The Ten Offences to the Holy Name of Kṛṣṇa

Sep 7 2022 - Krishna Talk 242

(Produced from a lecture given on 27th April 1998 at Govindaji Gardens, India)

Kali kāle nāma rūpe kṛṣṇa avatāra—in the age of Kali, the avatāra of Kṛṣṇa is Nāma Prabhu. The sound — 

Hare Kṛṣṇa Hare Kṛṣṇa
Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Hare Hare
Hare Rāma Hare Rāma
Rāma Rāma Hare Hare

This is the avatar of Kṛṣṇa in Kali-yuga. Kṛṣṇa is independent and he does not come under any rule. He does not belong to any caste, varṇa or āśrama. He is not under the laws of this material world. He is the creator of this material world. And He is the creator of all the laws of this material world.

Similarly, the holy name of Kṛṣṇa does not belong to any varṇa or āśrama, any caste or section of society. The holy name is independent and does not depend on anything. Therefore, the only qualification to chant the holy name of Kṛṣṇa is the willingness to do so. For other things like study of the Vedas, performing fire sacrifices, chanting other mantras, we first have to get some qualification. But for the holy name of Kṛṣṇa, the only qualification for anyone to chant that name is the willingness to do so. There is no rule or regulation. Anyone can chant the holy name of Kṛṣṇa, at any time. 

For example, as regards with vedic gāyatrī mantras, there are three sandhyās — in the morning, just at the time of sunrise, in the mid-day, and just at the time of the setting sun. These mantras must be chanted at these three times of the day. But the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra may be chanted at any time of the day or any time of the night. In fact, it is recommended to chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra all through the day and all through the night — kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ

So the holy name of Kṛṣṇa is Kṛṣṇa himself and therefore, when we chant the name of Kṛṣṇa, we are directly associating with Kṛṣṇa via this sound vibration. Our Guru Mahārāja, Śrīla A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swāmī Prabhupāda used to say that when you chant Kṛṣṇa-nāma, Kṛṣṇa is dancing on your tongue. That means when the pure name (śuddha-nāma) of Kṛṣṇa is uttered, then Kṛṣṇa is present in His name.

There are three stages of chanting Kṛṣṇa’s name — Nāma-aparādha, nāmābhāsa and śuddha-nāma. Nāma-aparādha is not desirable. It is to be avoided. Aparādha means offence. Creating offence and chanting the holy name is not desired. This should be avoided. Nāmābhāsa means that there is no offence, however, one’s love for Kṛṣṇa has not fully manifested due to anarthas, which are contaminations of the heart — a heart disease (hṛd-rogam).

In this material world, everyone has got heart disease. If we did not have heart disease, then we would not be in this material world, which is a place of heart disease. This heart disease is called ahaṅkāra. Ahaṅkāra in English is called a hard knot, a knot of selfishness. Everyone has got it, but it is known that actual devotees have got it less. But it is to be understood that some more purification is required. This knot in the heart, this ahaṅkāra, this is accumulated from life after life in this material world. Communicating to our mind and others this knot in the heart tells us many things which are not true.

For example, in every country we see there are different types of human beings. In the northern hemisphere, the southern hemisphere, the islands, people throughout continents, and elsewhere, there are so many different types of people. We can distinguish them a little bit by their faces. And in each country one is thinking, “I am a Gujarati,” “I am a Bengali,” “I am a Malayali,” “I am a Canadian,” “I am an Englishman,” “I am a Russian,” “I am a German”. But all these identities, they are coming from this ahaṅkāra — this knot in the heart. It is not our true identity. So many bodies we have had in past lives, so many times we have been in the world and we have been in different places in this world. We may have been an Aborigine, we may have been kings, or we may have even been devatas before. But in each and every birth we’re thinking, “I am this, I am this, I am this”. But all these things are false. It is not what we are. 

You have to take the holy name of Kṛṣṇa to heart with sincerity. Whatever you understand to be sincerity or earnestness, you have to employ that while chanting the holy name of Kṛṣṇa. Then the holy name of Kṛṣṇa will come to the heart, and that knot of ahaṅkāra, which tells us so many false things about our identity, creates greed, etc. will be washed away.

