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Philosophy

Question about liberation
Question about nirvana
Sri Chaitanya and other sampradayas
Question about Madhva
Question about offenseless chanting
Question about svarupa

Question about liberation

Q: Can you please tell me what is moksa or salvation and how does one attain it?

A: Vedic texts recognize five types of liberation (moksa, mukti).

Srimad-Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana) 3.29.13:

salokya-sarsti-samipya-
sarupyaikatvam apy uta
diyamanam na grhnanti
vina mat-sevanam janah

salokya--living on the same planet; sarsti--having the same opulence; samipya--to be a personal associate; sarupya--having the same bodily features; ekatvam--oneness; api--also; uta--even; diyama--nam--being offered; na--not; grhnanti--do accept; vina--without; mat--My; sevanam--devotional service; janah--pure devotees.

A pure devotee does not accept any kind of liberation--salokya, sarsti, samipya, sarupya or ekatva--even though they are offered by the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

SB 9.4.67:

mat-sevaya pratitam te
salokyadi-catustayam
necchanti sevaya purnah
kuto 'nyat kala-viplutam

mat-sevaya--by being engaged fully in My transcendental loving service; pratitam-- automatically achieved; te--such pure devotees are fully satisfied; salokya-adi- catustayam--the four different types of liberation (salokya, sarupya, samipya and sarsti, what to speak of sayujya); na--not; icchanti--desire; sevaya--simply by devotional service; purnah--fully complete; kutah--where is the question; anyat--other things; kala-viplutam--which are finished in the course of time.

My devotees, who are always satisfied to be engaged in My loving service, are not interested even in the four principles of liberation [salokya, sarupya, samipya and sarsti], although these are automatically achieved by their service. What then is to be said of such perishable happiness as elevation to the higher planetary systems?

Ekatva, onenesss, is also called sayujya. Here are two relevant paraphrases of Vedanta-sutra:

"Many upanisadic passages describe liberation as the absorption of the soul into Brahman. This initial stage of the soul's entry into the effulgent Brahman sphere is called sayujya-mukti. Having attained the spiritual world, the soul may attain four higher kinds of mukti, all of which share the quality of unity established in sayujya-mukti. (Vs 4.4.4)

"The liberated soul is an enjoyer. In sayujya-mukti, the soul enjoys transcendental bliss without a spiritual body like a sleeping person enjoys dreams. The bliss of personal liberation, in which the soul manifests a spiritual body, is far greater. The desire of the liberated soul to enjoy is not materially motivated, for his pleasure is the mercy of the Supreme Lord." (Vs 4.4.13-14)

Vaishnava theology says that an individual 'soul' (jiva) ascends from the material world to the spiritual realm, passing through brahmajyoti (spiritual rays of God's abodes) and ends up where her eternal position (svarupa, 'inherent form') is, i.e. in relationship with a particular form of only one God (e.g. Narada Pancaratra 2.1.22) - Krishna, Rama, Visnu, etc. (They are not only avataras but also have their own abodes.) This is nicely narrated in Sanatana Gosvami's Brhad Bhagavatamrta, '(great) nectar of the (great) Bhagavata Purana'.

The main difference between monistic and monotheistic version is about the end situation. Vaisnavas do not consider be in the brahmajyoti a permanent position as per Bhagavata Purana 10.2.32, etc.

So sayujya is not really a liberation because it is not permanent. The efforts of brahma-vadis, impersonalists, are therefore misplaced. The other four types can be achieved only by bhakti, devotional service to the Lord. Thus bhakti is considered the real mukti and pure devotees don't aspire for anything else. There are nine processes of bhakti listed in SB 7.5.23-24:

sri-prahrada uvaca
sravanam kirtanm visnoh
smaranam pada-sevanam
arcanam vandanam dasyam
sakhyam atma-nivedanam

iti pumsarpita visnau
bhaktis cen nava-laksana
kriyeta bhagavaty addha
tan manye 'dhitam uttamam

Prahlada Maharaja said: 'Hearing and chanting about the transcendental holy name, form, qualities, paraphernalia and pastimes of the Lord, remembering them, serving the lotus feet of the Lord, offering the Lord respectful worship with sixteen types of paraphernalia, offering prayers to the Lord, becoming His servant, considering the Lord one's best friend, and surrendering everything unto Him (in other words, serving Him with the body, mind and words) -- these nine processes are accepted as pure devotional service. One who has dedicated his life to the service of Krishna through these nine methods should be understood to be the most learned person, for he has acquired complete knowledge.'

