Api cet sudurAcAro verse (BG 9.30) vs Vaisnava aparAdha

This well-known verse https://www.bhagavad-gita.us/bhagavad-gita-9-30/ is prone to be misinterpreted. Since any sastra virodha (against sastra) interpretations are harmful, the following text, connected to https://www.krishna.com/blog/2023/08/15/its-your-karma-what-enlightenmen... tries to clarify its meaning.

Suduracara: remnants of previous bad habits

Srila Prabhupada states in his commentary to this verse: "...a person in Krishna consciousness commits some act which may be taken as most abominable socially or politically." In this way he excludes negative acts of a spiritual nature – aparAdha.
He also significantly repeats words "accident" and "accidental", disqualifying long-term unrepented negative activities typical for asura bhava.

In his lecture 661220BG.NY Prabhupada specifies that suduracara means remnants of previous bad habits:

"So now, somebody may say that "If a devotee is engaged in the service of the Lord, that's all right, but if his behavior is not up to the standard, then what happens to him?" Of course, a devotee is naturally developed, developing the twenty-six good qualities, but even if he does not develop those qualities... Of course, that very quality, that he is a devotee of Krishna, that is sufficient. But still, if somebody is not up to the point, but he is unflinching, not moving, he is perfect devotee of Krishna, then Lord Krishna says, api cet su-duracarah. Api cet su-duracarah. Duracarah means his conduct is not good, and su-duracarah means still further. So api cet su-duracaro bhajate mam ananya-bhak. Ananya-bhak means "Without deviating his attention to any other demigod or any other business, if one is simply cent percent engaged in My service, but his character is, general activities are not so to the point, still," the Lord says, sadhur eva sa mantavyah [Bg. 9.30]. Sadhu means a pious man or a religious man. Sadhu means the honest man and all good qualities. Still, although he is found that he is not to the standard, but his only qualification is that he is acting in Krishna consciousness sincerely... It may be...
Suppose I have got some bad character from the beginning of my life, but I have understood that "Krishna consciousness is very nice. I shall take to it." So I am trying, trying my best. But at the same time, because I am habituated to something, I cannot give it up. Although I know that this, my habit, is not good, but still, habit is the second nature. I cannot give it up. So Lord Krishna recommends that "Still, he is good. There is no question that he is not a sadhu or he is not an honest, he is not religious man. That simple one qualification, that he is Krishna conscious, and he is acting sincerely, but failing sometime, but still, he is to be taken as sadhu." Sadhu means honest, religious, pious. Sadhur eva sa mantavyah [Bg. 9.30]. And one may say that "Yes, because he is devotee of God, devotee of Krishna, we may call him sadhu, but not cent percent." But Krishna says, "No, cent percent sadhu. In spite of his bad character, he is cent percent sadhu."
So this is the recommendation. Why? Why is Krishna stressing on this point, that "whatever he may be, still he is honest, he is sadhu, he is religious, he is pious"? Why? That is to be understood in the next... So this su-duracarah... Su-duracarah means that according to time, according to circumstances, according to so many... There are influences. Just like I have come to your country. So so far rigid regulation and rules are concerned, in the beginning, of course, we do not find such opportunities to strictly follow. But still, we should not give so much attention for the regulation or strict rules and regulation. But we must see how much a person is advanced in Krishna consciousness. That we have to see. And if we go on criticizing everyone, "Oh, you are not doing this. You are not doing this," so many things according to Vedic culture... "

The same is stated in SB 11.5.42:

sva-pAda-mUlam bhajataH priyasya
tyaktAnya-bhAvasya hariH parezaH
vikarma yac cotpatitaM kathaJcid
dhunoti sarvaM hRdi sanniviSTaH

One who has thus given up all other engagements and has taken full shelter at the lotus feet of Hari, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is very dear to the Lord. Indeed, if such a surrendered soul accidentally commits some sinful activity, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is seated within everyone's heart, immediately takes away the reaction to such sin.

