Friday, March 6, 2009

Avoiding Six Kinds of Vaishnava-aparadha

How do the scriptures define Vaishnava-aparadha, the mad elephant we are told to keep away from the garden of our hearts? In the 265th anuccheda of his Bhakti-sandarbha, in explaining the ten offenses against the holy name, Sri Jiva quotes a verse from the Skanda Purana, delineating varieties of unbefitting acts in relation with a Vaishnava.

satAM nindA ity anena hiMsAdInAM vacanAgocaratvaM darzitam | nindAdayas tu yathA skAnde zrI-mArkaNDeya-bhagIratha-saMvAde –

nindAM kurvanti ye mUDhA vaiSNavAnAM mahAtmanAm |
patanti pitRbhiH sArdhaM mahAraurava-saMjJite ||
hanti nindanti vai dveSTi vaiSNavAn nAbhinandati |
krudhyate yAti no harSaM darzane patanAni SaT || iti |

“Defamation of the saints, as violence and so forth, as well as verbal, is now presented. Blasphemy and so forth are presented in the Skanda in the discourse of Sri Markandeya and Bhagiratha:

‘The fools who defame Vaishnava-mahatmas fall into a place known as Maharaurava along with their ancestors. The six degrading acts against Vaishnava are (1) killing him, (2)  blaspheming him, (3) being envious of, or hating him, (4) not glorifying him, (5) being angry at him, and (6) not being happy upon seeing him.’”

According to Jiva it is also not acceptable to witness one, or several among the aforementioned degrading acts of defamation. The place known as Maharaurava is described in the fifth skandha of the Bhagavata (5.26.12) as follows:

evam eva mahArauravo yatra nipatitaM puruSaM kravyAdA nAma ruravas taM kravyeNa ghAtayanti yaH kevalaM dehambharaH ||

“Thus certainly a person who is exclusively absorbed in nourishing his body will be thrown to Maharaurava, where blood-thirsty hounds will devour his flesh and torment him.”

That said, let us examine the six kinds of degrading deeds.

1.To kill. This is obviously a heinous act bound to destroy the creeper of devotion. Under this heading, any and all acts of physical violence are also included.

2. To blaspheme. All verbal acts of defamation come under this category. Calling a Vaishnava names, speaking harshly to him or about him, speaking lies of him and so forth are considered blasphemy.

3. To be envious or hateful. To be envious of a Vaishnava, to wish for his demise or suffering and to act towards this goal, and other thoughts, speech and deeds prompted by a feeling of malice towards a Vaishnava come under this heading.

4. To not glorify. All Vaishnavas are worthy of respect. To not respect a Vaishnava in accordance with his qualification, or to refuse from recognizing a particular good quality or deed of a Vaishnava, is unbefitting. Everyone is to be given all the respect they deserve, regardless of their having different opinions from ours.

5. To be angry. Whatever a Vaishnava does, we are not to display an outburst of anger towards him. It is permitted to display anger towards someone who is hateful towards the bhaktas, but this, too, is to be done in a civil, constructive way for the rectification of the wrong-doer.

6. To not be happy upon seeing. Whoever has accepted the holy names of Krishna is a blessing to the world. To not feel happiness upon meeting a soul who has chosen to approach the Lord, regardless of his defects, is inappropriate.

Now I would like to bring this down to a practical level and examine the implications of the above unbefitting acts or attitudes when we evaluate the history of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, the doctrinal differences between various teachers, and so forth, in our discussions. Let me condense it into two sentences.

Regardless of what anyone has said or done, we should not (1) assault him or his followers, (2) call him names or speak of him harshly, or (3) wish anything bad for him. We should (4) justly give him all the credit he is due and praise his achievements, (5) avoid anger towards him as a person, and (6) be happy upon seeing or hearing of him or his followers, remembering that despite all differences, they also chant the all-auspicious names of Krishna.

I believe if we keep this in mind, we can live our devotional lives with a feeling of safety in the heart.

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