Vaishnava Aparadha: The Greatest Hurdle of Devotional Practice

by Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Goswami Maharaj

[The following is an excerpt from the book Hari Katha and Vaishanva Aparadha.]

Srila Bhakti Vinode Thakur has written about four kinds of offences in the second period of devotional practice in the book Sri Bhajan Rahasya compiled by him.

krsna nama svarupesu tadiya citkanesu ca
jieya budhaganer nityam aparadha caturvidhah
These are: (1) offence to the holy Name of Krishna (Namaparadh); (2) offence to Supreme Lord Sri Krishna (Seva-aparadh); (3) offence to the Lotus Feet of a devotee; (4) (other than devotees) even unjust act to individual spirit soul is also considered offense.

We have heard from our Guruvarga that an unjust act committed to Vishnu or a Vaishnava is considered an offense, and that misdeed done to other living beings is sin. The glow of the Holy Name (Namabhas) can destroy sins of millions of births, as in the case of Sri Ajamila, but if anybody commits offence to Vishnu and Vaishnavas, his utterance of the Holy Name is not Namabhas. Srila Bhakti Vinode Thakur has mentioned that cruel behaviour to any individual spirit soul is also aparadh. What is the significance of it? Srila Saraswati Goswami Thakur has given his reply to this question in his above mentioned commentary. We should be careful. While going to punish a guilty person, we should see that it does not incur punishment to a devotee. One who wants eternal welfare should be very careful in his behaviour with the Guruvarga or a devotee. A pure devotee has no hostile adverse mentality, personal grudge or dissatisfaction to anybody. A devotee always thinks in case misbehaviour is done to him by somebody, it is the consequence of his own misdeed. He does not blame the person.

But the Supreme Lord never tolerates oppression or unjust act inflicted upon a devotee. If anybody out of personal grudge always speaks about the weak-points or defects of others, those defects will surely rebound to the speaker. Anti-devotional and abominable practices are to be condemned, but it is not good to personally attack anybody out of animosity. There will be reaction of such hostile action and the result will be harmful. Bonafide sadhus have no grudge against anybody in this world, but they condemn anti-devotional practices, so that all can achieve the highest good of pure devotion for everyone's benefit. Our Most Revered Srila Gurudeva often used to say: "The means is justified by the end." Genuineness of means is justified by the genuineness of the end. If the end is bad, the means will be bad and the fruits of all efforts will end in frustration.

yadi vaisnava-aparadha uthe hati mata
upade va chinde, tara Sukhi' yaya pata
Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya, 19/156
"Vaishnav aparadha like a must elephant (elephant in a state of frenzy). Hati-mata Intense anti-devotional contemptuous mood or vaishnav aparadh in the shape of disregard of Guruthis offence certainly will destroy the bhakti-creeper."
Also vide Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi, 8/24, Gururavajna' (disregard of Guru) To be envious to bonafide Guru who has ontological true knowledge of Holy Name, considering him as a worldly mortal person.

Srila Saraswati Goswami Thakur
satam ninda namnah paramam aparadham vitanute
yatah khyatim yatam katham u sahate tad vigariham

"The vilification of sadhus is considered to be the greatest offence to the Holy Name. As the glory of the Holy Name Krishna is expanded through the sadhus, who are fully devoted to the chanting of the Holy Name, how Nama-prabhu can tolerate the vilification of such sadhus?' In the Gita Sri Krishna has emphatically assured that a sincere soul who wants eternal benefit, can never be condemned to adversity.

Bhagavan said partha naiveha namutra vinaSas tasya vidyate
na hi kalyana-krt kaScid durgatim tata gacchati
Bhagavad Gita, 6/40
Srila Bhakti Vinode Thakur has analysed the significance of this verse as follows: "O Arjuna, an aspirant who practices Yoga, whether in this world or in the higher worlds, will never be ruined. In fact, a true worshipper of the practice of yoga, which bestows eternal welfare, will never be condemned to distress. The fundamental point is this. Human beings are classified into two groups, Avaidha, meaning unjust and disapproved by authentic scriptures, and Vaidha, meaning just. Those persons who are only after sense-gratification and are not controlled by any regulation are like unregulated beasts. Uncontrolled persons, whether they are civilized or uncivilized, stupid or learned, weak or strong, always act like the beasts. There is no possibility of getting any benefit by their actions. Regulated human beings are of three categories, karmi, jnani and bhakta. Karmis can be classified into two groups, sakam-karmi and niskam-karmi. The group of sakam-karmis are hankering after very insignificant pleasures, i.e., they are desirous of non-eternal enjoyments. They may attain heaven or worldly ameliorations, but all these pleasures are non-eternal. Therefore, that which is considered beneficial for them cannot be attained. After getting deliverance from worldly bondage, eternal bliss is the ultimate object to be attained by human beings. When that eternal bliss is not the objective of our endeavor, then that endeavor is fruitless.

