— Chapter Four —

Criticizing Saintly Persons

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

The ten offenses against the holy name

LORD CAITANYA SAID, "Haridasa, now describe in detail the offenses against the holy name." Srila Haridasa replied, "O Lord, whatever I say will be on Your prompting alone. I am a mere puppet.

"The scriptures enumerate ten offenses against the holy name, and I am very fearful of these of these offenses. I will list them one by one; please give me strength to avoid these offenses, my Lord.

  1. To criticize saintly persons.
  2. To consider the demigods to be independent of the Supreme Lord, or that Lord Krsna's name, form, qualities and pastimes are separate from the Lord.
  3. To disobey the spiritual master who reveals the truth about the holy name.
  4. To criticize the scriptures that describe the glories of the holy name.
  5. To consider the excellences and divine qualities of the holy name, as delineated in the scriptures, to be imaginary.
  6. To commit sinful activities on the strength of chanting the holy name.
  7. To instruct faithless persons on the glories of the holy name.
  8. To equate chanting of the holy name with the materially auspicious activities recommended in the karma-kanda sections of the Vedas.
  9. To be inattentive while chanting the holy name.
  10. To not develop love for the holy name after knowing His glories because of maintaining attachments to the body and things related to the body.

To criticize a saintly person is offensive

"Criticizing a saintly person is the first offense against the holy name; it completely disrupts one's spiritual life. You have personally described the qualities of a sadhu in Your incarnation as Lord Krsna, when you spoke to Uddhava as recorded in the Eleventh Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam.

"The sadhu's qualities are as follows: he is merciful, tolerant, equal to all, performing penances without excessively inflicting injury to the body, truthful, pure-hearted, compassionate, free from lusty intelligence; master of the senses; voluntarily accepting material impoverishment; gentle; clean; regulated in eating; peaceful; apathetic to materialism; patient; steady; taking Lord Krsna as his only shelter; free from illusion; grave; a conqueror over hunger, thirst, lamentation, envy and old age; not expecting honor from others; offering respect to others; expert; not a cheater; and knowledgeable.

Qualities are of two kinds: svarupa and tathasta

"These qualities can be divided into two categories: svarupa, or the direct and indigenous qualities of any substance, and tathasta, qualities that are ornamental and which are visible when the substance comes in contact with something else. The sadhu's acceptance of Lord Krsna as his only shelter is his svarupa-laksana, and all the other qualities are tathasta. If by some good fortune one associates with a Vaisnava, he develops a taste for the holy name, and takes complete shelter of Krsna's lotus feet. Thus he develops svarupa-laksana, and then through continued chanting he gradually develops all the other laksanas or symptoms. These other laksanas are tathasta but nevertheless are essentially present in a Vaisnava.

Saintliness depends upon svarupa-laksana

"External designations (such as the four social and religious orders of brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, sudra and brahmacari, grhastha, vanaprastha and sannyasi) are not the symptoms of a sadhu. The scriptures expound that the quality of complete surrender to Lord Krsna is the hallmark of a sadhu, and he alone can chant Krsna's name purely.

"O Lord Caitanya, through Raghunatha dasa Gosvami's example You have taught everyone about how to become a proper grhastha Vaisnava. Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami appeared not in the brahmana caste but in the inferior kayastha caste in a village called Saptagram. Your instruction to him was that he should not become impatient and act crazily by whimsically leaving home, but return to his household life and remain there. Liberation is gradually attained by following an orderly process; there is no need to prematurely pretend that one is detached and renounced just to impress people. Renunciation has to take-place within the heart. Wearing the dress of renunciate when the senses are still uncontrolled is called monkey renunciation or markata-vairagya. The householder should fulfil his duties in a regulated manner and practice detachment by cultivating firm faith and deep attachment for Krsna within, while conducting normal external social dealings with the people in general. Very quickly Lord Krsna will personally liberate him.

Symptoms of a renounced sadhu

"When You saw that Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami had at last left his household and embraced a renunciant's life, Your instructions to him on the proper path of renunciation were wonderful. You taught that one should not engage in, nor give audience to, frivolous materialistic conversations. The wearing of fine clothes and the tasting of delicacies must be rejected. Being always ready to offer respect to others, demanding no respect for oneself, one should constantly chant the holy name. One should render intimate service to Sri Radha and Krsna in the mood of the residents of Vraja.

Same basic quality in householder and renunciant

"The svarupa-laksana or principal symptom (i.e. surrender to Lord Krsna) must prevail in a sadhu regardless of his varna and asrama. The tathasta-laksana or marginal symptoms will certainly vary according to the varnas and asramas. Undeviating surrender to Lord Krsna is the svarupa-laksana of devotional service.

