The Glory of Exclusive Devotion to Çré Kåñëa
The deeper meaning of the verse api cet su-duracarah
by Çré Çrémad Bhaktivedänta Trivikrama Gosvämé Mahäräja
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In Çrémad Bhägavad-gétä (9.30) Çré Kåñëa declares:
api cet su-duräcäro
bhajate mäm ananya-bhäk
sädhur eva sa mantavyaù
samyag vyavasito hi saù
If even a man of abominable character engages in
My exclusive bhajana, he is to be considered a
sädhu, due to his being properly situated in his
In his commentary to this verse, Çréla Viçvanätha Cakravarté Öhäkura quotes Çré Kåñëa as saying:
“It is My nature to be attached to My devotees, even that devotee who performs duräcära, 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.”
Çréla Viçvanätha Cakravarté Öhäkura continues:
What kind of bhajana must such a person perform to be regarded as saintly? In answer to this, Çré Kåñëa says “ananya-bhäk – 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 sädhu if some type of wickedness is to be seen in him. Anticipating this doubt, the word mantavyaù has been used, meaning that he nonetheless must be considered a sädhu; it is obligatory to accept him as such. The word mantavyaù indicates that it is imperative. If one disobeys this instruction, he will be guilty of neglect. Çré Kåñëa is saying here, “In this regard My order is final.”
A person may have the idea that a bhakta engaged in bhajana of Çré Kåñëa who has an illicit connection with another man’s wife, may be regarded as only partially a sädhu. In answer to this, it is declared in this verse that such a bhakta must be considered a sädhu in every respect. One should be blind to his unsaintly behaviour, because he is samyag-vyavasitaù, “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 Çré Kåñëa, 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 Çréla Viçvanätha Cakravarté Öhäkura Mahäçaya 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 kåñëabhajana. 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
Api cet su-duräcäraù – this is Çré Kåñëa’s statement. What liberality Kåñëa, speaker of the Gétä, has displayed through this verse. How is it, then, that this very same Absolute Truth has, as Çré Caitanya Mahäprabhu, shown such severity and inflexibility? It is impossible for the Supreme Lord to contradict His own words.
What a terrible, heartless and uncompromising attitude Mahäprabhu took towards Choöa Haridäsa! He ignored the humble entreaties of all types of devotees committed to helping Choöa Haridäsa, even the petitions of His superiors and intimate companions. Was this act of Mahäprabhu’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 Çré Kåñëa and Mahäprabhu, we find that Mahäprabhu Himself appears to have reacted inconsistently to a bhakta’s misconduct.
Why was Mahäprabhu not severe with Kälä Kåñëadäsa in the same way that He was with Choöa Haridäsa? Kälä Kåñëadäsa’s error was far graver than Choöa Haridäsa’s, who merely made conversation with a woman and was not accused of cohabiting with one. Kälä Kåñëadäsa, by contrast, was found living with a woman of the Bhaööathäri caste.
Moreover, Choöa Haridäsa wasmananya-bhäk, one-pointed in his devotion. He never performed bhajana of any worshipable truth other than Mahäprabhu. Indeed, even after giving up his body, he would serve Mahäprabhu by singing kértanas for Him while remaining invisible to others.
By contrast, Kälä Kåñëadäsa, having been allured by the gypsy women, gave up Mahäprabhu’s service and joined the Bhaööathäri group. Although Kälä Kåñëadäsa possessed such an abominable propensity, Mahäprabhu 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, Mahäprabhu handed him over to the devotees, thereby freeing Himself from His responsibility towards him.
What deeper grounds are there in these two cases for Mahäprabhu’s seemingly inconsistent behaviour? The answer is certainly inaccessible to ordinary people.
Choöa Haridäsa’s Case
It should be noted that Çréla Viçvanätha Cakravarté Öhäkura did not accept sannyäsa, the renounced order of life. As such, he does not specifically discussthe circumstances of a renunciant (vairägé) in his commentary to the verse api cet su-duräcäraù. He addresses people of all social orders simply as “bhaktas”, without any further differentiation. Although this term includes both the householder and the renunciant, Çréla Viçvanätha Cakravarté Öhäkura does not specifically employ the word tyägé, renunciant. Çréman Mahäprabhu, however, says the following regarding Choöa Haridäsa:
prabhu kahe – “vairägé kare prakåti sambhäñaëa
dekhite nä päroì ämi tähära vadana
Çré Caitanya-caritämåta (Antya-lélä 2.117)
Mahäprabhu 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
“kñudra-jéva saba markaöa-vairägya kariyä
indriya caräïä bule ‘prakåti’ sambhäñiyä”
Çré Caitanya-caritämåta (Antya-lélä 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 äcäryas themselves observe all the regulative principles of their respective social order and never indulge in any inappropriate discussion. Since Choöa Haridäsa Prabhu was a renunciant in the fourth social order, Mahäprabhu’s judgment on him was in accordance with çästra and appropriate to his adhikära, level of eligibility. Unless one is not himself in the fourth social order, passing judgment on a renunciant is improper.
