“Yashah, fame, should be according to Lord Chaitanya, who said that a man is famous when he is known as a great devotee. That is real fame.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 10.4-5 Purport)
Abe: I don’t like to criticize people at all.
Billy: What do you mean?
Abe: I hate saying negative things about someone else. I don’t care who they are. I especially don’t like it when I hear bad things about them.
Billy: Do you mean like about family members and such? I don’t like that either.
Abe: Well, for sure. I can criticize my family, but you can’t, and vice versa. That makes sense. I’m talking more about chastising an entire group of people. When someone says they hate their country, it really makes me mad. Do they not realize that “country” just means fellow citizens? Their neighbors make up their country. So do the people they run into in the stores. This means that they automatically hate people they don’t even know.
Billy: Yeah, that is a little weird.
Abe: One of the things I’ve noticed is that those following spiritual life think that their sudden enlightenment gives them license to denigrate the entire population of humans. They are very confident in describing people as stupid, dumb, and wasting their time. I don’t like hearing such things.
Billy: I see what you mean. But if you don’t criticize, how will anyone change their ways?
Abe: What is there to criticize on such a large scale? I don’t see your point.
Billy: Well, according to Vedic philosophy, this world gets created, maintained and destroyed in cycles. Thus to trace out the origin of this one creation is a little silly; whatever we see now will come to be again at some point in the future. Time and space are infinite.
Abe: Yeah. It’s freaky to think about that even at the beginning, there was still a beginning to that. And once you reach the end of space, there is still more to go.
Billy: Yes. So not only do we get the explanation of the cycle of creation, but we get the reason for it. Those who are envious of God come here. It’s as simple as that.
Abe: What do you mean by envious?
Billy: Whoever wants to be like God has to leave His physical association and move to another land. God is the greatest, which can be understood in so many ways. He is a person, or purusha, but the greatest person above the darkness of ignorance. Hence one of His names is Purushottama. The material world is in darkness, so the inhabitants don’t know what they are doing.
Abe: So are you saying that everyone is stupid?
Billy: Without doing anything, at the very outset we don’t know who we are. We don’t realize that we are spirit at the core. Therefore the actions we take will be based on a false identification. This is not a criticism; it is a mere statement of fact.
Abe: I see.
Billy: So if someone who knows these things from having humbly inquired from another self-realized person criticizes others for taking the wrong path, it is actually a very nice thing. It is an act of love.
Abe: Still, I cringe when I hear parents of others described as not knowing anything. I see that people are generally innocent. They are spirit soul, for sure, and they are temporarily in ignorance right now. One day they will come around. You and I both know that. It might not be in this lifetime, but eventually I feel they will come to God again.
Billy: Of course, they are spirit, so they must choose again the path of transcendence. We are technically God’s marginal energy; we can choose between spirit and matter. The living entities who are always spiritual always stay with God, at least in interest. They never make the choice for the material energy.
Abe: So if you think that you’re trying to help someone find spiritual life again, it’s okay to address them in harsh terms? I still don’t like it.
Billy: Well, the reason you don’t like it is because the words bring them dishonor. It brings a person down. You’re such a kind soul that you want to honor everyone. You can consider the criticism as a way to make the people honorable.
Abe: What do you mean?
Billy: By telling them that they have a higher engagement, that their valuable human life is meant for serving God in a mood of love, accepting the path voluntarily, then they are given the chance to become the most honorable. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says that the greatest fame is being known as a servant of God. Think of Hanuman.
Abe: Oh, I like him. He’s awesome.
Billy: For sure. He is famous not for his strength, intelligence, or mystic ability. Nobody can match him in these departments, but he is best known for using his abilities for serving God in His form of Shri Ramachandra, the prince of Ayodhya. Hanuman is the most honorable.
Abe: And Ravana is dishonorable for going against God.
Billy: Exactly. So those characters from the Ramayana, a book which describes actual historical events, nicely symbolize for us the choice we have in life. The saints of the bhakti-yoga tradition try to turn people towards the path of Hanuman, where they will be forever honorable. This is a nice thing. Their criticisms in this regard should be accepted as great mercy. The goal is to get others to always be conscious of God, who is known as Krishna because He is all-attractive.
Abe: Ah, so through criticizing you’re trying to get others to chant the maha-mantra?
Billy: Yes. Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Innocently to be happy human tries,
So don’t prefer when them to criticize.
Dishonor upon them to bring,
Rather of their glories to sing.
Best honor for as devotee to be known,
Told by Mahaprabhu, bhakta of His own.
Criticizing for the proper path to show,
Honor to come when towards Krishna to go.