propagated? (You can never tolerate criticism against those who have dedicated their lives in propagating the holy name of the Lord.) Such offenders are annihilated." (M 13.393)

"Therefore the conclusion is that having devotion is the foremost of all rules, regulations, and rituals. Rules and regulations are meant to be subservient and secondary to devotional service; those who are dissatisfied with this arrangement fall down from the path of self-realization." (M 16.143-144)

"Those devotees who are narrow-minded and bigoted start fighting over petty matters, this is a serious deviation from the path of spiritual realization, and so a really knowledgeable devotee will refrain from taking sides in such disputes." (M 17.109-110)

"The offense or criticizing the Lord or His devotees even once steals a man's proper intelligence." (M 19)

"Lord Gaurasundara has advented specifically to deliver all the fallen souls with the exception of those who find fault in Vaisnava devotees of the Lord." (M 19)

"The Vedas clearly describe that if one hears criticism of a Vaisnava devotee of the Lord then he loses all of his accumulated piety and is cast into abominable conditions of life birth after birth." (M 20)

"Everything, from the highest to the lowest living entity, is a manifestation of Lord Krsna's energy, hence Krsna cannot tolerate violence or offenses perpetrated against anyone. And if anyone offenselessly chants Krsna's name then Krsna will certainly very soon liberate him from material bondage. A person may be well versed in all the four Vedas, but if he still maintains an offensive attitude towards the Vaisnavas, then he is eternally doomed to the worst kind of hell." (M 20)

"Whosoever makes any differences between Me, My pure devotees, and Srimad-Bhagavatam are forever lost." (M 21)

"The spiritual master cannot even protect his own disciples against the wrath of the Lord if his disciple commits Vaisnava aparadha. In fact the guru of such a disciple is hardpressed to protect himself from the effects of the aparadha. If the guru is in a very elevated stage of devotion, then he can protect himself alone, but if he is not so elevated, then he along with disciple sinks down into hell." (M 22)

"The true followers of Lord Nityananda are free from fault-finding, they engage their full time in blissfully glorifying Lord Caitanya. They are always careful to avoid the pitfalls in devotional service." (M 22)

"Some persons, trying to compare Vaisnavas, calling one a bigger Vaisnava than the other, commit a grave blunder for which they will soon suffer." (M 22)

"At times one may see a certain elevated devotee quarreling with other devotees; this is all transcendental and happening by the desire of Lord Krsna. No one should side with any party, because they are all most elevated Vaisnavas, to do so would certainly result in Vaisnava aparadha." (M 23)

"One can become a true Vaisnava by serving Lord Krsna and by not finding faults in others." (M 23)

"One who worships Krsna's lotus feet seeing all Vaisnavas to be dear to the Lord will indeed cross over this ocean of material nescience." (M 24)

"If one does not pay heed to Lord Caitanya's warning and teachings on Vaisnava aparadha, then he will remain completely ignorant about the offenses and thus suffer terrible consequences." (M 22)

Sadhu Ninda: Beware of the mundane man in the dress of a Vaisnava!

Kurma Rupa dasa

In his discourse on sadhu-ninda, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura explains that if one wants to progress in devotional service, he must avoid offenses to Vaisnavas. He writes, "To blaspheme a devotee of the Lord is the first offense against the holy name, and it completely disrupts one's spiritual life." Further along he says, "Anyone who criticizes a pure Vaisnava goes directly to hell and suffers untold pains birth after birth. The doors of bhakti are closed to such an offender."

No less grave is King Rahugana's statement to Jada Bharata, "My dear sir, I am not at all afraid of the thunderbolt of King Indra, nor am I afraid of the serpentine, piercing trident of Lord Siva. I do not care about the punishment of Yamaraja, the superintendent of death, nor am I afraid of fire, scorching sun, moon, wind, nor the weapons of Kuvera. Yet I am afraid of offending a brahmana. I am very much afraid of this." (SB 5.10.17)

When we ponder these and other similar statements it is no wonder we stammer before questioning the behavior of, correcting, chastising, or looking critically or even objectively at anyone wearing tilak. Wanting to play it safe, we conclude it is better to assume everyone in Vaisnava dress worthy of worship rather than risk committing the mad elephant offense. The purpose of this essay is to examine this demeanor and determine if it is in fact secure.

