555 in Thai language sounds like a sound of laughing – ha-ha-ha, but I have no laughing matters to discuss today, the only thing I am ready to type about now is Lord’s treatment of offenders of Vaishnavas.
I’m afraid I have nothing new to say but I’ve seen an interesting combination of cases from Lord Chaitanya’s pastimes that adds a bit of a perspective.
First is mother Saci complaining about Advaita Acharya after he persuaded Nimai’s older brother, Vishvambhara, to take sannyasa. If that wasn’t enough, Advaita Acharya set his sights on Nimai next. Mother Saci didn’t like it a little bit and called him “dvaita” – the one who separates, and probably some other chosen names.
For that offense the mother of the Supreme Personality of Godhead who descends with Krishna time after time was deprived of the darshan of the Lord. Imagine that. No one is safe, no matter how advanced a devotee is, one little offense and he could be excluded from Lord’s company. Mother Saci, when it was explained to her, immediately begged forgiveness of Advaita Acharya and got admitted to the room where Lord Gauranga exhibited his mahaprakasha lila.
One more important lesson from this is that we all, including the most exalted souls, are prone to making mistakes and committing offenses but the Lord doesn’t give us any leeway, we all have to properly atone for every little thing we do wrong.
No one can pull a rank and claim to be above the rules.
Another episode is with Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya’s son-in-low Amogha. It happened when Bengali devotees left Jagannatha Puri and it was Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya’s turn to enjoy serving the Lord. He arranged a number of meals and built a special room exclusively for reception of Lord Chaitanya but on the very first day Amogha sneaked in, saw how much food was served to a sannyasi, and made some very sarcastic comments.
Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya was incensed and even contemplated killing the boy. He begged forgiveness of the Lord but Lord Chaitanya told him:
What Amogha has said is correct; therefore it is not blasphemy. What is your offense?
Srila Prabhupada doesn’t comment on this verse so I think we have a little freedom to explain it.
First of all it appears that as long the truth is spoken there’s no blasphemy. This interpretation might go a very long way in justifying our criticism of other devotees. “It’s the truth, therefore there’s no blashpemy” sounds like a perfect excuse. Is it really so?
Well, let’s look at the second part of that statement – the Lord didn’t see an offense on the part of Bhattacharya. That doesn’t address the offense of Amogha, only Bhattacharya’s fault. If there was an offense by Amogha, however, Bhattacharya’s responsibility is clear – he personally guarded reception room and he let his guard down for a moment, and let an envious offender to sneak in and criticize the Lord. It was his responsibility to provide privacy and he failed.
Lord Chaitanya obviously avoided mentioning that part, as anyone else would, too, but it doesn’t mean the fault wasn’t there.
It all comes down to Amogha, however – was he offensive or not? While pacifying Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya the Lord implied that there was no offense but subsequently, when Amogha fell ill with cholera, Lord Chaitanya rushed to his help and established his guilt beyond any doubts:
Why have you allowed the caṇḍāla of jealousy to sit here also? In this way you have contaminated a most purified place, your heart.
Apparently the Lord wasn’t entirely truthful when talking to Sarvabhauma, His goal was probably to address Sarvabhauma’s feelings first and save the truth for later.
It means that while telling the truth per se doesn’t qualify as blasphemy but if it’s done with envy in one’s heart then we are as doomed as Amogha, who was actually dying, btw.
Acharyas like Srila Prabhupada and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati had not a trace of envy in their hearts so they could speak unpalatable truth without being affected. Should we imitate them even if we find a legitimate grief with other devotees?
I don’t think so.
When we see faults of other devotees we can’t help but feel superior or disrespectful or worse – that is the natural outcome of our conditioning, so we should not give in to the urges to discuss other devotees’ shortcomings.
One way to manage it is to de-personlize the perceived offense and talk about the mistake, not the devotee who made it but even that is a slippery slope.
I guess we have to accept that we will be offending devotees and blocking our own progress, the goal is to manage it properly, beg forgiveness promptly, and never let our offenses pester until they fructify and ruin our lives.
I suspect we got thrown down here for offenses of devotees in the spiritual world, not for offending Krishna Himself. It makes much more sense when you think about it – Krishna would easily forgive offenses against Himself but He can’t help if we offended His servants. Therefore we keep rotting here for millions and millions of lives and even when we come in contact with the Lord or His representatives there’s not much they can do in terms of forgiving our offenses against other devotees.
We know that the lack of taste in the Holy Name is due to our offenses, and we rectify most of them on the spot, but if we offended a devotee several lifetimes back we can’t do anything about it but wait until the Lord arranges circumstances for us to beg forgiveness. When and how it will happen we do not know.
All we can do is patiently wait and do not add to our misfortune.