kama, prema,do"hakara vibhinna laksana
lauha ara hema yaiche svarupe vilaksana
atmendriya-priti-vaichatare bali kama'
krsnendriya-priti-iccha dhare prema' nama
ataeva kama-preme bahuta antara
kamaandha-tamah, premanirmala bhaskara
Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi, 4/164-165, 171
Srila Bhakti Vinode Thakur has written in his commentary Amrit-pravaha Bhasya: "Desire with the purpose of one's own enjoyments is called kama. Desire for manpower, desire for a son, desire for wealth and the like, such desires are prescribed in the Vedas. All these definitely denote popular religious custom such as modesty, patience, salvation and the like. Fulfilment of one's own pleasure, love for one's own family members, disciplinary guidance of family members, scolding and reverence mixed with awe and submission surely these desires emerge out of impetus for fulfillment of one's own apparent non-eternal interest. But actually all the desires originating from the conception of the real self, devoted to the knowledge that I am eternal servant of Krishna', can be accepted as desire for the propitiation of Sri Krishna. All other desires emerging out of the misconception of self, posing I am the enjoyer of the fruits of my own actions' are born out of lust.

Self-interest is the criterion of conditioned souls to determine what is dear and what is not dear. For the reason of a wrong criterion of self-interest, conditioned souls are burning in the forest fire of this material world. Clashing is inevitable where there are many centers of interest. There will be no clashing provided that love for the Absolute Reality Sri Krishna becomes the centre of interest. This will also bestow positive good, namely a love-relation to all living-beings. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has taught this cultivation of pure love for Sri Krishna and love for all in relation to Him. This is the real teaching of the Vedas. Srila Krishna Das Kaviraj Goswami has indicated it very clearly in Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya, 20/124:- veda-Sastra kahesambandha', abhidheya', prayojana' krsna'prapya sambandha, bhakti'praptyera sadhana abhidheya-nama bhakti', prema'prayojana purusartha-Siromani prema maha-dhana

"The Vedas have taught three themes: Sambandha (Relation), Abhidheya (Means) and Prayojan (End). Our relation with Krishna is that he is the Ultimate Object to be attained. The means for attaining the object is bhakti, and the ultimate end is pure transcendental divine lovethe highest objective and highest wealth." Sriman Mahaprabhu has instructed in the third verse of his teachings of Siksastakam to chant the Holy Name of Hari after achieving four qualities:

trnad api sunicena taror api sahisnuna
amanina manadena kirtaniyah sada harih
Excerpt from commentary of Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur Sanmodan Bhasya'

niraparadhena harinama krtam visyaviraktijanita dainyam nirmatsaratala" krta daya, mithyabhimana Sunyata sarvesam yathayogya sammanana caitani laksnani Utterance of Harinam without offences will be possible after acquiring these four qualities: humbleness due to indifference to material objects, compassion devoid of envy, thoroughly void of false ego and giving due respect to all. Being adorned with these four qualities, utterance of Holy Name of Krishna will bestow the highest objective. This is the teaching of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur has given his exposition in his commentary of Siksastaka: "The consideration of the third verse of Siksastaka is important for bestowing knowledge, so that we cannot commit offence and there is no apprehension of Namabhas (glow of the Holy Name) while doing Harinam. One whose mind is not inclined to Sri Krishna and is frenzied for worldly enjoyments, can never realize his insignificance. One who has the vanity of the enjoyer-ego cannot be humble. Also, there cannot be endurance in him who has the vanity of being the enjoyer. An enjoyer is never capable of giving up his material ego and desire for worldly name and fame. An enjoyer of the objects of sense-organs can never have the willingness to give respect to another enjoyer of this world. Only a Vaishnava who has dedicated his life for worship of Krishna is humbler than blade of grass, more forbearing than tree, indifferent for his own name and fame, yet always eager to give respect to others." Srila Saraswati Goswami Prabhupad, with unwavering firmness, has used the word never' to indicate that a person who has misconception of self can never be adorned with the aforesaid four qualities. The teachings of Siksastaka written by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu are to be practiced by sincere votaries for their eternal welfare and not for only giving instructions to others. A person who is sincerely practicing in his own life will automatically inspire others through his example.

