Collected words from talks of Swami Tirtha


Some souls are very fortunate because they can hold the precious stones in their palms, or they can start serving the devotees at a young age. Just calculate how many years, how many lifetimes we have wasted! But, if we start serving our superiors and being connected to the devotees, then a new chapter of our life should start. All things must pass, but some few things will stay. What will stay with us? That is permanent. Everything that is impermanent will pass, fade away, but everything that is on the permanent, spiritual platform will stay with us forever. We started to discuss how we should practice this process of dedication, sharanagati. There were the six elements: humility and dedication of the self; practice of the favorable things to devotion and avoidance of unfavorable; and then accepting Krishna as a maintainer and a protector. These six practices are categorized in pairs – the first two is like the entrance, the second two is your subjective contribution and the third two is like an objective feature of Krishna, approach to the Supreme. So, where should we start?
Answer: From the beginning.
Swami Tirtha: From the beginning, all right. So, you want the bitter pills first. Because then we have to know what is favorable and what is unfavorable in our spiritual practices. You have been practicing one very favorable service – coming together, joining and singing the holy names. No doubt, this will bring unity for the devotees and this is one of the most favorable, I mean most beloved service that Krishna accepts, something very dear to Him. Because He likes to be mentioned, He likes to be called out, just like we all like when our names are called.
But let’s start at the beginning, yes. What is favorable and what is unfavorable. From these two versions which one you would like to hear first?
Answer: The unfavorable.
Swami Tirtha: Are you sure?
Comment: It should be the same. Only vice versa.
Swami Tirtha: That’s a good point, but as the unfavorable is like limitations and the favorable is like recommendations they are nevertheless a little different. So, let’s start with the first. This list is coming from Srila Rupa Goswami and he identifies 64 different practices of spiritual life. And interesting enough, there are 64 excellences of Krishna and Srimati Radharani also, that are mentioned in a list[1]. So, there is a parallel, there is some connection between all these different 64 types or excellences. As we discussed, some considered Bhagavad Gita as pessimistic, others as optimistic, but practically it is realistic. Rupa Goswami is optimistic: he starts with the positive – what should be done in the spiritual practice. I see that we are not on the level of Rupa Goswami yet, because you are more interested in the unfavorable, but this is realistic. Why? Because the first that should be avoided is the offences while serving and chanting. If you have a sincere soul can you commit offences? Mistakes we can make, but offences – no. Because mistake means that you don’t know and you commit some mistake, but this is not intentional. I wouldn’t say that offence means you have a bad intention, but still it might mean that although you know the rule, you do not follow it. But what is the Sanskrit word for offence? Aparadha. Coming from?
Answer: Against Radha.
Swami Tirtha: Yes, apa-radha. Apa means “against” and radha in that contexts means aradhanam – worship, service. Aradhanam is the real service. If you don’t have this mood, this loving, positive cultivation mood – then this is an aparadha[2]. So this is not the long list of mistake, it’s the failure of getting the real mood. Because in different Puranas you will find the list of aparadhas. It’s a long list. For example, it is forbidden to sit on the altar – this is one aparadha. You come into the temple and you just sit on the altar. You wouldn’t do it, you wouldn’t think of that, but if it is on the list of aparadhas – we have to be realistic – some have this idea. Or the other: that you should not enter the temple in a palanquin[3] . Usually you wouldn’t; and many, many other unlimited rules and regulations. But what is the essence? Try to get the mood, try to capture the mood – what is the proper mood of service.

Once there was a lecture at the temple and the children went out collecting flowers. So, one small little girl in her small little hands brought some flowers. She wanted to offer that on the altar, and all of a sudden somebody entered, who knew all the rules and regulations and lists of aparadhas and told her: “No, no, no! You cannot offer that! Your hands are not clean, and you are like this and like that.” I think that was an aparadha! Because if somebody like a kid comes with an open heart: ‘Ah, I have collected some flowers for Krishna, I want to offer it,’ instead of promoting this feeling that ‘Yes, whatever you have, just bring it to the temple, give it to God, be connected, have the service mood,’ I crush it down with the list of aparadhas – To save the kid from rotting in an everlasting hell.
So, we should get the point, what is the point? If somebody wants to do some service, let’s help this service to happen. This is the real mood of aradhanam – worship, or service. Later on you can come with your rules and regulations, no problem. But in my humble opinion this happening will bring a very bad imprint on that kid. So, aparadha is the opposite of aradhanam. Aparadha is the opposite of this loving, serving mood. And as we know from the scriptures: aradhanam sarvesam visnor aradhanam param – “From all the different types of services, the worship of Sri Visnu is the highest.” [4]
So, there are unlimited rules of service and fortunately there is one magic mantra for those who serve – and this is “the mantra of forgiveness”: mantra-hīnam vidhi-hīnam jat kincid upapāditam – “Whatever I had done without the proper knowledge of mantras, or without the proper knowledge of rules, please excuse that, my Lord, because I wanted to offer it from sincere heart to serve You.” Why? Because according to the vidhi rules, according to the strict rules of tradition you should have followed rules of purity and rituals, and so many complicated things. Srila Prabhupada said to his disciples that “If I would tell you all the rules of purity, you wouldn’t come out from the bathroom for the whole day.” So, better we learn this mantra for forgiveness.
(to be continued)
1. Rupa Goswami: Bhakti-Rasamrta-Sindhu
2. The words aparadha and Radha have the same root. It is the verb radh.
3. a kind of covered chair for one passenger, consisting of a large box carried on two horizontal poles by four or six bearers.
4. Padma Purana


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