These processes are executed under the guidance of advanced devotees. In the beginning they may be done out of a sense of duty. Later, as the practitioner advances in his love for the Lord, these items of devotional service are carried out spontaneously.

adau sraddha tatah sadhu-
sango 'tha bhajana-kriya
tato 'nartha-nivrttih syat
tato nistha rucis tatah

athasaktis tato bhavas
tatah premabhyudancati
sadhakanam ayam premnah
pradurbhave bhavet kramah

"In the beginning one must have a preliminary desire for self-realization. This will bring one to the stage of trying to associate with persons who are spiritually elevated. In the next stage one becomes initiated by an elevated spiritual master, and under his instruction the neophyte devotee begins the process of devotional service. By execution of devotional service under the guidance of the spiritual master, one becomes free from all material attachment, attains steadiness in self-realization, and acquires a taste for hearing about the Absolute Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna. This taste leads one further forward to attachment for Krishna consciousness, which is matured in bhava, or the preliminary stage of transcendental love of God. Real love for God is called prema, the highest perfectional stage of life."

Vaisnavas follow sadhana-bhakti, a system of rules that ensures the strength necessary for this progress in devotional life. They also follow a basic set of rules and regulations called "the four regulative principles" - no eating of meat, fish or eggs, no illicit sex, no gambling and no intoxication. Some references are: SB 1.17.24, 38, Mbh 2.61.20-21, BG 16.1-3, 18.42, SB 1.16.26-30, 3.25.21, 5.5.24, 11.5.11, Muktaphala-tika quoted in CC Madhya 20.59p., Manu smriti 7.50, 10.63, Visnu smriti 3.50, 22.77,82-84 liquors, 23.1, 35.1. They are not specific rules for spiritual life, rather, they are meant to keep a person on the level of human life within the limits of dharma. An elaboration on their ramifications: The Four Principles of Freedom by Satyaraja dasa. See also Question about Homosexuality

Garuda Purana 2.2.23-24 lists panca pravahana ("five boats to cross the ocean of material existence"): tulasi, brahmanas, cows, Visnu, Ekadasi

Sankirtana movement is on the level of liberation:

The Supreme Lord, Narayana, is present among devotees who are engaged in hearing and chanting the holy name of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Lord Narayana is the ultimate goal of sannyasis, those in the renounced order of life, and Narayana is worshiped through this sankirtana movement by those who are liberated from material contamination. Indeed, they recite the holy name again and again. (SB 4.30.36)

Prabhupada: Anyone who is coming to Krishna consciousness, he's not ordinary living being. Anyone who is connected with our movement, he's not ordinary living being. Actually, he's liberated soul. (730822VP.LON)

Prabhupada: Transparently before God means to be engaged in His service. So this Krishna consciousness movement is teaching that way. They are always engaged in Krishna's service, twenty-four hours; therefore they are self-realized. They are standing on their self. That is mukti. That is liberated. And those who are, these karmis, the jnanis, the yogis, they are not engaged in the self. They are trying to realize self. Therefore all these students, or the disciples of the Krishna consciousness movement, they are liberated persons, because they are acting as such. So everyone should join this movement and become liberated, immediately. You preach like that. Try to understand and preach. (Philosophy Discussions, Kierkegaard)

Symptoms of a jIvan-mukta, liberated soul:

ya AtmApahatA-pApmA vijaro vimRtyur vizoko ‘vijighatso
‘pipAsaH satya-kAmaH satya-saGkalpaH so ‘nveSTavyaH

“‘A person should search out a jIvan-mukta, who is seen to possess these eight symptoms: apahata-pApa, free from all sinful activity and the nescience of mAyA; vijara, free from the miseries of old age and decay; vimRtyu, has conquered death and rebirth; vizoka, is beyond material happiness and distress; vijighatsa, no longer desires material enjoyment; apipAtA, has no desire other than the service of the Lord; satya-kAma, whose desires are always faultless and directed to the Supreme Truth, KRSNa; and satya-saGkalpa, whose wishes are always fulfilled by the grace of KRSNa.’” (ChAndogya UpaniSad 8.7.1)

Q: How to know if a devotee went back to Godhead or not? What are the criteria? Chanting the holy names, departing in the dhama, being surrounded by devotees, being 100% or 75% pure, having given everything to Guru and Gauranga?

A: The criteria are varied. The general ones are:

kRSNa-mantropAsakasya jIvan-muktasya bhArate - In this Bharatavarsa, the worshipper of Krsna mantra is jivanmukta... (NArada PaJcarAtra 1.2.16)

SAT SANGA DEVARCANA-SAT KATHASU
PAROPADESE 'BHIRATO MANUSYAH
SA YATI VISNOH PARAMAM PADAM TAT
DEHA AVASANE 'CYUTA TULYA TEJAH

Those people who enjoy the association of Vaisnavas, who worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who listen and speak the transcendental glories of the Lord, who engage themselves in listening and hearing to the transcendental glories of the Lord, after giving up the present body, they achieve the same bright transcendental body as the Supreme Personality of Godhead and attain His eternal abode. (HARI BHAKTI VILASA 10/482 from BRHAN NARADIYA PURANA)