Ahaṅkāra causes greed. We don’t want to give everything. We want to accumulate the wealth of the world for ourselves. We want to become rich and powerful. We want to defeat our enemies. All this is due to ahaṅkāra, and the ahaṅkāra tells us, “You’ll be happy by this process. Mark it. Have no doubt about it. Grab what you can. Accumulate what you can. You know, for your family, you can lie, cheat and steal and it’s okay.” This is all the dictation of the ahaṅkāra

But when we lie, cheat, steal, and plunder from others, we actually create a reaction in this world. We create a bigger ahaṅkāra for the next life by karmic reaction. If we steal money from one man, in our next life, money will be stolen from us. Those who are liars and cheaters, they are the beggars on the street that you see today. Why can’t you stamp out poverty? Because it cannot be stamped out. It has always existed from the richest times of the Kings, to the present day in the big capitalist countries, or the Third World countries. Just in New York City alone, there are nearly half a lac of homeless people. It is the biggest, richest city in the world but 50,000 people there have no home. They don’t even get daily food. How is that? Because it is their karma to suffer in this life. Poverty is because of previous life. They have snatched from others, stolen, cheated, told lies and all of these. So all this comes from ahaṅkāra

When the holy name of Kṛṣṇa enters the heart, it will destroy this ahaṅkāra, just like the fire destroys dry grass. When grass is dry, fire will burn it. So then the point comes, how to keep the heart in a condition that the holy name will act. This is our only concern. The only thing we have to be concerned when chanting the holy name of Kṛṣṇa is how to keep in such positions that the holy name will affect, because it is said that fire will not burn wet grass. It will not burn it actually, only smoke will come. When grass burns, snakes, spiders, and other poisonous creatures will all be destroyed. All the unwanted things will be destroyed. So some analogy is given like this. But if the grass is wet, it won’t burn. Those things which are poisonous will escape to some other place. Only smoke will arise. 

Therefore, for the holy name to take effect, in the Garuḍa Purāṇa, ten offences to the holy name are listed that must be avoided. One should simply avoid them. It is not difficult. One or two take a little more practice than the others. The last one is the biggest hangup. The first one is the worst of all, but it is very easy to avoid that. So these are the ten offences to be avoided while chanting of the holy name. 

First Offence

The first one is that one should not blaspheme the devotees of the Lord who have dedicated their lives to spreading the holy name of the Lord all over the world. 

Now there are two types of devotees, those who do bhajana and those who do pracāra. Bhajana means not mixing in the world, not pushing anything out there, simply remaining at home, chanting the name of God and worshipping the deity, studying the scriptures, and things like this. But they are not going out to push this into the environment that is to convert others. They’re not doing pracāra. Pracāra means preaching. Both of these types of devotees are devotees. There actually is no difference between them. Their daily practices may be different. But one must not criticise saying, “This man is simply staying at home and chanting.” One must not criticise bhajana actually. Neither should one criticise a preacher who is giving up his time for bhajan and going out to preach. But between both of these, Kṛṣṇa says that one who spreads His glories is certainly very dear to him. But ultimately, both classes are devotees, their dear to Kṛṣṇa, and one must not criticise them.

So how do we avoid criticising? Do the opposite — speak something nice. We have a saying, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” So the best process is to try to say something nice about the devotees. That means all the devotees and particularly the higher devotees, our guardians, the paramahaṁsa’s, our guru Parampara. It is a great secret. The process of glorifying them takes you up as you do your japa and chanting. If you are giving your thoughts and your words glorifying devotees, that is also like chanting japa, but it’s a super-lifter. When you engage in just chanting, sometimes your mind is running all over the three worlds. Everything from the newspaper, to the radio, to the TV, to the fight with the neighbour comes to your mind. You’re trying to chant, the tongue is going on, but the mind is somewhere else. But when you’re speaking, your mind is right there. Speaking requires concentration. So if we glorify the Vaiṣṇava’s then we are very concentrated in that type of kīrtana, and that will take us up.

Another secret is that if we look at somebody and say, “Oh, this person eats too much rice. I too eat, but he eats much more,” then we will find that the desire to eat more rice will appear in our belly, today or tomorrow. We have a saying, “The faults you find may be your own.” It is a secret that by fault finding, that fault will get magnetically attached to us and take shape in our own heart. It’s a fact. So the way to avoid that offence is to speak nicely of the vaiṣṇavas, to always glorify the vaiṣṇavas. But sometimes the teacher has to find fault in a student, otherwise the student won’t make any progress. 

