by Gauranga Darshan Das

“The intelligence that discriminates between right and wrong is great, but the heart that accommodates even wrongdoers and uplifts them is greater.”

What will you do when someone misbehaves? Of course, it’s natural to disapprove his action. But do you tend to disown him or again continue to interact with him? That probably depends on the extent of his misbehavior and your relationship with him. It’s easier to excuse people who are close to us, but not others! And it may be justified to excuse small mistakes, but not serious ones! Isn’t it?

Errors cannot be Endorsed

Generally, our natural response towards the inappropriate actions or attitudes of people is disapproval or condemnation. In fact, such disapproval shows that one is sensible. One should have the right discrimination to understand what is good and what is bad, with reference to standard social customs, moral codes, scriptural principles and ideal teachings.

When a sensible person commits an error, he regrets for it, and when others commit such errors, he disapproves of it. If a mistake is not regretted or disapproved, it could be indirectly or unconsciously understood as an acceptable behavior that eventually becomes a new standard. Therefore, when people’s mood or behavior deviates from the acceptable standards, it’s essential to disapprove it and take corrective actions.

Once, Indra, the lord of rains, became puffed up of his material wealth and position. The omniscient Supreme Lord Krsna disapproved of Indra’s false pride internally and wanted to teach him a lesson. So, Krsna inspired the cowherd community to stop Indra puja (the customary worship to appease Indra for the bestowal of rains) and worship the Govardhana Hill instead.

Rectification is not Rejection

Disapproval is natural, but disowning is dreadful. Errors cannot be endorsed, but one’s disapproval of wrongdoings shouldn’t make one insensitive to the wrongdoer. “Hate the sin, not the sinner!” is the golden principle exemplified by great personalities. No one is perfect in this world, thus an average human being unknowingly or even knowingly commits mistakes or sometimes become subjected to anger, pride, envy and so on. Considering this, mature leaders try to empathetically help their dependents to come out of their weaknesses, but don’t disown them. Not being careful while driving on the highway is certainly wrong, but not allowing an admission for him in the hospital when he meets an accident is violence.

Doctors disapprove the bad eating habits of patients that worsen their health, but they don’t deny giving them medicine. Similarly, one may not approve others’ misdeeds, and be strict with them for their betterment, but one shouldn’t be unkind towards their weak dependents and withdraw their shelter.

When Lord Krsna stopped Indra puja, Indra became furious and sent devastating rains on Vrndavana to destroy the village. But Krsna lifted the Govardhana Hill and protected His people. Indra’s torrents of rain couldn’t cause a slight torment for the people of Vrndavana. Indra was defeated. Although Krsna overpowered Indra, He did it as a loving father who compassionately corrects his adamant child. Krsna’s motive was rectification, not rejection.

Compassion and Forgiveness are the Keys

Krsna protected Vrajavasis from Indra’s fury, but didn’t punish Indra. Just by this act, Indra was completely humiliated. He went to Krsna to apologize. Not to further embarrass Indra, Krsna kindly granted him a private audience and heard his humble prayers. Krsna didn’t dethrone Indra as king of heaven, or disown him as a devotee. Krsna forgave Indra and gracefully allowed him to continue his services in the universal management.

Similarly, once Brahma became bewildered and kidnapped Krsna’s calves and cowherd boy friends in Vrndavana. But later he realized his mistake and apologized in front of Krsna with deep regret and humble prayers. Krsna forgave Brahma and told him to continue his services.

Once, Jaya and Vijaya, the doorkeepers of Vaikuntha stopped the four great sages called the Kumaras from entering the Lord’s abode. Being obstructed, the Kumaras cursed the doorkeepers. Then Lord Visnu immediately appeared on the scene and personally begged forgiveness from the Kumaras for the mistake of His servants. Visnu disapproved the disrespectful act of His people, but He didn’t disown them and took responsibility for their mistake.

The Supreme Lord not only forgives His own devotees when they do mistakes, but He is ready to forgive even the demons. Ravana, the king of demons, kidnapped Mother Sita and separated Her from Lord Rama. But Rama was willing to forgive Ravana if he admits his mistakes and seeks shelter. He declared this emphatically when Ravana’s brother, Vibhisana came to take shelter of Rama.

The devotees, who are the bona fide representatives of the Lord’s compassion and forgiving attitude, also adopt this mood of the Lord in their efforts to bring people towards Him. One who has a big heart to forgive others is very dear to the Lord.

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.” (SB 9.15.40) Lord Siva, the foremost Vaisnava, punished Daksa for his arrogance, but when Lord Brahma requested him, Siva revived Daksa’s life. Siva told Brahma that his punishment was like that of a kind father who corrects his misbehaving child. That is the extent of the compassion and forgiveness of great souls.

Our Hope: God Never Disowns Us

A child may play in dust and become dirty, but the mother will pick him up, hug him and clean him. That’s her love. Similarly, even if a living entity or a devotee is distracted or deviated at times, the Supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa never disowns him, but lovingly helps him to come out of the situation and reinstates him in his position. Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gīta:

api cet su-durācāro
bhajate mām ananya-bhāk
sādhur eva sa mantavyaḥ
samyag vyavasito hi saḥ

“Even if one commits the most abominable action, if he is engaged in devotional service he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated in his determination.” (BG 9.30)

An ordinary person might break relationship with others just because they act against his will. But God never breaks His relationship with the living entities although they act against His will millions of times. Even if the conditioned soul commits such abominable activities and becomes an insect, or a hog or a worm in the stool also, Lord Kṛṣṇa is willing to stay right in his heart as Paramātma or Supersoul. That is His unlimited kindness due to which He can never disown us. And that kindness of Kṛṣṇa is our hope. However, one shouldn’t take undue advantage of Kṛṣṇa’s compassion and purposefully perform wrong deeds.

Although Kṛṣṇa is sensible to the situation of the conditioned soul and patiently waits for the living entity to gradually develop his innate love of God, He doesn’t disown him and leave him to suffer in this material world. He inspires him to come back to the spiritual world, for it is the ultimate way of attaining eternal spiritual happiness. He descends into this world in various incarnations, He sends His representatives, the spiritual teachers and He makes Holy Scriptures available – all to educate and inspire the conditioned soul to come back to Him for a life of eternal happiness.

Strictness leads to eliminating a wrongdoer, but kindness leads to accommodating him in some way. A mature leader needs a balance of both. So, taking inspiration from Kṛṣṇa, let us not disown people for their wrong deeds, although we may disapprove of them.

Gauranga Darshan Das, a disciple of His Holiness Radhanath Swami, is dean of the Bhaktivedanta Vidyapitha at ISKCON Govardhan Eco Village. He has written study guides, including Bhagavata Subodhini and Caitanya Subodhini, and teaches Bhagavatam courses at several places in India. 

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