Among the 'minimal' ones, applicable even for nondevotees, are (Haribhaktivilasa lists many more):

gaGgAyAM ca jale muktiH kSetre nArAyaNe mune
jJAnataz cet tyajet prANAn kRSNa-smaraNa-pUrvakam
jale sthale cAntarIkSe gaGgA-sAgara-saMgame

O Muni! If one quits one's body knowingly remembering Krsna then whether in the Ganges river, or in Narayana ksetra, or in the confluence of the Ganges and Ocean, or wherever in water, earth or in sky the individual quits his body, mukti accrues. (Narada Pancaratra 2.7.7)

Undoubtedly one attains salvation if one dies near a Salagrama stone which is powerful for annihilating all sins and defects. (Garuda Purana 2.38.9)

paraM nirvANa-bIjaM ca vaiSNavocchiSTa-bhakSaNam 22
viSNu-mantropAsakAnAM dvijAnAM ca dvijarSabha
tat-pAdodaka-bhakSaM ca paraM nirvANa-kAraNam
23

To eat the food eaten by a Vaisnava is the cause of Nirvana. O twice born! To drink water after washing the feet of a Vaisnava Brahmana is also the cause of supreme Nirvana. (Narada Pancaratra 2.7.22,23)

yad eka-zabda-zravaNaM paJca-rAtreSu paJcasu
upadiSTaM brAhmaNAc ca paraM nirvANa-kAraNam

Hearing one word from the five-fold Panca-ratra and getting instructions from a Brahmana brings moksa. (Narada Pancaratra 2.7.35)

VILAYAM YANTI PAPANI PITE PADODAKE HAREH
KIM PUNAR VISNU PADODAM SALAGRAMA SILACYUTAM
VISESENA HARET PAPAM BRAHMA HATYADIKAM PRIYE
PITE PADODAKE VISNOR YADI PRANAIR VIMUCYATE
HATVA YAMA BHATAN SARVAN VAISVAVAM LOKAM APNUYAT

Whoever drinks the water emanated from the Deity of Lord Sri Hari, all of his sins are removed. I say, oh dear wife, what more can I say about the water emanated from the bathing of Salagram Sila which actually cuts the sin acquired by killing a brahmana. Anybody who quits his body while drinking the water which has emanated from the lotus feet of Lord Hari, the messengers of Yamaraja run away from him and he attains the abode of Lord Sri Visnu. (HARI BHAKTI VILASA 9/68,69 from SKANDA PURANA, conversation between Siva and Uma)

PRADAKSINAM YE KURVANTI BHAKTI YUKTENA CETASA
NA TE YAMAPURAM YANTI YANTI PUNYA KRTAM GATIM

Those people who circumambulate Lord Hari with devotion, they do not go to the abode of Yamaraja. They achieve the destination which is achieved by devotees of the Supreme Lord. (HARI BHAKTI VILASA 8/395 from VARAHA PURANA)

SARANAGATA RAKSANODYATAM HARIM ISAM PRANAMANTI YE NARAH
NA PATANTI BHAVAMBUDHAU SPHUTAM PATITAN UDDHARATI SMA TANASAU

Those people who pay obeisances to the Supreme Lord Hari, Who protects those who come and take shelter at His lotus feet, they do not fall into the material ocean again. Even if there is some chance to fall, Lord Sri Hari liberates them again. (HARI BHAKTI VILASA 8/382 from BRAHMA-VAIVARTA PURANA)

BALYE SAMKRIDA MANA YE PANSUBHIR BHAVANAM HAREH
VASUDEVASYA KURVANTI TE 'PI TALLOKA GAMINAH

The children who in their childhood play make a temple out of sand for the pleasure of Lord Hari also attain the abode of Lord Hari. (HARI BHAKTI VILASA 20/22 from VISNU RAHASYA)

Imho, the most wonderful one:

YATINAM VISNU BHAKTANAM PARICARYA PARAYANAIH
IKSITA API GACCHANTI PAPINO 'PI PARAM GATIM

One who serves a sannyasi and a devotee of the Supreme Lord Hari, if such a devotee sees someone else, even if that person (the one he sees) is sinful, he achieves the supreme abode, Vaikuntha. (HARI BHAKTI VILASA 10/147 from BRHAN NARADIYA PURANA spoken by the Visnudutas)

This is confirmed in Narada Pancaratra 1.9.21:
kRSNa mantro dvija mukhAd yasya karNam prayAti ca
tam vaiSNavaM jagat-pUtaM pravadanti purA-vidaH

The mere sight of a devotee of Sri Krsna mantra frees at once a man of sins of his hundred births, say the knowers of Puranas.

So are you saved? 8)

Question about nirvana

Q: Do you try to achieve nirvana?

