An analysis of four combinations of feedback-givers and feedback-takers.

by Gauranga Darshan Das

Mistakes are common, but are corrections common too? May not be! Every mistake need not be corrected by someone, as that could restrict a person in improving by oneself. Every small pain or sickness may not need a medication, as the body has self-healing capacity. Sometimes little rest will rejuvenate the body.

Some serious diseases, however, certainly need medication or even a surgery. Similarly, some serious mistakes need strict correction or even a punishment or atonement. Giving a feedback or correction for someone’s mistakes is an art. It requires responsibility, maturity and a well-wishing nature. Similarly, receiving feedback and working on it is also an art, which requires honesty, humility and sincerity.

This article presents four combinations of feedback-givers and feedback-takers based on some episodes of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam.

  1. Good-Good Combination
  2. Good-Bad Combination
  3. Bad-Good Combination
  4. Bad-Bad Combination

1. Good-Good Combination

In this case the feedback-giver and the feedback-taker both are genuine. Even a noble person could sometimes do an activity that may not be the best. But he or she doesn’t deliberately do so with a negative intention. When such persons receive a feedback or correction from a well-wisher, they accept it gratefully, without justifying their mistakes. The good feedback-giver also doesn’t intend to just find fault and discourage or demotivate the person, but honestly desires to help him or her with a pure heart.

The fourth canto of the Bhāgavatam describes the story of King Dhruva. Dhruva’s younger brother Uttama was once killed by a powerful Yakṣa in the Himālaya Mountains. Overwhelmed with lamentation and anger, Dhruva went out to attack Alakāpurī, the city of the Yakṣas. A fierce battle took place between Dhruva and Yakṣas. Dhruva started indiscriminately killing the Yakṣas, almost to the point of destroying their race entirely. Seeing Dhruva killing so many innocent Yakṣas, his grandfather Svāyambhuva Manu approached him and said, “My dear Dhruva, Enough! Excessive anger is the sinful path of ignorance. It doesn’t befit our dynasty. It has been proven that you are affectionate to your brother. But for the fault of one Yakṣa, you are killing too many. Your actions have been very disrespectful to Kuvera, the king of Yakṣas. You should immediately pacify Kuvera.” Receiving this feedback and well-intended advice from Manu, Dhruva stopped fighting. Kuvera became happy with Dhruva and gave him a benediction too. Dhruva Mahārāja then returned to his capital city. In this case, both the feedback-giver and the taker are in good spirits and thus their interaction resulted in positive outcome.

One has to be honest enough to admit a mistake, humble enough to receive feedback and sincere enough to work on the correction. Thus, one can improve oneself.

2. Good-Bad Combination

In the Good-Bad combination, the feedback-giver is honest but the feedback-taker is haughty. In this connection, there is story from the fourth canto of the Bhāgavatam. There was a king named Vena who was enthroned as a king by great sages and brāhmaṇas. Vena, however, became proud and out of his innate cruelty, he tormented innocent people. He insulted great people and stopped brāhmaṇas from performing sacrifices and worship of Lord Viṣṇu.

Considering the difficulties of the citizens due to Vena’s atrocities, the sages went and advised him, “A king should protect citizens by maintaining varṇāśrama and worshipping the Supreme Lord. So please do not stop the sacrifices and disrespect the devatās.” Vena arrogantly retorted, “The king is God. He is the reservoir of all devatās. Your affection for devatās is exactly like the affection of an unchaste woman for a paramour. Give up such foolishness, and worship me with all your offerings and sacrifices.” The sages were furious at his impudence and blasphemy of Lord Viṣṇu. They killed Vena simply by chanting mantras. Although the sages gave feedback on Vena’s activities with all good intentions, arrogant Vena didn’t receive them. That caused his own ruination.

A proud person misses the opportunity to elevate one’s consciousness, if he or she fails to accept the good advice of well-wishers. One has to humbly receive the suggestions of wise people for one’s own benefit.

3. Bad-Good Combination

Here although the feedback-giver is not in good spirits, the feedback-taker is essence-seeking. Sometimes the “words” of a proud person may be truthful, but the “intentions” are malicious. Although the heart of a person who gives a suggestion is filled with meanness, a noble person tries to recognize the good part of it.

When Dhruva was fiver years old, he attempted to sit on the lap of his father Uttānpāda. His stepmother Suruci then harshly spoke to him, “Although you are the king’s son, you are not born of my womb. So, you are not qualified to sit on his lap. You should go to the forest and worship Lord Viṣṇu and then take birth as my son in your next life, only then you may qualify.” Her insensitive words pierced Dhruva’s tender heart. Being disappointed Dhruva ran to his mother Sunīti, who then told him, “What your stepmother said is true. If you desire to sit on your father’s throne or lap, or for the fulfillment of any desire that you have, you have to worship Lord Vāsudeva. He showers the affection of millions of mothers on His devotees.”

Suruci’s intention in advising worship of Lord Viṣṇu to Dhruva was to impress her husband. Suruci wasn’t a great devotee of Viṣṇu, but she wanted to show off in front of Uttānapāda that she was a devotee and therefore recommending Dhruva to worship Viṣṇu. Further she was so proud and envious of Sunīti. But Sunīti, being a mature devotee, took the good part of Suruci’s words. She also told Dhruva to worship Viṣṇu, but with a devoted heart. She never hated Suruci, although Suruci hated her. Accepting Sunīti’s good advice, Dhruva worshiped Lord Viṣṇu and eventually became a pure devotee and fulfilled all his desires.

If we are humble and devoted, we can see good in the words of even envious people, without envying them. Thus, although the person who gives us a suggestion may not have good intentions, we can still see the suggestion in positive light, if it’s of some worth.

4. Bad-Bad Combination

In this case, both feedback-giver and the taker are weak-hearted or selfish. They cannot benefit each other or anyone else. Feedback-givers of this type may speak so-called dharma or moral values just to suit their own purposes.

Once the devatās and the demons together churned the milk ocean. This event, popularly known as Samudra-manthana, is recorded in the eighth canto of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam. When the nectar or amṛta appeared from the churning, the demons immediately snatched the nectar pot. But instead of distributing it equally among themselves they started quarrelling for the first share of it, each saying, “Me first (ahaṁ pūrvam), not you!” Every demon desired to drink the nectar first.

Among the demons some were strong and some were weak. Being unable to fight, the weaker demons gave feedback to the stronger demons. They said, “The devatās also worked hard in churning the milk ocean to produce the nectar. According to dharma, they should also get the share.” The stronger demons paid no need to this feedback. Of course, the weaker demons never intended to share the nectar with the devatās, but they started speaking dharma, just because they didn’t have the ability to fight with the other demons to drink the nectar first.

The first concern of a demoniac person is personal sense gratification. