The Glory Of Exclusive Devotion

The deeper meaning of the verse api cet su-duracarah
by Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Trivikrama Gosvami Maharaja

Bhaktivedanta Trivikrama Gosvami Maharaja

In Srimad Bhagavad-gita (9.30) Sri Krishna declares:

api cet su-duracaro bhajate mam ananya-bhak sadhur eva sa mantavyah samyag vyavasito hi sah

If even a man of abominable character engages in  My exclusive bhajana, he is to be considered asadhu, due to his being properly situated in his determination.

In his commentary to this verse, Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura quotes Sri Krishna as saying:

“It is My nature to be attached to My devotees, even that devotee who performs duracara, 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.”

Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura continues: What kind of bhajana must such a person perform to be regarded as saintly? In answer to this, Sri Krishna says “ananya-bhak – 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 sadhu if some type of wickedness is to be seen in him. Anticipating this doubt, the word mantavyah has been used, meaning that he nonetheless must be considered a sadhu; it is obligatory to accept him as such. The word mantavyah indicates that it is imperative. If one disobeys this instruction, he will be guilty of neglect. Sri Krishna is saying here, “In this regard My order is final.”

A person may have the idea that a bhakta engaged in bhajana of Sri Krishna who has an illicit connection with another man’s wife, may be regarded as only partially a sadhu. In answer to this, it is declared in this verse that such a bhakta must be considered a sadhu in every respect. One should be blind to his unsaintly behaviour, because he is samyag-vyavasitah, “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 Sri Krishna, 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 Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura Mahasaya 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 Krishna bhajana. 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-duracarah – this is Sri Krishna’s statement. What liberality Krishna, speaker of the Gita, has displayed through this verse. How is it, then, that this very same Absolute Truth has, as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, shown such severity and inflexibility? It is impossible for the Supreme Lord to contradict His own words.

What a terrible, heartless and uncompromising attitude Mahaprabhu took towards Chota Haridasa!  He ignored the humble entreaties of all types of devotees committed to helping Chota Haridasa, even the petitions of His superiors and intimate companions. Was this act of Mahaprabhu’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 Sri Krishna and Mahaprabhu, we find that Mahaprabhu Himself appears to have reacted inconsistently to a bhakta’s misconduct.

Why was Mahaprabhu not severe with Kala Krishnadasa in the same way that He was with Chota Haridasa? Kala Krishnadasa’s error was far graver than Chota Haridasa’s, who merely made conversation with a woman and was not accused of cohabiting with one. Kala Krishnadasa, by contrast, was found living with a woman of the Bhattathari caste.

Moreover, Chota Haridasa wasmananya-bhak, one-pointed in his devotion. He never performed bhajana of any worshipable truth other than Mahaprabhu. Indeed, even after giving up his body, he would serve Mahaprabhu by singing kirtanas for Him while remaining invisible to others. By contrast, Kala Krishnadasa, having been allured by the gypsy women, gave up Mahaprabhu’s service and joined the Bhattathari group. Although Kala Krishnadasa possessed such an abominable propensity, Mahaprabhu 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, Mahaprabhu handed him over to the devotees, thereby freeing Himself from His responsibility towards him. What deeper grounds are there in these two cases for Mahaprabhu’s seemingly inconsistent behaviour? The answer is certainly inaccessible to ordinary people.

Chota Haridasa’s Case

It should be noted that Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura did not accept sannyasa, the renounced order of life. As such, he does not specifically discussthe circumstances of a renunciant (vairagi) in his commentary to the verse api cet su-duracarah. He addresses people of all social orders simply as “bhaktas”, without any further differentiation. Although this term includes both the householder and the renunciant, Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura does not specifically employ the word tyagi, renunciant. Sriman Mahaprabhu, however, says the following regarding Chota Haridasa:

prabhu kahe – “vairagi kare prakriti sambhashana dekhite na paron ami tahara vadana

Sri Caitanya-caritamrita (Antya-lila 2.117)

lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu

Mahaprabhu 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.

“kshudra-jiva saba markata-vairagya kariya indriya carana bule ‘prakriti’ sambhashiya” Sri Caitanya-caritamrita (Antya-lila 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 women.”

The acaryas themselves observe all the regulative principles of their respective social order and never indulge in any inappropriate discussion. Since Chota Haridasa Prabhu was a renunciant in the fourth social order, Mahaprabhu’s judgment on him was in accordance with sastra and appropriate to his adhikara, level of eligibility. Unless one is not himself in the fourth social order, passing judgment on a renunciant is improper.

