“Apaishunam means that one should not find fault with others or correct them unnecessarily. Of course to call a thief a thief is not faultfinding, but to call an honest person a thief is very much offensive for one who is making advancement in spiritual life.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 16.1-3 Purport)
“This is the cynical part of me. Forgive me for what I am about to say, but when I get irrational these are the thoughts that come to mind. I know that there is more to the process, but I am sure others must think along the same lines; at least on occasion.
“To me, it seems like becoming a preacher of the bhakti way of life is pretty easy. Once you get over the stage fright, self-consciousness about how you sound and appear to others, the rest is rather straightforward. In a public setting, read a verse or two from Bhagavad-gita. Then proceed to inform the audience that they are all worthless.
“Unless they formally and publicly engage in distributing the same knowledge to others, they are not doing their part. The rest of the world is full of demons and asses. Everyone else is a mudha or dushkritina. Saintly people are liberal and generous, you see, while the rest are kripana, or misers.
“A preacher does this for long enough and they gain a sizeable following. Travel from place to place, delivering the same message. Tell everyone to surrender to Bhagavan, as the starting point. Then work your way up towards becoming qualified to sit in the same position, on the elevated seat, and deliver similar words of derision.
“Do you see what I am saying? The appearance is someone sitting atop everyone else and passing judgment. Is that a godly thing to do? Is that what the Supreme Lord expects of us?”
A first-time parent may have similar reservations. Perhaps they struggled with drugs and alcohol during youth. Maybe they had run-ins with the law. Youthful indiscretions, the memories of which continue.
But now that same person is in a position of authority. They are expected to provide protection and guidance. Outside and above any official law governing the process, nature dictates a certain relationship. This is one of the reasons the Sanskrit word guru applies to parents, as well as the spiritual guide.
The parent feels a little strange giving a lecture on the dangers of alcohol, when they had their own issues growing up. Isn’t it hypocritical to stand in judgment? Shouldn’t the children be allowed to make their own mistakes?
In truth, it is a dereliction of duty to not provide guidance in such an area. If a person knows better, if they have experienced the reality of a negative consequence before, and they are in a position to help others, they should.
This is the underlying basis for the acharya sitting on the seat representing Vyasadeva and giving the wisdom of the ages, which originates in the Supreme Person. The relative positioning does not necessarily imply a feeling of superiority.
Rather, the guru might consider themselves to be the most fallen, but they understand the duty to represent their own guru, to continue the chain of disciplic succession. The message is too important to keep suppressed out of fear or embarrassment.
As His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains, to properly label a thief is not faultfinding. The honest assessment may assign a fault to a particular person, but it is for their benefit. In the higher scheme, the original fault is falling into the illusion of material life.
The guru identifies this defect and gives a prescription for correction. They may sit on a throne and judge the world, but someone has to do it. If an entire population has descended into madness, hiding from air and thinking that obstructed breathing is somehow going to save them from disease, a person in reality feels the need to offer rescue.
बहूनां जन्मनाम् अन्ते
ज्ञानवान् मां प्रपद्यते
वासुदेवः सर्वम् इति
स महात्मा सु-दुर्लभः
bahūnāṁ janmanām ante
jñānavān māṁ prapadyate
vāsudevaḥ sarvam iti
sa mahātmā su-durlabhaḥ
“After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.19)
We have been in illusion since time immemorial. Lifetime after lifetime, birth after birth, it is a struggle to find the transcendental light. We are fortunate to have others to highlight the truth, to correct our faults, so that we may turn towards eternal happiness.
Fortunate their association earning,
For proper direction turning.
Whether kindly or harshly speaking,
Knowledge for something higher seeking.
Whether embarrassed or afraid,
Example of guru obeyed.
Such that judgment on the world passing,
So that others rebirth surpassing.