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  • How to handle criticism

    There must be a fence to protect our seed of devotion from the mad elephant of offense. What should we construct that fence of? 

    - Construct the fence of good association and service. One who is fully engaged in seva and good association will be safe. Or - finding fault with yourself. It's just human to see faults in others: self-assertion.
    - Spiritual way is like a blade of razor - you have wrong angle or become inattentive - you drop blood. 
    - What is it in us that seeks faults in others?

    How shall we harmonize this, when people are always finding faults in others? Is it correct to think that being criticized by others would put us in the right direction?

    - Someone striving for perfection can handle the criticism.
    - We won't go down by responding with humility. 
    - All the great devotees do not consider themselves beyond correction - so what to speak of us.

    Chiang Mai 2016 - How to handle criticism

    Author: Bhakti Sudhir Goswami Cycle: Chiang Mai 2016 Uploaded by: Priyanana Created at: 5 April, 2016
    Duration: 00:26:30 Date: 2016-03-28 Size: 24.27Mb Place: Gupta Govardhan Chiang Mai Downloaded: 547 Played: 1595
    Transcribed by: Inna Zverkova Edited by: Enakshi Devi Dasi

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    Devotee: In Śrī Chaitanya-charitāmṛta, Mahāprabhu says, instructing Rūpa Goswāmī that bhakti-latā-bīja; the seed of devotion should be protected by the fence from the aparādhas, which are compared to the mad elephant. What should we construct this fence of?
    Goswami Mahārāj: Fence.
    Devotee: Fence. Sorry.
    Goswami Mahārāj: Good association and service. As vaiṣṇava-aparādha—that can obstruct our progress; mentioned there—mad elephant. Like sometimes in... I mean, we're here, we are in the land of elephants here. It's the symbol of Chiang Mai. The elephant; two elephants, chang; in Thai chang. And in India, you know, there is always some... every year—there is some article on the internet about some Indian wedding, where three hundred people die drinking bad alcohol. There is always some story like that. They make these... these intoxicating beverages. It looks like rice fields covered with mosquito nets.
    And you'd see it on the news in Bengal, sometimes. And, you know, they have a man standing there giving the report, and it’s say, “Some elephants, a herd of elephants came and they wonder—they think it’s like rice paddy or something—they don't know, but they're making alcohol there. And then the elephants drink all the alcohol, and then they go mad.” And then they show you the village, like all the huts are destroyed; everything is completely ruined—complete destruction and devastation. So, what we are going to say; what is the mad elephant like? That’s what it means. Total... the bhakti-latā-bīja—the creeper's going... like ripping that to shreds; ripping that apart.
    So, to avoid that, he mention—if we keep going on in that section about—don't engage in duplicity; double-dealings with devotees. Many things are given there. Some of them is common sense. We can say, “The best advice is always, sādhau saṅgaḥ svato vare (Cc: Madhya 22.131)—superior association and service. If someone is fully absorbed in sevā and good association, then they will be safe from that. Or follow Gurudev's principle, which he told many times about, “Finding fault with myself.”
    It’s only human—it’s natural, first to find fault with others; to want self assertion. To serve our own position as being right, or noble, or worthy, or whatever it might be, and to question others; to doubt them or to find fault. And as we told the other day, with regard to Saraswatī Ṭhākur. Look how carefully he was about... He is, you know, master mathematician and jyotiṣa (astrologer), right? sūrya-siddhānta; the highest you can go. But when he sees that his own calculation differs with what Bhaktivinod Ṭhākur is following. Knowing that leaves some room to disagree with him—to hold opinion different from his—he is sacrificing his own position to maintain the faithful plane.
    So, that can be there too; sometimes sacrificing our own way of, let’s just say—theoretically, you know— that what you think is better, or best or correct. To suppress that and think, well, “I’d rather not be in conflict, or think offensively of another devotee; I can suppress this.” So with... If we read that section—the idea what we will get—is the impression of being extremely conscious about this. And Guru Mahārāj will quote, you know, numerous clichés to this end, “Oil you own machine!” What is that mean? It means like, you know, when something needs oil—it’s squeaking.
