Fault-finding and Forgiveness

By Madhavananda Das - 30.6 2016

Patience and forgiveness are qualities appreciated in all religious traditions of the world. In his famous thirteenth-century work, “Imitation of Christ”, the Christian monk Thomas a Kempis, writes:

“Try to bear patiently with the defects and infirmities of others, whatever they may be, because you also have many a fault which others must endure. If you cannot make yourself what you wish to be, how can you bend others to your will? We want them to be perfect, yet we do not correct our own faults. We wish them to be severely corrected, yet we will not correct ourselves. Their great liberty displeases us, yet we would not be denied what we ask. We would have them bound by laws, yet we will allow ourselves to be restrained in nothing. Hence, it is clear how seldom we think of others as we do of ourselves.”

Thomas a Kempis

Srila Thakur Bhaktivinode offers some similar comments to aspiring vaisnavas in chapter 8 of his Jaiva Dharma. Therein he speaks about the behavior of a madhyama-adhikari or person who has a middle-class qualification for bhakti. Madhyama-adhikaris should neglect the dvisatsu or envious. In describing those envious persons, Bhaktivinode lists five types of dvesa — envy or enmity. The fifth of which isdaya-sunyata or absence of mercy. In other words lacking mercy or forgiveness is a manifestation of envy. Mercy, tolerance, and forgiveness are extremely important qualities for those interested in developing bhakti. 

 In his commentary on Srila Rupa Goswami’s Upadesamrta, Bhaktivinode writes, ksama kara karttavya; daya-o atyavasak — “The duty of a devotee is to practice forgiveness.” In other words forgiveness is an essential quality a devotee must have. To support this, Bhaktivinode quotes Caitanya-caritamrta: 

bhakta-svabhava,—ajsa-dosa ksama kare — “The nature (svabhava), of a devotee is that he excuses any offense by an ignorant rascal. ” (Cc. antya3.213)

dine daya kare,—ei sadhu-svabhava haya — “The characteristic (svabhava) of all saintly persons is to be kind towards the poor and fallen.” (Cc. antya3.237)

The sage Jamadagni says a similar thing to his son Parasuram:

ksamaya rocate laksmir brahmi sauri yatha prabha
ksaminam asu bhagavams tusyate harir isvarah

“The duty of a brahmana is to culture the quality of forgiveness, which is illuminating like the sun. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Hari, is pleased with those who are forgiving.” (Srimad Bhagavatam 9.15.40)

Lord Vishnu is Krishna’s manifestation as God or the Supreme controller and judge. The word “vaisnava” refers to a devotee of Vishnu. A vaisnava is one who therefore works for, or is the representative of Vishnu. A vaisnava serves under the supervision of senior devotees of the Lord. One category of senior devotees in this world are the demigods. As the Lord’s representatives they are qualified to judge the good and bad deeds of the conditioned souls in this world. In that sense we could say that being a devotee means to work in the Lord’s courtroom. 

We have two choices as to which court we want to work in. The first court is that of the empowered demigod and mahajana devotee Sri Yamaraja. The second court is the court of Lord Nityananda. Working in Yamaraja’s court means assisting his chief lieutenant Citragupta, whose job it is to note down all of the mistakes and sinful acts of conditioned souls. 

Chitragupta the scribe of Yamaraja

What does it mean to be an assistant to Citragupa? The Narada Purana describes:

papinam papagananam yah karoti naradhamah
astitve tulyapapi syan mithyatve dvigunambharet

“A fault-finder is naradhama the lowest of mankind. If the sins are true then the person who is counting them will equally share the sin with the sinner. But if the accusation is false, then they incur double the sin ascribed to the other person.” (1.14.161)

The phrase papagananam in this verse is significant. It literally means, “One who counts the sins of others”. Such a person is a servant of the scribe Citragupta.

Intelligent devotees however aspire to work in the court of Lord Nityananda, who is described in a following song by a poet named Krishnadas: 

adosa darasi mora prabhu nityananda
na bhajinu hena prabhura caranaravinda

Lord Nityananda is adosa darasi that personality who never sees the faults of others. Therefore the poet says that Nitai is “mora prabhu“, or my Lord. Why is he my Lord? Because I have so many faults, I have no hope but approaching someone who is adosa darasi or who doesn’t see any faults in others.

The poet then writes something rather enigmatic: na bhajinu hena prabhura caranaravinda — “(Alas!) I never worshiped the lotus feet of that Nityananda!” A thoughtful person may ask, “How is it he is writing a song glorifying Lord Nityananda, but says that he has never worshiped Nityananda?” It doesn’t seem to make sense.

We should question what it means to worship Lord Nityananda. As one worships the sun with the fire of a ghee wick, or worships Mother Ganga with water from her river, similarly, we worship the all-forgiving Lord Nityananda by ourselves being forgiving.

If we are busy with finding faults in others then we are not worshiping Nityananda. Rather we are working for Citragupta. To work in the court of Nityananda means we must give up fault-finding and the propensity for bearing grudges.

Therefore in his purport to Cc. adi 8.62, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada describes our eligibility, “It is a qualification of a Vaisnava that he is adosa-darsi: he never sees others’ faults.”

In our lives we all have a choice, a decision to be made — which court do we want to work for? Do we want to assist Citragupta by being a papagananam, a counter of everyone’s faults in the court of Yamaraja? Or do we want to give up finding others shortcomings and work in the court of Lord Nityananda?

It’s our choice. 

One thing to consider in our decision is that whichever court we decide to work for, we will also be judged therein.