A: Definition of nirvana is given in SB 3.28.35-36:

muktasrayam yarhi nirvisayam viraktam nirvanam rcchati manah sahasa yatharcih atmanam atra puruso 'vyavadhanam ekam anviksate pratinivrtta-guna-pravahah

mukta-asrayam--situated in liberation; yarhi--at which time; nirvisayam-- detached from sense objects; viraktam--indifferent; nirvanam--extinction; rcchati--obtains; manah--the mind; sahasa--immediately; yatha--like; arcih--the flame; atmanam--the mind; atra--at this time; purusah--a person; avyavadhanam--without separation; ekam--one; anviksate--experiences; pratinivrtta--freed; guna-pravahah--from the flow of material qualities.

When the mind is thus completely freed from all material contamination and detached from material objectives, it is just like the flame of a lamp. At that time the mind is actually dovetailed with that of the Supreme Lord and is experienced as one with Him because it is freed from the interactive flow of the material qualities.

Purport:

In the material world the activities of the mind are acceptance and rejection. As long as the mind is in material consciousness, it must be forcibly trained to accept meditation on the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but when one is actually elevated to loving the Supreme Lord, the mind is automatically absorbed in thought of the Lord. In such a position a yogi has no other thought than to serve the Lord. This dovetailing of the mind with the desires of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is called nirvana, or making the mind one with the Supreme Lord.

The best example of nirvana is cited in Bhagavad-gita. In the beginning the mind of Arjuna deviated from Krsna's. Krsna wanted Arjuna to fight, but Arjuna did not want to, so there was disagreement. But after hearing Bhagavad-gita from the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Arjuna dovetailed his mind with Krsna's desire. This is called oneness. This oneness, however, did not cause Arjuna and Krsna to lose their individualities. The Mayavadi philosophers cannot understand this. They think that oneness necessitates loss of individuality. Actually, however, we find in Bhagavad-gita that individuality is not lost. When the mind is completely purified in love of Godhead, the mind becomes the mind of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The mind at that time does not act separately, nor does it act without inspiration to fulfill the desire of the Lord. The individual liberated soul has no other activity. Pratinivrtta-guna-pravahah. In the conditioned state the mind is always engaged in activity impelled by the three modes of the material world, but in the transcendental stage, the material modes cannot disturb the mind of the devotee. The devotee has no other concern than to satisfy the desires of the Lord. That is the highest stage of perfection, called nirvana or nirvana-mukti. At this stage the mind becomes completely free from material desire.

Yatharcih. Arcih means "flame." When a lamp is broken or the oil is finished, we see that the flame of the lamp goes out. But according to scientific understanding, the flame is not extinguished; it is conserved. This is conservation of energy. Similarly, when the mind stops functioning on the material platform, it is conserved in the activities of the Supreme Lord. The Mayavadi philosophers' conception of cessation of the functions of the mind is explained here: cessation of the mental functions means cessation of activities conducted under the influence of the three modes of material nature.

so 'py etaya caramaya manaso nivrttya
tasmin mahimny avasitah sukha-duhkha-bahye
hetutvam apy asati kartari duhkhayor yat
svatman vidhatta upalabdha-paratma-kasthah

sah--the yogi; api--moreover; etaya--by this; caramaya--ultimate; manasah--of the mind; nivrttya--by cessation of material reaction; tasmin--in his; mahimni--ultimate glory; avasitah--situated; sukha-duhkha-bahye--outside of happiness and distress; hetutvam--the cause; api--indeed; asati--a product of ignorance; kartari--in the false ego; duhkhayoh--of pleasure and pain; yat--which; sva-atman--to his own self; vidhatte--he attributes; upalabdha--realized; para-atma--of the Personality of Godhead; kasthah--the highest truth.

Thus situated in the highest transcendental stage, the mind ceases from all material reaction and becomes situated in its own glory, transcendental to all material conceptions of happiness and distress. At that time the yogi realizes the truth of his relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He discovers that pleasure and pain as well as their interactions, which he attributed to his own self, are actually due to the false ego, which is a product of ignorance.

Purport:

Forgetfulness of one's relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead is a product of ignorance. By yoga practice one can eradicate this ignorance of thinking oneself independent of the Supreme Lord. One's actual relationship is eternally that of love. The living entity is meant to render transcendental loving service to the Lord. Forgetfulness of that sweet relationship is called ignorance, and in ignorance one is impelled by the three material modes of nature to think himself the enjoyer. When the devotee's mind is purified and he understands that his mind has to be dovetailed with the desires of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he has attained the perfectional, transcendental stage, which is beyond the perception of material distress and happiness.

As long as one acts on his own account, he is subject to all the material perceptions of so-called happiness and distress. Actually there is no happiness. Just as there is no happiness in any of the activities of a madman, so in material activities the mental concoctions of happiness and distress are false. Actually everything is distress.

