— Chapter Fourteen —

Offenses in Devotional Service

All glories to Sri Gadadhara Pandit, and to Lord Sri Gauranga; all glories to Lord Nityananda, the life and soul of Srimati Jahnavadeyi; all glories to Mother Sita, and to Advaita Acarya; all glories to Srila Srivas Pandit, and to all the devotees of Lord Caitanya.

Srila Haridasa Thakura is namacarya

LORD CAITANYA SAID, "My dear devotee Haridasa, the conditioned souls of Kali-yuga will greatly benefit from this elaborate explanation of the offenses against the holy name that you've so far given. You are indeed a great spiritual stalwart and acarya".

Srila Haridasa Thakura is namacarya, or the foremost spiritual authority on the subject of the holy name. He practiced everything he preached. He taught the jivas about the pure holy name, the shadowy name or namabhasa, and the glories of the holy name. He also instructed how one should quit committing namaparadha. He taught all this by his own example.

Lord Caitanya continued, "I very much relished your dissertation on the holy name. As an acarya, you are exemplary; as a preacher, you are profound. You are always omamented by the priceless gem of the Lord's holy name. Ramananda Raya taught me the esoteric science of divine mellows, and now you have instructed me on the profound philosophy of the holy name. Kindly speak on the different kinds of offenses made in the execution of devotional service."

Srila Haridasa Thakura replied, "You are asking about a subject that is more familiar to a servitor-devotee. My time is taken up in association with the holy name. I don't know what to say about all this, yet I cannot disregard Your instruction. I will speak whatever You make me say."

Varieties of sevaparadha

"Offenses in devotional service (sevaparadha) are numerous. In some scriptures, thirty-two offenses are listed, and in others, fifty. Scripture generally identifies four classifications of sevaparadha. By definition, sevaparadha is always related to Deity worship. The four classifications of offenses in Deity worship are: those pertaining to persons engaged in Deity worship, those pertaining to the installation of Deities, those pertaining to persons taking darsana of the Deity in the temple, and those that generally apply in all cases. These can be easily determined.

Thirty-two sevaparadhas

"The list of thirty-two offenses in Deity worship is as follows:

  1. entering the temple with shoes or alighting from a vehicle before the Deity as if on a promenade;
  2. not observing the festival days;
  3. forgetting to offer obeisances and prayers to the Deity;
  4. entering the temple without having washed the hands and feet after eating;
  5. offering worship to the Deity in an unclean or contaminated state;
  6. offering obeisances with one hand;
  7. circumambulating before the Deity;
  8. extending the feet towards the Deity;
  9. sitting on one's haunches before the Deity;
  10. sleeping or reclining in the presence of the Deity;
  11. eating before the Deity;
  12. speaking lies before the Deity;
  13. speaking out loudly before the Deity
  14. talking with others before the Deity;
  15. shedding false tears before the Deity;
  16. quarreling before the Deity;
  17. criticizing someone before the Deity;
  18. giving charity to beggars before the Deity;
  19. using abusive language before the Deity;
  20. covering with a blanket or quilt before the Deity;
  21. praising someone before the Deity;
  22. acting immodestly before the Deity;
  23. passing air before the Deity;
  24. using or giving substandard paraphernalia for Deity worship in spite of having better;
  25. eating or drinking unoffered food;
  26. not offering seasonal fruits and vegetables;
  27. offering contaminated food, first eaten by someone else, to the Deity;
  28. sitting with one's back to the Deity;
  29. offering obeisances to, or worshipping someone else before the Deity;
  30. not glorifying and offering obeisances to one's guru before the Deity;
  31. glorifying oneself before the Deity;
  32. slandering the demigods before the Deity.

These thirty-two sevaparadhas are compiled from the scriptures by the realized sages.

More offenses listed in other scriptures

"Other scriptural sources have listed additional offenses; these I mention briefly.