    So, he is saying, ”Don’t worry about that; oil your own machine. That over there...[pointing in certain direction] No. Don’t.” You know, Gurudev find, “My religion is finding fault with myself, not others.” Saraswatī Ṭhākur—what did he say? ”It is only that my... that I am honeycombed with defects—that I take the task of finding fault with others.” And he said, “When one is situated at the lotus feet of Śrī Guru, he doesn’t become aware of the offenses of others—but only his own offenses.” As if, “When I'm situated at the lotus feet of Śrī Guru I'm appreciating all the others. And those who are vaibhāva—or extension of Guru—how they are serving. If I forget the lotus feet of Śrī Guru, I become dislodged.”
    Then, I may start thinking about others and their shortcomings, faults. Even in that regard Guru Mahārāj said, “If we see someone who—we could say just for the sake of example—they're going down from their position in Kṛṣṇa consciousness...” Guru Mahārāj says, ” Well, a more generous way to view that, is that, you know,...durgaṁ pathas tat kavayo vadanti (KU:1.3.14).” On this path, there are so many obstacles. And—so it’s says, you know—kṣura; kṣura-dhārā (razor blade). The spiritual life've been set like razor's edge. So, everyone knows what's shaving's all about. The angle; proper angle—don’t have right angle you draw blood.
    Have the right angle—you're shaving. Become inattentive—you draw blood. You're in a hurry—you draw blood. You're not patient—you draw... There are many things, but we can say, “You have a razor—let be really cautious how to do this.” That’s what this... In the Upaniṣads is saying—it’s like that; it’s very critical. You can’t become inattentive, insensitive, loose the right angle of vision.” So, Guru Mahārāj says, “We should see God-brothers and God-sisters as vaibhāva; extension of our Guru, then we'll respect them properly. But Guru Mahārāj says, “Even if we see someone going down, we may think, 'Well, there is so many obstacles on the path—they're going along and they encountered an obstacle— that at the rate they were going—it was not possible to cross over.” And he said, “So, they're backing up for some time. And then, with renewed or increased momentum—forward-progress; they will cross over that obstacle.”
    So, it will be better to... I forget words mentioned, but—maybe in different places, where devotee's thinking, “All others are serving Kṛṣṇa. I alone— I'm not.” Lets back to Gurudev—'finding fault with myself ' concept. So, appreciate the service of others, and think, “Actually, I need to improve.” ātmā-samīkṣya; self-analysis. The critical eye is better turned inward.
    But at the same time we have to realize—we will do this from time to time; we will think offensively of others. It will happen; it must happen. Then we have to correct that. And, by thinking, ”This person—as sincere as I like to think that I am—why should I not extend the same consideration to them. They’ve surrendered their life to the lotus feet of Śrī Guru and Gaurāṇga, they are trying to serve. Actually, by observing their service I can improve myself. What is it within me that searching fault within them.” And, Guru Mahārāj cautioned too, by saying that, “And what we identify in others—will appear within us as the reaction.”
    So, in many different ways we’ve been cautioned against that. And we will find ourselves doing that from time to time. We will have to check ourselves, and reconsider things in relation to sādhu-śāstra-guru and vaiṣṇava. If we’ve offended someone, we should approach them—fall at their feet, beg forgiveness. Only the devotees can do that; the Lord doesn’t forgive offenses to the devotees. As in ninth canto (SB)Ambarīṣa Mahārāja. Durvāsā Muni, the great Durvāsā Muni, sometimes he's describe a little bit, like—what Gurudev will call— angry man. But, one time his anger is directed toward Ambarīṣa Mahārāja, for something very minor—so called offense which was not, actually, offensive at all; over some trivial point.
    And Durvāsā was running from the sudarśan cakra, trying to take shelter of Brahmā, Śiva; everyone. No one could help him. He had to return to Ambarīṣa Mahārāja. And when he beg forgiveness at the lotus feet of Ambarīṣa Mahārāja—Ambarīṣa Mahārāja said, “There was no offense.” And that famous śloka: aho ananta-dasanam (SB: 9.5.14), “Just see the devotees of the Lord; we offend them—they don’t take any offense; they're so kind, so generous.” So, sometimes, means, if we find we are going... we're thinking, “It's going in the wrong direction”—to re-conceive along those lines.