Once Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta, our paramaguru, wrote a letter to a disciple. First the disciple wrote a letter to him complaining to him about what was wrong in the temple, and who was doing wrong. Our paramaguru, he wrote back and said, “This is my job, my duty. I am the guru. I have to sometimes find fault with others in order to correct them. But I cannot understand for the life of me, why you want to take this duty upon your head. Why would you want this horrible thing that you have to go there and inspect for some defect? You should be free from this.” 

And whenever there was a quarrel between devotees, then part of the settlement would be, he would bring them together and he would ask them, “Prabhu, tell me what is good about that devotee?” He would make them speak something good about each other. And when that happens, immediately the heart becomes light. And you feel it. 

Actually, when you are angry and upset with people, it disturbs your digestion, it disturbs your nervous system, it disturbs your mind, and creates headache. But when you have happy exchanges between people, it never produces a headache in you, or gives you any negative health effects. 

Everybody knows that these things are injurious. Therefore, we should concern ourselves with seeing the good qualities in others and speaking about those good qualities. And of course, that particularly means speaking about the good qualities of our predecessor ācāryas, our gurus. If someone asks you about a devotee, and if you have nothing good to say, then don’t say anything. That’s the best thing to do. Or you say, “Oh, he is a vaiṣṇava.” Vaiṣṇavas have no bad qualities, only good qualities. Criticism of the vaiṣṇavas, particularly of those who have dedicated their lives to preaching and of those who have dedicated their lives to bhajana, is to be avoided.

Second Offence

One should not think that the name of Kṛṣṇa is equal to the name of Śiva, Durga, Gaṇeśa, or anybody. Simultaneously, one should not think that all these bogus, cheating avatars that have emerged in India in this last century have any divinity assigned to them at all. They’re actually useless fellows. About these kinds of people, you must speak the truth. They are deceivers. They don’t even have a spark of divinity in them. They claim to be Bhagavān but they give ashes to people, hit people on heads with feathers, and give bogus blessings. We should not think that those fake Bhagavāns are like Kṛṣṇa Bhagavān. Neither should we think that the other devatas are equal to Kṛṣṇa.

Vaiṣṇavānāṁ yathā śambhuḥ — Amongst the vaiṣṇavās, Sadāśiva is the greatest. He is the greatest devotee, and by the blessings of the devotees we get devotion to Kṛṣṇa. But those who worship him as an independent God, as a competitor to Kṛṣṇa, they cannot achieve the ultimate goal of life. So we should not think that chanting om namaḥ śivaya is the same as chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa Mahāmantra. What to speak of Durga or Gaṇeśa.

Third Offence

The third offence is to disobey the orders of the spiritual master. We are requested to follow rules and regulations in Kṛṣṇa consciousness according to our position in society as a brahmacārī, as a gṛhastha, or as a sannyāsī, etc. And we are given some do’s and don’ts in the kitchen and in the puja department and here and there. These are some orders of the spiritual master. Knowing those orders, one should not neglect them. 

Guru Maharaja said, “After offering is completed, Kṛṣṇa’s plate must be cleaned before going for prasādam.” So the pujārī should not say “Oh anyway!”, and leave the dirty plate there and go take his prasādam. That’s an order. They must clean Kṛṣṇa’s plate first, then go and take prasādam. Like this, there are many rules and regulations about service and other things. 

The spiritual master requests the disciple, “Don’t mix very intimately with non-devotees.” You have your job, so you have to mix and talk with people. But don’t try to make them your bosom friend and get very close. Because if you do, their bad qualities may come to you. So you have to be cordial, friendly, and charming with people, but you should embrace to your heart only the vaiṣṇavas. This is not only the guru’s instruction, but Caitanya Mahāprabhu Himself has said, asat saṅga tyāga ei vaiṣṇava ācāra. You must reject the company of non-devotees.

But in a practical sense, we have to go to the market, have to teach, have to go to school, have to go to work, and we do all these things. But how deeply we shall mix with those persons, there we must use some caution. We should mix with them in such a way that they get attracted to your side. Not that you get attracted to their side. We have to learn how to mix in the world and at the same time not leave our hearts in the world. We leave our heart with the vaiṣṇavas and with Kṛṣṇa.

