api cet su-durācāro
bhajate mām ananya-bhāk
sādhur eva sa mantavyaḥ
samyag vyavasito hi saḥ
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 9.30
Even if one commits the most abominable action, if he is engaged in devotional service he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated in his determination.
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
The word su-duracarah used in this verse is very significant, and we should understand it properly. When a living entity is conditioned, he has two kinds of activities: one is conditional, and the other is constitutional. As for protecting the body or abiding by the rules of society and state, certainly there are different activities, even for the devotees, in connection with the conditional life, and such activities are called conditional. Besides these, the living entity who is fully conscious of his spiritual nature and is engaged in Krishna consciousness, or the devotional service of the Lord, has activities which are called transcendental. Such activities are performed in his constitutional position, and they are technically called devotional service. Now, in the conditioned state, sometimes devotional service and the conditional service in relation to the body will parallel one another. But then again, sometimes these activities become opposed to one another. As far as possible, a devotee is very cautious so that he does not do anything that could disrupt his wholesome condition. He knows that perfection in his activities depends on his progressive realization of Krishna consciousness. Sometimes, however, it may be seen that a person in Krishna consciousness commits some act which may be taken as most abominable socially or politically. But such a temporary falldown does not disqualify him. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam it is stated that if a person falls down but is wholeheartedly engaged in the transcendental service of the Supreme Lord, the Lord, being situated within his heart, purifies him and excuses him from that abomination. The material contamination is so strong that even a yogi fully engaged in the service of the Lord sometimes becomes ensnared; but Krishna consciousness is so strong that such an occasional falldown is at once rectified. Therefore the process of devotional service is always a success. No one should deride a devotee for some accidental falldown from the ideal path, for, as explained in the next verse, such occasional falldowns will be stopped in due course, as soon as a devotee is completely situated in Krishna consciousness.
Therefore a person who is situated in Krishna consciousness and is engaged with determination in the process of chanting Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare should be considered to be in the transcendental position, even if by chance or accident he is found to have fallen. The words sadhur eva, “he is saintly,” are very emphatic. They are a warning to the nondevotees that because of an accidental falldown a devotee should not be derided; he should still be considered saintly even if he has accidentally fallen down. And the word mantavyah is still more emphatic. If one does not follow this rule, and derides a devotee for his accidental falldown, then one is disobeying the order of the Supreme Lord. The only qualification of a devotee is to be unflinchingly and exclusively engaged in devotional service.
In the Nrisimha Purana the following statement is given:
bhagavati ca harav ananya-ceta
bhrsa-malino ’pi virajate manushyah
na hi sasa-kalusa-cchabih kadacit
timira-parabhavatam upaiti candrah
The meaning is that even if one fully engaged in the devotional service of the Lord is sometimes found engaged in abominable activities, these activities should be considered to be like the spots that resemble the mark of a rabbit on the moon. Such spots do not become an impediment to the diffusion of moonlight. Similarly, the accidental falldown of a devotee from the path of saintly character does not make him abominable.
On the other hand, one should not misunderstand that a devotee in transcendental devotional service can act in all kinds of abominable ways; this verse only refers to an accident due to the strong power of material connections. Devotional service is more or less a declaration of war against the illusory energy. As long as one is not strong enough to fight the illusory energy, there may be accidental falldowns. But when one is strong enough, he is no longer subjected to such falldowns, as previously explained. No one should take advantage of this verse and commit nonsense and think that he is still a devotee. If he does not improve in his character by devotional service, then it is to be understood that he is not a high devotee.
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
My attachment to my devotee is my very nature. That attachment does not decrease even if the devotee commits wrong, for I make him come up to the highest standard. If someone with bad conduct, addicted to violence, thievery, or adultery (suduracarah), worships me, and worships no one except me, and does not follow any other process like karma or jnana, and has no other desire than my desire (ananya bhak), he is my devotee (sadhuh).
“But, considering his bad conduct, how is he a devotee?”
“He is to be respected (mantavyah) as a devotee because of his devotee qualities. It is a command. Not doing so is offense. My order is the authority.”
“So he should be considered a devotee in that portion where he worship You, and as a non-devotee in that portion where he commits adultery?”
“No, he should be considered as a devotee (eva) in all his parts. You should not see his bad qualities at all. He is completely convinced (samyak vyavasitah). He makes a splendid resolution: ‘I will go to hell for my sinful actions which are hard to give up, but I will not give up dedicated worship of Krishna.'”