"Whoever possesses this quality will soon find that the other marginal symptoms have come to him unfailingly. But if perchance the marginal symptoms have not reached full maturity in a surrendered sadhu, and instead some serious discrepancies in character are visible in him, then he is still to be respected as a sadhu or saintly soul. This is the verdict of the scriptures, as expressed in Lord Krsna's own words in the Bhagavad-gita. A profound philosophical truth is revealed by this verse, and we are aware of it only due to Your mercy.

It is offensive to criticize a sadhu for past sins

"When one has developed a real taste for chanting, then a single utterance of the holy name can eradicate all previous sins. Some vestiges of sinful reaction may still remain in a particular individual, but these also are gradually removed by the process of chanting. As these last traces of sin disappear, he emerges a pure devotee. Of course, the lingering traces of sin are seen by the common man as sins; but if a saintly person is criticized because of the traces of almost extirpated sin in his character, that is a grievous offense. If criticism is made against a sadhu for sins committed prior to his surrendering to Krsna, that is likewise another serious offense; such a fault finder surely invites the wrath of Lord Krsna.

Symptoms of a sadhu in a few words

"One who has fully surrendered to Lord Krsna will naturally only chant Lord Krsna's name, thus such a person is entitled to be called a sadhu by the Lord's grace. Only a devotee of Lord Krsna is eligible to be respected as a sadhu, and none other. If anyone else proclaims himself a sadhu, he is but a charlatan and a braggart. One who humbly says he is a poor soul surrendered to Lord Krsna, who constantly chants Krsna's name, is a real sadhu. He, considering himself lower than a blade of grass and more tolerant than a tree, offers all respects to others without expecting any for himself. The holy name of Krsna grants such a sadhu divine love of Godhead.

A Vaisnava fixed in the name is the real sadhu

"When I hear a sadhu chant the holy name, I offer my respects to him, knowing him to be a perfect Vaisnava; A Vaisnava is the spiritual master of the world, a true friend of every being, always an ocean of compassion. Anyone who criticizes a Vaisnava goes directly to hell and suffers untold pains birth after birth.

The doors of bhakti are closed to this offender because devotional service is the merciful gift of a Vaisnava to the living entities. The Vaisnava is an abode of Lord Krsna's spiritual potencies; others receive krsna-bhakti only by his confidential association.

"The potency or sakti of pure devotion is a blend of hladini (Krsna's pleasure-giving potency) and samvit (Krsna's knowledge-giving potency). The pure bhakti potency is instilled by a perfected pure devotee in the aspirant devotee; it is by this process that the bhakti potency is handed down. The bhakti potency reposes in the heart of a transcendentalist, and it uses him as a vehicle for further movement. When a jiva becomes free from envy and is inclined to devotional service, the bhakti potency is then transferred from a pure devotee's heart into that jiva’s heart. This is a great mystery. The three great touchstones that offer the mercy of a Vaisnava in attendance to bhaki are: the Vaisnava's eatable remnants, the water from his foot bath, and dust from his lotus feet.

How a Vaisnava imbues his potency in others

"When one sits in the presence of a Vaisnava for some time, one feels Krsna's potency exuding from his person. This potency enters the heart of a faithful person and impregnates it with bhakti. He experiences immediate ecstasy. Just by a moment's association with a Vaisnava, bhakti is invoked in the heart of a pious person. Immediately he'll be inspired to chant Lord Krsna's name; gradually, the holy name will offer him all the spiritual qualities.

Vaisnava-ninda or criticism of a devotee

"An offender against a sadhu is one who criticizes a Vaisnava about his caste, some unpremeditated accidental falldown, the last traces of his previous sins, or his sinful activities prior to his surrendering to Lord Krsna. This offender will never develop a taste for chanting the name. One who has taken complete shelter of the pure devotional process is considered a pure Vaisnava.

The four above-mentioned faults may be present in him, but he is totally free from all the other shortcomings. Hence criticizing him spells doom for the offender. The glories of the holy name are propagated by the Vaisnava; Lord Krsna does not tolerate any criticism against him. One may discard all other activities like religiosity, yoga, sacrifices, fruitive activities, empirical knowledge and so on; if one simply chants the holy name, that is the quintessence of spiritual culture.

The sadhu takes complete shelter of the holy name

"The real sadhu never criticizes demigods and other scriptures; he simply chants the holy name. Regardless of whether such a sadhu is householder or a sannyasi, one should eagerly take the dust from his lotus feet. The purity of a Vaisnava is judged by how much attraction or rati he has for the holy name. It has nothing whatsoever to do with his official status as a Vaisnava, or his wealth, erudition, youth, pleasing appearance, strength or following. Therefore one who takes shelter of the holy name must rescind the propensity to criticize sadhus.

