nanv apriyaà durviñahaà nåëäà svayam upasthitam
nävedayat sakaruëo duùkhitän drañöum akñamaù
Compassionate Mahätmä Vidura could not stand to see the Pandavas distressed at any time. Therefore he did not disclose this unpalatable and unbearable incident because calamities come of their own accord. [SB 1.13.13]
PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada
According to Niti-sästra (civic laws) one should not speak an unpalatable truth to cause distress to others. Distress comes upon us in its own way by the laws of nature, so one should not aggravate it by propaganda. For a compassionate soul like Vidura, especially in his dealings with the beloved Pandavas, it was almost impossible to disclose an unpalatable piece of news like the annihilation of the Yadu dynasty. Therefore he purposely refrained from it.
When we live in a society of devotees, we naturally encounter weaknesses exhibited by neophyte devotees — simple, serious and grave. For instance, some brahmacari might have been allowed to go home for a week, but didn’t return for three weeks due to slackness and laziness. He may be corrected by his superior. Somebody else is called for a meeting due to continued talking over phone with a college girl even after several warnings and he might be admonished. Some brahmacari is found to have deviated from philosophy in his presentations and has been asked to refrain from preaching for a few years and told to study Srila Prabhupada’s books thoroughly. These are examples of increasing seriousness of the problem.
Individually: When one receives news about such matters, how does one respond to it? If one is a neophyte devotee, one may delight in spreading such news to other devotees spoiling the consciousness of others too. Srila Bhaktivinod thakura says that rectifying the faults of a devotee is only the duty of spiritually potent guardians. Others have no business with it. If one finds any fault with anyone, the matter should be taken to his spiritual guardians, who love him and who can help him. Otherwise a Vaishnava is never interested in mundane gossip as it pollutes one’s seva bhava, spiritual progress and consciousness etc. It can become a perpetual habit which one may not be able to come out and one will become a chronic fault-finder like Ramachandrapuri! No one will want to associate with such a gossip-spreader and thus one will become lonely. For instance, if one encounters a pick-pocket boy, it is better to call the police and hand him over, rather than to oneself handle the matter by giving a tight slap to the boy. Because, in case our slap makes the boy faint on the ground, the public may take objection and give several beatings to the slapper!
Institutionally: Also whenever somebody brings a bad news about another devotee, we may not be sure, to what extent it is true. Often in any institution, matters get exaggerated like Chinese whisper. And with modern day internet and e-mails, things spread virally to thousands of people. And the devotee in discussion may fear ill-reputation and may even bloop from KC. And also people who have heard a bad news about a devotee keep seeing him with a negative perception and avoiding him, which causes utmost pain to the concerned devotee. He feels alienated. Thus, it is best not to handle such matters in our immature stage, but leave it to our superiors wisely. Also it is best not to entertain anyone bringing such gossip and inspire him also not to spread bad vibration. For instance, if someone finds a piece of stool passed by a child in the seminar hall, where a seminar is about to begin in a few minutes and if the stool is stinking, what should one do? A intelligent person should immediately clean that place, throw the stool into garbage dump, put some phenol and clean that place so that when audience assemble, they will not have to smell it. A fool may take the stool in hand and go and distribute a little portion of it to different people, saying how he discovered the stool in a seminar hall, passed by one of the congregation devotee’s child. Thus he spreads misery to others instead of saving others from misery.
A Vaishnava is a sara-grahi, one who looks for essence beyond the externals. It is said,`makshikaa vrnam icchanti, madhum icchanti madhupaah’ `while the flies look for stool even in a flower garden, the honey bees look for honey even in a stool garden’. A sincere devotee knows that all practitioners of KC are like patients in a hospital and Spiritual master is like a Doctor. He has prescribed different instructions for the devotees to rectify their lower natures, grow in their KC and become perfect in the long run. It may take a whole life or many lifetimes to become a perfect pure devotee. Thus one should oversee the apparent faults in devotees and see the brighter side of their personality. By always seeing good side and appreciating, as Lord Caitanya would do with other devotees glorifying them as if he had five mouths, we will create a very positive, healthy, encouraging and magnetic atmosphere that will increase the `priti’ `affection’ between all devotees. This is a vital ingredient for `priti lakshanam’ mentioned by Srila Rupa Goswami, in building a successful community of Vaishnavas.
The above article is an open book essay on Srimad Bhagavatam Canto 1.10-19, written by HG Radheshyam Das for the following question: “One should not become instrument of spreading negativity. Explain this on the basis of relevant verse from chapter 13 and the implications of not following this in life of a practicing devotee, both individually and institutionally.”