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Criticism | Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Wisdom

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Criticism | Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Wisdom
Your thoughts are very powerful; you can create what you want. First, believe that it is possible for you to live in a state of unconditional love, peace and tranquility. As a child you have lived in this state. As children we all have done it. We were bubbling with enthusiasm. - Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

People often face criticism in their daily routine life and they either get upset or angry. See, whether you accept or not, the criticism has already happened, isn’t it? You are left with no choice.

Now, let us see how Gurudev beautifully explains ways to handle 'Criticism' in a positive way:

Transcript: It’s okay! You know critics are doing something good for you. Two types of people criticise you. One - Those who are hurt, those who are jealous, those who are angry or upset, they criticise. And you ignore them. They are like sick people, you don’t get angry at sick people, right, do you? The other people who criticise you is your well-wisher. They want you to be better and want you to be more perfect. They are your friends. So, they criticise you. You thank them. They are putting their life at risk and friendship at risk to criticise you, why? Because they are your well-wishers. Otherwise, they will simply say good things to you and would let him fall down, I don’t care. But someone who cares you really will only say ‘Hey, don’t fall, there is a hole there’.

Whenever a boundary is broken, it creates some fear. The fear creates dislike. This dislike puts us back in the boundary. And to keep yourself in the boundary you put forth defenses. When you try to defend your position, it is such a stress, isn't it? And every time you try to defend your position it makes you more and more weak.

On the path, people even use Knowledge as a defense against criticism! Don't use Knowledge as a defense. Knowledge is like an umbrella for you - a shelter, not a weapon. Of course, sometimes 'Don't use Knowledge as a weapon' becomes an excuse not to be in Knowledge! (Laughter) I say, drop all your defenses. Anybody can make a mistake. Even you! Don't defend your mistakes. Just accept them and move on. When you are totally defenseless, that's when you'll be strong.

Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Give that person a surprise. Tell them, ‘wow, you said such wonderful things! How did you figure out these facts?’ Try this and see what happens.

If someone criticizes you, you counter it with four criticisms of your own and the chain continues. Instead, thank them for their kind words, and see what happens. The day you drop your defenses, that person will hang their head out of shame and embarrassment. They will not know how to respond. This is how we should confuse those who criticize.

Have some fun in this situation. What is the fun in finding fault? Our life should not become a football of other’s opinions. Repose in the self!

Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Know that you’re magnanimous. Every time you face criticism, know that you are vast like the ocean, and you can take in anything.

When you feel small that is when you don’t feel like taking criticism. When you feel you are very big, then you think, 'I am much bigger than this criticism, let me take it in'.

Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: If the criticism is superficial, then let it be. We just talked about the Navarasas (the nine emotions, which are, love, laughter, compassion, anger, courage, terror, disgust, surprise, and peace), this is also one of them.

If you want something bad to happen to another from the core of your heart, from the depth of your being, then you are harming only yourself. The person being criticized won’t be affected. But that doesn’t mean you should be superficially positive, and never point out mistakes. If an apple is bad, saying the apple is good is insincere.

If someone asks you, 'How was the food', and you say it was very good, but you couldn’t eat it then that is not honesty. Where there is a problem, it must be pointed out, but without any hatred in your heart otherwise, the feeling will harm only you.

If somebody else does it, then let it be. What can you do? It is their rajo guna and tamo guna which makes such negative tendencies arise in them. But if you become negative towards them because of that, then you will also be in the same basket as them.
The three gunas - rajoguna, tamoguna and sattoguna are an integral part of nature. You just be a witness to their play and display. And if you want to explain it to somebody then do it because you care for them, do it with compassion. Tell them that you have spent two hours complaining about somebody today, this will severely affect your creative or positive energy. The more you complain the more energy you will lose.

Tell them to complain about somebody for an hour and observe how much energy they have lost. When people start complaining about others they forget the time because they find some form of enjoyment in it. Like a patient enjoys talking about his ailments. If he has ten visitors, he’ll tell all ten people the same thing, 'All morning I have been having leg pain. I could not sleep all night because of the pain'.

All the crying and drama is repeated over and over again. He should do something else instead of harping on and on about it. Write a poem maybe, or do some other creative thing. Then he can be happy and also forget his ailment.

Anything that is repeated, gets deeper into the consciousness. That is why mantras are repeated again and again. So don’t let complaints get deeper into yourself instead, do some japa (meditative repetition of a mantra or name of a divine power).

Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: No, don’t say that they always say you are wrong. If they always say that you are wrong then it would not bother you or even touch you. You would take it as their nature. Sometimes they would have said that you did right as well. Isn’t that so?

If you can appreciate them when they say you are right, you should also accept when they don’t appreciate what you are doing, and say that you say wrong. You should find a middle path.

You know, often, we generalize and externalize the problem. ‘Oh, I am always wrong’, ‘Oh, I am always right’, ‘Oh, I am always like this’, ‘Everybody is bad.’ This sort of generalization and externalization of problems is very common. We should make an effort to step out of that and go beyond that. Just smile. If you feel that they are unreasonable in their comments and they are always criticizing you, just smile. Don’t be bothered about it at all. Educate and ignore, and walk your path.

What can you do? Every time you sit for meditation, someone comes and complains, ‘Why are you sitting and closing your eyes, it is useless, don’t do it’, never mind. When you wake up, smile, and sit again the next day and they will turn around.

Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: You know, somebody is talking negatively about you, they are dumping the garbage. You should not hold your gunny bag and catch it. When somebody is dumping garbage, you simply move away from there. Don't take it in.

If they say something negative about you, there are two reasons: one is, either they are doing it out of jealousy, or they are doing it because they love you very much. They are good friends with you and want the best for you, so they show your negative points or your weak points. So if they say something negative, either you thank them because they took the guts and said it, which others normally don't want to say to you.

If someone criticizes you, they gathered the courage to do so, and they put their friendship at risk to criticize you. So thank them. And if they are just saying it out of jealousy, just forget about them and move on with a smile.

Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Just give a big smile.

Tell them you smile at their ignorance. That one comment does more work than getting angry at them. If someone says something against what you hold dear, say 'I pity your ignorance.' That is all. What can you do? You can’t change someone's wrong thinking by force. They won't take it.

In those situations, sarcasm is the best way to handle it. Your sarcasm goes like an arrow into their mind and breaks the barrier which they might have created for themselves.

Tell them, ‘I feel sorry for your ignorance’ and that is good enough.See, now there is an attempt to ban Bhagavad Gita in Russia.

I said this is injustice done to the people of Russia. We are anyway reaping the benefit of Bhagavad Gita. But the people of Russia being denied of Bhagavad Gita is an unpardonable injustice done to them by their own people. We don’t lose anything but they are at loss.

Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Never mind, relax! Do only what you can do. I am not telling you to do something which you cannot do. If you cannot do then okay, relax!

Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: When people criticize you, you should just listen to them. If there is something good in it, take it and if there is nothing good then just leave it, ignore it. They can comment, so what! You should not lose your equanimity.

Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: See, whether you accept or not, the criticism has already happened, isn’t it? You are left with no choice. Only after someone has spoken, you find that they have criticized you, right. How do you know before they speak? Before someone criticizes you, you don’t know. After they have criticized you, it is already done. What is the option you have? Okay, don’t accept it, what will happen to you? You will become more miserable. So if you are intelligent you will accept it, if you don’t want to be intelligent you can suffer for some time. That is the only way you can do it.

Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: What’s great is when you can smile at complaints then you have achieved something. Complaints are opinions. Listen to them carefully and if there is something good in it then you can take or if it’s an outcome of prejudiced or biased mind, smile at them. That’s my policy. I say you should take criticism with an open mind and also give criticism with an open mind; you should never be shy about criticism.


Sonakshi Sinha: How important is it to love yourself first, to accept yourself first? Is it only then possible that we can accept others, once we have learnt to do that with ourselves?
Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: What we should do then - people criticize us, isn’t it? We should embrace all the criticism and not react to criticism.

Sonakshi Sinha: We should take it and embrace it?
Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Yeah! If you do not react to criticism then you have acceptance for yourself.

Sonakshi Sinha: But sometimes it gets very difficult Guruji! I'll tell you one incident, which happened with me a few months back. I went on this show called Kaun Banega Crorepati. I went with a lady called Uma Devi who is an artisan. She makes clothes and gives women employment. So, both of us had gone on the show and we got a question from Ramayana that ‘For whom did Hanumanji get the Sanjivani booti (a medicinal herb)?’ And I am looking at Uma Devi and we are both looking at each other because we both were blanked out! We just did not know the answer! The incident was not so bad in itself, I mean it was a little bit embarrassing because it is something that we have learnt as kids, we have seen the show, we have read the book as kids, but you know it's been such a long while that certain details just go out of your mind. It was a blank out moment for me. Ever since then and till today it has now been 5 to 6 months since that and the kind of negativity and trolling that I get for that one mistake I made, it makes me feel so disheartened and it makes me think that why are people so unforgiving? It was a very honest mistake you know.
Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: No but let them have fun. It doesn't matter! You take it! So what?! Ok? So what?

Sonakshi Sinha: Like everyday anything that I will post online, the first question that people will ask me is ‘Did you watch ‘Ramayana’ (a television serial) or not? Did you read the Ramayana or not? Did you find out who did Hanuman get the Sanjivani booti for? And I am like “Oh God, make it stop!”
Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: No no. You don't take it so seriously. You take it like it’s… you know…

Sonakshi Sinha: Yeah, now I don't take it that seriously, but earlier it used to be like ‘when will they stop?’ And I was like it is now a part of life. But you know sometimes it makes me wonder also.
Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: No...no... see Sonakshi how it is, if they find many such mistakes then they will jump from one to another, but because they couldn't find many others, they only found one and they will keep holding onto it, you know?

Sonakshi Sinha: So, you are saying let them hold on to this one only Guruji?
Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Yeah yeah. They can keep holding onto this one.

Sonakshi Sinha: But you know it also sometimes makes me wonder because all these people just attacking me about such a beautiful story and saying that you don't know anything and how can you not know this. For me, the main take of the story was about Lord Rama teaching everyone how to be a better human being, to be a better son, to be a better father, to be a better husband and to be a better person in general. Without taking that learning from him these people just sit and attack me every day and spread negativity like that. It just seems so sad actually!
Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Yes, this only shows their mindset, you know, people's different mindsets that they want to take up something like that. So, for you, you know you should not mind too much. Don't react, don't respond too much on that but you should take it lightly.

Sonakshi Sinha: Yes, I have stopped reacting. Thank you for giving me this perspective that because they can't find any other mistake in me, they keep harping and picking on that one thing! I really like this perspective and I think I am going to now see it in that way. Thank you, Guruji!