Monday Morning Greetings 2017 #52 – Is Material Attachment an Offense Towards the Holy Name?

December 25th, 2017

She sincerely wanted to advance in spiritual life, which means to chant without offense, but to overcome the tenth offense to the holy name seemed insurmountable.
 
The tenth offense is to maintain material attachment despite so many instructions on the matter.
 
Often basic instructions in bhakti are misunderstood when taken only at face value and not understood in the context of the whole philosophy, especially without investigating the original text and commentary. Below is a devotee’s sincere inquiry and my response on the subject of the tenth offense to the holy name.
 
Her inquiry:
 
“We were reviewing the ten offenses, and number ten worried me. As you know I am attached to my husband and my mother—both of whom taught me what love is. I feel like this can’t be all wrong… I try and view my husband as Krishna’s child, given to me to care for and serve. He certainly supports my spiritual path, as you have seen. And my mom, well both parents—my dad is gone now, showed me that there is a God, and their commitment to service is why sevā always seemed so natural to me. I understand this world is temporary, but I also see that there is love here. I think if that is so beautiful at times, then just think of what the spiritual world must be! Forgive me for going on, but I am wondering if my reasoning is sound.”
 
My response:
 
The phrase ‘to not maintain material attachments’ cannot mean that we should withdraw affection from our spouse in order to chant without offense. That would mean that entering the gṛhastha āśrama alone means nāmāparādha, as one enters that āśrama specifically to be purified of certain attachments. Rather, it is laudable for a woman to be chaste and attached to a qualified husband. To say that having affection for one’s husband is nāmāparādha is thus ludicrous.
 
Our philosophy is yukta-vairāgya, balanced detachment. We give up only those things that cannot be used in Krishna’s service. Reasonable affection for your husband is not only psychologically healthy for you, which is conducive for a stable life to serve Krishna, but it also sets the proper example of what is the healthy mindset of a devotee in marriage. To renounce such affection prematurely is thus false renunciation and against the principles of devotional service. So if our conception of detachment excludes renouncing attachments that can be used in Krishna’s service, how can it be an offense to have such attachments?
 
Furthermore, even if one wants to give up attachment to a loving mother and a good husband it is impossible to do so before the platform of bhāva. To say that having such attachment is nāmāparādha would make practically everyone with a good husband or wife and a loving mother ineligible to chant the holy name without offense.
 
Ajāmila was hopelessly attached to his son, but called his name at the time of death in nāmābhāsa, without offense, and was liberated. That’s a clear example of having attachment being not an offense to the holy name.
 
In fact, attachment can even be spiritualized according to the Bhāgavatam:
 
“Association for sense gratification is certainly the path of bondage. But the same type of association, performed with a saintly person, leads to the path of liberation, even if performed without knowledge.” (Bhāg. 3.23.55)
 
“Maintaining attachments” being an offense refers to remaining attached to things that cannot be used in Krishna’s service, or maintaining attachments beyond our needs that we are capable of giving up and don’t. We generally know what they are and to maintain them inhibits our chanting.
 
A description of the ten offenses to the holy name is found in the Hari-bhakti-vilāsa by Sanātana Gosvāmī. I consulted a reputable scholar about that reference and he sent me in his own words the import of Sanātana Gosvāmī ’s Dig-darśinī commentary on tenth offense. It confirmed my analysis. Here is what he sent:
 
‘The import is that if one’s material attachments are causing one to become faithless in the holy name, one is an offender. It doesn’t mean that a person having faith in the glories of the holy name is an offender if they have some material attachments remaining in them.”[1]
 
My response was a quick answer, but the application is clear. Use your affection for your husband, which can’t be and should not be renounced artificially, in Krishna’s service by keeping yourself healthy and setting a good example for him and others of what coming to Krishna consciousness means.
 
When I see you next we can talk about this in more detail because there are subtleties in a Krishna conscious marriage that have to be navigated, but general affection for your husband and mother are natural impulses that are not against pure devotional service and certainly not nāmāparādha.”
 
This exchange is an example of how one must be thoughtful and raise one’s doubts to understand the philosophy of Krishna consciousness deeply. Otherwise there is risk one will accept some things blindly, such as the concept of “not maintaining material attachment”, and misapply the philosophy. I was happy to have received her inquiry.
 
 


[1] The following was sent to me by Hari Pārṣada das of Mumbai:
 
The tenth offense is given in the Hari-bhakti-vilāsa (11.524) as follows:

śrute’pi nāma-māhātmye
yaḥ prīti rahito ’dhamaḥ
ahaṁ-mamādi-paramo
nāmni so’py aparādha kṛt
 
In his Dig-darśinī commentary, Srīla Sanātana Gosvāmī  has given two interpretations of this verse. I am giving two simple translations based on these two interpretations:
 
Translation 1: Even (api) on hearing (śrute) the glories of the holy name (nāma-māhātmye), the wretched soul (adhamaḥ) who (yaḥ) is devoid of faith (prīti-rahito) for the holy name (nāmni), being obsessed with (paramo) I, mine and other material attachments (amaṁ-mamādi) — that person (so) too (api) is an offender (aparādha-kṛt).
 
Note: In this interpretation, Srīla Sanātana Gosvāmī  has translated the term pṛiti-rahito as śraddhā-rahito (devoid of faith). The import is that if one’s material attachments are causing one to become faithless in the holy name, one is an offender. It doesn’t mean that a person having faith in the glories of the holy name is an offender if they have some material attachments remaining in them. (emphasis mine).
 
Translation 2: Even (api) on hearing (śrute) the glories of the holy name (nāma-māhātmye), the wretched soul (adhamaḥ) who is devoid of prema, love of god (prīti-rahito) and is obsessed with (paramo) feelings of I, mine etc. (ahaṁ-mamādi) in relation to the holy name (nāmni) — that person (so) too (api) is an offender (aparādha-kṛt).
 
Note: In translation 2, it is said that such a person has feelings in terms of I and mine in relation to the holy name. Srīla Sanātana Gosvāmī explains this as follows — Such a person thinks — “I am a great chanter of the holy names. It is me who has spread kīrtana of the names here, there and everywhere. Who is a greater propagator of the holy name as compared to me? The holy name is thus under the control of my tongue.”
 
 

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