“The ten offenses against the holy name are as follows: (1) to blaspheme a devotee of the Lord, (2) to consider the Lord and the demigods to be on the same level or to think that there are many gods, (3) to neglect the orders of the spiritual master, (4) to minimize the authority of scriptures (Vedas), (5) to interpret the holy name of God, (6) to commit sins on the strength of chanting, (7) to instruct the glories of the Lord’s name to the unfaithful, (8) to compare the chanting of the holy name with material piety, (9) to be inattentive while chanting the holy name, and (10) to be attached to material things in spite of chanting the holy name.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 7.73 Purport)
Friend1: I got a chuckle while riding the subway the other day.
Friend2: Underground train into the city?
Friend2: What happened? People get into a fight? A tight squeeze in order to fit the passengers inside? A foul order emanating from a particular person sprawled out across the bench?
Friend1: Those things do occur quite frequently, but I don’t find any of them laughter-inducing. Correction; the jamming together and twisting the body like a pretzel to fit is quite amusing, but only after the fact.
Friend2: Just imagine, people in other countries have it worse. There are the internet videos showing the station officials pushing people inside to get them to fit.
Friend1: Or the ones hanging off the sides. That seems dangerous to me.
Friend2: So, what happened on this ride?
Friend1: There was an announcement. These are pre-recorded and I guess the conductor chooses which ones to play over the loudspeaker. Most of the time they are related to some present condition. For instance, if the train is particularly crowded, the announcement will advise passengers to remove their backpacks before getting on, in order to make more room.
Friend2: Does anyone listen?
Friend1: Of course not. Not a single person. Anyway, this announcement struck me as amusing. It was a reminder to not attack an employee of the train system.
Friend2: Ha, what?
Friend1: Exactly. As if anyone needed a reminder that it is illegal to physically assault another person.
Friend2: That must mean it occurs frequently. At least often enough to warrant an announcement.
Friend1: I couldn’t help but think of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Friend2: How is that? Because of ugra-karma and how the stress turns people violent?
Friend1: No, I was remembering something he says about the Ten Commandments. You know, of the religious nature.
Friend2: What about them?
Friend1: How they shouldn’t be considered to be the highest instruction. One should understand them in terms of time and circumstance. Specifically, the people of the time must have been degraded in behavior and consciousness.
Friend2: Why is that?
Friend1: Because they needed a list written down telling them to not kill and to not steal. A cultured person obviously avoids those things. They don’t need a sacred list of rules engraved on a stone as a reminder.
Friend2: You know, that is a very good point.
Friend1: It’s the same with this train announcement. What must be going on every day? Are people that far gone in terms of behavior that they require warnings against attacking train officials?
Friend2: It must be.
Friend1: It got me to thinking. Is there anything equivalent to the Ten Commandments in Vedic culture?
Friend2: Certainly not a single list with the same subject matter; at least that I am aware of. There are tons of rules and regulations. Think Manu-samhita. So many procedures to follow on this day and that.
Friend1: Okay, but that’s of the material variety. I understand that. If you want to meet a particular personal objective, you have to follow the rules of the game. What about in the bhakti path? Are there any rules?
Friend2: You get the ten offenses to the chanting of the holy name. I believe the origin of that list is the Padma Purana.
Friend1: What are some of the offenses?
Friend2: Being inattentive while chanting. Considering the holy name to be like a magic potion to bring material rewards. Committing sin on the strength of bhakti.
Friend1: Most of those seem pretty obvious to me.
Friend2: You’re right. It’s a helpful reminder, but pure devotion is always beyond the limits of motivation, interest and time. These lists help to bring purification more quickly. They help to raise the level of consciousness so that when there is chanting of the holy names, the Supreme Lord will always be close by: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Train announcement to hear,
That to officials coming near.
And to strike with force,
Such illegal of course.
Something commandments like,
Where based on conditions of life.
Bhakti always something higher,
Sins burned in devotional fire.