Warning against the seventh nAmAparAdha

And in the Bhagavad-gita also it is said: api cet su-duracaro bhajate mam ananya-bhak (Bg. 9.30) Sometimes not willingly but due to past bad habits-habit is second nature-one does something nonsensical. But that does not mean he is faulty. But he must repent for that—"I have done this." And he should try to avoid it as far as possible. But habit is second nature. Sometimes, in spite of your trying hard, maya is so strong that it trips you with pitfalls. That can be excused. Krsna excuses. But those who are doing something willingly are not excused. On the strength that I am a devotee, if I think, "Because I am chanting, I may therefore commit all this nonsense, and it will be nullified," that is the greatest offense. (Perfect Questions, Perfect Answers 7)

Richard Webster: Within the Christian religion there is a strong emphasis on possible failure and forgiveness.
Prabhupada: No. Forgiveness is... I know that in church the confession program is there. Forgiveness... Suppose you are or I am an offender. I ask your forgiveness. So you can forgive me once, twice, thrice, not more than that. You cannot make it a profession that you go on committing sins and God will forgive you. No, that is not possible. That is misconception. That is mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita, api cet suduracaro bhajate mam ananya-bhak, sadhur eva sa mantavyah [Bg 9.30].
[Even if one commits the most abominable actions, if he is engaged in devotional service, he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated.]
This suduracarah, means offender, that is not willful offense. One person is accustomed to some bad habits, but he has taken to Krishna consciousness, or God consciousness. But on account of strong habit, if he fails sometime, that is excused, forgiveness, not that willful committing sin and ask for forgiveness. That is not allowed. In common affairs we do not see. I have got practical, I mean to say, experience. In my householder life I was proprietor of a big pharmacy. So my manager sold some morphia preparation to some unauthorized person. So the excise inspector, they noted it and made us a criminal. And the magistrate called me because I was the proprietor. So my statement was given that "I do not conduct the business directly. Of course, I am responsible for my manager's fault, but I shall be very strict in future. You can forgive me." Immediately I was forgiven. But next time if I go, if I say like that, that is not forgiven. That is not possible. So this forgiveness is good for accidental fault, but it cannot be continued. That is a wrong philosophy. (740524R2.ROM)

Previous Gaudiya Vaisnava acaryas

Baladeva VidyAbhUSana (translation Bhanu Swami) comments:

Even if the most sinful person worships Me with no other desire than to please Me, I consider that person to be My devotee, as he has fixed himself completely in Me.
“My quality of being controlled by pure bhakti is My very nature, and cannot be given up.” The Lord intensifies the meaning of His previous statement, by saying in the present verse that He is attracted to even the devotee with despicable activities.
If an ananya bhakta, even doing very degraded activities, worships Me--serves Me by singing My glories and by other acts--he should be still considered worthy of respect (sAdhu). He is ananya in the sense that he does not worship or take shelter of anyone other than Me. He accepts Me alone as the supreme goal and master. The word eva (sAdhur eva) means that he is worthy of worship “in any case.” Therefore, one should accept this fact (mantavyaH). It is the injunction of the Lord Himself. Not to do so is an offense. The Lord then supports His order by giving the reason why that devotee is worthy of respect in any case: he has the best type of conviction in the form of being fixed only on Me (samyag vyavasitaH). It is said:

bhagavati ca harAv ananya-cetA
bhRza malino’pi virAjate manuSyaH
na hi zaza-kaluSa-cchaviH kadAcit
timira-parAbhavatAm upaiti candraH

The person who has exclusive devotion to the Supreme Lord Hari may have serious contamination, but he is still glorious. The moon, though having spots on it, is never defeated by darkness. Narasimha Purana 9.5

He is attracted to even the devotee with despicable activities. If an ananya bhakta, even doing very degraded activities, worships Me – serves Me by singing My glories and by other acts – he should be still considered worthy of respect (sAdhu). He is ananya in the sense that he does not worship or take shelter of anyone other than Me. He accepts Me alone as the supreme goal and master.

Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura (translation Bhanu Swami):

Even if the most sinful person worships Me with no other desire than to please Me, I consider that person to be My devotee, as he has fixed himself completely in Me. 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 jJAna, 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 worships 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 vyavasthitaH). 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 Krsna.’”

Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura also says in his Madhurya Kadambini, ch. 1:

On the other hand, one on the path of bhakti, though afflicted by lust, has the qualification to begin the practice, and just by the practice of bhakti, lust and other impurities are destroyed. And even though impurities such as kama may sometimes appear in the devotee, the scriptures never condemn that devotee. (api cet suduracaro bhajate mam ananya bhak, vadhyamano 'pi mad bhakti, etc.)

