Offences and anarthas broadly explained.

By Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj

Question: Maharaj, is it in an offence to not have enough respect or love for the Deity?

Srila Sridhar Maharaj: Offence is a question of jurisdiction. How much shall we label ‘offence’? An offender is always ready to say, “I am committing offence. If I am in Vrndavan, I am committing offence. I am committing offence to the gopis, the Vaisnavas, everything.”

Aparadha means tuchhi aparadhana: “My worship is not up to mark.” Aparadha: apa-aradhana. Aradhana means to worship, to revere, to serve. Apa means apakrsta: not up to standard, below standard. “What I am doing is below standard.” That may be according to degree.

Vaisnava-aparadha has been said to be the most heinous, most dangerous offence. If a Vaisnava is serving and I find fault with their service, then my inferiority will increase. A Vaisnava always says, “I cannot serve fully, perfectly. There are many defects in my service.” Vaisnavas always speak this way. Radharani also says, “I can’t serve properly”, but She is serving to the highest degree. If anyone in a lower position comes to clash with a high servitor, they commit Vaisnava-aparadha. Vaisnava-aparadha is greater than offending Krishna directly because proper service is our earnest necessity, and we are abusing that. Thereby we commit suicide.

Generally aparadha is classified under several headings. There are a thousand types, sixty-four types, ten types of Nam-aparadha, thirty-two types of seva-aparadha, and so on. There are infinite details.

Once in Benares, when I had recently come to the Mission, Bharati Maharaj was suffering from a fever. At that time, he, a sannyasi, asked Professor Sannyal, who was considered a surrendered soul, “Professor Prabhu, Bhakti Sudhakar Prabhu, please advise me how we can leave behind anarthas.”

Professor Prabhu answered, “Anarthas never leave us. They continue for as long as we live.” He was smiling as he answered. Not smiling in an ordinary way, but in a disappointed way: “Anarthas never leave us.” I was puzzled. I was a newcomer, and I had heard this verse.

adau sraddha tatah sadhu-sango ’tha bhajana-kriya
tato ’nartha-nivrttih syat tato nistha ruchis tatah
(Sri Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu: Purva-vibhaga, 4.15)

[“First faith arises, then association with sadhus, then engagement in service, then the removal of anarthas, then constancy, and then taste.”]

I thought, “Clearly this verse says anarthas are removed, but he says that they are not. He is considered to be a very good devotee, but he says anarthas never leave us. What does he mean?” Later I came to understand that he meant that every devotee feels, “I have anarthas, and I cannot leave them.” In this way devotees feel no satisfaction. They find no satisfaction in the service of the Lord. The nature of the Infinite is such. When one comes in connection with the Infinite, one’s temperament also gets that colour, and one feels, “I cannot do it. I cannot.” The degree of one’s service, considered from the standpoint of the Infinite, becomes minimal, almost nothing. So, in every stage, as much as they progress towards the Infinite, devotees say, “Oh! I am hopeless.” All are of equal position! “I am hopeless. The goal can never be reached. I am almost disappointed. I am on the verge of disappointment. I got a chance, but I could not do anything.” We see such expressions from Mahaprabhu, from Radharani, from everywhere. “We had a good chance, but we failed to attain. We could not become free from anarthas.”

Vaisnavas that are considered to have a position in the highest plane say, “Purisera kita haite muni se laghistha: I am lower than a worm in stool.” Mahaprabhu Himself said, “Na prema-gandho ’sti darapi Me Harau: I do not have even a trace of love for Krishna. ” What does it show externally? That anarthas do not go. Anarthas do not leave us totally. This is the posing: in connection with the Infinite, A, B, and C are such. At the same time, there is impartial understanding.

kintu yara yei rasa, sei sarvottama
tatastha hana vicharile, achhe tara-tama
(Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta: Madhya-lila, 8.83)

[“Every devotee feels that their rasa is supreme. If the rasas are compared impartially, however, there is gradation between them.”]

Jiva Goswami has said regarding anartha-nivrtti, “It may be detected from outside. Relatively, one in the position never says one has it. An onlooker can detect the stage of a devotee and differentiate that the devotee has passed through anartha-nivrtti. They can say that, but one never says that about oneself.”

This is a peculiar thing: the man who is in possession of the jewel says, “No. I do not have the jewel”, but others say, “Now you have the jewel within your fist.” It is a peculiar thing.

Baladev Vidyabhusan wrote about Sri Rupa and Sri Sanatan:

govindabhidham indirasrita-padam hastastha-ratnadivat
tattvam tattvavid-uttamau ksiti-tale yau darsayan chakratu

What order of Vaisnava were Rupa and Sanatan? They showed the public the most wonderful gem, Govinda, as though He was a jewel in their hands. By their sweet will, they could show this side and that side of the jewel, the weight, and so on. They were devotees of such a category. They showed Govinda, who is generally unknown and unknowable, to the world with freedom. They showed His inner side, outer side, eastern side, western side, and so on: “See Govinda in so many ways.”

Yet Sanatan Goswami says about himself, “Who am I? I had the audacity to compare the queens of Krishna in Dvaraka: ‘Satyabhama is such, and Rukmini is such.’ How it is possible for me to look at them, to differentiate between them, to record their natures and qualities, to rank them in terms of superiority and inferiority. What audacity do I have? I, however, am not writing. My friends, someone is forcibly holding my hand and pen and making me write. It is not I. How could I? How could it be possible for me to describe all of these things which are transcendental? I now write about them as though they are part of an ordinary epic or novel in this world. What audacity do I have? Really speaking, my friends, it is not me. Someone is writing through my hand. What can I do?”

We are to believe such things. Before we approach the transcendental world, we shall have such broadness in our understanding. This is possible. Srila Kaviraj Goswami said,

ei grantha lekhaya more ‘madana-mohana’
amara likhana yena sukera pathana
(Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta: Adi-lila, 7.78)

[“Madan Mohan makes Me to write this book. My writing is like the recitation of a parrot.”]

We shall have to understand what is what not with abstract valuation, but practical valuation, real valuation. Such things are possible. There is a layer of life where they are true. And that is reality.



Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj is the foremost modern exponent of the conception of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and the school of Srila Rupa Goswami. Subtle and profound yet vivid and practical, his representation of both the broadest and deepest spiritual truths has and continues to fortify and nurture the faith of spiritual aspirants the world over. For more information on Srila Sridhar Maharaj, please visit his biography page.

Load more results

Generic filters
Search for exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Filter by Custom Post Type