"It is offensive to eat opulently; to touch the Deity of Hari in darkness; to touch the Deity without proper rituals; to open the altar doors without an accompanying performance of music and song for the pleasure of the Lord; to offer food to the Lord that has been seen by a dog; to speak during Deity worship; to offer arati without putting a flower garland on the Deities; to worship Lord Krsna with unattractive or non-fragrant flowers; to offer worship to Lord Krsna without first cleansing the face and mouth; to offer worship to the Deity having neglected to take a bath after with one's wife; to be in the presence of a woman during her menstrual period; to offer worship directly after having kindled a fire; to pass air before the Deity; to offer worship wearing dirty or contaminated clothes; to offer worship while angry; to offer worship directly after having been at a cremation ground, or having touched:a body or seen a body's face;

to offer worship while suffering from indigestion or dysentery; to offer worship immediately after eating; to offer worship while chewing betel or tobacco; to touch the Deity after having had a massage with oil; to worship with flowers from the pipal or castor tree; to worship at an inauspicious time; to worship while squatting on a small wooden stool; to touch the Lord with the left hand while bathing the Deity; to offer old or already offered flowers; to boast during worshipping; to spit habitually; to worship the Deity after having applied smudged or zigzag tilaka; to enter the temple without washing the feet; to offer the Deity food cooked by a non-Vaisnava; to do puja in front of a non-Vaisnava.

Sevaparadha is to be avoided by the servitor

"One who is engaged in Deity worship must carefully avoid the sevaparadhas, and all Vaisnavas must strictly abstain from the namaparadhas and relish the taste of pure devotional service to Lord Krsna. The devotee himself is the best judge of which offenses to be vigilant about, according to the service he is engaged in. But the responsibility of avoiding namaparadha is applicable to every Vaisnava at all times.

In the stage of bhava-seva, sevaparadha is almost nonexistent

"That devotee who, in a secluded place, feeling separation from the Deity, is steadily engaged in worshipping the Lord in the mood of loving (bhava), must diligently avoid the ten offenses against the holy name, because the namaparadhas are the source of all ills. Bhava-seva commences only after one has surmounted the namaparadhas. In this stage of seva, one has to be free from all offenses. In bhava-seva, mental service is foremost; there is hardly opportunity for sevaparadha. O Lord Caitanya, You have instructed Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami on the worship of Sri Govardhana-sila thusly [as recorded in Caitanya-caritamrita, [Antya-lila 6.294-304]:

"This stone is the transcendental form of Lord Krsna. Worship the stone with great eagerness. Worship this stone in the mode of goodness like a perfect brahmana, for by such worship you will surely attain ecstatic love of Krsna without delay. For such worship, one needs a jug of water and a few flowers from aTulasi tree. This is worship in complete goodness when performed in complete purity. With faith and love, you should offer eight soft Tulasi flowers, each with Two Tulasi leaves, one on each side of each flower.
"After thus advising him how to worship, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu personally offered Raghunatha dasa the Govardhana-sila with His transcendental hand. As advised by the Lord, Raghunalha dasa worshipped the sila in great transcendental jubilation. Svarupa Damodara gave Raghunatha dasa two cloths, each about six inches long, a wooden platform and a jug in which 10 keep water. Thus Raghunatha dasa began worshipping the stone from Govardhana, and as he worshipped he saw the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, the son of Nanda Maharaja, directly in the stone. Thinking of how he had received the Govardhana-sila directly from the hands of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Raghunatha dasa was always overflooded with ecstatic love. The amount of transcendental bliss that Raghunatha dasa enjoyed simply by offering water and Tulasi is impossible to achieve even if one worships the Deity with sixteen kinds of paraphernalia. After Raghunatha dasa had thus worshipped the Govardhana-sila for some time, Svarupa Damodara spoke to him as follows: 'Offer the Govardhana stone eight kaudis worth of the first-class sweetmeats known as khaja and sandesa. If you offer them with faith and love, they will be just like nectar."

Meditators on the holy name perform bhava-seva

"Meditation upon the holy name of the Lord engenders bhava-seva or spontaneous loving devotional service. O Lord Caitanya, this is Your grace upon the jivas: all the different limbs of sadhana-bhakti or the practice of devotional service finally culminate in prema. One must therefore submerge himself in the nectar of chanting the holy name and forget all other processes of elevation."

It is on the strength of Srila Haridasa Thakura's instructions that a lowly person without means can recite the Harinama Cintamani.