The following is an excerpt from a morning walk conversation with Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja on June 17, 2008, in Badger, California, published in Walking with a Saint – Morning Walks and Conversations 2008
Padmanābha dāsa: Śrīla Gurudeva, yesterday you said that we should not criticize or praise anybody, but sometimes we criticize or praise people in our minds.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: I know that you criticize people. This is a very bad thing. We should not do this.
Padmanābha dāsa: By tongue we may not criticize, but criticism starts from the mind.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: We should also try to take it out of our mind. Do not criticize. Try to see an individual’s good qualifications.
uttama hañā vaiṣṇava habe nirabhimāna
jīve sammāna dibe jāni’ ‘kṛṣṇa’-adhiṣṭhāna
(Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Antya-līlā 20.25)
Although a Vaiṣṇava is the most exalted person, he is prideless and gives all respect to everyone, knowing everyone to be the resting place of Kṛṣṇa.
Śrīpāda Padmanābha Mahārāja: A question came into my mind yesterday, when you quoted this verse:
na praśaṁsen na garhayet
viśvam ekāmakaṁ paśyan
prakṛtyā puruṣeṇa ca
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.”
Here it is said, “Do not criticize or praise.” You have also said that by criticizing, one builds a bridge to the other person’s bad qualities, which then come into the body of the one who is criticizing. But if we praise someone and build a bridge, and their good qualities come into us, what is the problem?
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: This injunction applies to sense enjoyers. Do not criticize or praise any sense enjoyer. But it is essential to always glorify devotees.
Śrīpāda Mādhava Mahārāja: Śrīla Rāmānujācārya said that when we wake up from taking rest every day, we should glorify our guru and guru-paramparā.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: One more thing: A guru or elevated Vaiṣṇava may give an instruction to his disciples or to general people by saying, “Do not be like that, otherwise you will be ruined;” or “Do not follow them;” or “He is not a good man.” For the bonafide guru and pure Vaiṣṇava, this does not fall in the category of criticism.
Śrīpāda Padmanābha Mahārāja: Many devotees have deviated from the proper path of bhakti, and some have committed vaiṣṇava aparādha. Is it considered criticism to discuss what they have done wrong?
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: Only in a special case, to save ourselves. In special cases we can do so, but do not criticize anyone without this good reason. “Oh, he was this or that;” do not do this at all.
There was once a sādhu and a prostitute. They used to live nearby each other. That sādhu always criticized the prostitute, saying, “Oh, she is a prostitute, a very degraded person. She is selling her body and doing many nonsense activities. She will surely go to hell.” In contrast, the prostitute used to say, “Oh, fie on me, fie on me. How saintly that sādhu is! So many people go to him for good instructions on bhakti. His life is successful.”
After some time passed, one day the Yamadūtas, the constables of Yamarāja, the god of death, went to that sādhu and began to take him away. The sādhu objected, “No, don’t take me. I am not a sinful person. You’ve made a mistake. It is that prostitute you must take.” The Yamadūtas replied, “No, no, we are right. You always criticized that prostitute. You’ve never thought anything good.” They forcibly took that man to hell.
The Viṣṇudūtas, the messengers of Lord Nārāyaṇa in Vaikuṇṭha, went to the prostitute, and she told them, “Oh, I am not the right person. Go to that sādhu.” The Viṣṇudūtas said, “We know that we have come for the right person. You have always thought about the good qualities of the sādhu, so we are knowingly coming to you to take you to Vaikuṇṭha.”
It is important to know this history. Do not criticize anyone, even if he is doing nonsense.
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