The Glory of
to Ärî Kèëòa
The deeper meaning of the verseapi cet su-duracarah
by Ärî Ärîmad Bhaktivedânta Trivikrama Gosvâmî Mahârâja
(NOTE: This page uses Balarama font (available here) for better transliteration of Sanskrit into English. Click here for a version without Balarama font.)
In Ärîmad Bhâgavad-gîtâ (9.30) Ärî Kèëòa declares:
api cet su-durâcâro
bhajate mâm ananya-bhâk
sâdhur eva sa mantavyaì
samyagvyavasito hi saì
If even a man of abominable character engages in
My exclusive bhajana, he is to be considered a
sâdhu, due to his being properly situated in his
In his commentary to this verse, Ärîla Viävanâtha Cakravartî Ùhâkura quotes Ärî Kèëòa as saying:
“It is My nature to be attached to My devotees, even that devotee who performs durâcâra, abominable deeds. I nevertheless elevate him. A person engaged in My bhajana is saintly, even if he happens to be attached to committing extremely detestable acts – such as violence upon others, theft and illicit connection with another man’s wife.”
Ärîla Viävanâtha Cakravartî Ùhâkura continues:
What kind of bhajana must such a person perform to be regarded as saintly? In answer to this, Ärî Kèëòa says “ananya-bhâk – My exclusive bhajana, in other words, bhajana directed at no demigods or other personalities besides Me.”
Someone may question how a bhakta can possibly be regarded as a sâdhu if some type of wickedness is to be seen in him. Anticipating this doubt, the word mantavyaì has been used, meaning that he nonetheless must be considered a sâdhu; it is obligatory to accept him as such. The word mantavyaì indicates that it is imperative. If one disobeys this instruction, he will be guilty of neglect. Ärî Kèëòa is saying here, “In this regard My order is final.”
A person may have the idea that a bhakta engaged in bhajana of Ärî Kèëòa who has an illicit connection with another man’s wife, may be regarded as only partially a sâdhu. In answer to this, it is declared in this verse that such a bhakta must be considered a sâdhu in every respect. One should be blind to his unsaintly behaviour, because he is samyag-vyavasitaì, “of resolute intelligence, perfect in resolve”. Such a person is endeavouring with the following kind of determination, “I will never give up my exclusive bhajana of Ärî Kèëòa, whether I end up in hell or in the species of birds or animals due to the results of my sinful behaviour, which is very difficult for me to give up.”
The concluding opinion of Ärîla Viävanâtha Cakravartî Ùhâkura Mahâäaya on this matter is indeed extraordinary. Every man attached to having illicit relations with another man’s wife will not have such exclusive faith in kèëòabhajana. This type of resolve is possible only for those who have already reached an advanced stage of bhajana. For a devotee of such high calibre, having illicit relations with someone else’s wife is a very wretched act. Unlike ordinary men, such personalities are generally not attached to others’ wives. Such an occurrence is certainly extremely rare.
An Apparent Contradiction
Apicet su-durâcâraì – this is Ärî Kèëòa’s statement. What liberality Kèëòa, speaker of the Gîtâ, has displayed through this verse. How is it, then, that this very same Absolute Truth has, as Ärî Caitanya Mahâprabhu, shown such severity and inflexibility? It is impossible for the Supreme Lord to contradict His own words.
What a terrible, heartless and uncompromising attitude Mahâprabhu took towards Choùa Haridâsa! He ignored the humble entreaties of all types of devotees committed to helping Choùa Haridâsa, even the petitions of His superiors and intimate companions. Was this act of Mahâprabhu’s meant only to make the devotees cautious in their dealings with women? Or does it have some deeper significance concealed within it?
Even if we set aside this apparent difference inmattitude between Ärî Kèëòa and Mahâprabhu, we find that Mahâprabhu Himself appears to have reacted inconsistently to a bhakta’s misconduct.
Why was Mahâprabhu not severe with Kâlâ Kèëòadâsa in the same way that He was with Choùa Haridâsa? Kâlâ Kèëòadâsa’s error was far graver than Choùa Haridâsa’s, who merely made conversation with a woman and was not accused of cohabiting with one. Kâlâ Kèëòadâsa, by contrast, was found living with a woman of the Bhaùùathâri caste.
Moreover, Choùa Haridâsa wasmananya-bhâk, one-pointed in his devotion. He never performed bhajana of any worshipable truth other than Mahâprabhu. Indeed, even after giving up his body, he would serve Mahâprabhu by singing kîrtanas for Him while remaining invisible to others.
By contrast, Kâlâ Kèëòadâsa, having been allured by the gypsy women, gave up Mahâprabhu’s service and joined the Bhaùùathâri group. Although Kâlâ Kèëòadâsa possessed such an abominable propensity, Mahâprabhu never rejected him, nor did He suggest that he take his own life by way of atonement, by tying a big pitcher around his neck and drowning himself in the river. Rather, to rectify him, Mahâprabhu handed him over to the devotees, thereby freeing Himself from His responsibility towards him.
What deeper grounds are there in these two cases for Mahâprabhu’s seemingly inconsistent behaviour? The answer is certainly inaccessible to ordinary people.
Choùa Haridâsa’s Case
It should be noted that Ärîla Viävanâtha Cakravartî Ùhâkura did not accept sannyâsa, the renounced order of life. As such, he does not specifically discussthe circumstances of a renunciant (vairâgî) in his commentary to the verse api cet su-durâcâraì. He addresses people of all social orders simply as “bhaktas”, without any further differentiation. Although this term includes both the householder and the renunciant, Ärîla Viävanâtha Cakravartî Ùhâkura does not specifically employ the word tyâgî, renunciant. Ärîman Mahâprabhu, however, says the following regarding Choùa Haridâsa:
prabhukahe – “vairâgî kare prakèti sambhâëaòa
dekhitenâ pâroô âmi tâhâra vadana
Ärî Caitanya-caritâmèta(Antya-lîlâ 2.117)
Mahâprabhu replied, “I cannot tolerate seeing the face of a person who has accepted the renounced order of life but who still talks intimately with a woman.
“këudra-jîva saba markaùa-vairâgya kariyâ
indriyacarâñâ bule ‘prakèti’ sambhâëiyâ”
Ärî Caitanya-caritâmèta(Antya-lîlâ 2.120)
“There are many persons with little in their possession
who accept the renounced order of life like
monkeys. They go here and there engaging in
sense gratification and speaking intimately with
The âcâryas themselves observe all the regulative principles of their respective social order and never indulge in any inappropriate discussion. Since Choùa Haridâsa Prabhu was a renunciant in the fourth social order, Mahâprabhu’s judgment on him was in accordance with äâstra and appropriate to his adhikâra, level of eligibility. Unless one is not himself in the fourth social order, passing judgment on a renunciant is improper.
Kâlâ Kèëòadâsa’s Case
Why did Mahâprabhu apply a different standard to Kâlâ Kèëòadâsa? Why was strict action taken in Choùa Haridâsa Prabhu’s case but not in Kâlâ Kèëòadâsa’s? In this regard, it may be observed that äâstraitself lays down a different set of guidelines, excusing the householder’s weakness of associating with women:
prâòino mithunî-bhûtân agèhastho ’gratas tyajet
Those who are unmarried – that is, sannyâsîs,
vânaprasthasand brahmacârîs – should never
associate with women by glancing, touching, conversing,
joking, flirting or cavorting. Neither
should they keep the company of anyone who
engages in sexual activity.
Renounced devotees should give up the association of those who look upon, touch, converse with, sport with or indulge in sex with a woman. By use of the word agèhasthaì (“those who are unmarried”) in this verse, an exemption is implicitly provided for gèhasthas. It is forbidden for a brahmacârî, vânaprastha and vairâgî (i.e. sannyâsî) to engage in these acts. In other words, these activities are permissible for gèhasthas who are not so advanced. However, if a gèhastha is niëkiñcana, inclined towards bhajana and wants to cross over the ocean of nescience, then these prohibitions apply to him also.
This is supported by Mahâprabhu’s distressful words in Ärî Caitanya-candrodaya-nâùaka:
pâraê paraê jigamiëor bhava-sâgarasya
sandaräanaê viëayiëâm atha yoëitâê ca
hâ hanta hanta viëa-bhakëaëato ’py asâdhu
“Alas, for a person who seriously desires to cross
the ocean of nescience and engage in the transcendental
loving service of Ärî Kèëòa without any
material motivation, seeing a materialist engaged
in sense gratification or seeing a woman who is
similarly interested is more abominable than willingly
Kâlâ Kèëòadâsa was a householder, and therefore he was not treated severely. Choùa Haridâsa, however,was a vairâgî, who had renounced his household life. Severity was therefore appropriate in relation to him.
Two Different Approaches
Both Ärî Kèëòa and Ärîla Viävanâtha Cakravartîpâda manifested gèhastha pastimes in this world, and have therefore not discussed or passed judgment on renunciants such as sannyâsîs. Being a sannyâsî, however, Ärîman Mahâprabhu behaved appropriately in being befittingly severe with the renunciant Haridâsa Prabhu.
