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Primary and Secondary Rules

Saturday, 08 June 2013 / Published in Articles / 2,204 views

By Madhavananda das

Vaiṣṇavas follow various vidhis or rules. However, it’s not that all of these vidhis have equal importance. For example it is a rule that one should take bath daily, it is also a rule that one should chant the holy names daily, but of the two vidhis the latter is much more important.


One set of rules are mukhya-vidhis or primary rules, for us these are the pañcāṅga-bhakti, the five limbs of bhakti described by Mahaprabhu in Cc madhya 22.128: sādhu-saṅga, nāma-kīrtana, bhāgavata-śravaṇa, mathurā-vāsa, and śrī-mūrtira seva.


Another set is gauṇāṅga, or secondary rules. These include taking morning bath, being honest, and yes, even being vegetarian. Due to absorption in bhāva, or some serious health problem some vaiṣṇavas may not be able to take bath daily; Yudhisthir Maharaja is famous for his so-called “dishonesty” (which was actually pleasing to the Lord); and Srila Prabhupada sometimes refers to Garuda, the Lord’s personal carrier as a “non-vegetarian vaiṣṇava” (he sometimes eats fish, snakes, and turtles etc).


These gauṇāṅga-vidhis are secondary in the sense that they have potency only when they are practiced in connection with the mukhyāṅgas. For example, there are people all over the world who take bath daily, however, we don’t see them developing bhakti because of their bathing. 


One the other hand, if someone simply chants the holy name they will develop bhakti even if they don’t take bath daily (they probably won’t be very popular socially, but Lord Rishabhdev is an example of someone who was not taking bath everyday). 


Nāma-kīrtana is a mukhyāṅga or primary limb of bhakti, therefore it acts by itself (in this age, all aṅgas of bhakti, even the mukhyāṅgas are dependent on nāma). Taking a daily bath to purify one’s consciousness so he or she can chant in a more concentrated way is helpful to the mukhāṅga of nāma-kīrtana, so it has some potency *while* in connection with any of the mukhyāṅgas of bhakti. Therefore it becomes a gauṇāṅga, secondary limb of bhakti.


This, of course does not mean that it is not important to take bath everyday or that one can give up being vegetarian. However, we should understand why we follow these principles if they are not universal. Those who have received initiation into our line are vegetarian and take daily bath because it is the order of their guru. To neglect the order of guru is the offence known as guru avajña. By disobeying the order of guru one will get a far worse reaction than an ordinary person gets by performing sin. Sad Guru gives orders to follow secondary aṅgas of bhakti because they will help us to follow the primary ones.


Padma Purāṇa describes the most important of all vidhis:


smartavyaḥ satataṁ viṣṇur vismartavyo na jātucitsarve vidhi-niṣedhāḥ syur etayor eva kiṅkarāḥ


“Krishna or Vishnu, should always be remembered and never forgotten. All the vidhis, rules, and niṣedhas, prohibitions of śāstra should be the servants of these two principles.”

4 Responses to “Primary and Secondary Rules”

  1. Puskaraksa das says :

    (om) apavitrah pavitro va sarvavastham gato ’pi va
    yah smaret pundarikaksam sa bahyabhyantarah sucih

    Either pure or impure, or having passed through all conditions of material life, one who remembers lotus-eyed Krsna becomes externally and internally clean.
    [Garuda Purana, quoted in Hari-bhakti-vilasa 3.47]

    Srila Prabhupada:
    Namah means “I surrender.” And what is your condition? Never mind what is that condition. Apavitrah pavitro va. Apavitrah means contaminated, and pavitra means liberated. So we have two conditions. Either… Just like either we are healthy or we are diseased. There is no third condition. Crude example. Similarly, the living entities, they have two conditions. One condition is liberation, another condition is contaminated. Therefore living entity is called marginal, in between contamination and liberation. Either a living entity can be contaminated or liberated. There is no third condition. Therefore this mantra says, apavitrah pavitro va. Either contaminated or liberated, it doesn’t matter. Om namo apavitrah pavitro, sarvavastham. Sarva means all; avastham means condition. In any condition. Sarvavastham gato ‘pi va. In whatever condition you may be. Because two conditions there are. For the living entities… The living entity is in the marginal position. Either he can be in material nature or in the spiritual nature. The spiritual nature means liberation, and material nature means contamination. So in this mantra it is said, either of the condition, never mind. Either you are in material condition or spiritual condition. Sarvavastham gato ‘pi va. Va means either; yah, anyone; smaret, smaret means remembers; pundarikaksam, pundarikaksam means whose eyes are just like lotus petal. That means Krsna or Visnu. Yah smaret pundarikaksam sa bahya… Bahya means externally. Externally, this body. Abhyantaram. Abhyantaram means internally. Internally I am spirit. Just like internally, within this dress, I am internally. Externally I am this dress. Similarly, yah smaret pundarikaksam. Either he is in the bodily concept of life or he is in the spiritual concept of life, either he is contaminated or he is liberated — in any condition, one who remembers Krsna or Visnu, bahyabhyantaram, he immediately becomes purified internally and externally. This is the substance of this mantra.”
    From “The Path Of Purification” – Lecture – 1 Dec 68, Los Angeles