    This person is... has affection for Guru. Guru has affection for them; they are serving Guru, and I should see them in that way. When Saraswatī Ṭhākur observe trough disciples, they not appreciate one another—and it’s gonna happen—he is saying, in the public assembly—asked each one to say something in praise of the other one. And Guru Mahārāja said, “To do that, they had to look to the svarūpe (mirror) [laughing] Well, actually... [laughing] As like, when Victoria became the Queen... Like they have Victoria Memorial in Calcutta. And interestingly, when we were there in 1973-74, Prabhupāda said, “We should approach the local, the Bengal government and asked them...” Because they had this big, like... (have you seen Victoria's Memorial?) He said, to put like... He wanted like— a big Mahāprabhu; and we should call it, ”Gaurāṇga Memorial.” [laughing]
    But, anyway... So, Queen Victoria, when she started her reign; her regime, Guru Mahārāj said, ”There was the case brought before her of some misconduct of the soldier, and the superiors were asking for, like—severe punishment of him—because he misbehaved. And they just say—the lawyers, whoever—they said... they just gave a litany of how bad he was. And she is sitting there, she is the new reigning Mother.” And she said, “Is there anything good you can say about him?”
    And they go, “No. Nothing.” [laughing]. And she said, “Are you sure he has no redeeming qualities?” And Guru Mahārāj said, that man—then understanding the heart of the Queen—he said, “Well, actually in his personal life he is a nice; he is a good man—he did this wrong thing, but in his personal life he is a good person.” She said, “Then there won’t be any punishment.” And Guru Mahārāj said—because she wanted to set a tone for... She didn’t want the first act that she does as the Queen is, you know—the scepter (club); represents the śāsti, you know—punishment.
    That’s why Kings, you know—they hold the scepter; it represents power and punishment. So, she didn’t want the very first act she does of her reign would be merciless. So, she was merciful to him. And, when you read Shakespeare The Merchant of Venice, and this section where Portia is advising Shylock, giving him some advice to be merciful. It sounds like it was written by Guru Mahārāj [laughing]. It's the famous soliloquies to begin with, “The quality of mercy is not strained; it drop like gentle rain from heaven.” And, now I am paraphrasing that what she says. And, she's dressed like a male lawyer at the time, and she says—she's advising him to be merciful.
    And she said, “What’s held by the King, that represents temporal power.” She's saying, “But when the King, what he does— is under the influence that Mercy—being a divine quality. When the King who holds that power and has that possibility of punishing, is merciful— at that moment, the King is like God. It’s Godly at that time.” And she further makes the point, and said, “And if not for Mercy—is there any hope for any of us. Like Guru Mahārāj is saying, “Don’t go to the Department of Justice—go to the Department of Mercy and seek your fortune there. And while you are there, if you see some other person who is approaching the Department of Mercy, and mercy is being dispense to them, you can’t think, “Oh, they don’t deserve that. They’ve done so many things wrong; so much misbehavior.” [laughing]
    You see, we're asking in essence, that all of our flows would be ignored because we hope that we're sincere. But when we see someone else, then, “Oh, wait... but not him—not her.” Why? We're asking for that; why should that not be extended to others. So, and why are all those things mentioned? They're not mentioned because they never happen; they're not mentioned because it means, “Oh, it will never happen to you.” It will happen. Whatever we read it will happen to every one of us; and we have to deal with it.
    It happens to everyone. You have to deal with it. So, Guru Mahārāj, when we hear him go, “dayāl-nitāi, dayāl-nitāi, dayāl-nitāi! ” He says, his foundation is the mercy of Nityānanda Prabhu; saying—it’s possible. Kṛṣṇa consciousness is the highest thing. And in the pursued of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and expressing Kṛṣṇa consciousness—inevitably and variably—we may commit some offense. He's saying, ” So, I invoke the name of Nityānanda Prabhu, to try restore myself to my former position; maybe I went too far, maybe I misrepresented something, maybe I offended someone.”
    In the case of the vaiṣṇava, we must approach them, as shown by Durvāsā. At last he have to go to Ambarīṣa Mahārāja. It’s mentioned in Chaitanya-bhāgavata by Mahāprabhu and elsewhere—must approach that devotee and ask their forgiveness. But in general, we also trying to avoid this, because it has such a devastating affect upon the bhakti-lata—that devotional creeper. Hare Kṛṣṇa. Is that related to this or...
    Devotee: Yes.
    Goswami Mahārāj: pardon me?
    Devotee: Yes.