Although the verses previously quoted evince a different approach for householders and renunciant, each is auspicious for those to whom it applies considering a person’s individual qualification (adhikâra); moreover, both approaches should be understood as having the same end purpose as each other. Ärî Caitanya Mahâprabhu and Ärî Kèëòacandra are the same Absolute Reality, but Kèëòa was a gèhastha and Mahâprabhu a sannyâsî. This difference of âärama in Their pastimes is reflected in Their instructions, and does not result in any apasiddhânta, incorrect conclusions.
Indulgence in sex with a woman is unfavourable for paramârtha, the ultimate goal of life for all humans. On account of having a lower qualification, a householder is given the arrangement of marriage. The only purpose of marriage is to curtail his propensity for sense enjoyment – this should be understood. This idea has been expressed in Ärîmad-Bhâgavatam (11.3.44) in the statement “karma-mokëâya karmâòi – material activities meant for liberation from material
pursuits.” In the verse from Ärîmad-Bhâgavatam (11.5.11) beginning with the words loke vyavâyâmiëamadya- sevâ, the same idea is conveyed through the statement “âsu nivèttir iëùâ – the cessation of these is the desired end.”
There is no scope for even a scent of lust (kâma) on the path of prema propagated by Mahâprabhu.
Lust is darkness, while prema is the transcendental sun. The pastimes of ujjvala-rasa, the mellow of amorous love, are not like the meeting of ordinary men and women with a mood to enjoy each other. They cannot be understood by the bound jîva. It is therefore forbidden to discuss such pastimes while in the conditioned state of consciousness.
Persons of Low Eligibility
It is further to be noted that the instructions of äâstra are generally applicable to all human beings,
whether they be male or female. Here, however, men alone appear to be restricted – viz. from looking upon women, touching them and so on. Why are women not brought under similar strictures? Are we to infer that women are superior to men, or does it imply they are altogether beneath the level of even being regulated?
We see that äûdras, women and the uncultured members of brâhmaòa and other high-order families (dvija-bandhus) are not given the right to study the Vedas. Does the statement “api cet su-durâcâraì”, then, contradict this injunction of the äâstras?
There can never by any conflict between the statements of äâstra. As such, this verse does not in itself discuss the status of women. Rather, it illuminates the highest glories of exclusive bhajana to Ärî Kèëòa by declaring that by performing such bhajana even persons of the lowest qualification (adhikâra) are fit to be counted as highly worshipable and saintly.
It should be understood that it is certainly very difficult to perform ananya-bhâk, one-pointed bhajana of Ärî Kèëòa. If this were not so, the statement “strîsaôgî eka asâdhu – the person who associates with women for sense gratification is unsaintly” in Ärî Caitanya-caritâmèta (Madhya-lîlâ 22.87) would be deprived of its truth. The Gîtâ (9.33) goes on to describe those who are naturally eligible to perform such one-pointed devotion:
kiê punar brâhmaëâì puëyâ
bhaktâ râjarëayas tathâ
What doubt then can there be that pious brâhmaòas
and saintly kings can become bhaktas?
The Power of Exclusive Bhajana
Although there are many worshipable deities, in the verse api cet su-durâcâraì and the verses that
follow it, the worship of Ärî Kèëòa is declared to be topmost, bestowing the highest results. If someone engages in one-pointed bhajana of the worshipable reality Ärî Kèëòa, even if he is thoroughly unqualified, Ärî Kèëòa very quickly dispels his greatest disqualifications and bestows upon him the quality of being a sâdhu and supreme peace (parâ-äânti).
In order to firmly and indubitably express this, Kèëòa ordered His intimate devotee and friend Arjuna to take a vow to this effect:
këipraê bhavati dharmâtmâ
na me bhaktaì praëaäyati
He quickly becomes virtuous and attains eternal
peace. O son of Kuntî, declare it boldly that My
devotee never perishes.
This also illustrates Kèëòa’s nature of protecting the vow of His devotee, even at the expense of breaking His own vow.
Kèëòa bestows the supreme destination and eternal peace to anyone who performs one-pointed bhajana of Him, thereby making that worshipper’s life successful, even if he is extremely unqualified and degraded, a wicked outcaste (mleccha), a woman of bad character, a merchant engaged in farming and trading, a äûdra, or a man or woman born into the lower castes.
This type of result cannot be attained by performing the bhajana of any worshipable reality other than Ärî Kèëòa. This is indeed expressed here. Therefore every human being is enjoined to engage his body, mind and words in the service of Ärî Kèëòa and thereby become blessed. For such bhajana, however, it is desirable that one possess the quality described in Ärîmad-Bhâgavatam (2.7.42) as “yadi nirvyalîkam – surrender without pretension”.
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