Fourth Offence

The fourth offence is to blaspheme the Vedic literature or literature that follows the Vedic version. There are many things mentioned. It is said that Hanumān jumped from India to Lanka. Someone may say, “A monkey can’t jump like that. All these are just mythology. These are all exaggerations.” This means that we want to compare everything to our limited experience. There once was a time when people said, “The world is flat. If you sail out, you simply fall off the end.” They also said, “You can’t fly in the sky. Only birds can fly in the sky.” Then they learnt to fly in the sky, they also discovered the world wasn’t flat, but round. Still, they have this very limited idea. 

We should not think that all these are imaginary. They may be beyond our experience, they may be beyond our power, they may be even beyond our understanding. But we should not think that they are simply imaginary or mythological. This is a type of offence. 

What we find in the scripture, we must understand that as the truth, whether we can explain it or not. In the beginning, we cannot understand everything. First we must accept it as divine truth, as revelations that have been revealed. If we follow the path then the words of the scriptures reveal themselves. And then we can see and understand how all these things, all the wonders of the scriptures are possible. So one should not say these things are simply mythology and so forth. That is the fourth offence.

Fifth Offence 

Then the fifth offence is very similar. There are many glories of chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa Mahāmantra. One must not think that these things are imaginary or not possible, that you cannot get mokṣa in that way. But actually, it is said that one can get mokṣa by even inattentively chanting the holy name of Kṛṣṇa. But by attentive chanting of the holy name of Kṛṣṇa, one will get love of Kṛṣṇa — Kṛṣṇa-prema

We should not think that the glories assigned to the Holy Name of the Lord are an imagination. That’s the fifth offence. And as I said, these are very easy to avoid. But in the beginning we should read them a few times, just so that accidentally we’re not following one of the wrong ideas. We just make ourselves aware of that. 

Sixth Offence

The sixth offence is to give interpretation based on speculations to create imaginary meanings for the holy name. If someone asks the question and you don’t know, it is not shameful to say, “I don’t know. We’ll have to see about that. I’ll ask an older devotee.” But many times nobody wants to say “I don’t know”. But we should not be like that. We should not just give imaginary knowledge, imaginary interpretations.

Seventh Offence

Then the seventh one is to commit sinful activities on the strength of chanting the holy name. That means that there’s a certain section of people who do all kinds of wrongs. Then they come to a temple, give money, do a puja, and think, “Now all those bad things are purified.” Then they go home and repeat the same nonsense again. They eat meat, they do illicit activities, they drink, they do all these things, and think that in the temple they got purified from all of that. They think they have a fresh start but repeat the same mistakes all over again. 

By chanting Kṛṣṇa-nāma we become pure. We should follow the rules and regulations, not do nonsense, detrimental things again, which is like an elephant that after taking a bath in a river, throws mud all over it’s body. So while chanting the holy name we should not have such a mentality. I’ll do this mischief and chant tomorrow to nullify the karma. We should not think like that. 

Eighth Offence

The eighth offence is to consider that chanting Kṛṣṇa nāma is just like any other vedic religious ritual. Ritualistic performances are meant to just improve material prosperity. Quite a few groups now outside the vaiṣṇava world are also recommending Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra. But we are discussing from which angle do they recommend it. Many of them see Bhaktivedanta Swāmī got big success from this Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra. Many big temples, many followers, and a lot of money. So they are trying to use the mantra for material benefits. That’s what comes from ritualistic religious activities — material benefits. 

In Kṛṣṇa-nāma, we are not searching after any material benefit. But Kṛṣṇa is very kind to His devotees. He does not make His devotees go hungry. He does not make them go without clothes and all these facilities. The devotee gives his hard work. Hard work is good for us. Everything is provided, but we don’t think that, “Oh, by chanting I’ll get these things.” That is not the goal. These things Kṛṣṇa gives automatically to his devotees. But those who are not His devotees are simply struggling under the waves of karma — action and reaction. 

Ninth Offence

The ninth offence is to instruct faithless persons about the glories of the Holy Name. In the course of your life, you sometimes meet obstinate fools. You try to tell them something, and they’ll just come back in the most foolish nonsensical way on your face. To sit there and argue with such a person is not good. If we try to convince them about the glories of the Holy Name, then again they’ll make some nasty statement about that. The Christians say “Don’t put pearls before a swine”. He’s a stool eater. He cannot appreciate the finer things in life. There are pig-like people. They cannot appreciate the finer things in life. They only want to eat the dirty things in life. So if we encounter such persons, simply we make an excuse and leave. It is not our duty to preach to that type of person. 

