Progress in chanting can be compared to a journey that can come to an abrupt halt if serious obstacles present themselves - landslides or mad elephants of the road, for example. The main obstacles that stop our spiritual progress are the three A's
1. Avidya (Ignorance)
2. Anarthas (Unwanted Habits)
3. Aparadhas (Offenses)
It is absolutely necessary that devotees avoid offenses to the Holy Name. If they focus the mind on the task of not offending the Holy Name, the remaining two A's are likely to disappear automatically. In Bhagavata-arka-marici-mala (thirteenth ray, text 51), Bhaktivinoda Thakura translates Srimad Bhagavatam 6.1.12 as follows:
"Just as a disease is activated if proper food and medicine are not administered in a disciplined manner, so one will never obtain the result of chanting if one does not chant the holy names under the peoper riles and regulations, such as chanting a prescribed daily number of rounds. The process of chnating os that one should always chnat the Holy Name without any offenses or duplicity while trying to progressively increase the number of rounds. Following the prescribed method for chanting, hearing, and remembering the Lord's names, forms, qualities and pastimes yields the most auspicious results."
The Holy Name is certainly the most merciful forms of all forms of the Lord Krsna, but just as a master may withhold his mercy from an offensive servant, so the Holy Name may choose to withold His mercy from an offensive chanter.
Scripture tells us that there are ten offenses to be avoided while chanting Hare Krsna. Each of these offesnes is stated as "do nots." But each therefore indirectly points to a positive injunction. The prohibitions presented as the ten aparadhas can thus be seen as instructions for us to develop specific saintly qualities and to do certain things. Expertise in one's practice, or bhajan, is defined as the ability to avoid these stumbling blocks. What follows is a list of the positive injunctions related to the ten offenses as they are presented in Harinama Cintamani (Ch 13, texts 38-41):
1. Diligently give up all blasphemy of Vaisnava sadhus by praising them. (Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu aslo advises that the same mouth that has blasphemed devotees should be used to praise them. When someone drinks poision, he can be cured by drinking with the same mouth life giving nectar).
2. Adopt the pure understanding that Visnu is the only truth.
3. Accept the Guru who promotes the Holy Name with utmost sincerity.
4. Accept the scriptures that golorify the Holy Name as supreme.
5. Believe in your heart that the Holy Name is completely pure and spiritual.
6. Have faith that the Holy Name is identical with the Lord.
7. Attentively discard all the motivations that lead to sins, because it is motivation, not action, that is the seed of sin.
8. Preach the glories of the pure Holy Names to those who possess faith in the names
9. Entirely give up all impious and self serving ritualistic activities.
10. Meditate on the Holy Name without distraction.
Let me add one helpful personal perspective to help us avoid offenses: Always consider yourself a humble servant of Sri Krsna, of the Vaisnavas and of all living entities by giving up the erroneous conception of I and Mine. These ideas are based on the false understanding of ourselves as enjoyers and controllers.
By adopting these postitive mental attitudes, we can successfully avoid all ten offenses and soon awaken the kinds of feelings for Krsna that lead to pure love.
- HH Sacinandana Swami (Nama Rahasya)