Kala Krishnadasa’s Case

Why did Mahaprabhu apply a different standard to Kala Krishnadasa? Why was strict action taken in Chota Haridasa Prabhu’s case but not in Kala Krishnadasa’s? In this regard, it may be observed that sastra itself lays down a different set of guidelines, excusing the householder’s weakness of associating with women:

strinam nirikshana-sparsa-samlapa-kshvelanadikam pranino mithuni-bhutan agrihastho ’gratas tyajet Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.17.33)

Those who are unmarried – that is, sannyasis, vanaprasthas and brahmacaris – 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 agrihasthah (“those who are unmarried”) in this verse, an exemption is implicitly provided for grihasthas. It is forbidden for a brahmacari, vanaprastha and vairagi (i.e. sannyasi) to engage in these acts. In other words, these activities are permissible for grihasthas who are not so advanced. However, if a grihastha is nishkincana, inclined towards bhajana and wants to cross over the ocean of nescience, then these prohibitions apply to him also.

This is supported by Mahaprabhu’s distressful words in Sri Caitanya-candrodaya-nataka:

nishkincanasya bhagavad-bhajanonmukhasya
param param jigamishor bhava-sagarasya
sandarsanam vishayinam atha yoshitam ca
ha hanta hanta visha-bhakshanato ’py asadhu

Sri Caitanya-candrodaya-nataka (8.23)

“Alas, for a person who seriously desires to cross the ocean of nescience and engage in the transcendental loving service of Sri Krishna without any material motivation, seeing a materialist engaged in sense gratification or seeing a woman who is similarly interested is more abominable than willingly drinking poison.”

Kala Krishnadasa was a householder, and therefore he was not treated severely. Chota Haridasa, however,was a vairagi, who had renounced his household life. Severity was therefore appropriate in relation to him.

Two Different Approaches

Lord Caitanya is Sri Krishnacandra

Both Sri Krishna and Srila Visvanatha Cakravartipada manifested grihastha pastimes in this world, and have therefore not discussed or passed judgment on renunciants such as sannyasis. Being a sannyasi, however, Sriman Mahaprabhu behaved appropriately in being befittingly severe with the renunciant Haridasa 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 (adhikara); moreover, both approaches should be understood as having the same end purpose as each other. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Sri Krishnacandra are the same Absolute Reality, but Krishna was a grihastha and Mahaprabhu a sannyasi. This difference of asrama in Their pastimes is reflected in Their instructions, and does not result in any apasiddhanta, incorrect conclusions.

Indulgence in sex with a woman is unfavourable for paramartha, 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 Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.3.44) in the statement “karma-mokshaya karmani – material activities meant for liberation from material pursuits.” In the verse from Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.5.11) beginning with the words loke vyavayamishamadya- seva, the same idea is conveyed through the statement “asu nivrittir ishta – the cessation of these is the desired end.” There is no scope for even a scent of lust (kama) on the path of prema propagated by Mahaprabhu.

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 jiva. 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 sastra 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 sudras, women and the uncultured members of brahmana and other high-order families (dvija-bandhus) are not given the right to study the Vedas. Does the statement “api cet su-duracarah”, then, contradict this injunction of the sastras?

There can never by any conflict between the statements of sastra. As such, this verse does not in itself discuss the status of women. Rather, it illuminates the highest glories of exclusive bhajana to Sri Krishna by declaring that by performing such bhajana even persons of the lowest qualification (adhikara) are fit to be counted as highly worshipable and saintly.

It should be understood that it is certainly very difficult to perform ananya-bhak, one-pointed bhajana of Sri Krishna. If this were not so, the statement “strisangi eka asadhu – the person who associates with women for sense gratification is unsaintly” in Sri Caitanya-caritamrita (Madhya-lila 22.87) would be deprived of its truth. The Gita (9.33) goes on to describe those who are naturally eligible to perform such one-pointed devotion:

kim punar brahmanah punya
bhakta rajarshayas tatha

What doubt then can there be that pious brahmanas and saintly kings can become bhaktas?

The Power of Exclusive Bhajan


Although there are many worshipable deities, in the verse api cet su-duracarah and the verses that follow it, the worship of Sri Krishna is declared to be topmost, bestowing the highest results. If someone engages in one-pointed bhajana of the worshipable reality Sri Krishna, even if he is thoroughly unqualified, Sri Krishna very quickly dispels his greatest disqualifications and bestows upon him the quality of being a sadhu and supreme peace (para-santi).In order to firmly and indubitably express this, Krishna ordered His intimate devotee and friend Arjuna to take a vow to this effect:

kshipram bhavati dharmatma
sasvac-chantim nigacchati
kaunteya pratijanihi
na me bhaktah pranasyati

Bhagavad-gita (9.31)

He quickly becomes virtuous and attains eternal peace. O son of Kunti, declare it boldly that My devotee never perishes.

This also illustrates Krishna’s nature of protecting the vow of His devotee, even at the expense of breaking His own vow.

Krishna 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 sudra, 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 Sri Krishna. This is indeed expressed here. Therefore every human being is enjoined to engage his body, mind and words in the service of Sri Krishna and thereby become blessed. For such bhajana, however, it is desirable that one possess the quality described in Srimad-Bhagavatam (2.7.42) as “yadi nirvyalikam – 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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