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The Art Of Correcting Others

Friday, 20 July 2018 / Published in Blog thoughts / 443 views

Devaki Devi Dasi: Envy can manifest in constant and overly harsh correction of juniors. If we
find ourselves very eager to take every opportunity to heavily correct
others with harsh words, then we should be introspective and look within our
hearts-maybe there is some envy mixed into our desire to offer correction.
Maybe we have the tendency to put others down in order to establish our
superior position.
Actually, one has to be authorized to correct others. Just the fact that
others around us make mistakes does not mean we can correct them. Devotees
at times show themselves especially enthusiastic to give correction to
newcomers-they make so many mistakes! However, it can be very discouraging
for such a beginner if he is constantly corrected from all sides, in so many
little details of daily life. Hence we recommend that one particular person
is in charge of new devotees and their correction. To correct a devotee one
must be non-envious and genuinely desiring to practically assist and uplift
him in his Krishna consciousness. It also requires a confidential and
trusting relationship for the correction to be accepted. We have to be in a
position spiritually or managerially which justifies or necessitates such
intervention, or we should be personally requested by the devotee to help
him in his difficulty. The devotee offering correction should also be
practicing what he preaches-he should walk his talk. Our actions speak
louder than our words, so our own good example is often the best way to
correct others in addition to our words. The correction will be easier
accepted when offered privately and not in the presence of other devotees.
We want correction to be an uplifting and purifying experience and destroy
the ignorance in the heart of a devotee-not the devotee himself. Even
Krishna Himself corrected Lord Indra and Lord Brahma in privacy after they
had displayed their improper attitude towards Him. We also have to remember
that some defects will be corrected by time passing by in sincere Krishna
conscious practice. Some corrections will require further purification of
the heart and not mere words pointing out the defects. Thus one has to be
expert in recognizing which correction has to be given at what point in
time. Some defects we might have to temporarily overlook in order not to
discourage the young practitioner.
One may say: ‘If almost everyone is envious, and one should be non-envious
to correct somebody-how can anybody then correct anybody at all? Wouldn’t we
all then be unqualified to correct others?’ Understanding the importance of
being non-envious when correcting others will make us very wary in regards
to our eagerness to give corrections. We surely must have been in the
situation of receiving correction given with a tinge of envy, and also of
giving correction to others with an envious heart. And we have felt the
poisonous and contaminating effect such correction has-for both the receiver
and the giver. It does not lead to purification but a disturbed mind and
agitated heart and false ego. It ignites our own envy in our hearts. There
are two practical tips if we find ourselves in the position of having to
correct others, but also admitting that our heart is not free from envy:

* We request another senior person to offer the correction.

* If we feel a strong urge to correct the person immediately, right now-if
we can hardly control our tongue to do so, then better to wait and sleep it
over, until our false ego has cooled down and we are more relaxed about the
defect to be corrected. This might take some hours, or even several days.

* Before offering the correction we cultivate a prayerful mood, begging
Krishna to allow us to be an instrument and offer the correction in a humble
and well-wishing mood of service and thus act as their best friend.

The last two tools are especially helpful, and applying them we can observe
ourselves offering the correction in an appropriate mood, even though we
might not be free from envy as yet.
Needless to say, a junior devotee should not personally attempt to correct
another devotee. He should reveal his heart to a senior devotee whom he
feels at ease with and seek his assistance and advice to adjust the
situation. If a junior devotee sees a serious discrepancy in a senior, he
should approach this person’s authority and reveal his mind to him, allowing
him to decide whether or not the situation needs to be addressed by him as
the authority. After all, it may even be an imagination and wrong assumption
of the junior devotee-he may project his own shortcomings and anarthas on
the senior person. And there might even be nothing which needs to be
adjusted. Once the junior devotee has reported his observations to the
senior person, he has done his duty and can leave the matter in the senior
person’s hands.
This aspect of vaishnava etiquette is very important, as it protects a young
devotee from finding faults in seniors. Being in the material world we are
diseased with envy and a faultfinding mentality. As a young devotee we
cannot understand what is taking place on senior levels, and we cannot
understand the mind and thoughts of a senior person. According to the logic
of atmavan manyate jagat, everyone thinks of others according to his own
position, and thus a junior person may easily misunderstand and misjudge
what is taking place on senior levels. Therefore we should never involve
ourselves in disagreements or conflicts taking place on senior levels. We
should refrain from discussing such matters, taking side or passing
judgments on seniors. Not following such recommendations can disturb our
spiritual life and ultimately poison and destroy the cultivation of our
bhakti lata.

ISKCON Ministry of Education Conference Report (Alachua) Florida, USA
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