Aparādhas in deity worship

Aparādhas or offenses are the only obstacles that prevent sādhakas from attaining the fruit of bhakti. There are sevā-aparādhas and nāma-aparādhas. I have presented nāma-aparādhas elsewhere. Here, I examine sevā-aparādhas.

In the Bhakti Sandarbha Anuchheda 300, Śrī Jīva Goswami writes:

tathāsmin pāda-sevārcana-mārge,yānair vā pādukair vāpi gamanaṁ bhagavad-gṛhe ity-ādinā āgamoktā ye dvātriṁśad-aparādhāḥ, tathā rājanna-bhakṣaṇaṁ caivam ity-ādinā vārāhoktā ye ca tat-saṅkhyakāḥ, tathā mama śāstraṁ bahiṣkṛtya hy asmākaṁ yaḥ prapadyate ity-ādinā,  tad uktā ye cānye bahavas te sarve—

On this path consisting of service to Bhagavān’s feet (pāda-sevā) and worship of Bhagavān (arcana), one should avoid all offenses. This refers to the thirty-two offenses described in the Āgamas, such as the offense of entering a temple of Bhagavān wearing shoes or riding on a carriage. It also includes the thirty-two offenses described in Varāha Purāṇa (Chapter 116.5–36), beginning with eating the food of a king, and many other similar offenses spoken of by Bhagavān Varāha, such as the offense of seeking Bhagavān’s shelter while forsaking His scripture.

Below, I list the thirty-two aparādhas from the Āgama scriptures mentioned by Śrī Jīva above which are quoted in Hari-bhakti-vilāsa (8.441–448) (Śrī Babaji’s translation and comments). They are as follows:

  • Entering the temple with shoes on.
  • Entering the temple in a vehicle.
  • Not observing the festivals of Bhagavān.
  • Not offering obeisance to the deity.
  • Worshiping Bhagavān or praying before the deity without washing the mouth and hands after eating, or with an unclean body.
  • Offering obeisance to Bhagavān in an unclean state.
  • Offering obeisance with one hand only. Therefore, to avoid this offense, all hand-held objects should be set aside before offering obeisances.
  • Turning around in a circle while standing in front of the deity. Some people in India do this because they consider it equivalent to performing parikrama of the deity.
  • Spreading one’s legs and pointing one’s feet toward the deity while sitting in front of the deity.
  • Sitting with one foot over the thigh in a half-lotus pose or with both knees folded together in front of the deity.
  • Sleeping in front of the deity.
  • Eating in front of the deity.
  • Telling lies in front of the deity.
  • Talking loudly in front of the deity.
  • Gossiping in front of the deity.
  • Grieving in front of the deity.
  • Punishing or blessing anyone in front of the deity.
  • Admonishing anyone or using harsh words in front of the deity.
  • Wrapping oneself in a blanket while serving the deity.
  • Criticizing someone in front of the deity.
  • Glorifying someone else in front of the deity.
  • Using obscene words in front of the deity.
  • Breaking wind in front of the deity.
  • Offering useless articles to the deity, though capable of offering superior articles.
  • Not offering seasonal fruits and vegetables
  • Eating without first offering one’s food to Bhagavān.
  • Giving portions of eatables to someone first and then offering the rest to the deity.
  • Sitting with one’s back toward the deity.
  • Offering obeisance to someone else in front of the deity.
  • Remaining silent when questioned by one’s guru.
  • Praising oneself in front of the deity.
  • Criticizing the devas in front of the deity.

Śrī Jīva Goswami explains why these aparādhas are so important to avoid:

śraddhā-bhakta-śabdābhyām atrādara eva vidhīyate | aparādhās tu sarve’nādarātmakā eva | prabhutvāvamānataś ca ājñāvamānataś ca | tasmād aparādha-nidānam atrānādara eva parityājya ity arthaḥ ||

In the context of worship, the words śraddhā , “fidelity,” and bhakta , “[by] a devotee,” specifically enjoin an attitude of reverence (ādara); whereas, all offenses are rooted in disregard (anādara), either for Bhagavān or His order. Therefore, the disrespect that is the breeding ground of all offenses must be thoroughly uprooted.

The thirty-two aparādhas mentioned above by Śrī Jīva Goswami from the Varāha Purāṇa (116.5–36) are summarized in Hari-bhakti-vilāsa (8.449–459) as follows:

  • Eating food received from kings or materialistic businessmen.
  • Touching the deity in the dark.
  • Approaching the deity without observing proper etiquette.
  • Opening the door to the deity’s temple without first clapping or ringing a bell.
  • Offering food to the deity that has been seen by a dog or other animals.
  • Breaking silence while worshiping the deity.
  • Interrupting one’s worship to go out and pass stool or urine.
  • Offering incense without first offering fragrance or scented garlands.
  • Offering forbidden flowers, meaning those that are old, shriveled, rotten, already used for other purposes, unclean, or red-colored, except for roses.
  • Serving the deity without cleaning the teeth or without bathing after having sexual union.
  • Worshiping without bathing after touching a woman in her menstrual cycle or a dead body.
  • Worshiping while wearing red, blue, or unclean clothes.
  • Worshiping without bathing after seeing a dead body, visiting a crematorium, passing wind, or after applying oil on one’s own body.
  • Worshiping while angry or in a state of indigestion, which leads to burping, or while passing gas.
  • Taking up the worship of the deity without respect for devotional scriptures.
  • Preaching nondevotional scriptures.
  • Chewing betel or gum in front of the deity.
  • Worshiping the deity with flowers kept on the leaves of castor-oil plants.
  • Worshiping at forbidden times, such as at midnight.
  • Worshiping while sitting on the bare floor or on a wooden seat.
  • Touching the deity with the left hand while bathing them.
  • Worshiping with stale flowers or flowers that had previously been promised to someone else.
  • Spitting while worshiping.
  • Boasting about one’s acts of worship.
  • Putting on a curved or horizontal tilaka mark.
  • Entering the temple without washing one’s feet.
  • Offering food cooked by a nondevotee.
  • Worshiping in front of nondevotees.
  • Bathing the deity with water touched by the fingernails.
  • Worshiping while the body is perspiring.
  • Crossing over the articles offered to Bhagavān.
  • Taking an oath in the name of Bhagavān.

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