In order to avoid sadhu-ninda, the Thakura explains, we must consider two vital factors. First, we must precisely understand what a sadhu is and to this aim he cites Sri Krsna's instructions to Uddhava regarding the twenty-six qualities of a devotee: "The devotee is merciful, tolerant, equal to all, and performs penance without injuring the body. He is truthful, pure-hearted, compassionate, his intelligence is free from lust, and he is master of the senses. He makes no claims of ownership, is gentle, clean, peaceful, regulated in eating, and apathetic to materialism. He is patient, steady, and takes Lord Krsna as his only shelter. The devotee is free from illusion, is grave, has conquered over hunger, thirst, lamentation, envy, old age and death; he does not expect honor, offers respect to others, is expert; does not cheat and is knowledgeable. (...)" (SB 11.11.29-32)

Bhaktivinoda points out how twenty-five of these qualities are external, and the remaining one - that Krsna is his only shelter - is the internal and most essential. He then establishes that the only real sadhu is a devotee of Krsna. It should be noted that offending one who has taken Krsna as his only shelter results in the previously mentioned devastating results while offenses to Vaisnavas of lesser caliber yield lesser negative reactions.

The second vital factor is that we must diligently avoid that activity which invariably leads to sadhu-ninda or vaisnava aparadha. The Thakura declares this to be asat-sanga - association with those absorbed in temporary or materialistic activity. Asat-sangis are naturally offensive to vaisnavas so their association must be strictly avoided. Indeed, renouncing the association of materialists is a natural symptom of a Vaisnava: asat-sanga-tyaga - ei vaisnava-acara (CC Madhya 22.87)

As Bhaktivinoda cites the symptoms of Vaisnavas he also clearly defines the characteristics of the asat-sangis. In Harinama-cintamani, he divides them in two broad categories: stri-sangis and non devotees. He describes stri-sangis as those who have sexual connection with women other than their wife, and those who are excessively attached to their wife. The non devotees include Mayavadis, dharmadhvajis (pretenders), and atheists.

In Sri Bhaktyaloka he allocates the asat-sangis into seven more specific categories: (1) mayavadis and atheists, (2) sense enjoyers, (3) those fond of sense enjoyers, (4) women, (5) womanizers, (6) the hypocritically devout (dharmadhvaji), and (7) the ill-behaved foolish outcastes.

Having defined in detail the sadhu and affirmed asat-sanga as the single most detrimental activity, Bhaktivinoda has armed the sadhaka with the scientific information required to effectively avoid sadhu-ninda. When we find one with that essential quality, we inquire from and serve him, and when we find one who fits in any of the seven categories, we offer our respects from a distant place. Now this would be an easy task but for one thing: Bhaktivinoda warns that the worst of the asat sangis, the hypocritically devout, "wears the clothes of a devotee to accomplish materialistic ends. He is a person who has no devotion or attachment in the heart but makes a show of it externally." These illuminating words mean the dharmadhvaji has the external appearance of a Vaisnava, but lacks the aforementioned essential internal symptom. Thus it is not a safe stance to accept that all that glitters is gold.

This indeed poses a serious practical problem for the aspiring devotee. What if in our attempt to "play it safe", we contact a dharmadhvaji? Bhaktivinoda even mentions that in Kali-yuga most people fall into this category so it is not an unlikely proposal. Actually, it's safe to assume we will. So when we do, and owing to donning Vaisnava-colored glasses, we engage in the six loving exchanges with him/her, we are sure to be infected. Hitopadesa explains, just as when a cloth is put in a solution of dye it takes on the same color, so a person becomes colored by the company he keeps. Thus Bhaktivinoda warns, "One should give up the association of dharmadhvajis, the hypocritically devout, with special care. Those who accept the external signs of dharma but do not actually follow dharma are hypocrites and fools, or the cheaters and the cheated. Better associate with sense enjoyers, for in this whole world there is no worse association than the dharmadhvaji."

Dharmadhvajis loom amongst both the cheaters and the cheated. If we allow ourselves to be cheated we actually become implicated in cheating others. Yes, the cheater is active and the cheated is passive, but that is of little consolation. The cheated also cheat as they serve as decoys to allure others who feel safe in numbers. The cheated increase the following of the cheaters and hence their influence.

Now, please do not accuse me of proposing there are no Vaisnavas anywhere. I know there are. I want to encourage avoiding extremes. At the one end we have the idea that everyone is a Vaisnava and at the other, that no one is. Both extremes are undesirable and unsafe. We applaud something in between - something that can be called healthy skepticism. Let this inspire us to play it safe by honing our discrimination to the optimum and applying it relentlessly. Yes, risk is involved, but much less than in the popular unsound proposal.

