I received some feedback from a godbrother of mine about the last Illuminations newsletter on fault finding. This resulted in an exchange of several emails between us. Since our conversation went more deeply into the subject, I decided to share it with you because I thought you would find it enlightening. So this newsletter is that email conversation.
Within our conversation suggestions of things that can be done to overcome the tendency to fault-find naturally came up. I encourage you to take up those suggestions (exercises).
I chose to have this godbrother remain anonymous. So I refer to him as “Prabhu.”
May you always think of Krsna,
Amend Yourself – Part 2
Prabhu: I will take your challenge to not find faults for 90 days. And I will do this by finding only good things in others.
Mahatma: I already blew it. I have to start over again. It has to be 90 consecutive days. So if you get to 89 days and find fault, you have to start over again and go for 90 days without finding fault. By then you will have developed the habit of not noticing other’s faults.
Prabhu: In a morning walk entitled “The Nature of Rascals,” Srila Prabhupada makes these famous quotes regarding faultfinding of devotees by devotees:
Just try to understand that whatever it may be, what is the mentality of these rascals, that “The good things do not come to your notice.” If something is bad, “Oh, here is…”. Pamarah dosam icchanti gunam icchanti panditah. Saj-jana gunam icchanti dosam icchanti pamarah. That means they are not even a Vaisnava. Even one has got some fault, a Vaisnava does not see that. He takes the good qualities.
Prabhu: So here Srila Prabhupada points out that vaisnavas don’t fault-find. So I guess I am not a vaisnava. But since I want to be one I should stop faultfinding.
Mahatma: Prabhupada said if one is jealous he is in the material world and one who is non-envious is in the spiritual world.
The vaisnava only sees the good in others. What an elevated consciousness that requires. But you can imagine how happy and satisfied one would be with that kind of consciousness? But like Ravana couldn’t give up his desire for Sita even after his ministers told him it would be the cause of his downfall, it is difficult to give up faultfinding even though it brings no real pleasure. And what’s worse is that it harms our tender bhakti creeper.
Prabhu: If Krsna could spit out the poison from Putana’s breast and just think, “Oh here is my mother,” and then give her the same position as Mother Yasoda in the spiritual world, then what is my problem in overlooking other’s shortcomings?
Mahatma: Good point. This morning I was thinking that strong determination to develop good qualities and give up bad ones takes place when we become disgusted with our non- vaisnava behavior. There may be so many techniques for improving ourselves, but unless we really want to change they won’t be very effective. When we execute bhakti but don’t really want to give up anarthas or improve ourselves, our bhakti tends to become niyamagraha, just rules and ritual.
I can’t make anybody change, but I can try to convince people why they should change. That is the point of my newsletters.
Prabhu: Another point is that the tendency to fault find can become fueled because of low self-esteem; we want to bring others down. Leaders in ISKCON have become the favorite target of many. But if any of us were in their position would we really do that much better?
Mahatma: Practically everyone finds some faults with their bosses or blames them for their problems.
Prabhu: It can be difficult to be personally accountable. Sometimes it hurts or it’s scary to admit that the buck stops with us. If we blame others it somehow makes us feel like we are ok – or makes us feel artificially better about ourselves.
Mahatma: The other day Hrdayananda Maharaja gave class here and said that if you want to feel better about yourself, be a better person.
Prabhu: There is a saying that if you kill a skunk, your hand will smell. So if I try to bring others down, I will go down also.
Mahatma: Yes, when we find fault in another it seems that fault comes back to haunt us. And how can one be happy and peaceful focusing on other’s bad qualities?
Prabhu: If I had spent as much time rooting out my own faults as I had spent seeing others faults, I’d probably be a pure devotee by now. At least I’d be a lot happier.
Mahatma: Not seeing another’s faults does not mean we make something wrong they did right. We don’t condone misbehavior. We can take someone to court for a crime they committed against us in order that they be rectified or to protect society – and at the same time forgive them. The tendency is to condemn them forever. But by doing that we also condemn ourselves.
Prabhu: We are all born into this material world due to our envy of Krsna, and that envy of Krsna, and even of our guru, is reflected in our relationships with one another. This is something that can be difficult to see or admit.
Mahatma: This is such an important point. Once a teacher had her students draw a picture of someone they hated. Then she put those pictures on the wall and gave each student darts to throw at their picture. When she removed the pictures from the wall the students found that there was a picture of Jesus hanging on the wall behind each of their pictures. When everyone saw that his body was full of holes from the darts they threw, they all starting crying. Then the teacher quoted a saying from Jesus, “As you treat the least of them, you treat me.”
Prabhu: I think the antidote to envy is to develop an appreciative mentality. A good exercise is to find at least three people a day and say something we genuinely appreciate about them.
Mahatma: I am recognizing more and more the importance of appreciating others. Everyone has some fault, but if we focus on developing an appreciative mentality, we will tend to overlook those faults. There is so much to appreciate.
Another exercise is to make a list of all the people in your life who have helped you in some way. Then write them all a note of appreciation for what they have given you. By doing this we might see that there are actually persons on this list who we still have some bad feelings towards.
Prabhu: Appreciation is a quality of higher consciousness. Prabhupada always appreciated whatever little service any of us rendered. And that appreciation encouraged us. Faultfinding simply discourages. Sometimes a person may be discouraged about what they are doing and just one word of appreciation can completely change their attitude.
Mahatma: This exchange we are having reminded me of the story of the father and son and the donkey. This story shows how ludicrous faultfinding is and how it serves no purpose (unless it is given in a loving and constructive way).
A young boy is riding a donkey and the father is walking along side the donkey. When they enter a village everyone criticizes the boy for not letting the elderly father ride the donkey. So he gets off and the father gets on the donkey. But when they arrive in the next village everyone criticizes the father for making the young son walk. So they decide that they will both ride the donkey. Guess what happens? In the next village they are criticized for mistreating the poor donkey by making him carry so much weight. So they both get off the donkey and they all walk. Then in the next village everyone faults them for walking when they have a donkey to ride.
It’s a nice story to remember when we are tempted to fault find because unless we are called to give constructive criticism, and unless we do it in a mood of service, it serves only to disturb others and ourselves.