When the mind is dovetailed to act according to the desire of the Lord, one has attained the transcendental stage. The desire to lord it over material nature is the cause of ignorance, and when that desire is completely extinguished and the desires are dovetailed with those of the Supreme Lord, one has reached the perfectional stage. Upalabdha-paratma-kasthah. Upalabdha means "realization." Realization necessarily indicates individuality. In the perfectional, liberated stage, there is actual realization. Nivrttya means that the living entity keeps his individuality; oneness means that he realizes happiness in the happiness of the Supreme Lord. In the Supreme Lord there is nothing but happiness. Anandamayo 'bhyasat: the Lord is by nature full of transcendental happiness. In the liberated stage, oneness with the Supreme Lord means that one has no realization other than happiness. But the individual still exists, otherwise this word upalabdha, indicating individual realization of transcendental happiness, would not have been used.

'Nirvana' is mentioned in many sastras from pre-Buddhist times. Nirvana is also Lord Visnu's name in Visnu-sahasra-nama etc.

Krsna talks about many yogic paths and mentions "brahma-nirvana", extinction of material desires and meditation on Brahman whose ultimate stage is Bhagavan, Krsna (SB 1.2.11). See 2.72, p., 5.26, p., 6.20-23, p., Vedanta-sutra 2.2.18-23. The nirvana is not the goal but the beginning of spiritual life, a threshold between material and spiritual reality.

Nirvana as a physical place:
The covering of this universe is far, far greater than this space which we are now in. The outside of the universe is ten times the space within, so one has to penetrate that covering, and then reach Viraja, the Causal Ocean. The Buddhist philosophical perfection is to reach that Viraja. When this material existence is completely finished, it is called viraja, according to Vedic language. (Topmost Yoga system 9)
Paramahamsa-sannyasis and the demons killed by Sri Hari, by crossing the Viraja, i.e., by passing beyond the fourteen worlds, enter into the luminous realm of Brahman and attain to nirvana in the form of temporary abeyance of the temporal ego. (Brahma samhita 5.5 p.)
Bhaktivinoda Thakura gives a long commentary on nirvana and Buddhism in Tattva-viveka 13.

Sri Chaitanya and other sampradayas

Q: At the beginning of the 8th chapter of the Adi-lila Krsna Dasa Kaviraja mentions that those who claim to worship Lord Krishna but do not accept Lord Chaitanya are to be considered demons. Where does this leave the other sampradayas? Are they to be considered demons?

A: Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has explained in his Navadvipa Mahatmya, ch. 15-16, that the founder-acaryas of the four Vaisnava sampradayas all had the darsan of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu during their lifetimes. (They did not live at the same time as Mahaprabhu but He granted them His darsan by His special mercy). Lord Chaitanya gave each acarya his mission. Thus each sampradaya is actually already under the shelter of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Mostly the present-day adherents of the sampradayas do not know this but at least they are dutifully worshiping their founder-acaryas, who are devotees of Lord Chaitanya. But if any of them deliberately blasphemes Lord Chaitanya while claiming to be a devotee of Krsna, he offends his founder-acarya and thus clears his way to hell.

Later the founder-acaryas of the four sampradayas took part in Chaitanya-lila as Sisu Ananta (previously Ramanujacarya), Murari Gupta (Madhvacarya), Vallabhacarya (Vishnusvami) and Kesava Kasmiri (Nimbarkacarya). Moreover, the devotees of all avataras took part in the lila of Sri Chaitanya, the avatari (Navadvipa Mahatmya, ch. 5,10,11):

"'Brahma, hear these secret (antara) words, but do not reveal this openly in the scriptures. Taking the role of a devotee, I will taste the nectar of bhakti rasa and propagate the most rare process of sankirtana. I will make the devotees of all the previous avataras drunk with the nectar of Vrndavana."

"'O brahmana, I will tell you a very secret thing. In a short time, there will be ecstasy given out here. Gauranga will appear at Mayapur in Sacidevi's house, and He will freely distribute prema. In all these places the Lord and His devotees will dance madly in the nectar of sankirtana. The Lord will perform kirtana along with the devotees of all the previous incarnations. The whole universe will be drowned in the flood of prema; other than the false logicians, everyone will receive that gift of love.

"The Lord lifted the couple up with His two lotus hands and spoke nectarean words, 'Both of you are My exalted devotees, therefore I desired to give you My darsana. Very soon I will take birth in Nadia in the womb of Saci. With all the devotees of all the avataras, I will distribute the gift of prema and Krsna kirtana."

Question about Madhva

Q: I became very much impressed with Madhva philosophy after reading some articles on the history of Vaisnavism, more specifically the fierce analytical opposition to non-dualism. Is there a book or site at ISKCON where I can find more Madhva related topics?

