Right Attitude Toward Criticism ~ Sw. Smarananandaji

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What is right attitude?  The definition goes – ‘There is a spiritually correct and proper attitude of mind for every circumstance.’

Guruji Paramahansa Yogananda shows us how to cultivate the mental attitude through which we can maintain even peace through all the ups and downs of life.  We have no control over what happens to us, but we can control how we react to the situations.  Whatever may be the situation, pleasant or unpleasant, we can maintain always an attitude with which we can face the situation and maintain an inner peace and calmness. ….

Right attitude to criticism

Learn to live with criticism.   You may be criticized for something you did or something you did not do.  Here is an analogy:

The Monkey and the Coconut

A monkey was sitting on the top of a tree and he suddenly just picked up a coconut and threw it on the head of the person sitting below the tree.  The person picked up the coconut, broke it, drank the water, ate the flesh, made a bowl out of the coconut and said thank you to the monkey.

If he had hit back with a stone, it would not have been the right attitude. We should be able to say thank you for what is done to us.   Criticisms hurled at you can be similarly used to your benefit.   Instead of defending yourself, see what you must make of the criticism.

The criticism could mean:

1). The other person could be correct and justified in saying those things to you.  Then do not react. Correct yourself and mend your habits.  Tell yourself he was right, and I should mend my ways and God wants me to be perfect.  You should be calm and not react at once. Be calm to take the criticism and analyze.

2). The person could be partly right. Then ignore the part that is not correct.

3). The other person could be completely wrong. Ignore the person, then bear with him.  Justifying will not help.  Defending, making things clear, making the other person realize where he is wrong, teaching him a lesson, I want to show him his mistake, all these are actions of lower vibrations.

St. Francis says: “Learn to accept blame, criticism and accusation, silently and without retaliation, even though untrue and unjustified.”  It takes great strength to show such virtues.  That is why St. Francis is called a saint.

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The St. Francis Tree – SRF

Prayer of St. Francis

Here is another story: 

A saint lived with his disciples in a hermitage and his neighbor constantly criticized him. The disciples wanted to react but the saint always quieted them.  One day the disciples happily announced to the saint that their neighbor was dead.  Hearing this, the saint was shocked and began to weep.  The disciples were confused and asked the saint why he was weeping. 

The saint said, ‘I lost a friend. That man always criticized me and so he was God’s instrument in helping me, but you all are always praising me and so I am fed up of you all.’

‘Prophet Mohammed had a disciple called Ali.  Ali was often the target of other disciple’s criticism.  But Ali patiently bore it.  Even when Ali was being criticized in front of other people he patiently bore it.  One day the others criticized Ali in the presence of the Master; for a long time Ali was patient and tolerant but finally Ali lost his cool and stood up to defend himself.  His detractors kept silent, but at once Prophet Mohammed stood up and went away. Ali followed the master and asked him, “Master why did you go away when the others started criticizing me, and why did you not defend me?”

The Master said, “When you were silent I saw 10 angels standing behind you and protecting you; but when you started defending yourself the angels disappeared and so did I.”

The angels need not be real flesh and blood angels but virtues such as joy, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, etc.  When we practice these qualities there are good vibrations around us to protect us.  And when you retaliate you show negative qualities such as revenge, hatred, etc.  It is not that only those who can defend themselves are strong.  Does the criticism of others give me a license to criticize back, especially if I want to find God?

 

lincoln memorial

Don’t concern yourself with the flaws of others. Change others by changing yourself and by your example others will want to change.

On one occasion Abraham Lincoln sent a note by messenger to his secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, transferring certain regiments.  Stanton was a capable man but was noted for his brusqueness and rigid opinions.  The Secretary was not convinced and thought it was a bad order.  As the messenger stood waiting for a reply, Stanton tore up the note and shouted, “Lincoln is a fool!”  When the messenger returned and told Mr. Lincoln what the Secretary had said, Lincoln thought a moment and then said, “If Stanton said I am a fool, I must be one, for he is always correct. I must see him for myself.” He met Stanton, they had a discussion and the order was withdrawn.

So peacefully, calmly, bear the criticism of others without thinking how to prove yourself to be right, how to justify.  If you don’t react that itself is a great success. Then you will realize whether it is better to ignore or to react. 

The prayer of devotee should be, ‘Lord help me see myself the way others see me.’  And God will answer your prayer and you will get the criticism from people to help you to improve.  If you really want to improve yourself, say this prayer sincerely.  If you are ready for this prayer then you will have to be brave enough to hear the criticism. Criticism has so many good points.

Then you may ask, what about the faults of others?  Don’t concern yourself with the faults of others. We don’t have to take on the job of reforming others.  But when you are asked, you may lovingly guide them.  Of course we can correct our children and our juniors.

Paramahansaji ~ “Avoid a negative approach to life.  Why gaze down the sewers when there is loveliness all around us?  One may find some fault in even the greatest masterpieces of art, music, and literature.  But isn’t it better to enjoy their charm and glory?

Life has a bright side and a dark side, for the world of relativity is composed of light and shadows. If you permit your thoughts to dwell on evil, you yourself will become ugly.  Look only for the good in everything, that you absorb the quality of beauty.” – Spiritual Diary

Give advice only if people ask for your advice. And give that advice out of love for them.  When parents correct us their correction is given out of love and not out of revenge or anger.  Otherwise we have no license to criticize others.

We have been hearing the term ‘Aham Brahmasmi’ since childhood.  What does it mean? It means ‘I am God’ isn’t it?  I should then have all the qualities of God: love, joy compassion, patience, tolerance, even mindedness, understanding, etc.  Do I get these qualities when I become God or I become God when I cultivate these qualities?  I have to cultivate these qualities and this is what sadhana means and then I automatically start manifesting these divine qualities.

Sw. Bhavanandji has said, “Seeking God means expressing God.”   I must express love, joy, cheerfulness, etc. Only then I can say I am seeking God.  Only meditating morning and evening is not enough to cultivate God.

 

from RIGHT ATTITUDE – KEY TO HAPPINESS 21/11/07, by Sw. Smarananandaji, devotee notes, excerpts

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Swami Smarananandaji, YSS