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Monday, December 06, 2010

Viśvanātha's nāma-tattva, part 2

Among the ten offenses, the very strong effects of interpreting the name, thinking its glories are exaggeration and equating it to pious acts—are obstacles to being a Vaiṣṇava. Among the other offenses two are very strong—offending the devotees and committing sin on the strength of chanting. Those two are particularly described in a frightening way.

yataḥ khyātiṁ yātam katham u sahate tad vigarham

How can the name tolerate criticism of those who spread the name? (Padma Purāṇa)

nāmno balād yasya hi pāpa-buddhir na vidyate tasya yamair hi śuddhiḥ

For a person who commits sin on the strength of chanting there is no purification by the servants of Yama. (Padma Purāṇa)

There is no other means of destroying the effects of these two offenses than to continually chant the name while suffering appropriately for the offense. The effects of the other offenses will be destroyed simply by continual chanting (without the suffering).

Some people make the following proposition:
"Those offenders of the name who are without karma and jñāna, and who practice bhakti with hearing and chanting but have not taken initiation because they have not surrendered to the feet of a guru are still called Vaiṣṇavas. The word vaiṣṇava is defined as 'the person who takes Viṣṇu as his object of worship' according to Pāniṇī's sūtras 4.2.24 and 4.3.95. Thus Vaiṣṇavas are those who have made Viṣṇu the object of worship by accepting initiation but also those who make Viṣṇu the object of worship simply by worship, since there is no other word to describe the two types of people. So the latter type of persons also should not fall to hell."

This however is not correct because one cannot attain the Lord easily without Guru.

nṛ-deham ādyam su-labham su-durlabham
plavaṁ su-kalpaṁ guru-karṇa-dhāram
mayānukūlena nabhasvateritam
pumān bhavābdhiṁ na taret sa ātma-hā

"Having attained the human body, rarely attained, but attained easily sometimes by good fortune, which is like a well-constructed boat, with the Guru as the captain, pushed by the favorable wind of serving me, a person who does not cross the ocean of material existence is a killer of himself." (SB 11.20.17)

Therefore it should be explained that there is no other way of attaining the Lord than by becoming a devotee who has surrendered to the feet of a Guru, who will be attained in another birth by the power of worship. "But it is seen that Ajāmila, without surrendering to guru easily attained the Lord." This can be explained as follows. Those who, like cows or asses, make their senses pursue sense objects cannot know the Lord, bhakti or Guru even in their dreams. But as in the case of Ajāmila, they can be delivered even without Guru by chanting the name in namābhāsa without offense. Though it has been definitely ascertained that the Lord should be worshiped, that worship is the means of attaining him, that the Guru is the person who teaches about worship, and that those who are devotees attain the Lord, it is also said:

no dīkṣāṁ na ca sat-kriyāṁ na ca puraścaryāṁ manāg īkṣate
mantro'yaṁ rasanā-spṛg eva phalati śrī-kṛṣṇanāmātmakaḥ || [padyā. 29]

"Chanting the holy name does not depend on initiation, pious activities or the puraścarya regulative principles generally observed before initiation. The holy name does not wait for any of these activities. It is self-sufficient."  (Padyāvalī)

As well, we have the example of Ajāmila. But one who thinks, "What is the benefit of taking the trouble to accept Guru'- I will attain the Lord just by chanting the name," will not attain the Lord, because of the offense of offending Guru (third offense). However, in this life or another life, if he surrenders to the feet of Guru after destroying his offense, he will then attain the Lord. Some people say that persons who worship devatās should be treated like the karmīs with sin and offense. Others say that Bhakti-devi places them in an even lower category because they do not have general surrender. Thus it is said:

ye’py anya-devatā-bhaktā yajante śraddhayānvitāḥ |
te’pi mām eva kaunteya yajanty avidhi-pūrvakam ||

Those who are devoted to other gods and with faith worship them-they also worship me, but by the wrong method, O son of Kunti. (Bhagavad Gītā 9.23)

But for those who are simply offenders there is no deliverance at all. It is said:

tān ahaṁ dviṣataḥ krūrān saṁsāreṣu narādhamān |
kṣipāmy ajasram aśubhān āsurīṣv eva yoniṣu ||