"Pure devotion based on chanting is dependent on the mercy of the pure devotee and his unalloyed devotion. Without these two everything will become perverted and spoiled. Bhakti recedes at the first indication of sadhu-ninda, which then becomes namaparadha. Let the aspirant devotee disapprove of sadhu-ninda and serve and associate with the sadhus.

Two types of bad association

"The proper Vaisnava behavior is to avoid asat-sanga or bad company that influences a person to disrespect a sadhu. Bad association is of two kinds; the first is association with women, which means either to have illicit connection with a woman other than one's wife, or to be excessively fond of one's own wife. The scriptures approve only a proper regulated relationship with one's wife. Keeping company with a licentious or henpecked man also falls within this first category of asat-sanga or bad association.

Non-devotees are of three kinds

"The second type of bad association is to mix with non-devotees. There are three kinds of non-devotees: the mayavadi, the dharmadhvaji (pretender), and the nirisvara (atheist). Mayavadis do not accept that the Supreme Lord's form is eternal. They say the Deity form of the Lord is illusory or maya, and that the jiva is also a product of maya. A dharmadhvaji is a person who has no devotion or attachment in the heart but makes a show of it externally. He wears the clothes of a devotee to accomplish materialistic ends. A nirisvara is a non-believer, an atheist. A serious aspirant or sadhaka must shun such bad association. If anyone argues that criticizing such non-devotees is sadhu-ninda, his company must also be meticulously avoided. One has to keep away from bad association and take complete shelter of the holy name. Only then is love of Godhead ensured.

The kanistha-Vaisnava

"The neophyte devotee (kanistha-adhikari Vaisnava) displays a faith that is formal, even worldly. He worships the Deity but has not developed an interest in serving a Vaisnava sadhu. He is almost a Vaisnava, but is not a real Vaisnava yet, hence he is not able to take full spiritual advantage of sadhu-sanga. A neophyte will have to receive a pure Vaisnava's blessings to advance spiritually.

The madhyama-Vaisnava

"If a madhyama Vaisnava (intermediate devotee) develops loving affection for Lord Krsna, friendship with Lord Krsna's devotees, compassion for the innocent, and evades the company of atheists, he quickly becomes a pure devotee. He alone becomes eligible to chant the pure name.

The uttama-Vaisnava

"A pure devotee of the highest level sees Lord Krsna manifest everywhere and knows that everything rests in Him. Indeed, he sees that Lord Krsna is his life and soul. He is unconcerned with distinctions of who is a Vaisnava and who is not; his whole life revolves around the holy name. To him, the holy name is the essence of everything.

Activities according to a Vaisnava's status

"A madhyama- Vaisnava is always engaged in serving sadhus. The madhyama-Vaisnava stage marks the beginning of pure Vaisnavism. He is required to distinguish the Vaisnava from the non-Vaisnava; serving the pure Vaisnava is his necessity. If he neglects to differentiate among the grades of Vaisnavas then he stands to commit Vaisnava-aparadha. He has to continuously evaluate the Vaisnavas and serve the pure Vaisnava. The uttama- Vaisnava does not see any distinction whatsoever between a Vaisnava or a non-Vaisnava, or between enemy and friend; how will he then serve a Vaisnava? How will he distinguish a Vaisnava from the non-Vaisnava?

"The scriptures declare that a neophyte Vaisnava (one who is almost a Vaisnava) can chant in the stage of namabhasa, the clearing stage. A madhyama- Vaisnava is worthy of chanting the pure name: therefore he must always carefully avoid the offenses or namaparadha. The uttama-Vaisnava can never commit any offense, because he perceives Lord Krsna everywhere.

"Now, every sadhaka must consider these points calmly and reflect upon his real position. First, he must stop sadhu-ninda. Then he should chant with firm faith, according to his status as a Vaisnava. It is therefore essential that he recognize his own position. The devotee's activities should center around association with sadhus, service to sadhus, the chanting of the holy name and a constant attitude of compassion for all living entities.

Remedies for sadhu-ninda

"If anyone offends a sadhu in a moment of delusion and madness, he must fall at the sadhu's feet and repent bitterly; weeping and full of contrition, he must beg forgiveness. He should declare himself a fallen wretch in need of a Vaisnava's grace. A sadhu is very merciful; his heart will soften and he will embrace the offender, thus exonerating him from his offenses.

"I offer this explanation of the first of ten namaparadhas at Your lotus feet."

One who is like a bumblebee attracted to the lotus feet of Srila Haridasa Thakura will find the power of life itself in this Harinama Cintamani.