Chakra Living

Praise and criticism can both create entanglement

Submitted by Syamarani dasi

Posted March 9, 2005

During a recent visit to Hilo, Hawaii, my siksa-guru, Srila B.V. Narayana Maharaja, related the following story:

"Once, some devotees were sent to establish a preaching center in Bengal. They worked day and night, equipping it as a beautiful temple. When Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati arrived to install the Deities, he was very pleased and asked about one brahmacari who had worked hard on the preparations. The disciples told him, "Master, he became entangled with a lady. We rebuked him so much for his behavior that he fled from this place."

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta replied, "I don't want to establish a preaching center here, nor do I want to install the Deities. In this world we spend hundreds of gallons of blood to bring a person out of the clutches of maya. If that person makes some mistake, it will be washed away by his serving Hari, Guru, and Vaisnavas, but you have chastised him and he has gone away. I don't want to make a center here. Search for him and bring him to me; otherwise I will go away."

The anxious disciples began to search for that brahmacari. Madhava Maharaja, who at that time was named Hayagriva brahmacari, found the errant brahmacari, apologized, and asked him to return.

The brahmacari wept, saying, "I was serving here, in a watch company, but I was not really happy. I wanted to return, but I was thinking, 'How can I show my face?' So I did not return." He at once went running and weeping to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, thinking him more merciful than Krsna Himself, and all his anarthas were washed away in a moment."

Narayan Maharaja told us that the purport was that we should not criticize anyone, whether a devotee or a worldly person:

"The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: 'One should neither praise nor criticize the conditioned nature and activities of other persons. Rather, one should see this world as simply the combination of material nature and the enjoying souls, all based on the one Absolute Truth. Whoever indulges in praising or criticizing the qualities and behavior of others will quickly become deviated from his own best interest by his entanglement in illusory dualities." -- Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.28.1-2)

Nor, said, Maharaja, should one glorify worldly persons, whether they are good or bad. "If you do so, all their bad activities will come in you and your life will be spoiled."

"To bring a person from the clutches of maya is very, very hard. If lust or any other attachment is present in that person's heart it will go away very soon, if he is chanting and remembering and listening to hari-katha. Be very careful. Don't criticize devotees or non-devotees. First look at your own condition, and try to purify yourself. Is there any lust in you? Is there any kutinati (deceit) in you, or not? Be worried for that; don't worry for others. Sri Guru and Lord Sri Krsna are responsible for others. You cannot do anything to help them, so you have no right to criticize."

In Madhurya-kadambini, Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura explains that there are six kinds of unsteady bhakti (anisthita-bhakti):

utsaha-mayi, or hubris, arises when a neophyte devotee prematurely believes that he or she has mastered everything. ghana-tarala, or "thick and thin" refers to such a devotee's tendency to alternate between diligence and negligence in bhakti. Another defect is vyudha-vikalpa, or extensive speculation -- for example, devoting excessive energy to considering the pros and cons of renounced life and family life. Sometimes, people make resolutions to renounce sense pleasure and to become more determined in exclusive devotional service; visaya-sangara is the inability to give up one's sense enjoyment, while niyamaksama is the inability to improve one's devotional service. Finally, devotees occasionally obtain wealth, prestige and power as side effects of devotional practice. If a devotee is tossed about by these small waves in the bhakti ocean, it is called taranga-rangini.

We may have tendencies to be sleepy; to be distracted; to be unfocussed; to be angry, greedy or proud; or to become materially preoccupied. Any of these faults can lead to unsteady bhakti.

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura explained in his Srimad Bhagavatarka-marici-mala that many powerful kings, like Puru, Uttanapada, his brother Priyavrata and many others passed away. Srila Sukadeva Gosvami has said, "I have discussed the histories of these kings in Srimad-Bhagavatam. Why have I done so? These narrations do not constitute the ultimate transcendental attainment in and of themselves. What is there in them, then? Vairagya-vivaksaya (renunciation with the desire for teaching). What became of those kings? They were not happy. Sri Narada taught the allegorical history of Puranjana to King Pracinabarhi. Puranjana was not satisfied with his wife, children and kingdom; he was cheated."

Srila Narayan Maharaja concluded his Hilo lecture by declaring, "You should realize the teachings of the Bhagavatam, and then detachment from worldly sense gratification will enter your heart. If you are hearing hari-katha, chanting the holy name and performing all devotional activities, renunciation must come. We should hear all topics, such as the histories of the great kings, for this purpose, and after that we can hear the 10th Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam narrations of the sweet pastimes of Lord Sri Krsna. First make the ground level, and then hear the glories of the Lord's pastimes (lila-katha)."