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
9.30 Even though he has transgressed rules that ought to be followed and has failed to avoid what a person belonging to a particular class should avoid, if he has begun to worship Me in the manner described above with undivided devotion, namely, with worship as the only purpose — such a person must be considered highly righteous. He is eminent among the worshippers of Visnu. He must be esteemed as fit for honour. The meaning is that he is equal to those Jnanins mentioned earlier. What can be the reason for this? The reason is that, he has rightly resolved, i.e., his resolve is in the proper direction. ‘The Lord who forms the sole cause of the entire universe, who is the Supreme Brahman, Narayana, the Lord of all mobile and immobile beings, is our Master, our Teacher, and our Friend, highest object of enjoyment,’ — such a resolve is difficult to be made by all. Its effect, unremitting worship which has no other purpose, will be found in him who makes such a resolve. Hence he is holy and is to be highly honoured. When this resolve, and unremitting worship which is its effect, are found in a person, he is not to be belittled; for, his transgression of rules is a negligible mistake compared to this kind of excellence. On the other hand he is to be regarded with high honour. Such is the meaning. No, if it be said that transgression of rules will annul the flow of worship, as declared in the Sruti passages like, ‘One who has not ceased from bad conduct, is not tranquil, is not composed and also not calm in mind, cannot obtain Him through intelligence’ (Ka. U., 1.2.24), Sri Krsna replies:
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
The power of bhakti or loving devotional service to the Supreme Lord is so potent that it is indomitable and indestructible. Even if a person of abominable behaviour somehow or other worships the Supreme Lord Krishna or any of His Vedically authorised incarnations exclusively with determination comprehending that all other gods are but part of Him then such a person is considered venerable and because He desires to serve the Supreme Lord solely He has made the correct resolve and come to the right conclusion.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
The unrighteous and wicked who are of vile and evil nature can practically never be devotees of the Supreme Lord Krishna. But if some how by chance they receive the mercy of His devotees then by that potency they sometimes can have a change of heart and begin to regard the Supreme Lord in a reverential mood propitiating Him exclusively. This causes them to accumulate much merit and as they develop and advance with this state of consciousness they can be considered to be transformed into the noble and saintly for being rightly resolved.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
Lord Krishna expounds upon the wonderful position of His devotee emphasising it with the words api cet suduracaro bhajate mam meaning even if a person of extremely abominable habits worships Him exclusively they are laudable. The devotees of Lord Krishna can never be abominable sinners but if some how or other they took birth in a low caste or even out of caste due to sinful reactions such as blaspheming the Vedic scriptures in a previous life; or even if born in a higher caste from righteous family one deviates from righteous conduct as prescribed for their caste and instead lives a life of debauchery due to making offences against devotees in a previous life. Both are equally unfit to be considered pious yet if in spite of this they worship the Supreme Lord exclusively then they are praiseworthy. One who is even more sinful then the two aforesaid mentioned who has incurred great sins such as eating food before offering it unto the Supreme Lord, who eats grains on Ekadasi the 11th day before the new and full moons, who is a liar and who is ungrateful is designated as the vilest of sinners. If such a person receiving the mercy of a devotee has a change of heart and excluding the worship of any other god, devotes themselves to worshipping the Supreme Lord, exclusively surrendering to Him, who is endowed with all possibilities, who is the supplier of all needs and the protector of all, who is the sole objective and goal for those who have achieved moksa or liberation from material existence. Who is the repository for everyone, the goal and the source of all life; such a being should be considered venerable as the jnani stated earlier in VII.XVI who consider the Supreme Lord as the sole goal because they also are absolute devotees of correct resolve. The absolute devotee worshipping the Supreme Lord exclusively does not desire any rewards for such service except to have communion with Him is the best of the best. The absolute devotee has come to the irrevocable resolve that surrender to the Supreme Lord Krishna, the origin of all creation, the source of all sentient beings, the objective of the Upanisads, the beloved of the gopi’s and the hope of the liberated beings. This surrender applies to any of His authorised incarnations and expansions as well asn is the only object of attainment and that worship of Him can only be performed through the authority of the Vedic scriptures under the guidance of a spiritual preceptor from one of the four bonafide sampradaya’s empowered spiritual line of disciplic succession. The particle api cet meaning even if denotes all possibilities according to Panini’s rule I.IV.LXXXXVI.
The understanding is that even if due to excessive sinful activities a person was unfit for inclusion of conduct worthy of Vedic piety and suffered a demotion and downfall; the Supreme Lord being a ocean of all auspicious attributes like compassion, forgiveness, kindness and affection graced such a person with a human birth and association with the spiritual preceptor to guide such a person back to absolute devotion for the Supreme Lord. Compassion is the Supreme Lord’s nature and thus naturally we depend fully upon His compassionate nature. Such a person realises that the Supreme Lord Himself caused them to perceive the atma or soul as totally under His control and to be separate from the physical body and senses. Thus made aware that one is His absolute devotee by the grace of the spiritual preceptor one becomes very grateful and humble. Therefore immensely appreciating His mercy it is their prime duty to serve the spiritual preceptor wholeheartedly and worship the Supreme Lord who is an ocean of boundless mercy life after life. This is the unparalleled firm resolve of the absolute devotee.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
9.30 Api cet, even if; su-duracarah, a man of very bad conduct, of extremely vile behaviour, of very condemnable character; bhajate, worships; mam, Me; ananyabhak, with one-pointed devotion, with his mind not given to anybody else; he; mantavyah, is to be considered, deemed; eva, verily; sadhuh, good, as well behaved; hi, for; sah, he; samyakvyavasitah, has resolved rightly, has virtuous intentions.
Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:
9.29-31 Ksipram etc. I swear etc. This result (or subject), has logic [as its strong basis] and now being promised by the Bhagavat, it becomes established most firmly.
Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:
api cet su-duracaro
bhajate mam ananya-bhak
sadhur eva sa mantavyah
samyag vyavasito hi sah
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
api — even; cet — if; su-durācāraḥ — one committing the most abominable actions; bhajate — is engaged in devotional service; mām — unto Me; ananya-bhāk — without deviation; sādhuḥ — a saint; eva — certainly; saḥ — he; mantavyaḥ — is to be considered; samyak — completely; vyavasitaḥ — situated in determination; hi — certainly; saḥ — he.