Abandon Unhealthy Mentalities

Date Unknown - Article

Question: It is said that a Vaishnava is fearless. Is this actually a fact or does the Vaishnava also have some fear?

Answer: Yes. A Vaishnava is fearless in all circumstances because he knows that Krishna will always protect him. Yet, if we examine the mood of the great souls, the sadhus and the acharyas, we can detect that a Vaishnava is fearful of only one thing ­­ vaishnava-aparadha. Not only a Vaishnava but the Supreme Lord Himself is also afraid of vaishnava-aparadha, not for Himself but for the benefit of His devotees, and He therefore cautions His devotees accordingly.

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu descended to this world to bestow the greatest boon of love of Krishna upon all living entities. While instructing and empowering Srila Rupa Goswami at Prayag to distribute the mellows of bhakti-rasa the Lord cautioned against offenses committed at the lotus feet of a Vaishnava.

yadi vaisnava-aparadha uthe hati mata
upade va chinde tara sukhi yaya pata

"If the devotee commits an offense at the feet of a Vaishnava while cultivating the creeper of devotional service in the material world, his offense is compared to a mad elephant that uproots the creeper and breaks it. In this way the leaves of the creeper are dried up." (Cc.Madhya-lila, Ch. 19, Txt.. 156)

There are many incidents of vaishnava-aparadha recorded in the revealed scriptures as a reminder to all aspiring devotees about the serious consequences of offenses committed at the feet of a pure Vaishnava. When a non-devotee makes an offense against a pure Vaishnava as in the case of Gopala Capala, who offended Srivasa Pandita by placing the paraphernalia for worshipping the Goddess Bhavani outside his door, the usual reaction is that the offender is stricken with a horrible disease such as leprosy or even death.

Gopala Capala was a brahmin but he was envious of Srivasa Pandita, a great devotee of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Gopala Capala's offense was envy--envy of the Vaishnavas. Greater than the sin of killing a cow; greater than the sin of killing a brahmin, a woman, or even killing children is the sin of envying a Vaishnava. That is the ultimate sin.

In the case of Gopala Capala he was immediately stricken with leprosy due to his offense to Srivasa Pandita and his face and other extremities of his body began to melt away. After sometime he met Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu along the way to the Ganges and he begged the Lord to please forgive him and deliver him from his miserable condition. Hearing the man's plea to be delivered Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu became furious with anger, "You sinful wretch!, said the Lord, "Why do you blaspheme the Vaishnavas? All the living entities in material existence are My friends. However, I am completely inimical to one who is envious of a Vaishnava. Even after suffering for ten thousand life times still you won't be released from your offense against a Vaishnava. I can forgive an offense against Myself but a fool who commits violence to a Vaishnava is lost forever. Such an envious sinner goes straight to hell. O most sinful man, you will never see the end of your suffering."

That man did not die immediately but he continued to suffer for many years and then he was eventually delivered when at last he fell in the dust of the lotus feet of Srivasa Pundita and begged for his mercy. The Lord easily forgives an offense against Himself but he never forgives an offense committed against His pure devotee. Srila Viswanatha Chakravati Thakura says that the pure devotee can not recognize an offense against himself and therefore the only way to get free from an offense committed to a pure devotee is to fall in the dust of his lotus feet and beg forgiveness. Srila Viswanatha says that the dust at the feet of the pure devotee remembers the offense that one has committed and therefore only the dust can give forgiveness.

The non-devotee offender certainly suffers miserable disease and even death as a result of his offense to a Vaishnava but there are examples also where even a great devotee, a pure devotee, accidentally committed some offense to another Vaishnava. Knowing that if one Vaishnava offends another Vaishnava the offender can never experience love of Krishna, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu becomes very anxious that the offense be removed so that His devotee can taste Krishna-prema.

An example of this is Mother Saci, the mother of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Mother Saci was thinking that due to the influence of Adwaitacharya her eldest son Visvarupa had left home, taking up the renounced order of life. Mentally Mother Saci harbored this apprehension about Sri Adwaitacharya thinking that He might similarly be a bad influence on her younger son Nimai. She never said anything directly to Adwaitacharya, she only thought like that.

