In Bhakti Sandarbha, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī discusses the supreme potency of bhakti. He writes that even a semblance of bhakti, bhaktyābhāsa, has the power to grant liberation (Anuccheda 153). To demonstrate this, he cites some stories from different Purāṇas. Because the stories are difficult to believe for non-devotees, Śrī Jīva Gosvamī first warns against the doubting mentality. Then he goes on to explain the effects of committing offenses. I believe this Anuccheda will be helpful for practitioners of bhakti because it is very practical knowledge. I have excluded the first part of Anuccheda 153 that describes stories related to bhaktyābhāsa. My main intention is to inform readers about the severity of offenses and their effects, so that serious practitioners can know where they stand and safeguard themselves.
Anuccheda 153 (Translation):
The glories of the name are well known from the examples of Ajāmila and others. The principles regarding the power of the name are discussed in books such as Śrī Bhagavān-nāma-kaumudī. The scriptures specifically warn against considering these glories as mere eulogies. To do so has been specifically mentioned in the Padma Purāṇa (Brahma-khaṇḍa 25.16) as one of the offenses against the Holy Name.
In the Kātyāyana Saṁhitā it is said:
“A person who considers the glories of the holy name as imaginary is the most sinful among men and certainly falls into hell.”
In the Brahma Saṁhitā (This is not the well-known book discovered by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu in South India), the Supreme Bhagavān tells Bodhāyana, “A person who hears the various results of chanting My names and not only does not believe in them, but considers them to be exaggerations, is cast by Me into the ocean of misery, his limbs tormented by a multitude of severe afflictions.”
It follows that it is an offense to consider as false the glories of other devotional activities, which include the pursuit of Bhagavān’s names.
One may not experience the fruit of various devotional activities in one’s present life, or one may hear from scripture of people in the past who did not attain the expected result. It should be understood in all such cases that the power of the name has been obstructed from manifesting its result by grave offenses, such as considering the glories of the name as imaginary or disrespecting Vaiṣṇavas. Therefore, Śrī Śaunaka said:
“Alas, the heart which does not melt while reciting the names of Bhagavān Hari is as hard as stone. When the heart melts, tears flow from the eyes and the hairs of the body stand on end in ecstasy.” (SB 2.3.24)
At present, it is generally the case that people don’t experience the result of chanting due to offenses. An example from scripture of someone who did not obtain the result of chanting due to an offense is found in the story of King Nṛga, who said:
“O Keśava, because I was devoted to the brāhmaṇas, munificent in offering charity, devoted to You and anxious to obtain a direct vision of You, the memory of my past life has not been lost, right up to the present.” (SB 10.64.25)
King Nṛga spoke these words after he was liberated from the body of a chameleon by the touch of Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet (the king was brought to Yamarāja’s abode and received the body of a chameleon as punishment from him for inadvertently offering the same cow in charity to two different brāhmaṇas). Given that king Nṛga was devoted to Kṛṣṇa as seen from the above verse, why would he be punished by Yama? In fact, his being sent to the abode of Yama contradicted the order of Yama himself:
“Bring me only the unrighteous whose tongues do not vibrate the name or qualities of Bhagavān, whose minds do not reflect on the lotus feet of Bhagavān, whose heads do not bow down even once before Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa and who do not perform any service to Bhagavān Viṣṇu.” (SB 6.3.29)
King Nṛga had heard the conclusions of scripture. It is to be concluded that he was guilty of considering the glories of bhakti as exaggeration. If this were not the case, he would not have attached so much importance to the mere act of giving charity and neglected Bhagavān’s service. Rather, like Ambarīṣa Mahārāja, he would have been exclusively absorbed in the execution of bhakti which truly possesses the greatness spoken of in scripture. If one commits such an offense, bhakti becomes stunted, as stated in the Nāmāparādha-bhañjana-stotra found in the Padma Purāṇa:
“It is indeed a fact that just one name appearing on a person’s tongue, in the mind or in the ear, whether enunciated correctly or incorrectly, and with or without the intervention of other syllables, certainly delivers that person. But if the same name is used by atheistic people who are greedy to enjoy the body, wealth, or followers, then, O vipra, it does not quickly manifest its result.”
The implication is that the holy name does not manifest its result to atheistic people who are greedy for the pleasures of the body, wealth, and so on, and who commit the ten offenses beginning with disrespect of the guru.
In the Dvāraka Māhātmya of the Prahlāda–saṁhitā section of the Skanda Purāṇa, it is stated:
‘If a person disrespects a Vaiṣṇava, then Bhagavān Viṣṇu, the Soul of the universe, is not pleased with him even if he worships Bhagavān for hundreds of lifetimes.”