Inimical, angry people who are filled with hatred about religions, should just be left out. Kṛṣṇa will take care of them in another way. Or maybe some devotee will appear, like Nārada Muni, who has more power, and he will convert such people. But generally we cannot do that. We look to speak to people who are favourable, who have some piety, some softness in the heart. They have some religiosity. They believe in God. They may have so many misunderstandings. We’ll tolerate that in the innocent ignorant if they have something favourable. But when we meet people who are just opposed and against, then it’s not our duty to speak to them. That means not to instruct faithless persons who have no faith in the holy name.

Tenth Offence

The first offence was the most detrimental. One may make mistakes here and there but those can be easily corrected. But to criticise great devotees, that is the worst of the worst. That is called hāthi-mata, which means the mad elephant offence. If a mad elephant comes, everything is finished. They can destroy houses, trees, gardens, and everything. So that offence against the vaiṣṇava’s is like a mad elephant in the garden. Devotion to Kṛṣṇa is given as a seed by the process of hearing in association. We are receiving a seed of bhakti in the heart which is to be watered by Kṛṣṇa-nāma. We are now growing a garden in your heart and the fruits of love of God come in the mature stages. But if a mad elephant gets in, it destroys everything. So vaiṣṇava aparādha is the most destructive offence that one must guard oneself from.

But the 10th offence is the most difficult to give up. It can be very easy to stop speaking bad about the vaiṣṇavas. But the tenth offence is a little more difficult. The tenth offence is to remain attached to material things, even after having heard again and again the glories of the holy name. Then what happens is that Kṛṣṇa takes these things away from you, from time to time. He wants to take something away from your hand that you want to hang on to. “You give it.” “No I won’t, I want it.” “No, you give it.” He wants to see that you are not attached to anything in this material world. So that is between Kṛṣṇa and all devotees. But the rule is, don’t remain overly attached to anything in this world, because everything in this world is temporary, and nothing is permanent. Particularly one is very attached to family matters. But that is very temporary in this world. And it’s even said that a sannyāsi is attached to his brass water pot. So we have to be mindful. Don’t just cultivate excess attachment to anything in this world, rather, cultivate attachment to Kṛṣṇa. 

If someone asks you for something, then give it. Let them have it. Don’t think, “No, no, it is mine. It is mine.” Of course you can’t tend to every beggar in the street, but if someone comes to your door, and you don’t know who that person is, then don’t just shoo them away. I have read in the Bhāgavatam that sometimes devas, or sometimes Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa comes, or He sends them. He wants to see what kind of a wretched Vaiṣṇava are you, that you just kick out every starving man and woman. He wants to see what your practical kindness towards people is. 

If we have a lot of stock, then Kṛṣṇa says, “I want to take some of that”. He may send some beggar to your door, or a devotee may come, “Oh, we need help, Prabhu. We need your time. We need some of your energy.” He may ask for your money also. That is not bad. We should not be too attached to these things. We should believe in Kṛṣṇa that I’m not going to suffer anything by giving to Kṛṣṇa. We should not cultivate material attachments. That’s the main thing. 

We must not even cultivate things like knowledge. Once we begin this devotional process, we should cultivate the knowledge of devotional science. But after that, we shouldn’t just go on cultivating all kinds of knowledge of all kinds of useless things. That will stand in our way of progress. That’s cultivating unnecessary attachment to unnecessary knowledge.

So those are the ten offences to be avoided while chanting the holy name. If one avoids these ten offences, then one will not be in nāma aparādha stage and one will be first in nāmābhāsa, and the holy name will begin to purify. Eventually we will come to the stage of purely chanting the names of Kṛṣṇa, and we will know what are the fruits of love of Kṛṣṇa. This is the ultimate fulfilment of all jīvas, which is to live a life in love of Kṛṣṇa. The reward is that in the next life we will be in the eternal plane, in the infinite plane of Goloka Vṛndāvana, back to home, back to Godhead. And that is the purpose of this human form of life. It is not to remain here and cultivate the things of this world, live to a ripe old age, and simply die in a hospital somewhere. That is not the goal of life. The goal of life is to go on to the next life. And above the mundane world is the infinite, the divine, and the eternal world. That is the domain of God. He lives there forever with his devotees, and that plane is the goal as per all the Vedas, that is the goal as per the Bhagavad-gītā, that is the goal enshrined in all the temples, that is the goal of all the mantras — To leave this world and go to the eternal world, back to home, back to Godhead.