Being the omniscient Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu knew the mind of Mother Saci. Thus considering the exalted position of Adwaitacharya the Lord proclaimed that Mother Saci had made vaishnava-aparadha to Adwaitacharya. Mahaprabhu then called for Adwaitacharya who could hardly believe his ears when he was informed that Mahaprabhu had declared that Mother Saci had made vaishnava-aparadha against him. On the way to Mother Saci's house Adwaitacharya incessantly chanted the glories of Mother Saci. To conceive that Saci had made an offense to him was not within Adwaita's thinking capacity. He was so devoted to Saci Devi.

When Adwaita entered the house of Mother Saci he fell to the floor in a faint of love of God. Mahaprabhu knew that the acharya would never allow Saci to touch his feet therefore when Adwaita lay on the floor in a faint He requested His mother to touch Adwaitacharya's lotus feet. Mother Saci did this and got release from the offense. Thus she was then able to taste the pure nectar of Krishna-prema.

We should consider ­­ if vaishnava-aparadha was possible even for Mother Saci then what about me. "I am the king of fools. What offenses I must have committed against the Vaishnavas ­­ knowingly or unknowingly. What is my position? How shall I redeem myself with the Lords devotees?"

Only our sincerest humility mixed with the dust of the Vaishnava's lotus feet can help us to be forgiven for our offenses and to avoid vaishnava-aparadha in the future. Our best safe guard against vaishnava-aparadha is humility. Not a calculation of humility, "O here is a Vaishnava. Let me be careful ­­ I shall be humble and show respect to him." No. Not a show of humility by calculation. That will not help us much. What is required is a flow of real humility from the heart ­­ which is free from envy. I envy the Vaishnavas and therefore I am calculated in all my dealings with them. Envy means calculation and this certainly leads to offenses.

We have seen that sometimes a neophyte devotee tries to calculate the words and deeds of a venerable Vaishnava. Thinking that the Vaishnava poses a threat to his position or reputation the neophyte begins a slander campaign against the pure Vaishnava. The venerable Vaishnava is always the well wisher of the aspiring devotees in Krishna consciousness but when the neophyte allows his previous material conditioning of fear, duplicity, apprehension, and envy to adulterate his vision he calculates that the Vaishnava has become his enemy. In that state of consciousness the neophyte unfortunately makes many offenses to the pure devotee. Unless by the grace of God the offender comes to his senses and surrenders to the dust of the Vaishnava's lotus feet then unfortunately his Krishna consciousness is destroyed.

In the second verse of Siksastaka Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has written,

namnam akari bahudha nija-sarva-saktis
tatrarpita niyamitah smarane na kalah
etadrsi tava krpa bhagavan mamapi
durdaivam idrsam ihajani nanuragah

"O My Lord, in Your holy names there is all good fortune for the living entity, and therefore You have many names such as Krishna and Govinda, by which You expand Yourself. You have invested all Your potencies in those names, and there are no hard and fast rules for remembering them. My dear Lord, although You bestow such mercy upon the fallen, conditioned souls by liberally teaching Your holy names, I am so unfortunate that I commit offense while chanting the holy name, and therefore I do not achieve attachment for chanting."

So even though we may have embraced the chanting of the holy name of Krishna for millions of lifetimes, if there is offense, and especially if there is offense to a Vaishnava, then we can not develop attachment for the holy name. This Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu indicates is due to offenses. In the next verse of Siksastaka the Lord indicates the proper way of chanting which will help one to avoid vaishnava-aparadha.

trnad api suniicena taror iva sahisnuna
amanina manadena kirtaniyah sada harih

"One who thinks himself lower than a blade of grass, who is more tolerant than a tree, and who does not expect personal honor yet is always prepared to give all respect to others, can very easily constantly chant the holy name of the Lord with attachment."

The Chaitanya-caritamrta advises that we should wear this verse of Siksastaka: trnad api suniicena, strung on the thread of the holy name, around our neck for continuous remembrance. It is so important to maintain proper humility. Without humility we will not be able to have offenseless dealings with the Vaishnavas.