IF YOUR AIM IS LOVE OF GODHEAD BEWARE OF VAISNAVA APARADHA.

Related:
unaware Vaisnava aparadha (Bhakti-ratnakara 5.3802-3837)
CBh 3.3.442-464 on removing Vaisnava aparadha (cz, en)

Critics take the karma

Madhavananda dasa GGS, Gopal Jiu Publications

Although most persons generally do not appreciate others' criticism of them, the Vedic literatures say that tolerating and forgiving our critics is beneficial. Forgiving our critics is a course recommended in the Bible, the Koran and other religious traditions. Yet, what happens to the critic? The English writer and philosopher Aldous Huxley has described:

The effects that follow the constant and intense concentration upon evil are always disastrous. Those who crusade, not for God in themselves, but against the demons in others, never succeed in making the world better... No man can concentrate his attention on evil, or even the idea of evil, and remain unaffected. To be more against the demon than for godliness is exceedingly dangerous. Every crusader is apt to go mad. He is haunted by the wickedness that he attributes to his enemies; it becomes sort of a part of him.

The following are some verses describing the Vedic teachings on this point:

para-svabhAva-karmANi yaH prazaMsati nindati
sa Azu bhrazyate svArthAd asaty abhiniveZataH

Whovever indulges in praising or criticizing the qualities and behavior of others will quickly become deviated from his own best interest by his entanglement in illusory dualities. (Krishna to Uddhava. BhAg. 11.28.2)

sammAnAd bhrAhmaNo nityam udvijeta viSAd iva
amRtasyeva cAkAGkSed avamAnasya sarvadA
sukhaM hy avamataH zete sukhaM ca pratibudhyate
sukhaM carati loke 'sminn avamantA vinazyati

Throughout his life, a brAhmaNa should consider material prestige to be like poison and dishonor to be like nectar. After all, if one learns to tolerate dishonor, then his agitation will subside and he will happily sleep, happily wake, and happily move about. The person who insults hims will, because of his sin, become regretful, and his happiness in this and the next life will be vanquished. (Manu-saMhitA 2.162-163. Quoted by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur in BrAhmaNa O VaiSNava.)

Akroza parivAdAbhyAM vihiMsanty abudhA budhAn
vaktA pApaM upAdatte kSamamANo vimucyate

The ignorant seek to injure the wise by malice and back-biting; by doing so the critic takes upon himself the load of the wise man's sins, which he, the wise man, casts off by forgiving the ignorant. (Vidura to Dhritarastra. MahAbhArata, Udyoga parva 34.71)

AkruzyamAno nAkrozen manyur eva titikSitaH
AkroSTAraM nirdahati sukRtaM cAsya vindati

A person being criticized should not criticize in retaliation, for the pain felt upon receiving criticism, if endured, will itself consume the critic and bring in exchange the results of his good deeds. (Dattatreya to Sadhyas. MahAbhArata, Udyoga parva 36.5)

aruSyan kruzyamAnasya sukRtaM nAma vindati
duSkRtaM cAtmano marSI ruSyaty evApamArSTi vai

One who remains tolerant, not becoming angry, certainly attains the abuser's pious credits. Indeed his own sins are transferred to that wrathful person. (Bhisma to Yudhisthira. MahAbhArata, ZAnti parva 115.3)

pratyakSaM guNavAdI yaH parokSaM tu vinindakaH
sa mAnavaH zvaval loke naSTa loka parAyaNaH

A person who praises someone in his presence, but criticizes him behind his back, is no better than a dog. His chances for elevation to higher planets are completely spoiled in this world. (Bhisma to Yudhisthira. MahAbhArata, ZAnti parva 115.11)

Artha and Kama vs. Yoga

Q: Your movement discourages material and economic progress and makes one disillusioned about life. I believe if used for the welfare of people, it has great utility.

A: Although I study books of Srila Prabhupada for several years now and even translate and edit them, I didn't find anything there which would make one disillusioned about life - I mean the real, spiritual life. Rather, just the opposite is true! On the other hand, the books expose the shallowness of false, materialistic life which leads to frustration.

Please understand that this is not "our movement" who discourages these things but the scriptures. Where from do they come? Yes, from Krsna. So it means that artha, or economical development, although it has its place in human life as one of its goals (purusarthas), is not all in all. It should lead to queries about liberation (moksa) from this material life because it cannot satisfy us fully. Actually we are not humans but jivas, living beings who just happen to be in temporary human bodies. When we start asking about liberation, God and meaning of life, it is a beginning of path to fulfill the real purpose of our life (athato brahma-jijnasa, Vedanta-sutra 1.1.1), developing loving relationship with the Lord.

