Once a ṛṣi named Aṣṭavakra went into the council of the learned jñānī Mahārāja Janaka. So many high-class ṛṣis, munis and brahmavādīs having realized brahma were there. And this Aṣṭavakra, whose body was crooked in eight places, managed to come to the council of Mahārāja Janaka. In one month he travelled the path that would ordinarily take only one day. So very slowly and with great difficulty he came with the help of only a walking stick. Seeing him, everyone began to laugh. Mahārāja Janaka also laughed. “Oh, this person is so bold and desperate. Here are so many learned counsellors, and without any fear he has entered. His skin is so rough and black. Here something is crooked, there something is crooked, his mouth is twisted, everything about him is distorted. So how has he dared to come here? He has no good clothes, nothing. There are also cracks in his feet.” The whole assembly began to laugh. For a moment Aṣṭavakra was silent but then he also laughed—even more than the others. All were struck dumb, “Why is he laughing?” and their laughter stopped. Then Mahārāja Janaka approached him and asked, “Who are you, and why are you laughing so much?” He said, “Who am I? I will tell you afterwards. Why am I laughing? But I am not laughing, I am weeping, crying. I have come from very far away, and you see my condition. I cannot walk. I have only come here to see the counsellors of Mahārāja Janaka. I have heard that they are so learned. Here are assembled brahma-jñānīs who are like Yājñavalkya and so many others. I came to hear their discourses and teachings. But instead I have become hopeless.”
Mahārāja Janaka asked, “Why have you become hopeless? Everyone here is so learned.” He replied, “But I don’t see anyone who is learned. I see that all are cobblers, shoemakers.” Then Mahārāja Janaka became grave, “Oh, they are all cobblers? Why are all of them cobblers? Totally all? You do not see that they are very learned persons, coming in the brāhmaṇa-vaṁśa (dynasty of learned brāhmaṇas), and very learned brahmavādī-ṛṣis?”
“No, no. All are cobblers. Do you know why? Cobblers work with skins. They only know, ‘Oh, this skin is such rough leather; this skin is such fine leather, good quality. That one is very soft and smooth.’ So they are of the same class as cobblers. They cannot see whether the ātmā is pure or not; they cannot realize ātmā and paramātmā—only body, this skin. They are expert in skin, but not in ātmā.” Then all of them became ashamed, and at once Mahārāja Janaka approached the lotus feet of that ṛṣi. The king placed him on his own throne and began to apologize.
Here is the same principle. You should not apply your worldly vision to any devotees. Always be careful. Don’t criticize any Vaiṣṇava for your bodily or mental gain, for money, for reputation, or for any other thing.
―Śrīla Bhaktivedanta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja