The ISKCON India Scholars board had been requested to provide references from scriptures of the pāñcarātrika-mārga and vaidika-mārga pertaining to prāyaścitta (atonement) for a Vaiṣṇava, as a result of an accidental falldown.
The following is the summary of our findings:
- According to both Pañcarātra and Vaidika texts, prāyaścitta for a Vaiṣṇava is different from that prescribed for a non-vaiṣṇava.
- In the Sat-kriyā-sāra-dīpikā, Śrī Gopāla Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī states that a Vaiṣṇava should perform prāyaścitta as prescribed in the Nārada-Pañcarātra texts, especially Bhāradvāja-saṁhita verses 3-22 to 25. He forbids the other forms of prāyaścitta such as charity, austerity, yajña etc., as “smārta-kalpita-niśedhaḥ,” what to speak of judging a Vaiṣṇava based on mundane rules of āsūric society.
- Lord Caitanya in his instructions to Sanātana Gosvāmī states that for one who has given up all activities and is engaged in devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead there is no further prāyaścitta needed. Even if he is involved in some sinful activity by accident. The Lord as caitya-guru, seated in his heart, will purify him.
- Śrīla Śrīdhara Svāmī, Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura, Śrīla Jiva Gosvāmī, and Śrīla Prabhupāda have all added that such a devotee incidentally attains the result of prāyaścitta by his continuous remembrance of the Lord.
- As per the Vaidika-mārga, if a spiritual master is involved in accidental sinful activity such as adultery or even the killing of a brāhmaṇa, he can be purified and reinstated by his disciples, or by observing total fasting etc.,
- The Agni Purāṇa forbids inflicting a punishment or prāyaścitta on anyone (not to mention a Vaiṣṇava) for the fault that has already been judged and atoned for.
- There is no mention of removing a person (Vaiṣṇava) from the position of guruship, even for sins as heinous as brahmahatyā, and even a sin such as brahmahatyā does not necessarily mean that a guru is no longer bona fide, as the example of Vaiśampāyana shows.