1st April 2015. Gurgaon
We read in the past few blogs (Blog1, Blog2) about serious repercussions of Vaishanava Aparadha. Few days back I was browsing through a book by HG Srimati Mataji on Srila Prabhupada and by sheer coincidence my eyes caught the page which mentioned what is the cause of vaishnava aparadha. HG Srimati Mataji quotes Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, mainly from his book Bhaktyaloka, and bind various quotations meticulously to bring the essence of this important topic. Here it goes.
When Sri Caitanya Mahāprabhu was instructing Sanātana Goswami, He explained that the first business of a Vaishnava is to give up non-devotee association.
“A Vaiṣṇava should always avoid the association of ordinary people. Common people are very much materially attached, especially to women. Vaiṣṇavas should also avoid the company of those who are not devotees of Lord Kṛṣṇa.” (CC Madhya 22.87)
Mahāprabhu also explains the reason we should give up such association in next two verses.
“‘By association with worldly people, one becomes devoid of truthfulness, cleanliness, mercy, gravity, spiritual intelligence, shyness, austerity, fame, forgiveness, control of the mind, control of the senses, fortune and all opportunities. One should not at any time associate with a coarse fool who is bereft of the knowledge of self-realization and who is no more than a toy animal in the hands of a woman. The illusion and bondage that accrue to a man from attachment to any other object are not as complete as that resulting from association with a woman or with men too much attached to women.’ ( CC Madhya 22.88-90)
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura further explains that if a devotee engages in non devotee association then gradually his material attachments will increase. And the more this attachment increases, the more his faith in the supreme goal will diminish.
Why is that ?
If one associates with non devotees, very quickly his intelligence will be polluted and his heart will be overcome by their propensities. If anyone desires to attain pure devotional service, he should carefully give up the association of non devotees. ( Sanga-tyaga, Sri Bhaktyaloka)
This raises another very important question.
Who is a non devotee ?
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura tells us that those are not subordinate to Sri Krishna are called non devotees. He continues on with a very thorough and wholistic explanation of what it means to give up the association of non-devotees. He even tells us that because of our prejudices and material attachments we can be classified as non devotees!
Let’s present what he says in a chart form to make things clear.
( I am writing in detail about only some of the categories to save on space)
Atheists : Those who do not accept the Supreme Lord, who is glorified by the Vedas, are called nastikas, or atheists. Their minds have been polluted by false arguments; therefore one’s devotion is lost in their association. Association with sense enjoyers is harmful. Those who are always busy associating with sense enjoyment are filled with blasphemy, envy, and violence. Quarrel, argument, and hankering for sense enjoyment is their life. The more they enjoy, the more their thirst for sense enjoyment increases. The sense enjoyers do not get time to speak or hear topics of Krishna. Whether they engage in pious activities or sinful activities, the sense enjoyers always remain far from knowledge of the self. Therefore in the Caitanya caritamrta (Antya 6.278) Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami has said:
“viṣayīra anna khāile malina haya mana
malina mana haile nahe kṛṣṇera smaraṇa
“When one eats food offered by a materialistic man, one’s mind becomes contaminated, and when the mind is contaminated, one is unable to think of Kṛṣṇa properly.” Those persons who externally engage in sensual activities and accept sense objects just to maintain body and soul together but internally engage in their constitutional position as servants of Krsna are not counted amongst the sense enjoyers, who are attached the fruits of their activities.
Do not associate with women. On the other hand, when a woman is engaged in sadhana bhakti-, she should not associate with men. Associating with the opposite sex is very inauspicious for the advancing devotee. When a man and woman are married according to religious principles, there is no sin in their touching and talking with each other…. provided they are not illusioned by each other and they only engage in activities sanctioned under the prescribed duties.
The conditioned soul has been performing fruitive activities (karma) and endeavoring for knowledge (jnana) since time immemorial, and the prejudices that have developed in his subtle body as a result are called ancient prejudices. These prejudices are known as one’s nature. From ancient prejudices one develops association with karma and jnana.
Modern Prejudices : The prejudices or attachments for good and bad attained in this life due to association are called modern prejudices, one develops attachment for material assets by modern prejudices.
Due to this association with prejudices a living entity’s propensity for ignorance and passion becomes stronger. Whatever propensities for goodness, passion, and ignorance are seen in people’s eating, sleeping, and sensual activities are all due to association with prejudices.