A: There is no specific elaboration on Acarya Madhva's Dvaita philosophy on ISKCON sites (at least those I know). Followers of Madhva have their own main site - www.dvaita.org

If you want to read about Gaudiya Vaisnava relationship to its 'philosophical predecessor', Dvaita, you may check out the book "Navadvipa Mahatmya" by Bhaktivinod Thakur, chapters 15,16. It should be online. Very nice book. At this site you'll find many other important Vaisnava works by Rupa Goswami, Sanatana Goswami, Jiva Goswami, Baladeva Vidyabhusana, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati etc.

The Gaudiya Vaisnava philosophy is best summarized in the works of ISKCON's founder-acarya, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

Question about offenseless chanting

Q: Please tell me what is meant by offenseless chanting. With the mind wandering so often and the many distractions of this material world, please advise on what can be done to rest our minds on Krishna Bhagavan while chanting.

A: The root of all offenses is insincerity. So first of all, if we are sincere then even if we are somewhat ignorant of all the rules and regulations Krishna will help us to gradually overcome the offensive stage.

The Sanskrit word for offense is aparadha, or "to be distanced from worship" (radhat arthat aradhanat-apagatah) There are sometimes three different categories of offenses given:

Nama-aparadha, or offenses in chanting the holy name. They are ten in number. In his Bhakti-sandarbha Srila Jiva Goswami elaborates on them. Also Bhaktivinode Thakur in his Harinama-cintamani does so extensively. You can find them enumerated in many places in Srila Prabhupada's books. The complete list is in Nectar of Devotion, Chapter 8, with Sanskrit original in CC Adi 8.24 p.

There is a confusion in the description of the second offense against Lord Visnu’s holy names. It actually says:

zivasya zrI-viSNor ya iha guNa-nAmAdi-sakalaM
dhiyA bhinnaM pazyet sa khalu hari-nAmAhita-karaH

One who sees differences between any of Lord Siva’s qualities and names and those of Sri Visnu is an antagonist to hari-nama. (Padma PurANa Brahma-khaNDa 25.15, translation by Gopiparanadhana P. in Brhad Bhagavatamrta 1.2.86 p. and 1.3.1-4 p.)

The remedy for offensive chanting is more chanting while trying to avoid the offenses. Thus the chanting will become pure. Padma Purana states:

namaparadha-yuktanam
namany eva haranty agham
avisranti-prayuktani
tany evartha-karani ca

Even if one chants the Hare Krishna maha-mantra offensively, one can avoid offenses by continuously chanting without deviation.

Related:
Satvata tantra 7.24-55

Please refer also to the Srimad Bhagavatam 6.3 ("Yamaraja instructs his messengers").

Seva-aparadha, or offenses in Deity worship. A complete list is given in Nectar of Devotion.

Dhama-aparadha, or offenses against the holy dhamas such as Vrndavan and Mayapur. A list of ten offenses very similar to the offenses against the holy name is given (from "The Color Guide to Vrndavana, The City of Over 5,000 Temples" by Rajasekhara dasa Brahmacari, Vedanta Vision Publications 2000):

1. To have contempt or disrespect towards the guru who reveals the holy dham.
2. To think that holy dham is temporary.
3. Commit violence towards any of the residence of the holy dham, or to any of the pilgrims who come here, or to think that they are ordinary mundane people.
4. To perform mundane activities while living in the holy dham.
5. Earning money by, and making a business of Deity worship and chanting the holy name.
6. To think that the holy dham belongs to some mundane country or provinces such as Bengal, or to think that the dham of the Lord is equal to a holy place connected with some demigod, or to attempt to measure the area of the dham.
7. To commit sinful activities while in the dham.
8. To consider Vrndavan and Navadvip different.
9. To blaspheme the sastras which glorify the holy dham.
10. To be faithless and to think that the glories of the dham are imaginary.

If one goes to holy places with a sincere desire for spiritual advancement, there is not much to worry about. Sincerity is the key in everything.

The main thing to focus on is our chanting of the holy name. Always respect the guru and all Vaisnavas. Even if Vaisnavas do not appear to be of good character we should offer them respect, even if we don't associate with them. Be sincere, beg Krishna, Srila Prabhupada, and all Vaisnavas for some glimpse of offenseless chanting. Give up duplicity. These are instructions our acaryas have given, and we should try to execute them with faith.

Question about svarupa

Q: Is svarupa permanent or not?

A: Sastras give both answers.

As permanent it is described in SB 2.10.6 (svarupena vyavasthitih), 3.9.11p., 11.2.40 (sva-priya-nama). There are two moods of worship of the Supreme Lord: madhurya (sweetness) and aisvarya (opulence) (CC 2.20.178, 2.21.120, 2.24.22, Sanatkumara samhita 36.237, etc.). According to the mood of worship, the devotee attains an eternal relationship with a corresponding form of the Supreme Lord. "As one has faith in the Lord, so one is rewarded." (Chandogya Upanisad 3.14.1, quoted in Govinda Bhasya to Vs 3.2.36)

One revives his dormant love of Godhead in that particular relationship which he had originally. Therefore, considering this understanding, it is not that we surpass our original position and attain some higher position. Everyone is perfectly satisfied in their original position and therefore have no interest in attaining another position.

