October 16, 2003 – Karttika

October 16th, 2003

Govardhana

Japa Thoughts V
A friend made a simple vow for Karttika: He promised not to criticize anyone. When I thought about his apparently minimal vow, it dawned on me how it could unleash a spiritual dynamic. Sadhu-ninda, the criticism of devotees, is the most serious namaparadha, but the one we are probably most prone to commit. Avoiding it certainly propels us forward in our attempt to chant purely. I therefore decided to also vigilantly avoid criticizing devotees as part of this month?s vow.

This small practice has been an eye opener. By trying to not criticize others, I am realizing how much I do. It?s not that I am caustic and rude, but during a friendly exchange, for example, there is too much joking at the expense of others. I am realizing how subtle and ingrained this offense actually is.

In the Bhagavatam the topmost devotee is defined as one who is free from the propensity to criticize others, which reflects the essence of material consciousness, envy. We are here to compete for lordship, and thus impelled to grossly and subtly put others down.

Srila Jiva Gosvami says some heavy things about criticizing others. ?It?s worse than envy,? he writes, ?for envy is in the heart and criticism is when it comes out.? He also says that it is worse than putting a spear through someone?s body, because a lance can only pierce the body, but criticism can pierce the heart.

A humble suggestion: During the last five days of Karttika, called Bhisma-Pancaka, one can make specific vows and receive the benefit of Karttika. Why not vow to abstain from criticism and observe the fun of the mind struggling with this simple vow?

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