I cast those hateful, cruel, and lowest of humans, constantly doing evil, into repeated birth and death in the wombs of demons. (Bhagavad Gītā 16.19)

But some persons also say that these offenders' offenses are destroyed by mental absorption (in hatred) on the Lord since it is said

kāmād dveṣād bhayāt snehād yathā bhaktyeśvare manaḥ |
āveśya tad-aghaṁ hitvā bahavas tad-gatiṁ gatāḥ ||

Just as by vaidhi-bhakti one can attain one's spiritual goals, many persons have attained suitable forms, after absorbing their minds in the Lord out of lust, hatred, fear and family relationships filled with affection, and after giving up absorption in enmity of the Lord (in the case of hatred and fear). SB 7.1.30
This idea is represented in verses such as the following:

nāmāparadha-yuktānāṁ nāmāny eva haranty agham
aviśrānti-prayuktani tāny evārtha-karāṇi ca

Even if in the beginning one chants the holy name with offenses, one will become free from such offenses by chanting again and again. (Padma Purāṇa)

Others say that "absorption" means repeated meditation in order to be effective. Others say that there is no absolute rule when Kṛṣṇa appears in the world. Thus some persons without being absorbed in the Lord, but simply by being killed by the Lord—such as Narākasura, Bāṇāsura and the troops of the Kauravas and others simply by the influence of seeing the Lord attained the Lord. This was previously mentioned in the Bhāgavatam.

6.2.13 - From the moment he named his son Nārāyan, Ajāmila performed all atonements. This was also done without any offence to the name, either previously or currently.

6.2.14 — Chanting the name of the Lord, while indicating someone else, while joking, to fill up space while chanting verses, or chanting with neglect destroys unlimited sins and desires.” That desires are uprooted by nāmābhāsa is the exclusive opinion of Viśvanātha here. "Saṅketya means referring to someone like a son. parihāsyam iti prītigarbham eva na tu nindā-garbham "Parihāsya means calling jokingly but with affection, not with criticism. yathā bho vikhyāta kīrte kṛṣṇa nāma dṛṣṭvā tava kīrtir yato māṁ noddhartum aśakyas tvam iti. "Oh famous one! Your fame is like that of Kṛṣṇa, since you can save me." stobhaṁ kathā gītālāpādi pūraṇārthaṁ kṛtam. Stobha means to chant the name in order to provide proper meter during a discourse or a song. helanam atra helayā girir uddhṛta itivad yatna-rāhityam evocyate, yathā āhāra-vihāra-nidrādāv apy avahelayā eva yāvanti kṛṣṇa-nāmāny ayaṁ gṛhṇāti, na tāvanty anyaḥ prayatnenāpi gṛhītaṁ śaknuvantīti, na tu nindāvajñādikam, tathā sati nindāṁ bhagavataḥ śṛṇvan ity āder bhagavato nindake kiṁ vā viṣṇuneti tad-avamantari veṇādāv api doṣāvahatvaṁ "Hela means chanting with disregard, without attention, or as in 'Kṛṣṇa lifted Govardhana, casually [helayā]. Others cannot utter the name with effort as much as these persons who utter the name of Kṛṣṇa without effort, while eating, playing or sleeping. This chanting is also without criticism or disrespect.The Bhāgavat says [10.74.40] 'Anyone who does not leave the place where he hears criticism of the Lord or His votary will fall down."Thus critcism or disrespect like that of Vena, by saying 'What is the use of Viṣṇu?' is filled with fault [and thus does not have effect]."This shows that the attitude of 'as long as they say Kṛṣṇa,  even in a hostile manner - any publicity is good publicity' does not mean that the hostile chanter is benefited in any way, perhaps only that some name and publicity is given to Kṛṣṇa in non-Vedic countries. tasmād aśeṣāgha-haraṁ vāsanā-paryanta-sarva-pāpa-nāśakam - "aśeṣāghara-hara  means not only all sins but also desires are destroyed by chanting."

6.2.15  saṅketyādibhyo'nyasya pañcamasya vaivaśya prabhedam āha - patitaḥ prāsādādibhyaḥ skhalito mārgena bhagno bhagna gātraḥ sandaṣṭaḥ sarpādibhiḥ. tapto jvarādina. āhato daṇḍādina. There are five circumstances mentioned here in which one is not chanting deliberately. Falling from a building, falling from the road, breaking one’s bones, being bitten by snakes, being burned, punished, etc.

6.2.49 Ajāmila even attained the spiritual world. kim utā śraddhayā gṛhṇan – ‘What to speak of chanting with faith’? ṭīkā: "Ajāmila chanted without faith, but because he was dying - what to speak of chanting with faith? He chanting while dying, what to speak of chanting while living? He chanted to indicate his son, what to speak of chanting to indicate the Lord? He was very sinful, what to speak of when a sinless person chants?"

The fact that there is a clear distinction made between nāmābhāsa and deliberate chanting (‘with faith’) in this verse with the words 'kim utā śraddhayā ghṛṇan' proves once more that nāmābhāsa can never be a sādhana. To use the terms 'clearing stage' for nāmābhāsa clearly indicates a sādhana, an ongoing process, whereas it is in all cases described to be accidental chanting. An accident is not a stage. No ācārya speaks of nāmābhāsa as a stage of sādhana whatsoever.

6.5.11 Viśvanātha's commentary: anādi ādi-śūnyaṁ nijasya jīvātmano -bandhanaṁ - The word anādi in relationship to the jīva's bondage is without beginning." Here Viśvanātha firmly slams the door in the face of the fall-vādīs who try to squeeze an alternative meaning out of the word anādi.

6.16.57 Vaṁśīdhara speaks of vismṛtam, forgetting, as anādyajñāna, beginningless ignorance. Some who try to defend fall-vāda, do not mention this but jump to other conclusions, even using this ṭīkā of Vaṁśīdhara along with the usual material logic.


  1. ON : ''6.5.11 Visvanatha's commentary: anAdi Adi-zUnyaM nijasya jIvAtmano -bandhanaM - The word anAdi in relationship to the jiva's bondage is without beginning." Here Visvanatha firmly slams the door in the face of the fall-vadis who try to squeeze an alternative meaning out of the word anAdi.
    6.16.57 Vamsidhara speaks of vismritam, forgetting, as anAdyajJAna, beginningless ignorance. Some who try to defend fall-vada, do not mention this but jump to other conclusions, even using this tika of Vamsidhara along with the usual material logic.'' comment: there can always be the figurative use of the term anadi, such as in verse 4.30.51 of the Bhagavatam. The verse calls Lord Brahma anadi, "the beginningless one."
    This verse does not give a general description of Brahma as one of the numberless beginningless souls. Rather, in a straightforward narrative, it is said that Lord Brahma, in his capacity as the chief demigod in the universe, engaged Daksa in a particular task. And in that context, the long-lived Brahma is called anadi, "the beginningless one." It is well known that Lord Brahma takes birth and dies. However, he lives for such a fabulous length of time that he is called anadi, of course in a figurative sense. Sunya anadi can be just to stress that this is a very long time, not just in the sense of amara, immortal, as the devatas are called. Or that this even refers to spiritual karma, blooping from the spiritual world, since also Bg 4.9 janma karma ca me divyam, speaks of karma in the spirtual world.

  2. 1. Both karma and avidya have been described in shastra, starting with Vedanta Sutra, as anAdi, more times than can be counted. That means that the beginningless karma refers to material activities, not devotional activities.
    2. Visvanatha Cakravarti mentions in his tika to SB 3.7.10 that there is neither a beginning nor a reason for the soul's conditioning.
    3. No shastra and no sampradaya believes in falling from the spiritual world. much less for the reason of envy of the Lord and wanting to imitate Him.
    4. Brahma being called anAdi in one place of the Bhagavat does not create a general rule that anAdi does not mean beginningless. It is the only dictionary meaning of anAdi.

  3. "No shastra and no sampradaya believes in falling from the spiritual world."

    Then where did ACBS get the idea he preached so firmly? There must have been some source.

  4. Anon, the first source I know of is Bhaktivinode, who repeatedly claimed the jiva is envious of Krishna etc etc. You need to see this in the framework of time. India was occupied by the Christian British and as you may know, the Bible speaks of original sin and the fall from paradise by Adam and Eve. Somehow this slipped into Vaishnava theology, at least in the branch of Bhaktivinode. Remember that ACBS, BSS and BVT all went to Christian missionary schools, too.