"According to the desire of the Supreme Lord, devotees relish particular flavors of devotion, even though they appreciate all forms of devotional service to all forms of the lord. Thus particular devotees assume particular roles of loving service to particular forms of the Lord." (Vedanta-sutra 3.3.57 paraphrased)

"After liberation, the devotee eternally serves that form of the Lord to whom he developed attachment." (Vedanta-sutra 3.3.58 paraphrased)

Bhagavad-gita As It Is, introduction: Arjuna was in a relationship with the Lord as friend. Of course there is a gulf of difference between this friendship and the friendship found in the material world. This is transcendental friendship, which cannot be had by everyone. Of course everyone has a particular relationship with the Lord, and that relationship is evoked by the perfection of devotional service. But in the present status of our life, not only have we forgotten the Supreme Lord, but we have forgotten our eternal relationship with the Lord. Every living being, out of the many, many billions and trillions of living beings, has a particular relationship with the Lord eternally. That is called svarupa. By the process of devotional service, one can revive that svarupa, and that stage is called svarupa-siddhi--perfection of one's constitutional position. So Arjuna was a devotee, and he was in touch with the Supreme Lord in friendship.

Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.2.43, purport: The result of perfection in Krishna consciousness is that after giving up one's material body, one is immediately transferred to the spiritual world in one's original spiritual body to become an associate of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Some devotees go to Vaikunthaloka, and others go to Goloka Vrndavana to become associates of Krishna.

Prabhupada's lecture, Nectar of Devotion 1972 (721020ND.VRN): Raga-marga is not artificial. It becomes, svayam eva sphuraty adhah. Sevonmukhe hi jihvadau... Everything, devotional relationship with Krishna, you cannot establish artificially. Everyone has got a particular relationship with Krishna in his original constitutional position. That will be revealed gradually as you advance in devotional service in the prescribed rules and regulations as they are directed in the sastras and by spiritual master. When you are trained up properly, you come to the platform of raga-marga, then your devotional si... That is called svarupa-siddhi. Svarupa-siddhi. So svarupa-siddhi is attained at a certain stage. Just like svarupa-siddhi... The desire for sex life is there in every human being, but when the boy and the girl come to the mature stage, it become manifest. It is, is not learned artificially. Similarly, the raga-marga, svarupa-siddhi, becomes revealed or manifest. Sravanadi suddha citte karaye udaya. Udaya. This very word, udaya, is used.

Hamsaduta: Prabhupada, you said that when a person changes original spiritual form, just like the Visnudutas, they have their four-handed form. Does that mean that they will never rise up to the state of associating with Krishna in two-handed form? What does it mean "original form"?
Prabhupada: Original form, two-handed.
Hamsaduta: Two-handed.
Prabhupada: Yes.
Hamsaduta: So that four-handed form is not complete perfection of Krishna consciousness?
Prabhupada: No. There is perfection everywhere in the spiritual world, but it is a question of variety, taste. When you take rasagulla, don't take kachori, that does not mean kachori is not perfect. It is a question of taste. Somebody likes kachori, omebody likes rasagulla. Not that kachori is inferior to rasagulla; rasagulla is inferior to kachori.
Hamsaduta: So that means if someone is situated in that svarupa...
Prabhupada: Yes. Everything is svarupa. Everything is svarupa.
Hamsaduta: Suppose someone is situated as Visnuduta. He may change his taste.
Prabhupada: Why he shall change it?
Hamsaduta: He may get a taste for associating with Krishna.
Prabhupada: The change is taking place in this material world. There all tastes are fixed up, rasa, eternal, eternal rasa. Every one of us has a different taste of associating with Krishna, and that will be realized when one is liberated.
Hamsaduta: So that's fixed already.
Prabhupada: Yes. When you are liberated, you will understand in which way you are related with Krishna. That is called svarupa-siddhi. But that is attained when you are actually perfect in devotional service. Just like in our family, we enjoy different rasas. We have got one kind of relationship with wife, one kind of relationship with sons and daughters, one kind of relation with friends, one kind of relationship with servants, one kind of relationship with property. So similarly, Krishna... The whole creation is His family, and He has got relationship in that way. So why the son will change his relationship into husband and wife?
Hamsaduta: I see.
Prabhupada: Yes. Because every relationship is very palatable. The gentleman, the head of the family, his relationship with wife and his relationship with servant is as much palatable. Maybe some degradation, but it is palatable. There is no question of changing. Not that "I am tasting this rasa at the present moment. Then I will get better rasas." No, that is not. Everyone thinks, "My rasa is the best." Although there is comparative gradation, but everyone thinks. These things are explained in Caitanya- caritamrta. Why don't you see?
Hamsaduta: And Nectar of Devotion.
Prabhupada: Yes. Everyone thinks, "My relationship with Krishna is the best."
Hamsaduta:So it's not a matter of aspiring to some...
Prabhupada: No, there is no question of aspiring, because he is already situated in the best of relationship with Krishna. Even the trees in Vrndavana, they want to serve Krishna silently in that way, supplying fruits and flowers. That is their ananda, everyone enjoying the supreme bliss. When Krishna comes, takes a flower or fruit, that is their enjoyment: "Oh..."
Revatinandana: When Krishna doesn't come, then they are feeling separation?
Prabhupada: Yes, certainly. That is another bliss, to feel separation from Krishna. Everything, either you meet or you separate, the bliss is there. Crying for Krishna is better bliss.