Our humility must be genuine. I must be really sincere in my vision of the Vaishnavas. What is that? The Vaishnavas are my masters. I am their servant and the servant of their servants. The Vaishnava is not my servant. He is not my order supplier. I should not think that if he does not satisfy me I will become angry with him. Such thinking will always put us in an offensive mentality. It is always better to conceive of one's self as the servant, of the servant, of the servant, of the Vaishnava. That is our true position according to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

gopi bhartuh pada-kamalayor dasa dasanudasah

"Our position is that of the servant, of the servant, of the servant, of the followers of the Vaishnavas (gopis)."

By uttering "gopibhartuh " Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has indicated the topmost devotees and the prescribed mood of worship in which we should follow in order to understand His conception. Amongst all the Vaishnavas the gopis are the topmost. This Mahaprabhu has stated and Srila Sanatana Goswami has shown this in his Brhad-bhagavatamamrta also. The topmost servants in love of Godhead are the cowherd girls of Vrindavana. And among the cowherd maidens of Lord Krishna at Vrindavana Srimati Radharani stands supreme. This is proclaimed by the Bhagavatam in the verse "anaya radhitam nunam" in which Sri Candravali has said, "no one but Radharani can fully satisfy Krishna."

From the word radhitam the name of Radharani is understood just as in the verse spoken by Lord Siva to Parvati in Padma Purana, aradhanam sarvesam visnor aradhanam param the word aradhanam, the best worshiper, indicates Radharani. So, it may also be conceived that aparadha, an offense, means that which is displeasing to Srimati Radharani. Love for Krishna is not possible without the grace of Srimati Radharani and therefore if one commits offenses to the Vaishnavas it is not possible to get Her grace.

Srimati Radharani is the original devotee. In the words of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, "Krishna is the Supreme Predominating Moity and Srimati Radharani is the Supreme Predominated Moity of the Absolute Truth". All devotional service to Krishna must first pass through Srimati Radharani. In the words of Srila Prabhupada, "Srimati Radharani is the Mother of Devotion." Mother means who gives birth. So the energy of devotion is born from Srimati Radharani. It is not the energy of the living entity, jiva-tattva, which serves Krishna directly. There must be a connection with the source of the devotional flow, Srimati Radharani, then the jiva can perform his normal and natural function in relationship to Krishna.

The venerable Vaishnavas are the representatives of Srimati Radharani and as such no one can get Her blessings without first satisfying the Vaishnavas. Therefore our siksha-guru Srila B.R. Sridhar Maharaja gave much stress to the service of the Vaishnavas. The Vaishnavas are like the kalpavrksa, the wish fulfilling tress of Goloka Vrindavana who can fulfill all our spiritual desires. By the grace of a Vaishnava all our cherished deires to serve Sri Sri Radha and Krishna will be fulfilled or by their displeasure all is lost.

Vaishnava-aparadha is such a grievous thing, yet we are so unfortunate that we deal with the Vaishnavas in a most ordinary way, as though they were common street people or worse. Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita: (7:3)

manusyanam sahasresu kascid yatati siddhaye
yatatam api siddhanam kascin mam vetti tattvatah

Out of many thousands among men, one may endeavor for perfection, and of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows Me in truth.

The devotee of Krishna is so rare ­­ no one is more dear to Krishna on this earth than the pure devotee. Our guru-maharaja, Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, stressed on this point literally hundreds of time ­­ beware of vaishnava-aparadha ­­ "it is most grievous". Perhaps our greatest defect as westerners is that we come to deal with the highest conceptions of divinity, with the Supreme Lord and His dearest devotees, but we bring with us our mundane pride and our arrogance.

During the life time of Srila Prabhupada he earnestly requested the Vaishnava community in India to kindly accept his disciples as genuine Vaishnavas and sannyasis. And by his grace we were accepted. However, regrettably, after the departure of Srila Prabhupada we foolishly began to consider that, "our guru was the only guru and we in turn are the only Vaishnavas". Thus, much unnecessary vaishnava-aparadha was committed against humble and venerable Vaishnavas in India. It is nothing to be proud of but it is a fact. Many vaishnava-aparadhas have been committed against some of Krishna's dearest devotees and many have had to suffer on account of that. Should we have learned our lesson by now? You would think so but again, regrettably the offensive mentality toward the Vaishnavas still exists in many of us today. We are so unfortunate.

