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Friday, March 23, 2007

Hearing from non-devotees

I have heard some express doubt about whether it is really so harmful to hear Hari-kathā from non-devotees.There is a verse, famous in some circles,

avaiṣṇava mukhodgīrnam pūtaṁ hari kathāmṛtam
śravanaṁ naiva kartavyaṁ sarpocchiṣṭa yathā payaḥ

("One should not hear the pure nectar of Hari kathā from the mouth of a non-Vaiṣṇava -it is like milk touched by a serpent!"), and it is said to be in Hari-bhakti Vilāsa. I have personally not seen it there though, not even in its commentary. But in his commentary to Bhakti Rasāmṛta Sindhu 1.2.30, Viśvanātha Cakravartīpāda does give this beautiful simile:

madhuram api jalaṁ kṣāra-bhūmi praviṣṭaṁ yathā virasībhavati tathaivāvaiṣṇava mukha nirgato bhagavad guṇo'pi nātirocaka -

"Even sweet water, if poured over a salty desert, becomes tasteless. Similarly the glorification of the Lord emanating from the mouth of a non-Vaiṣṇava, is not tasty."


  1. It would indeed be helpful if the citations were more precise. Apparently, the avaisnava mukodgirnam verse comes from Padma Purana, but I see no indication of where in that text it's found.

    Bhanu Swami's translation of Visvanath Chakravarti's comment seems even more to the point (although I don't know Sanskrit well enough to confirm or dispute it); instead of "tasteless," he gives "distasteful."

  2. Hare Krishna

    So the verses cited refer to Hari Katha or glorification of the Lord.

    So what is the practical implication ? Woud that mean for example, reading Habermann’s Bhakti Rasamrta Sindhu offensive? And therefore we shouldn’t read anything other than from a Vaishnava.

    I am thinking that sometimes it is helpful to read something translated by someone on a neutral ground. Because we know that sometimes the truth is somewhere between the “letter of the law” and the “spirit of the law”.

    BTW, nice to hear you here Babhruji.

  3. Babhru: 1. The word in the text is virasIbhavati. virasa is translated by Monier Williams (haha they are not Vaishnavas either of course) as: mfn. juiceless , sapless , unseasoned past. flavourless , tasteless , insipid (lit. and fig.) , unpleasant , disagreeable.
    2. Although the verse ascribed to PadmaPuran/HBV cannot actually be found in these scriptures, it is a jewel nonetheless. I wonder if we will ever find out its origins.
    1. The attitude of the non-devotee is reflected on or inserted in his Hari katha. There are also anti devotees even, like Sushil Kumar De, who speak Hari katha. Then it becomes sarpocchiSTa payaH, milk leftover by a snake.
    2. Habermann is not a non-devotee. To my knowledge he is initiated in the Radhaballabh Sampradaya. Not a Gaudiya, but not a non-Vaishnava either.

  4. Haberman is Pushti Sampradya of Vallabhacarya.
    Jai Shri Krushna!

  5. I found the same text in Visvanatha's tika to Srimad Bhagavata, 4.20.24. The fact that the avaisnava mukhodgirna verse is not quoted in that purport, though it would be perfect evidence for the point Visvanatha is making, is even a stronger sign that the verse is a later production.