PApa vs. aparAdha

It is clear from the above quotes that this verse refers only to material sins (pApa, also called pAtaka or mahApAtaka; Manu 9.235 defines mahApAtakIs as: brahmahA ca surApaz ca steyI ca guru talpagaH – those killing a brahmana, drinking sura (alcohol), stealing brahmana's gold and violating guru's bed). These are dealt with in dharma sastras like Manu samhita, meant for people in general.

AparAdha is of a different nature. It consists of a negative attitude and action by body, mind and words against the Lord and anything connected to the Him (tadIyah): His names, dhAma, seva, and devotees. Its effects are much worse than pApa.

PApa vs. aparAdha distinction is found in the article Vaisnava Ninda by Bhaktivinoda Thakura: "With the understanding that Sri Krsna resides in all beings, one should show respect to every jiva. Amongst them, some special honour should be shown to religious jivas. It is an essential duty to show honor to the brahmana-jiva and the vaisnava-praya-jiva and we are instructed to worship the feet of the vaisnava-jiva. If we neglect to show respect to the ordinary jivas, special honour to the religious jiva, and proper respect to brahmana-jivas and vaisnava-praya-jivas, then we invite sin upon ourselves. But to show disrespect or dishonour to a vaisnava-jiva is an aparadha. Performing ordinary penances can erase so many sins, but an aparadha is not dispelled so easily. Sins influence the gross and subtle bodies. Aparadha specifically affects the jiva’s very soul and causes him to fall down. Thus, whoever wishes to perform bhajana of the Lord must guard against committing aparadha (this is compulsory)."

Narahari Sarkara in his Sri Krisna Bhajanamrta https://veda.harekrsna.cz/library/Sri_Krsna_Bhajanamrta_en_cz.pdf speaks about gurus to be and not to be given up from the point of view of aparAdha vs. pApa. Guru who commits aparAdhas and does nothing to remove them, must be given up.

AparAdha resembles what is known in Abrahamic religions as a sin against spirit, also called https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternal_sin
"And whosoever shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in me; it were better for him that a millstone were hanged around his neck, and he were cast into the sea." (Mark 9:41, Douay-Rheims version)
This suggests a lack of remedy.

Skanda Purana: Vaisnava aparAdhas listed

The Hari-bhakti-vilasa (10.310–12) cites the following quotation from the Skanda Purana concerning the blaspheming of a Vaisnava:

yo hi bhAgavataM lokam upahAsaM nRpottama
karoti tasya nazyanti artha-dharma-yazaH-sutAH
nindAM kurvanti ye mUDhA vaiSNavAnAM mahAtmanAm
patanti pitRbhiH sArdhaM mahA-raurava-saMjJite
hanti nindati vai dveSTi vaiSNavAn nAbhinandati
krudhyate yAti no harSaM darzane patanAni SaT

In a conversation between Markandeya and Bhagiratha, it is said, "My dear King, one who derides an exalted devotee loses the results of his pious activities, his opulence, his reputation and his sons. Vaishnavas are all great souls. Whoever blasphemes them falls down to the hell known as Maharaurava, accompanied by his forefathers. Whoever kills or blasphemes a Vaishnava and whoever is envious of a Vaishnava or angry with him, or whoever does not offer him obeisances or feel joy upon seeing him, certainly falls into a hellish condition."

Satvata tantra: the aparAdha lists

In Satvata tantra (7.24-55), one of the prominent Vaisnava tantras from the Pancaratra group, Siva describes to Narada seva aparAdhas, nAma aparAdhas and Vaisnava aparAdhas with related remedies. While the first two groups are well-known from Bhakti rasamrta sindhu / Nectar of Devotion, the third ones are for some reason less-known. The whole section is here.