Sometimes as neophytes we wrongly consider, "my guru is the topmost devotee of Krishna and by his grace I have become advanced in Krishna consciousness and am preaching all over the world. Therefore, I can do anything and everything and nothing can check me." This is a mistake. In the name of my guru I may also commit vaishnava-aparadha and if so, then ­­ even he may not be able to save me from the reaction.

By accepting the service of a liberated soul and taking shelter at his lotus feet one very quickly becomes qualified in Krishna consciousness. But due to a vaishnava-aparadha one may again fall down into illusion and material suffering. Once upon a time there lived a devotee by the name of Rupa Kaviraja (not to be confused with Rupa Goswami) who had taken shelter at the lotus feet of Sri Krishna-charan Chakravarti (the param-guru of Srila Viswanatha Chakravarti Thakura and who was Ranga Manjari in Krishna-lila). Due to the association and blessings of his guru Rupa Kaviraja became celebrated as a great devotee, advanced in the mellows of Vraja-bhakti and very learned in the bhakti-sastras. Later on after the departure of his guru envy of the Vaishnavas manifest in the heart of Rupa Kaviraja and he again fell down.

At Radha-kunda this Rupa Kaviraja was accustomed to recite the Bhagavatam and many respectable Vaishnavas would come to hear him. One day a certain Vaishnavi named Srimati Krishna-priya Thakurani came to sit and listen to the discourses on Krishna consciousness. Krishna-priya Thakurani was very dear to all the devotees because she constantly chanted the holy names of Krishna in a humble state of mind. While listening to Rupa Kaviraja deliver his discourse the lips of Krishna-priya Thakurani ever so softly vibrated the holy names.

Suddenly Rupa Kaviraja stopped speaking and addressed Krishna-priya Thakurani, "How is it that you are able to do two things at once. I am speaking the Bhagavatam and you continue your chanting. Have you no respect?" Krishna-priya Thakurani replied, "It is not that I chant purposefully but my tongue and lips uncontrollably chant the holy name of Krishna even without my wanting to do so." When Rupa Kaviraja heard this reply he became furious with Krishna-priya Thakurani and angrily chastised her in the assembly of Vaishnavas. Everyone was very sad to hear his cruel words hurled upon the humble person of Krishna-priya Thakurani.

Rupa Kaviraja immediately fell down from his position and he lost all potency to speak the Bhagavatam. People stopped attending his discourses and soon he was stricken with leprosy. He left Vrindavana and tried to get shelter in other Vaishnava communities elsewhere in India but the news of his having grievously offended a pure Vaishnava spread to where ever he tried to hide. Lastly he died in exile somewhere in Orrissa.

What could be done ­­ Rupa Kaviraja had a guru of the highest caliber but due to envy of a pure devotee he unfortunately committed vaishnava-aparadha and was vanquished forever. Even having such a high type of guru could not save him from the reaction to his misdeed. This unfortunate incident is mentioned in the biography of Srila Viswanatha Cakravati Thakura.

Another example of offenders is that of Jagai and Madhai. These two fallen souls from a brahmin family lived in Navadwip town during the time of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Mostly we have heard that they were drunkards and were delivered by Mahaprabhu but they were much more than just drunkards. The Chaitanya-bhagavat by Vrindavana Dasa Thakur states that these two brothers were so sinful that it is not possible to account the unlimited sins they had committed. Not only were they drunkards but they were murderers of cows, brahmins, and even women. No one could count the numbers of innocent persons that they murdered. They were so mean and nasty that everyone in Navadwip was deathly afraid of them.

When Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu gave His order to take the holy name of Krishna to every home in Navadwip the Lords chief assistants said that as long as Jagai and Madhai were present it would not be possible as these two brothers repeatedly stooped the chanting of the holy names and threatened to kill the devotees. The Lord then organized a sankirtan party and in a joyous mood he led the sankirtan party to the house of Jagai and Madhai who were fallen down in a drunken stupor.

