On etiquettes and offenses

Dear Kundalata,
Please receive my blessings. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.


First of all:
yadyapio tumi hao jagat-pāvana
tomā-sparśe pavitra haya
tathāpi bhakta-svabhāva —
haya sādhura bhūṣaṇa
“My dear Sanātana, although you are the deliverer of the entire universe and although even the demigods and great saints are purified by touching you, it is the characteristic of a devotee to observe and protect the Vaiṣṇava etiquette. Maintenance of the Vaiṣṇava etiquette is the ornament of a devotee.
(Caitanya Caritamrita, Antya-lila 4.129-130)

Maryada, or good behaviour is therefore a bhusana (ornament) of a sadhu (a devotee).
It’s like flowers in a garden. With flowers the garden is much more attractive and actually without flowers you cannot really call it a garden.

In our culture what we call “etiquettes”, or proper behaviour (in body, speech and mind) is important. Behaviour modifies our character and therefore our consciousness. A good behaved devotee will advance in spiritual life while the others will not.
Therefore we must know what is a good behaviour and what’s not.

There are several words in sanskrit meaning “etiquette”.
One is sadacara. Sat means good, virtuous, correct, and acara means behaviour.
Another word is maryada, which means more or less the same thing with the addition of “rule” or “custom”. In other words maryada refers to good behaviour established either by Guru (spiritual master), Sastra (Holy Scriptures), Sadhu (Sages or Saints) or simply by custom coming down through time.
As a consecuence of being ordered by the Lord, Srila Sanatana Gosvami wrote the Hari Bhakti Vilasa, where we find many many precious instructions on sadacara.
Some quotes:
1. No action is endowed with success unless performed with proper etiquette. Therefore, every action requires etiquette.
2. The heart of a saintly person is completely pure and his activities are called Vaisnava etiquette.
3. Vaisnava etiquette generates opulence, increases fame and longevity and destroys inauspiciousness like poverty and untimely death, etc.

It is not an easy or short topic. I’ll only say something more and then elaborate it in the future.

Sadacaras depends on who the person you are dealing with, and secondarily on who you are. A Vaisnava is always respectful with everybody but the type of respect has to vary.

With strangers we meet in the street is one, with guests in the temple is another one, with younger devotees another, with equals another, with different types of superiors other, with Deities other, and so on.

With stranges and guests you should be friendly, behaving like if Krishna is there to watch you. Vaisnavas are always cleaned in dressing, body, words and mind. People should walk away from a conversation with you with the impressione that Vaisnavas are very nice high class people.

With younger devotees you should be protective, always available for philosphical explanations and good example.

With equals (like godbrothers and godsisters) you should be friendly, open-minded and cooperative.

With superiors you should be humble, offering obeisances, ready to give service and accept instructions.
However is important that you know that there are many different types of superiors and you should learn how to differentiate.

You do not behave with every class of people or everybody in general in a stereotyped way. As time goes by you’ll learn how to discriminate and give the proper type of respect to everybody.


About offenses, this is another quite large topic. They are called aparadhas, or something that distance us from devotion.
Particularly important are the ten offenses to chanting the Holy Names. These are very important. Please read them attentively.

In the Skanda Purana we find Parasara Muni saying:
“In this world impious, foolish, and crooked people do not attain devotion to Bhagavān Govinda, and they cannot chant or remember Bhagavān.”

In the Bhakti-ratnakara Narahari Cakravarti Thakiura says:
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.

There are many other different types of offenses. If you are humble and respectful you’ll not be offensive. And if you do something wrong, you’ll be corrected and next time you’ll not repeat the mistake.

Make specific questions and I’ll answer them.


Your well-wisher

  • Manonatha Dasa (ACBSP)



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