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Be Free From Offences

Śrīla Bhakti Vinod Ṭhākur explains Śrīman Mahāprabhu’s formula for chanting the Holy Name.

The following is a translation of Śrīla Bhakti Vinod Ṭhākur’s Bengali commentary on the third and fourth verses of the Śikṣāṣṭakam which was published in Śrī Sajjan-toṣāṇī, Volume 3.

When a faithful soul chants the primary Names of the Lord without offence, four natural qualities are seen within them. Therefore, Śrīman Mahāprabhu has said, “O souls! One who knows oneself to be lower than a blade of grass, practises tolerance more so than a tree, and, although free from desire for honour, honours all souls as is appropriate, is qualified to chant the Name.”

Although a blade of grass is a very insignificant thing in the material world, for it to have the ego of being a thing of this world is not unpleasant, but a soul—an atomic particle of consciousness—should not have any ego related to this material world at all, as a soul’s ego is spiritual, and, logically, for the soul, a material ego is only imposed—it is completely false.

Even if trees are cut with an axe, they do not become averse to giving shade and fruit. For the soul, which is by nature superior to matter, being compassionate towards both friends and foes is natural, as compassion for others is a quality inherent in devotion, the natural aptitude of the soul.

Those who chant the Name should be free from meaningless ego related to the social classes (brāhmaṇ, kṣatriya, and so on), the social orders (sannyās, vanaprastha, and so on), wealth, beauty, strength, prowess, power, and position, and give the highest honour only to pure Vaiṣṇavas. They should also honour, as is appropriate, the qualified pious souls who, by the mercy of the Lord, have attained the positions of Brahmā, Śiva, and so forth.

If we do not see these four qualities [humility, tolerance, modesty, and respectfulness, in one who chants the Name], then we have to think that still now they have not left behind the previously mentioned offences [to the Name—criticising devotees, considering the demigods to be independent of the Supreme Lord, disobeying Śrī Guru, and so on]. (3)

When a soul who has these four qualities chants the Name without offence, they have devotion which is endowed with the quality described by adjectives such as unconditional, perfect, exclusive, pure, unalloyed, surrendered, and transcendental.

For souls in the conditioned state, however, there are two secondary qualities [within devotion]. When devotion has these two qualities, it is pure. Being free from desirousness (anyābhilāṣa-śūnyatā) and being uncovered by worldly knowledge and action (jñāna-karmādy-anāvṛtatā) are the two secondary qualities of devotion. To clearly teach this principle, Śrīman Mahāprabhu said, “O Lord of the universe, I do not pray for wealth, companions, beautiful women, or learning. Rather, may I have unconditional devotion to You, the Lord of my heart, birth after birth.”

I do not want wealth—the piety, fortune, and enjoyment (dharma, artha, and kāma) produced by adhering to one’s occupational duty (varṇāśram-dharma). I do not want companions: the body or those who go along with it—a wife, son, daughter, or other relatives. Except for knowledge which is nourishing to devotion to Kṛṣṇa, I do not want the ability to write poetry, drama, or other forms of literature based on ordinary grammar and ornamentation (I do not want any knowledge opposed to Kṛṣṇa). My prayer is only for devotion that is pure—free from any pursuit of results. For devotees, the removal of worldly suffering, and liberation in the form of self-realisation, are easily attained, inherent results [of practising devotion]. So, devotion should not be contaminated by endeavour or prayer for them. When a soul becomes qualified for deliverance from matter, Kṛṣṇa will certainly grant these results by His mercy. Therefore, devotees, desire this alone: “May I have unconditional devotion birth after birth.” Do not desire anything else. (4)

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