Judge for yourself the spread of this aparAdha among devotees. And consider how damaging is the sanga of such people, when sastra warns against sanga with general pApIs (sinners).

zrI-nArada uvAca
bhaktAparAdhAn me brUhi
yathA teSAM pratikriyA
anugrahAya lokAnAM
bhagavan mama cApi hi

48 Sri Narada said: O Lord, to show kindness to both the people in general and to me also, please tell me the remedy for offenses to the devotees.

zrI-ziva uvAca
viSNu-bhaktasya sarvasva-
hAraNaM dvija-sattama
bhartsanaM cottame bhakte
svapne cApi prahAraNam
ete 'parAdhA bhaktAnAM
zRNu caiSAM pratikriyA

49 Sri Siva said: O best of the brahmanas, the offenses to the devotees are: 1. stealing the property of a devotee of Visnu, 2. insulting a great devotee, and 3. violently attacking a devotee, even in a dream. These are the offenses to the devotees. Now please hear the remedy for them.

tad-dhanaM dvi-guNaM dattvA
kRtvA pAdAbhivandanam
kathayen me kSamasveti
tad-doSaM dhana-karSaNam

50 (For the first offense one should) return the wealth twicefold, offer obeisances to the offended devotee's feet, and say, "Please forgive my offense".

yAvat tad-bhartsanaM kRtvA
tAvan mAsAn samAhitaH
nirmatsaraH paricaret
tat-prasAdena zuddhyati

51 (For the second offense) one should spend some months, according the gravity of the insults, being self-controlled and avoiding envy and hatred. Then by the offended devotee's mercy one will become purified of the offense.

yAvaj jIvaM prahAre tu
paricaryed atandritaH
tat-prasAdena tat-pApAt
niSkRtir nAnyathA bhavet
akRtvA niSkRtIn etAn
nArakAn nAsti niSkRtiH

52 (In the third offense) for as long as one lives one should diligently serve the devotee that had been attacked. By his mercy one will become free of the offense. There is no other remedy. Without performing these remedies for offenses there is nothing to rescue one from going to hell.

ajJAnataH kRte vipra
tat-prasAdena nazyati
jJAnAt tu dvi-guNaM kuryAd
eSa dharmaH sanAtanaH

53 O brahmana, when one unknowingly commits an offense the mercy of the offended devotee destroys the effect of the offense. When one knowingly commits an offense he should make amends twicefold. These are the eternal principles of religion.

putre ziSye ca jAyAyAM
zAsane nAsti dUSaNam
anyathA tu kRte doSo
bhavaty eva na saMzayaH

54 It is not an offense to punish a child, a disciple, or one's wife. It is an offense to punish others. Of this there is no doubt.

kezAkarSe padAghAte
mukhe ca cArpate kRte
na niSkRtiM prApazyAmi
tasmAt tan na samAcaret

55 I do not see any remedy for the offense of pulling a devotee's hair or kicking him in the face. For this reason one should never act in that way. (end of section)

Stealing (49-50) can also entail cheating, blackmailing and other property-related crimes.
Unknowing aparAdha (53) was committed by Rupa Gosvami in the well-known story when he laughed being absorbed in meditation on Krisna lila and one lame Vaisnava passing by thought that he laughs at him.
Physical violence (52, 55) is the gravest form of Vaisnava aparAdha. But mere pulling hair and a kick grow pale in comparison with heavy beating and other forms of torture like starving, enslaving, sexual abuse and murder.
Someone may claim that 54 allows violence in specific cases but punishment (zAsana, see e.g. SB 4.13.42) is a one-term correction of a mistake, definitely not a long-term sadistic abuse.

Special forms of aparAdha which combine all types of violence – against physical and subtle body (health in the most general sense), relationships, property, etc., sometimes ending with murder, usually by a heart attack, are curse (zApa) and black magic (abhicAra). These are unfortunately also not rare among Vaisnavas.
What to do against them is described in the Ghosts-FAQ. https://veda.harekrsna.cz/encyclopedia/ghosts_FAQ.htm

What about witnessing aparAdha and pretending not seeing it? Let us remember the result of aparAdha committed by Kauravas against Draupadi, when most of the present did nothing to stop it so Sri Krisna Himself had to save her. He also saved another helpless victim of Vaisnava child abuse, Prahlada Maharaja. And there are many other cases of His intervention.

Our worst enemy is ignorance (avidyA), the basis of the whole material existence.
Its opposite – realization of svarUpa in relationship with the Lord – opens the door of the spiritual realm.

Comments welcome.