By Nayaswami Dharmadevi
December 10, 2019
During the silence and inwardness of seclusion, with nothing outward to distract me, I realized something astounding. I spend a lot of time critiquing others. I don’t mean I was necessarily thinking negatively of people – this was more subtle – but just as dangerous spiritually.
My behavior, I realized, was not only a waste of time and brainpower, it was putting those people into a box that was not of their highest reality as a soul but rather of their ego and limited personality.
“It’s ok,” I would think, “she can just be a little snobby at times.” Or “he can’t help it, he just has a hard time following through with things.” My mind was simultaneously telling me, “I’m not being judgemental, I’m being objective,” however, by the grace of God, during seclusion, I could see the downward pulling temptation involved in entertaining such thoughts.
Paramhansa Yogananda gave some wonderful advice about criticism. He said whenever you have a critical thought about someone, to turn the criticism on yourself and to see how quickly you stop!
I read this advice a number of years ago and I remember practicing it to some degree. But during seclusion I was able to take it to another level and make some real progress, which I thought might be helpful for you as well.
It wasn’t enough for me, using the above example, to turn, “She’s a little snobby,” into “I’m a little snobby.” It was like an affirmation that didn’t hold power because it didn’t resonate with me. So, I decided to dig a little deeper and use some real introspection. I was, mind you, introspecting about others so why not actually make it productive?
“Maybe I’m not snobby but perhaps I lack refinement or culture.” Ooh, that hit a little button! I was onto something.
After a few minutes my mind brought me to the next person that it decided needed my attention. After utilizing the same tactic, of introspecting on my own shortcomings, my mind gave up completely. It really didn’t like thinking about all the ways it was “off.”
Our dog, Kali, loves to bark, especially when we are holding silence at the desert. She hears her cousins, the coyotes, and wants to join in their barking chorus of joy.
The only thing that seems to snap her out of these fits of barking (that can go on all night) is when I blow on her. It isn’t like it hurts her – its just the air from my mouth – but for whatever reason, she really doesn’t like it.
After she gets snapped out of two or three barking fits from a good puff of air, I only have to make the sound of blowing to get her to stop. I can be across the room, puff, and she’ll grumble a little complaint and stop her barking.
I realized Kali’s barking habit is not really any different than my own bad habits and this is why Yoganandaji’s advice is so powerful. When there is a displeasing reaction to something we do, we naturally avoid it – just as it only takes once to learn not to touch a hot stovetop.
A significant amount of time has passed now without me giving the slightest bit of inward thought to how others might improve, “if only ____.” It is a subconscious temptation to judge others. Just as we can train our minds to overcome all sorts of bad habits and integrate good habits, we can use our willpower and determination to release all critical thoughts.
Why Saints Aren’t Negative
by Swami Kriyananda
“You will transcend negativity when, like the saints, you have completely overcome the tendency to wish ill toward anyone or anything, and when you can accept this world as it is, without criticism or judgment.
“Saints are non-judgmental, forgiving, and accepting of all things. As Yogananda wrote of Master Mahasaya in Autobiography of a Yogi, they see the world “without a breath of criticism” because they have realized that behind all the pain, disappointments, and challenges, there is only God’s love and bliss.
“They’ve understood that even the most evil people are a part of the divine play and that they, too, will eventually turn toward God. It may take many, many lifetimes, but it will happen.”