“Even where there are hundreds of good qualities, a critic does not consider them. Rather, he attempts by some trick to point out a fault in those attributes.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 8.81)
Are you a “glass half full” or “glass half empty” kind of person? When you see a glass that has half part liquid and half part air, which way do you lean? What is your perception? With the critic, even if in mathematical terms the majority of the container is liquid, they will point out the empty portion and lament the situation. If the glass can be blamed for the perceived deficiency then all sorts of criticism will be leveled. Never mind the good qualities, just the bad will be pointed out. This is a misguided use of the verbal capabilities of the living spirit, who in the human form has the potential to acquire the highest intelligence. With that sharp brain an endless amount of words can be strung together to offer praise to the person whose divine qualities are impossible to fully enumerate.
Think about it for a second. In whichever field of endeavor you are interested, the person at the top has some type of flaw. For instance, in the sports world, there are athletes who are considered the “greatest of all time”. Yet there are still dissenters who will disagree with the claim. They will point to flaws, deficiencies in the athletes in question. The boundaries are not limited to the field of play either. If it should be discovered that a famous athlete has been excessively unfaithful to his wife, he will be ridiculed in public. He will lose his lofty status, and his personal shortcomings will be used to attack his standing in the sport.
Nothing is easier than criticizing. You can be sitting on a park bench and watching people go by and find endless things to criticize. “Oh look at that person walking their dog. Why do they even have a dog? Are they that lonely? They worship a dog instead of God? They’re too low to attract the companionship of the opposite sex? And why are they bringing that dog towards me? Can’t they just leave me and everyone else alone?”
Even a saintly man can be criticized for no reason. A long time back Lord Chaitanya was criticized by someone for eating too much. The Lord was in the renounced order of life, which meant that nothing He did was for sense gratification. A sannyasi gives up connection to family and home, and voluntarily takes up the life of a mendicant. There are several purposes fulfilled with this. Detachment automatically develops, as the true aim of life is to think of God at the time of death. This thinking leads to the highest end in the afterlife.
A sannyasi is also free to travel, which means that he can disseminate Vedic wisdom to a large number of people. Since he has no possessions, he doesn’t have to worry about ego. Materially speaking, everyone is superior to the sannyasi, so there is no question of jealousy. Ah, that is with the exception of those who are competitors in spiritual life. The competitor who is unsure of their standing will look for ways to criticize another sannyasi’s behavior. Lord Chaitanya always limited His eating, not taking too much food and not seeking out areas where He knew He could get food without a problem.
Since He was God Himself, others had a spontaneous love for Him. And what can we really offer God anyway, as He has everything? Using Mahaprabhu’s sannyasa position to their advantage, devotees would often give so many nice food preparations to Lord Chaitanya to eat. Is God so rude as to refuse such offerings made with love? If we visit someone’s home and they keep giving us palatable food to eat, will we not feel bad saying ‘no’? Thus sometimes Lord Chaitanya would eat a lot just to satisfy His devotees.
A person named Ramachandra Puri once criticized Him because of this eating, and Lord Chaitanya’s associates did not like this. Lord Chaitanya was full of good qualities. He spread the glories of bhakti-yoga throughout India, and in due course of time that divine influence would extend to the entire world. He was kind, sweet, respectful, and never committed sin. Even His apparent overeating on occasion was an indication of His unmatched kindness. Yet the critic, who is so insecure of their own abilities and practices, will always find some kind of fault, even with God.
The behavior is a symptom of a tainted consciousness, one which is still materially attached, falsely thinking the self to be the only enjoyer. When operating under a pure ego, the individual knows that they are a servant of God and that the faults in others are but a result of the influence of the material energy. The true paramahamsa extracts the divine influence even in areas where it is apparently absent. The devotee finds millions of ways to praise God and His children, and thus the tendency to criticize gets reversed, pointed in the right direction.
How to bring about that transformation? Lord Chaitanya, the person unfairly criticized on that one occasion, showed the way, as He constantly chanted the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. This one prayer offers praise perfectly to God and His energy, which represents the height of the devotional attitude in full humility.
Even if the devotee should offer criticism, it is done with the right purpose. Every person’s birthright is to love God without motivation and without interruption, and so if the mind is leading us down the wrong path, if someone rightly points out our flaws and then offers viable solutions, the criticism is actually a kind of praising of the devotional spirit. To denounce the mindsets of “I” and “Mine” is to praise the attitude of full surrender, which is known as sharanagati. There is real bliss with this attitude, and through the example of Lord Chaitanya we are shown just how to reach that platform of surrender.
Though water there is plenty,
Critic sees glass half empty.
Despite perfect balance of sweet and salt,
Critic always to find some kind of fault.
Lord Chaitanya criticized once for what He ate,
Consumed devotional offerings, plate after plate.
Tendency to criticize can be turned around,
By producing and hearing transcendental sound.
In devotional attitude find always something to praise,
Innumerable glories of Lord who with devotees always stays.