Until one’s attachment to prejudices is destroyed, the ten offenses in chanting will not be uprooted. Offenses at the feet of sadhus is due to being proud of one’s karma and jnana.
Only sadhu sanga can reform the attachment to prejudices. Sadhu sanga is the only remedy for this disease. Unless one reforms his attachment to prejudices, one cannot attain perfection in devotional service by any means.
It has been seen that many fortunate souls have given up attachment for prejudices by the association of pure Vaisnavas. From the scriptures it is well known that by the association of Sri Narada Muni the hunter (Mrgari) and Ratnakara (Valmiki) attained auspiciousness. The foremost instruction of Sri Ramanujacarya is this: “If you cannot purify yourself by any endeavor whatsoever, then just go sit with the Vaisnavas and you will achieve all auspiciousness.”
By observing a Vaisnava’s quality of not uselessly wasting time, many people have easily given up anarthas such as laziness, oversleeping, useless talk, urge of speech, etc. We have also seen that by associating with Vaisnavas for some time someone’s cheating
propensity and desire for fame have been destroyed.
Please beware of Vaishnava aparadha
Srimati Mataji then adds that the above analysis is undoubtedly valuable and very interesting. But for those of us who have family and business or work responsibilities, it may also create in us a sense of anxiety. We are associating with non-devotees on a daily basis. Does this mean we have no spiritual future? Bhaktivinoda Thakura is very sensitive to such anxieties and has addressed the issue very wonderfully in the following text.
What is association and giving up association ?
Many people have doubts about this. Doubts may be there because if just by coming close to a materialist or material object is considered associating with them, then there is no way to give up this association. As long as the material body is there, how can one one give up the proximity of these things? How can a grhastha vaishnava give up his family members? Even is one is a renunciate, he can not give up the association of deceitful persons. One will have to come across materialists in one’s life, whether one is grahastha or a renunciate. Therefore, the limit for giving up the association of materialists is prescribed in Sri Upadeshamrita as follows:
dadāti pratigṛhṇāti guhyam ākhyāti pṛcchati
bhuṅkte bhojayate caiva ṣaḍ-vidhaṁ prīti-lakṣaṇam
Offering gifts in charity, accepting charitable gifts, revealing one’s mind in conﬁdence, inquiring conﬁdentially, accepting prasāda and offering prasāda are the six symptoms of love shared by one devotee and another.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura explains it with great clarity in his commentary:
O sadhakas! One must accept proximity with both bad and good people as one passes his life. This equally applies to householders and renunciates. Proximity must be there, nevertheless one should not engage in bad association. Giving in charity, accepting charity, revealing one’s mind, hearing one’s mind, accepting foods, and giving foods if done with love, these are called sanga, or association. Giving some foodstuffs to a hungry person and accepting some charity from a pious man is done out of duty, not out of love. Even if they are materialists, this type of engagement is not considered association. But if they are pure devotees, then such activities are performed out of love.
When acts are performed out of love, then it is association. Therefore giving charity to pure Vaisnavas and accepting items or wealth from them becomes sat sanga. Giving charity to a materialist or accepting charity from one, if done out of love, becomes asat sanga When a materialist approaches you, whatever is required to be done should be done only out of duty. One should not speak confidentially with a materialist. Generally there is some love involved in confidential speaking, therefore it is association. While meeting a materialistic friend, one should speak only what is extremely necessary. At that time it is better not to exhibit heartfelt love. But if that friend is a proper Vaisnava, then one should accept his association by speaking to him with love. This type of behavior with relatives and friends creates no hostility.
There is no association in ordinary talk. One should behave with ordinary people as one externally behaves with a stranger while buying something in the market. The same dealings with a pure devotee of the Lord should be done out of love. If one is obliged to feed hungry people, needy people, and teachers, he should do so as a host dutifully cares for his guest, there is no need to exhibit love. Care for them, but not out of love. One should feed pure Vaisnavas with love, and when required accept the remnants given by them with love. If one can behave in this way while giving in charity, accepting charity, speaking confidentially, hearing confidentially, feeding, and accepting food with one’s wife, children, servants, maidservants, strangers, and whoever else one meets, there will no unholy association, only good association. There is no hope of achieving devotion to Krishna until one gives up unholy association in this way.
And there is no hope for giving up unholy association until we develop genuine love and respect for the vaishnavas and their association. So please beware of vaishnava aparadha!
All glories to Srimati Mataji.
All glories to Srila Bhaktivonoda Thakura.
All glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.