Fixing deviations and offending Vaisnavas

Fixing deviations and offending Vaisnavas

Deviations sometimes appear in pure Krishna consciousness movement. Mistakes are being done by senior leaders, those mistakes can be philosophical mistakes or errors in behaviour. Sannyasis having female assistants who travel with them is example of one such mistake.

However, in ISKCON, there is no discussion about deviations, because they are considered “offensive”. If we start discussing deviations, we are often marked as “envious faultfinder” and this is the end of any discussion.

However, acaryas have given many exact definitions of what is and what is not aparadha. Philosophical disagreement is certainly not offensive, and regarding pointing inconsistencies in personal behaviour, let’s see what Bhaktivinoda Thakura has to say about it.

Three faults that should not be criticised

Vaisnavas are not inclined towards pious or sinful activities. Pure Vaisnavas are faultless and therefore cannot be criticized. Those that do so spread lies about Vaisnavas and speak ill about them. Such wicked persons enviously criticize Vaisnavas in the following three ways

Wicked persons discuss faults that were present in a person before suddha-bhakti manifested within him. However, when bhakti manifests in the heart, all faults quickly disappear.

During the short time that unwanted desires are being removed from the heart, wicked people criticize him for any faults that still remain within him.

The third topic of discussion for wicked people is that although a pure Vaisnava has no inclination towards faulty activities, sometimes (without any conceivable reason) some prohibitive habits manifest. Such faults never remain permanently within a Vaisnava. However, wicked people discuss these faults and consequently fall down due to the fault of blaspheming a Vaisnava. Therefore, in Nama-tattva-ratna-mala, it has been said:

prag bhakterudyad-dosah ksayavasista eva ca
daivotpannas ca bhaktanam naivalocyah kadacana
saduddesyamrte yastu mrsapavadameva ca
dosanalocayatyeva sa sadhu-nindakohadhamah

“One should not consider the faults of a devotee, especially those impurities that were there before devotion manifest within him, those that temporarily remain but are presently perishing through his practice of bhakti, and those that may appear in him by chance. One who reflects upon these faults is guilty of sadhu-ninda and is most fallen.”

Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s conclusion

Discussing the faults of a Vaisnava without a virtuous intention results in vaisnava-aparadha. If one sees some fault in a Vaisnava that appears due to divine providence, one should still not blaspheme that Vaisnava. In this regard, Karabhajana has said:

svapada-mulam bhajatah priyasya tyaktany-abhavasya harih paresah
vikarma yacchotpatitam kathancid dhunoti sarvam hrdi sannivistah

“One who gives up everything to engage in worshipping the lotus feet of Hari is very dear to the Lord. Even if somehow the tendency to perform sinful activities appears within him, the Supreme Lord, who resides within the heart, destroys the reactions to such sins.” (Bhag.11.5.42)

Apart from well-intended discussions of those faults that may arise accidentally, one is liable to commit the offense of criticizing a Vaisnava. The fundamental point here is that slandering and blaspheming a Vaisnava, due to any of the three faults previously mentioned, leads to namaparadha, and if one commits namaparadha, then divine revelation (sphurti) of the Holy Name will never manifest. One cannot become a Vaisnava without such revelation of the Holy Name.

At this stage in our discussion, an opposing point of view may arise – would it be proper to deliberate on other types of faults found in a Vaisnava besides the three that have already been mentioned? The answer is that no other type of fault can exist within a Vaisnava apart from the three mentioned above. If someone has another type of fault that does not fit in with one of these three divisions, then, according to the sastras, they cannot be considered to be a Vaisnava. Actually, we should seriously consider the fact that without proper motivation, it is improper to reflect upon the faults of any jiva. To blaspheme a Vaisnava is an offence. Blaspheming other jivas is a sin. A Vaisnava has no desire to perform such sinful activities.

Yet if one has proper intentions in pointing out another’s faults, then sastra does not consider that as an offence. There are three types of proper intention – if we expose someone’s sins in order that they ultimately attain auspiciousness, then such discussions are favorable. If we deliberate on a sinner’s vices in order to benefit the whole world, then this should be counted as an auspicious action. If such deliberations are for one’s own spiritual benefit, then such an aspect carries no fault.

When one reflects upon the histories concerning the previous life of Valmiki or the previous activities of Jagai and Madhai etc. then such deliberations are actually free of sin. When a disciple prays to the guru to identify a true Vaisnava, the guru, desiring auspiciousness for the disciple and the whole world, may draw attention to a non-Vaisnava whose behavior is actually unholy as well as those who are saintly Vaisnavas. With the intention to guide others to accept shelter at the feet of real Vaisnavas, it is not sadhu-ninda or vaisnava-aparadha to reject the company of such deceitful dharma-dhvajis (religious pretenders). Even if criticism arises towards a specific person, it is still free from any fault. These are all examples of criticizing with a proper motivation.

First printed in the May-July issues of the 5th Volume of Sajjana-tosani, 1893



Bhaktivinoda Thakura basically says that vaisnava is faultless. Three temporary faults that he can have should not be criticised, and if he has any other faults, he is not a vaisnava.

Well-intended discussions are not blasphemy. And all discussion which have a goal to protect Prabhupada’s legacy are well intended.