You believe that it is good to do good to people. Yes, but under one condition - one has to know what is 'good'. If someone is sick, will you do good to him if you give him anything which will perpetuate or even aggravate his sickness? Certainly not. Krsna says that material life is a diseased state for the living being which cannot enjoy in this state although by its nature it is eternally joyful, sat-cid-ananda.

Q: You all make it seem as though it is anti-spiritual and evil to have fun (like family gettogethers, discos, traveling, sports, etc.). I believe as long as you stick to ethics, it is okay.

A: Same as above applies here. If you like material life more than spiritual life, you will get it - life after life. It's your choice. But remember that it's accompanied by suffering - birth, disease, old age, death. If one understands the presence of suffering and gets an experience of higher, spiritual taste, material enjoyment turns pale.

Q: What about sex education? Is it right to masturbate? People say it helps one to control one's senses and it is a natural mechanism God has given us to regulate the sex desire. How can I stop thinking too much about sex? So far I have not had sex with anyone but do masturbate. Help!!!!!

A: It may look natural in our conditioned state but it's only a faint attempt to become happy. At the same time it's the proof that we as spirit souls long for enjoyment but in the material body it doesn't work very well. It's like if you want to touch something wearing gloves or having sex in diving suit. In the same way material body prevents us from really enjoying on the spiritual platform.

The higher taste, determination to stop and Krsna's help is the only way to cure for all our material attachments. Pray to Krsna (James 5:16 "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."), engage yourself in meaningful ways, chant japa (esp. Balabhadra sahasra nama of Garga samhita is very powerful to subdue the lust in one's mind), adjust your diet (eat only prasadam) and try to get the best devotee association possible. Ayurveda and some Hatha yoga techniques can provide some help as well.

Q: I plan to get into business, make money through ethical means and then use it for charitable purposes. I do think of doing all this as a service to Lord Krsna.

A: That's a pious motivation but ask Vaisnavas how to do it so it is real service to Lord Krsna and not just your imagination. Many people in India subscribe to the 'service to man is service to God' concept but God says it is not so. Just helping people materially brings good karma but devotional service is akarma. They are different. Read the Bhagavad-gita. Real service to people is to make them benefit spiritually, to bring them closer to Krsna by giving them Krsna prasadam, books about Krsna etc.

Q: Can you elaborate the on right attitude to achieve my worldly goals?

A: If you want to achieve worldly goals - if you consider them worthy of your effort after what I wrote to you - then worship Krsna for help. Bhagavata Purana (2.3.10) says:

akamah sarva-kamo va moksa-kama udara-dhih
tivrena bhakti-yogena yajeta purusam-param

"A person who has broader intelligence, whether he be full of all material desire, without any material desire, or desiring liberation, must by all means worship the supreme whole, the Personality of Godhead."

End of the purport:

Udara-dhih means one who has a broader outlook. people with desires for material enjoyment worship small demigods, and such intelligence is condemned in the Bhagavad-gita (7.20) as hrta jnana, the intelligence of one who has lost his senses. One cannot obtain any result from demigods without getting sanction from the Supreme Lord. Therefore a person with a broader outlook can see that the ultimate authority is the Lord, even for material benefits. Under the circumstances, one with a broader outlook, even with the desire for material enjoyment or for liberation, should take to the worship of the Lord directly. And everyone, whether an akama or sakama or moksa-kama, should worship the Lord with great expedience. This implies that bhakti-yoga may be perfectly administered without any mixture of karma and jnana. As the unmixed sun ray is very forceful and is therefore called tivra, similarly unmixed bhakti-yoga of hearing, chanting, etc., may be performed by one and all regardless of inner motive.

I don't know what to add. I guess you know what worship means. Sravanam kirtanam smaranam dasyam etc. Devotee association is essential.

Analogy of artha as blind economic development without dharma preceding it (Path of Perfection, ch. 4 - Moderation in Yoga):

A vulture may rise very high in the sky - seven or eight miles - and it is wonderful to see him fly in this way. He also has powerful eyes, for he can spot a carcass from a great distance. Yet what is the object of all these great qualifications? A dead body, a rotting carcass. His perfection is just to discover a dead piece of meat and eat it. That's all. Similarly, we may have a very high education, but what is our objective? Sense enjoyment, the enjoyment of this material body. We may rise very high with our spaceships, but what is the purpose? Sense gratification, that's all. This means that all the striving and all this high education are merely on the animal platform.

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