After sometime the brothers were awakened by the tumultuous sound and the banging of drums and the ringing of kartals. What is this they thought, "Who dares to disturb our peaceful sleep? Catch them! Catch them!" Picking up clubs to beat the devotees the two brothers ran to the street where they saw the Lord amidst his favorite devotees; Nityananda Prabhu, Adwaitacharya, Murari, Mukunda Datta, and many others dancing and chanting the holy names of Krishna in great ecstasy. With nasty words and in an angry tone Jagai and Madhai tried to rebuke Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and His devotees but when all else failed the brothers became completely mad and in a frenzy of anger they struck Lord Nityananda in the head with a piece of earthen pot.

Seeing this Mahaprabhu summoned His sudarsana cakra which then sped toward Jagai and Madhai to cut their heads from their shoulders. Lord Nityananda, the most merciful to the fallen souls, stopped the sudarsana cakra and petitioned Lord Chaitanya to kindly show these sinners His mercy by delivering them. The scene of Lord Nityananda pleading with Lord Chaitanya to spare the two brothers melted the stonelike hearts of Jagai and Madhai.

Later Jagai and Madhai came before the Lord with folded hands. Lord Chaitanya then requested the brothers to give the Lord a tulsi leaf saying, "I will take your sinful reactions. Give them all to Me." At first the brothers refused saying, "O Lord You do not know how sinful we are. We can not do it." The brothers reminded the Lord that they had killed many cows, brahmins, women, and given trouble to countless innocent persons. But the Lord insisted and finally it was done. When Lord Chaitanya received the sins of Jagai and Madhai the Lord lost his golden complexion and He immediately became black. Seeing this the Lord said, "Whoever offends a vaishnava will have to accept the sinful reactions of Jagai and Madhai." The Lord then resumed His origional golden color. This story is narrated in the Chaitanya-bhagavat and the Chaitanya-mangala.

So we are to deal with the Lords devotees in a most sincere and humble way. We should not allow a trace of envy or pride or duplicity to enter our dealings with the Vaishnavas. Among all the living entities, the Vaishnava and especially one who broadcasts His message, is the most dear to Lord Krishna.

na ca tasman manusyesu, kascin me priya-krttamah
bhavita na ca me tasmad, anyah priyataro bhuvi

There is no servant in this world more dear to Me than he who preaches this message, nor will there ever be one more dear. (Bhagavad-gita 18:69)

There is no consideration about a Vaishnava's birth, caste, nationality, gender, age, or race. These are all external designations of the material body and these should not be considered as very important when trying to understand who is a Vaishnava. Similarly, it is of little consequence as to what spiritual society a Vaishnava does or does not belong to. When approaching a Vaishnava if we allow our consciousness to focus on so many external designations then we are sure to make offenses at his lotus feet. Actually it is a fact that excessive consideration about the society a pure Vaishnava belongs to or doesn't belong to has perhaps become the greatest single cause of comitting vaishnava-aparadha since the time of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. It is also a fact that instead of preaching love of Krishna all over the world and glorifying the Lords dearmost servants we all too often fall prey to preaching society consciousness and sometimes oppose the pure devotees, thus perpetuating an offensive mentality in the minds of the newcomers in Krishna consciousness.

Once Srila Prabhupada was asked how we can tell who is a pure devotee of Krishna, to which he replied, "It takes one to know one." So, in the meantime let us try to remember the Lords instruction to always remain in a humble state of mind while constantly chanting the holy names of Krishna. The Vaishnava are krpa-sindhu, an ocean of mercy, and we the fallen souls are in great need of coming in contact with that ocean of mercy. The Vaishnavas are the only saviours, patita-pavana, for the down trodden and fallen souls of this material world. Therefore, all unhealthy mentalities leading to vaishnava-aparadha should be totally abandoned and given up immediately.

So with the following prayer let us bow our heads in the dust of our gurus lotus feet and always beg to remain as a humble servant of the Vaishnavas, and to always be gentle and gracious in our dealings with all those Vaishnava devotees of the Lord who have embraced the lotus feet of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and who are the only shelter and life giving nectar for the surrendered souls.

vanchakalpa-tarubhyas ca krpa-sindhubhya eva ca
patitanam pavanebhyo vaisnavebhyo namo namah