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The Blessing of the Critic

By Sacinandana Swami

In this world, it’s unavoidable that we’re sometimes praised and sometimes criticized. While we may like to be praised, we can be shocked when we’re criticized severely. The strong criticism of those who are or were near and dear especially stings our hearts for a long time, like a splinter that refuses to come out from our skin.

But is criticism really so bad?

The following song by the medieval ascetic Charan Das sheds light on the great service a critic actually does for us:

“O saintly soul! A critic is our dear friend. Keep the critic close to you always. Never let him go far away. Criticizing us behind our backs, he washes our sins. By hearing such criticism, our mind is cleansed of that fault. Just like a goldsmith purifies gold by putting it in a blazing fire. A jeweller applies harsh friction to a diamond to polish it, by which its value increases tremendously. In a similar way, the harsh words of a critic inadvertently help to glorify a saint throughout the world. The entire world engages in yoga, sacrifices, the chanting of mantras, etc., in order to destroy their sins. How dear is my critic to me, for he destroys my hardened sins without me doing anything! May my critic be peaceful and happy in this world! May my critic’s body never be afflicted by any diseases. May the person criticizing me cross over the ocean of material existence! The glories of the holy feet of the critic should be narrated again and again repeatedly. Charan Das says, ‘Listen, O sadhu! The critic is extremely important for the saintly souls.’”

Is it then good to criticize others?

While there may be situations where pointing out mistakes is necessary, generally, Vaisnavas neither give exaggerated praises nor criticisms to others. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura wrote on this subject:

“No one should criticize or glorify others’ natures or activities. Srimad Bhagavatam confirms this instruction. The Caitanya-bhagavata states, para carcakera gati nahi kona kale: a critic never attains benefit… Instead of criticizing others, one should rectify himself.” (From Amrta Vani).

As we go through life, a spiritual perspective – as different as it may be from what we are accustomed to – can be greatly helpful to find spiritual solutions to problematic situations.
 

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