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Sins and Offenses to the Holy Name

(Jiva.org) – Question: Sins are many, starting from unavoidable killing while cooking or walking, etc. There are also sins incurred in one’s lifestyle, in earning a livelihood, and in transportation, agriculture, medicine, and business. It is not possible to avoid these but they are classified as sins to be avoided under seventh offense to the holy name. 

Does nāma take care of these sins? Or can this offense be partially ignored or relaxed for the world we live in today? 

Answer: Please understand the meaning of the offense. The seventh offense is to commit sins on the strength of the name.

What this offense means is that I know a certain act is sinful and I can avoid it but I do not. Rather, I engage in the sin and then do nāma-japa to absolve it.

This offense is not talking about unavoidable sins such as violence while growing and preparing food, or violence due to travel where insects may be killed. All such sins are taken care of by the name, and one need not worry about them.

But if one knowingly commits a sin while being capable of avoiding it and thinks that the name will give him protection, then that is the seventh offense.

Question: Thank you. By agriculture, I meant genetically modified foods or milk from cows that will be killed. Some medicine may have ingredients that are not ideal. These situations do not involve the killing of insects but have a direct impact on nature, like global warming, and may also go against dharma. They are also unavoidable. Does chanting take care of these also?

Answer: Yes, chanting will take care of them; they are unavoidable.

Question: There are also sins that one may be capable of avoiding but due to vāsanās or previous saṁskāras, they are practically very difficult to avoid. In which category do these fall? 

Answer: If you commit a sin because of vāsanās or saṁskāras, it belongs to the avoidable category. Practical advice: Be aware of this and maintain the thought that I did not want this to happen and I do not want it to happen again. Do not relish the pleasure of the sinful activity. Continue with bhakti and pray for the strength to not fall prey to vāsanās.

Question: How can the neophyte devotee, who is accustomed to committing offenses, avoid such offenses? 

Answer: There are various types of offenses, such as sevāparādha, nāmaparādha, and dhāmaparādha. Among them, the most destructive are the nāmaparādhas which are ten in number. Among them also, the most dangerous is the vaiṣṇava-aparādha, and I include guru-aparādha in it because guru is also a Vaiṣṇava. There could be various reasons for committing aparādhas but mainly we commit offenses because we possess a sense of superiority. Thus, we find fault with others, including in our own gurudeva. Caitanya Mahāprabhu gave two pieces of advice regarding the avoidance of offenses—practice tolerance and humility! Neither are easy. But if we introspect on our own state of mind and focus on our sādhana, then tolerance and humility are possible.

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Question: I have three questions about the tenth nāmāparādha:

śuniyāo kṛṣṇa-nāma-māhātmya apāra
ye prīti-rahita, sei narādhama chhāra
ahaṁtā mamatā yāra antare bāhire
śuddha kṛṣṇa-nāma tāra kabhu nāhi sphure

“One who hears the boundless glories of Krṣṇa-Nāma but remains devoid of love for Kṛṣṇa-Nāma—whose heart does not melt in love for Kṛṣṇa-Nāma—is an impenitent and estranged fallen soul, the very lowest of mankind (narādhama chhāra). The pure Holy Name of Kṛṣṇa (śuddha-Kṛṣṇa-Nāma) does not reveal Himself to such persons who resist the divine influence of the Holy Name—whose thoughts, words, and deeds are internally and externally consumed by incorrigible attachment to the mundane, egotistical illusion of “I, me and mine” (ahaṁtā mamatā).”

In aniṣṭhitā-bhajana-kriyā, the sādhaka faces stages like ghana-taralā, viṣaya-saṅgarā, etc., where irregularity in sādhana, material attachments, and a lack of taste appear. Are these considered the tenth nāmāparādha?

Answer: No, these stages are not aparādhas. It is common that in the beginning stage a practitioner does not have control over his mind. That is not an aparādha. If one is practicing sincerely, then fluctuation of mind cannot be an aparādha. Śrī Kṛṣṇa acknowledges the difficulty in controlling one’s mind and advises one to continue practice (Gītā 6. 35). 

Question: If a person gives up the path of bhakti after practicing for some time, is that an offense to the Holy Name?

Answer: It is not an offense but an outcome of some offense. Offense results in slackening of interest in bhakti, absorption in non-devotional objects and activities, pride, crookedness, and ultimately loss of śraddhā. When śraddhā disappears, one gives up the practice of bhakti.

Question: In one of your articles, you mentioned: “If a person has no faith in the Name, and thus commits the offense of artha-vāda, then he or she cannot get protection from the Name.” The context was King Nṛga falling to hell for the offense of artha-vāda. What about the devotee who commits the tenth nāmāparādha and then goes on to commit artha-vāda? 

Answer: It depends on what you mean by hell. If by hell you mean a place of suffering like a specific region of the universe, then he may get protection from that. But if hell means suffering, that will surely come due to the offense. Arthavāda means to not put trust in the power of the name. If one distrusts the name, then one should not expect protection from the name.

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