Our Most Revered Gurudeva very often used to instruct us to be very cautious regarding Vaishnava aparadh (committing offence to Vaishnavas). Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the most munificient form of Godhead, did not even tolerate the offence committed by Sachi Devi, what to speak of any other person. One who wants eternal welfare should not take the risk of committing offence to Vaishnavas. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu did not agree to bestow Premabhakti to mother Sachi Devi, in spite of the repeated prayers of Srivas Pandit. Srila Vrindavan Das Thakur, author of Sri Chaitanya Bhagavat, has narrated the prayer of Srivas Pandit in the Madhyakhanda of that book:

(Prarthana - Prayer of Srivas)

savara jivana ai jagatera mata
maya chadi prabhu se sarvajanani
putra sthane mayera ki aparadha gani
yadi va vaisnva sthane thake aparadha
tathapiha khaidaiya karaha prasad"
prabhu bole "upadeSa kahite se pari
vaisnva aparadha ami khaidaite nari
je-vaisnva-sthane aparadha haya ya'ra
durvasara aparadha ambarisa sthane
tumi jana, tara ksya haila kemane
nadara sthanete ache ta'na aparadha
nada ksamilei haya premera prasada
advaita-carana dhuli loile mathaya
hoibeka prema-bhakti amara ajiaya
Sri Chaitanya Bhagavat, Madhya, 22/29-36
"Saci Devi is the life of all and the mother of the universe. O beloved Master! Kindly bestow her bhakti by giving up maya. As You are her son, she is the mother of all. How can a mother commit offence to her son? If there be any committal of offence of her to any Vaishnava, please grace her by absolving that aparadh. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu replied: I can give her instruction, but I cannot remove her Vaishnava aparadh. If any offence is committed to a Vaishnava, certainly when that Vaishnava will forgive, it can be removed. You know well how Durvasa Rishi was released from his offence to Ambarish Maharaj. Mother has committed offence to Advaita-Acharya. Provided Advaita-Acharya forgives her, she can get prem-prasad, the grace of pure devotion. After taking the dust of the lotus feet of Advaita-Acharya and putting it on her head, she will get prema-bhakti by my order of consent."
On hearing this order, all the devotees approached Advait-Acharya and prayed to him for mother Saci Devi. Hearing this prayer, Advait-Acharya was shocked and became unconscious. Taking advantage of this opportunity, mother Saci Devi adorned her head with the dust of the holy feet of Advait-Acharya. Mahaprabhu smiled and offered prema to mother by forgiving her offence.

Generally it is seen that the Supreme Lord fulfils the desires of a pure devotee. But here, in spite of the repeated special requests of Srivas Pandit, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu showed His firmness for the submission of prayer of Saci Mata to Advait-Acharya to forgive her offence. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has warned all by His firmness of not giving prema unless offences to the Vaishnava are removed.

aikhane se visnubhakti hoila tomara
advaitera sthane aparadha nahi ara
Srimukhera anugraha suniya vacana
jaya-jaya-hari' dhvani-hoila takhana
jananira laksye Siksaguru bhagavan
karayena vaisnavaparadha savadhana
Sulapani-sama yadi vaisnavere ninde
tathapiha naSa paya kahe Sastravrnde
Sri Chaitanya Bhagavat, Madhya 22/52-55
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said: "Now you have devotion to Vishnu, your offence to Advaita-Acharya is removed." Hearing this grace from the Lotus Lips of Mahaprabhu, all the devotees applauded by uttering "Jaya Jaya Hari" out of happiness. Playing the pastimes of shiksha Guru, the Lord has warned others through His mother for not committing Vaishnava aparadh. Even if a person like Sulapani (Mahadeva) censures a Vaishnava, he will be certainly destroyedall scriptures substantiate this. hari-sthane aparadhe tare harinam toma sthane aparadhe nahika edana Prarthana' of Narottam Thakur (46)

"Harinam can rescue one's committal of offence to Hari, but offence to the Vaishnava cannot be gotten rid of by doing Harinam."

brajendra-nandana yei, Saci-suta hoilo sei,
balarama hoilo nitai
dina-hina yata chilo, hari-name uddharilo,
tara Saksi jagai madhai
Prarthana' of Narottam Thakur (4)
"Brajendranandan has appeared as the son of Saci, and Balaram has become Nityananda. They rescued all wretched and lowly conditioned souls by distributing Harinam. Jagai and Madhai can be cited as witness of it."

Brajendranandan Krishna, appearing as Most Munificent Form of Godhead, Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu, and Balaram, appearing as Grace-incarnate and Most Merciful Nityananda, have not only rescued the fallen souls, but also bestowed them the highest Transcendental Divine Love, which is extremely rare to be achieved. Without killing the demons, Gaur-Nityananda have killed the demoniac spirit in them. The pastimes of wrath of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu are also for the eternal welfare of all enslaved jivas. be continued

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