Elsewhere in the Skanda Purāṇa in a dialogue between Mārkaṇḍeya and Bhagīratha it is said:
“If a person does not approach a Vaiṣṇava after seeing him from afar, Bhagavān Hari does not accept twelve years of worship offered by such a person. And if after seeing a devotee vipra one does not worship him by offering obeisance, Bhagavān Hari does not forgive the sins of such a person.”
Similarly, there are many other offenses described in śāstra. In the same vein, we find a story in the Viṣṇu Purāṇa of a king named Śatadhanu who took birth as a dog, although he was dedicated to the worship of Bhagavān, just because he had a brief conversation with a critic of the Vedas and Vaiṣṇavas.
Therefore, scripture ordains repetition of devotional practices, such as hearing and chanting, specifically because people generally succumb to offenses. The emphasis on repeated hearing, which gradually matures into faith and then taste, is indicated in verses such as this:
“O learned ones, by visiting or dwelling in a holy place, a person gets an opportunity to associate with great devotees and to render service to them. By such service a person awakens faith and an interest in hearing narrations about Bhagavān and thus develops a taste for such narrations.” (SB 1.2.16)
The injunction for repeated practice is also stated in the Brahma Sūtra: “Repetition [of the practices to obtain the Absolute] is necessary because the Upaniṣads repeatedly instruct one to do so.” (VS 4.1.1)
Repetition of Bhagavān’s name is recommended for those who commit offenses, as indicated in the instructions about the name given in the Nāmāparādha-bhañjana-stotra found in the Padma Purāṇa:
“Only the Name cleanses the sins of those who commit offenses against the Name. They should ceaselessly chant the Name because only that will bring about the result.”
It is only with this consideration that the injunction to repeat the eighteen-syllable mantra has been ordained in books such as Trailokya-Sammohana-tantra:
“O Goddess, now hear from me the process for reciting this pure mantra. By uttering this mantra ten times one is freed from calamities. By uttering it a thousand times one is freed from great sins, and by uttering it ten thousand times the most grievous type of sin, known as mahāpātaka, is destroyed.”
Similarly, in the Brahma Vaivarta Purāṇa we find the following statement about the name:
“The sin of killing a brāhmaṇa or drinking liquor willingly is absolved by chanting ‘Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa,’ day and night.”
The import here is that by repetition of Bhagavān’s name, or mantras consisting of the name, the present desires for sinful activity are destroyed along with the offenses which foster such sinful desires.
It is specifically in consideration of the impediment presented by such offenses that the Viṣṇu-dharma states:
“Bhagavān Madhusūdana does not manifest in a heart polluted by materialistic attachments, for a swan is never attracted to muddy water. Speech defiled by untruth is unfit to extol Bhagavān Keśava, for the moon cannot dispel darkness when covered by clouds.”
In the case of perfected devotees, repetition of the name or other aspects of devotion is undertaken simply because it produces unprecedented bliss at every step. The injunction to repeat such activities applies to those who have not attained such perfection only until they attain the result. This is based on the conjecture that as long as the result has not manifested, offenses must still be present that are causing obstacles.
There are various effects of offenses of which five are prominent: crookedness, faithlessness, absorption in objects that erode one’s faith in Bhagavān, slackness in devotion, and pride arising from one’s own devotional service. If one is unable to give these up in spite of being engaged in bhakti rooted in the association of great devotees, one should understand that all these are effects of offenses to the name in this life and symptoms of offenses committed in past lives as well. Each of these five effects of aparādha will now be considered separately.
First we will discuss kauṭilya or crookedness. It is due to the presence of offenses that Bhagavān does not accept the service of the crooked even if they offer Him many valuable items. This was seen in the case of Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa when He went to the capital of Duryodhana as a messenger on behalf of the Pāṇḍavas. Although Duryodhana tried to win Him over with a royal reception and great opulence, Kṛṣṇa rejected his hospitality because of his offensive attitude towards His devotees.
At present there are many people who make a show of devotion. In spite of having studied the scriptures, they remain internally disrespectful towards Bhagavān, their guru and other devotees due to having committed offenses. The external worship offered by such persons is nothing but crookedness. Therefore, śāstra describes that even foolish people, who are nonetheless free from crookedness, attain perfection even by a semblance of bhakti. In contrast, the crooked cannot even practice bhakti. This is evident in a statement by the sage Parāśara from the Skanda Purāṇa:
“In this world impious, foolish, and crooked people do not attain devotion to Bhagavān Govinda, and they cannot chant or remember Bhagavān.”
In consideration of this, the Viṣṇu-dharma states:
“Truth is destroyed by a hundred obstacles and penance by a thousand. The devotion of human beings to Bhagavān Govinda is destroyed by ten thousand obstacles.”
Therefore, Śrī Sūta Gosvāmī said:
“Who is that grateful person who will not serve Bhagavān who is very easily pleased by those who are simple-hearted and fully surrendered, but most difficult to be propitiated by the wicked?” (SB 3.19.36)
The meaning of this statement is clear.
By Satyanarayana Dasa