Jaya Advaita Swami has been posting on his website a series titled, âCan One Who Has Sinned Be a Saint?â In this series he highlights verses and purports that focus on how people who perform sinful acts can redeem themselves by chanting the Holy Names. The premise is that sincere prayer to the Lord will burn up all negative reactions. These quotes accurately convey what to do if one becomes polluted by sinful activities and wants to become freed from them.
There is ample philosophical support that if in the course of doing their duties Vaishnavas transgress material laws the mercy of the Lord may mitigate their reactions. Some scriptural references imply that under certain circumstances devotees may not be subject to the same laws as non-devotees. However, scriptures also state that devotees would not break these laws anyways because they understand the negative implications of doing so. We have seen many examples in the history of ISKCON where devotees have not been exempt from the reaction of breaking material laws.
I would like to broaden the discussion and consider how to remedy a situation when a Vaishnava commits vaishnava-aparadha. I think this is closer to the heart of what devotees are asking to be addressed. For example, Nityananda Ramaâs question to Jaya Advaita Swami asks what the limitations are for forgiveness and at what point it ceases to exonerate and
becomes more a pretext used to rationalize the responsibility one devotee has to another.
There is a difference between what one could do in the event of an accidental fall down and what one should do in the case of vaishnava-aparadha. The practice of âchant away sinsâ and ânot subject to the lawâ are clearly not sufficient in this case. For instance, consider the stories of Jaya, Vijaya, and the four Kumaras; Jagai, Madhai, and Lord Nityananda; as well as Durvasa Muni and Ambarish Maharaja. In all of these situations the Supreme Lord says amnesty is not His to give. That has to come from the offended devotee. While the offenders may still be considered Vaishnavas, they will not have properly atoned or be able to fully revitalize their Krishna consciousness until they have pleased - and are forgiven by - the offended Vaishnava. Who says so? Scriptures say so.
For example, in the purport of SB 4.26.24: âThe conclusion is that if Krsna consciousness is covered by material sins, one can eliminate the sins simply by chanting the Hare Krsna mantra, but if one pollutes his Krsna consciousness by offending a brahmana or Vaishnava, one cannot revive it until one properly atones for the sin by pleasing the offended Vaishnava or brahmana.â The concluding sentence for this purport is crystal clear: âA vaishnava-aparadha cannot be atoned by any means other than by begging the pardon of the offended Vaishnava.â
Seeking the essence, Chaitanya Mangala dasa