  2. Puskaraksa das says :


    “And at the last we are chanting sri visnu sri visnu sri visnu. Because it may not be misunderstood that in this verse it is said that yah smaret pundarikaksam, “anyone who remembers the lotus-eyed.” So somebody may think, “My such and such lover is lotus-eyed,” or in that way, lotus-eyed. There may be so many lotus-eyed. Therefore at last it is specifically said, sri visnu sri visnu sri visnu. “Lotus-eyed” means Visnu, not anybody else. Sri visnu sri visnu. This is the basic principle of devotional life. In Narada Pancaratra it is recommended… We are explaining these things in Nectar of Devotion. The basic principle of purification is smartavyah satato visnuh: always one has to remember Visnu or Krsna. Krsna and Visnu the same. When you speak Krsna, it includes Visnu. So smartavyah satato visnu vismartavyah na jatucit. We shall not forget Visnu even for a moment. This is the basic principle of devotional life. Some way or other, we have to remember always Krsna. Then whatever condition we may be, we are pure. Sa bahyabhyantaram sucih. This chanting helps us always remembering Krsna. As soon as we chant Hare Krsna, hear, immediately we remember. So, so long I remember, I am sucih, I am pure, no material contamination. Therefore if I continue my life in that pure stage, then I am eligible for going back to Godhead. Because nobody can enter in the kingdom of God without being completely pure. Completely pure means anyabhilasita-sunyam [Brs. 1.1.11], no material desire. Here in the material world, we manufacture so many plans to be happy, material desires. Somebody’s thinking, “I shall be happy in this way.” Somebody’s thinking… There is no question of happiness here. The place is contaminated. In a contaminated… Just like in an infected place you cannot be happy. The medical officer will ask you to leave that place, that “This quarter has been infected by the disease. Better you leave, you go somewhere else.” That is the treatment. Infected place must be left immediately. So similarly, this world, this material world of three modes of different qualities, you have to keep yourself always antiseptic, pure, by remembering Krsna. That is the process. As soon as you forget Krsna, immediately the infection, maya, immediately affects you. Krsna bhuliya jiva bhoga-vancha kare.”
    From “The Path Of Purification” – Lecture – 1 Dec 68, Los Angeles

  3. Puskaraksa das says :

    Srila Prabhupada – Lecture on SB 12.2.1 — San Francisco, March 18, 1968:

    “As the age of Kali will make progress, people will become more and more irreligious. And they will become more and more liars. They’ll forget to speak what is true. Śaucam, cleanliness, that will also diminish. Cleanliness is required. Bahyābhyantaraḥ-śuciḥ. If one is to advance, he has to clean himself. According to Vedic civilization, one has to take bath thrice daily. Actually, in India they take. In our country I was also taking twice bath till I was attacked last year. So I thought that in this country, twice taking bath is not possible, so I am taking once now. But India, there are many gentlemen, high class gentlemen, they take bath thrice. Morning, and before lunch, and in the evening. Especially the brāhmaṇas. So cleanliness is next to godliness. To take bath, to evacuate daily, to wash the teeth, wash clothings, this cleanliness process. But as the days of this Kali-yuga will make progress, this system of hygienic cleanliness, cleanliness both inside and outside Outside by taking bath, inside by becoming Kṛṣṇa conscious—two kinds of cleanliness. Simply if we take bath with soap outside, and inside all rubbish things, that is not cleanliness. Cleanliness means bahyābhyantaraḥ. Bahya means outside, without. Abhyantara means inside. Unless we are clean, unless we are pure, how we can make advance to approach the Supreme? The Supreme is described as the purest. In the Bhagavad-gītā Arjuna said, paraṁ brahma paraṁ dhāma pavitraṁ paramaṁ bhavān: (BG 10.12) “My dear Kṛṣṇa, You are the Supreme Lord, Brahman.” And pavitraṁ paramam: “You are supreme pure.” There is no impurity. Impurity means material contamination, and purity means spiritual life. So this cleanliness inside and outside, that will also decrease.”

  4. gaurakeshavadas says :

    Great article. Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur has mentioned these issues in his Caitanya Siksamrta. The picture above the article is of a Dvija/Brahmin looking at the sun through the special mudra/hand combination used during midday gayatri or madhyanika sandhya vandanam. After chanting gayatri at noon one is meant to sight Lord Narayana within the sun globe while chanting a Vedic prayer for that purpose.

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