    Goswami Mahārāj: Yes.
    Devotee: Kalpanā Nandinī Didi asking, “How shall we harmonize this, when others are always finding fault in others; and is it correct to think that by being criticize by someone, we will be put on the right way?”
    Sometimes. Like Avadhūt Mahārāj and I—sometimes we talk about the Russian teachers. You know, like you always see the Russian women who is teaching the ballerina [laughing]. The ballerina is this beautiful, thin, delicate— like... swan-like. And then, there is this, like—babushka (old lady) going, “No!” You know, like, “I am telling you—you must do it this way, not in that way!” You know—is very critical of everything she does—to make her perfect. So, when Guru... some harsh thing was coming to the ear of Gurudev, I said, “I can stop that.” And he said, “No.” He said, ”I'm thinking why is Kṛṣṇa letting this come to my ear.” He didn’t want to stop it. He thought, “Hmm... these things are Kṛṣṇa.” That’s what he thought, “Kṛṣṇa's telling me something through this person.” That's his way of seeing it.
    So, I would do what Avadhūt Mahārāj often call: The Coach—because we are in Kiev at that—where we have the festival area. What it's call? That river, what's it called?
    Devotee: Trukhaniv Island.
    Goswami Mahārāj: Just what I was gonna say... [laughing] you took the words right out of my mouth. [laughing] So, we think, there, they train—they used to trained olympians... Olympics... Like he said, “ But the guy is usually some fat guy... [laughing] who is like—not very athletic; he is out of shape and everything.Then you have these Olympic guys and they're like—perfect. But the old, fat guy is telling them like—what to do; and to work harder and not to be lazy.[laughing] And they don’t resent him.” Like, when Mahāprabhu's arguing with Kholā-vecā Śrīdhar over the plantain cups.
    Sometimes, they are like tag—going back and forth like that—and it will get intense. But it’s saying, like... But, they would say—there is no anger in either one—they're having fun, actually. So, the superior person, you know, they can handle... Someone striving for perfection—they can handle the criticism. Like Vallabha-Bhaṭṭa, criticize the writing of Rūpa Goswāmī. Rūpa Goswāmī goes, “Oh, I'll change that.” He doesn’t go like, “Hey, I am Rūpa Goswāmī. Read the Chaitanya-charitāmṛta and get back to me, OK? I am busy right now.” He doesn’t. He say, “Oh, I'll change that.” But then we find, Jīva Goswāmī saying like, “I need to talk to you.” And, even he's younger, and he, you know—set Vallabha-Bhaṭṭa straight—but then again, Rūpa Goswāmī doesn’t like that. He sends away Jīva. Sanātan chastises Rūpa; it's a very sweet thing.
    You know, Gaura Kiśor Dās Bābājī Mahārāj hears the criticism, and not only that—they're throwing things at him. Talking about everything—imagine, they're throwing stones and dirt cloths at Gaura Kiśor Dās Bābājī Mahārāj, and calling him abusive names. And what is he saying, “Oh, I know, Kṛṣṇa's behind this; He is using them to do this, but I know how to deal with him—I'll approach Yaśodā, and she can control Kṛṣṇa.” So, one may say, “ Oh, that’s so high.” Well, do we want something low? Yeah—we're connected to the highest thing, and by the grace of our guru-varga, we're connected to the highest people.
    And this is how they deal with things; that’s how they see it. Should we see it another way? So, if so many Vaiṣṇavas, they're bringing some criticism to our ear—then we should take it seriously; can’t dismiss everyone. And we'll say, “Oh, Gurudev—yes, finally I should find fault with myself; correct myself.” We won’t go down by responding with humility. Rāmacandra Purī is criticizing Mahāprabhu—that seems absurd, yet Mahāprabhu takes this criticism seriously, “Oh, he is disciple of Mādhavendra Purī; that means that he is my Guru's God-brother—that means he's in guru-varga. He is telling me, you know—I'm overeating, or I am eating too many sweets.”
    So, Mahāprabhu tells devotees, like, “When you go and buy the prasād—buy half or less.” And all the devotees are, like—it’s breaking their hearts. And, it's also interesting to note—after certain amount of time— Svarūpa Dāmodar steps in and just stops the whole thing. He's saying that, because he couldn’t tolerate seeing the hearts of the devotees being broken. But Mahāprabhu took this criticism to heart. He took it seriously. He is afraid of Dāmodar Paṇḍit—different things he is saying. He think, “Hmm... I can do this—not do this, but Damodar will be, you know—upset... You know, I'm afraid of him.” [laughing] So, all these great devotees—they don’t consider that they beyond correction, so, then what to speak of us? Hare Kṛṣṇa
    Cc: Chaitanya-charitāmṛta
    KU: Kaṭha Upaniṣad
    SB: Śrīmad Bhagavatam