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.