Gopiparanadhana Dasa: Lord Chaitanya recommends that everyone try to follow in the footsteps of the cowherd damsels of Vrndavana. But that does not mean that everyone is going to be able to enter Goloka Vrndavana, what to speak of enter the rasa dance. Yes, simply by chanting Hare Krishna it is possible to enter Goloka Vrndavana, that is, if your svarupa is situated there. Otherwise by chanting Hare Krishna you will go to Vaikuntha, which is good enough unless you are motivated by the urge for prestige. In Chaitanya-caritamrta there are the examples of both Murari Gupta and Anupama, whom Lord Caitanya encouraged to worship Radha-Krishna instead of Sita-Rama, but who could not give up their svarupa-seva; this greatly pleased Lord Chaitanya. It is possible to gradually realize one's ultimate svarupa in the spiritual world by stages, graduating to higher and higher rasas, or from Vaikuntha to Goloka. But one's ultimate svarupa is fixed, even before liberation. If one's fixed rasa is in Vaikuntha, then that is the highest that soul can go. Rupa Gosvami taught this science of innate rasas. The Sri Vaisnavas deny this idea, saying that restricting a liberated soul to only one rasa would unjustly limit his freedom. Thus we see the Alwar poets in their Tamil anthology Tiruvaymoli (Divya-prabandham) presenting themselves in one poem in the mood of a gopi and then on the very next page in the mood of Hanuman.

As nonpermanent it is described in CC Adi 7.17, purport (anyone can be in intimate circle of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu) or CC Madhya 9.25-36, 9.159-161.

Nectar of Devotion, ch. 4: Some of the liberated persons who have achieved these four stages of liberation may also develop affection for Krishna and be promoted to the Goloka Vrndavana planet in the spiritual sky. In other words, those who are already promoted to the Vaikuntha planets and who possess the four kinds of liberation may also sometimes develop affection for Krishna and become promoted to Krishnaloka.

There is also a third option, which can be seen as a reconciliation: both are possible.

purna bhagavan avatare yei kale
ara saba avatara tante asi' mile

"When the complete Supreme Personality of Godhead descends, all other incarnations of the Lord meet together within Him." (CC Adi 4.10)

narayana, catur-vyuha, matsyady-avatara
yuga-manvantaravatara, yata ache ara
sabe asi' krsna-ange haya avatirna
aiche avatare krsna bhagavan purna

"Lord Narayana, the four primary expansions [Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha], Matsya and the other lila incarnations, the yuga-avataras, the manv-antara incarnations and as many other incarnations as there are - all descend in the body of Lord Krsna. In this way the complete Supreme Godhead, Lord Krsna Himself, appears." (CC Adi 4.11-12)

Bhaktivinoda Thakura: Navadvipa Mahatmya, ch. 5,10,11:

"'Brahma, hear these secret (antara) words, but do not reveal this openly in the scriptures. Taking the role of a devotee, I will taste the nectar of bhakti rasa and propagate the most rare process of sankirtana. I will make the devotees of all the previous avataras drunk with the nectar of Vrndavana."

"'O brahmana, I will tell you a very secret thing. In a short time, there will be ecstasy given out here. Gauranga will appear at Mayapur in Sacidevi's house, and He will freely distribute prema. In all these places the Lord and His devotees will dance madly in the nectar of sankirtana. The Lord will perform kirtana along with the devotees of all the previous incarnations. The whole universe will be drowned in the flood of prema; other than the false logicians, everyone will receive that gift of love.

"The Lord lifted the couple up with His two lotus hands and spoke nectarean words, 'Both of you are My exalted devotees, therefore I desired to give you My darsana. Very soon I will take birth in Nadia in the womb of Saci. With all the devotees of all the avataras, I will distribute the gift of prema and Krishna kirtana.

Related:
Dandavats article using the above text

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