Kälä Kåñëadäsa’s Case
Why did Mahäprabhu apply a different standard to Kälä Kåñëadäsa? Why was strict action taken in
Choöa Haridäsa Prabhu’s case but not in Kälä Kåñëadäsa’s? In this regard, it may be observed that
çästra itself lays down a different set of guidelines, excusing the householder’s weakness of associating with women:
präëino mithuné-bhütän agåhastho ’gratas tyajet
Those who are unmarried – that is, sannyäsés,
vänaprasthas and brahmacärés – 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 agåhasthaù (“those who are unmarried”) in this verse, an exemption is implicitly provided for gåhasthas. It is forbidden for a brahmacäré, vänaprastha and vairägé (i.e. sannyäsé) to engage in these acts. In other words, these activities are permissible for gåhasthas who are not so advanced. However, if a gåhastha is niñkiïcana, inclined towards bhajana and wants to cross over the ocean of nescience, then these prohibitions apply to him also.
This is supported by Mahäprabhu’s distressful words in Çré Caitanya-candrodaya-näöaka:
päraà paraà jigamiñor bhava-sägarasya
sandarçanaà viñayiëäm atha yoñitäà ca
hä hanta hanta viña-bhakñaëato ’py asädhu
Çré Caitanya-candrodaya-näöaka (8.23)
“Alas, for a person who seriously desires to cross
the ocean of nescience and engage in the transcendental
loving service of Çré Kåñëa without any
material motivation, seeing a materialist engaged
in sense gratification or seeing a woman who is
similarly interested is more abominable than willingly
Kälä Kåñëadäsa was a householder, and therefore he was not treated severely. Choöa Haridäsa, however,was a vairägé, who had renounced his household life. Severity was therefore appropriate in relation to him.
Two Different Approaches
Both Çré Kåñëa and Çréla Viçvanätha Cakravartépäda manifested gåhastha pastimes in this world, and have therefore not discussed or passed judgment on renunciants such as sannyäsés. Being a sannyäsé, however, Çréman Mahäprabhu behaved appropriately in being befittingly severe with the renunciant Haridäsa 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 (adhikära); moreover, both approaches should be understood as having the same end purpose as each other. Çré Caitanya Mahäprabhu and Çré Kåñëacandra are the same Absolute Reality, but Kåñëa was a gåhastha and Mahäprabhu a sannyäsé. This difference of äçrama in Their pastimes is reflected in Their instructions, and does not result in any apasiddhänta, incorrect conclusions.
Indulgence in sex with a woman is unfavourable for paramärtha, 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 Çrémad-Bhägavatam (11.3.44) in the statement “karma-mokñäya karmäëi – material activities meant for liberation from material
pursuits.” In the verse from Çrémad-Bhägavatam (11.5.11) beginning with the words loke vyaväyämiñamadya- sevä, the same idea is conveyed through the statement “äsu nivåttir iñöä – the cessation of these is the desired end.”
There is no scope for even a scent of lust (käma) on the path of prema propagated by Mahäprabhu.
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 jéva. 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 çästra 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 çüdras, women and the uncultured members of brähmaëa and other high-order families (dvija-bandhus) are not given the right to study the Vedas. Does the statement “api cet su-duräcäraù”, then, contradict this injunction of the çästras?
There can never by any conflict between the statements of çästra. As such, this verse does not in itself discuss the status of women. Rather, it illuminates the highest glories of exclusive bhajana to Çré Kåñëa by declaring that by performing such bhajana even persons of the lowest qualification (adhikära) are fit to be counted as highly worshipable and saintly.
It should be understood that it is certainly very difficult to perform ananya-bhäk, one-pointed bhajana of Çré Kåñëa. If this were not so, the statement “strésaìgé eka asädhu – the person who associates with women for sense gratification is unsaintly” in Çré Caitanya-caritämåta (Madhya-lélä 22.87) would be deprived of its truth. The Gétä (9.33) goes on to describe those who are naturally eligible to perform such one-pointed devotion:
kià punar brähmaëäù puëyä
bhaktä räjarñayas tathä
What doubt then can there be that pious brähmaëas
and saintly kings can become bhaktas?
The Power of Exclusive Bhajana
Although there are many worshipable deities, in the verse api cet su-duräcäraù and the verses that
follow it, the worship of Çré Kåñëa is declared to be topmost, bestowing the highest results. If someone engages in one-pointed bhajana of the worshipable reality Çré Kåñëa, even if he is thoroughly unqualified, Çré Kåñëa very quickly dispels his greatest disqualifications and bestows upon him the quality of being a sädhu and supreme peace (parä-çänti).
In order to firmly and indubitably express this, Kåñëa ordered His intimate devotee and friend Arjuna to take a vow to this effect:
kñipraà bhavati dharmätmä
na me bhaktaù praëaçyati
He quickly becomes virtuous and attains eternal
peace. O son of Kunté, declare it boldly that My
devotee never perishes.
This also illustrates Kåñëa’s nature of protecting the vow of His devotee, even at the expense of breaking His own vow.
Kåñëa 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 çüdra, 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 Çré Kåñëa. This is indeed expressed here. Therefore every human being is enjoined to engage his body, mind and words in the service of Çré Kåñëa and thereby become blessed. For such bhajana, however, it is desirable that one possess the quality described in Çrémad-Bhägavatam (2.7.42) as “yadi nirvyalékam – surrender without pretension”.
Translated from Sri Gaudiya Patrika, Year 50, Issue 12
by the Rays of The Harmonist team.
Published in English for the first time in Rays of The Harmonist No. 13 Karttika 2003
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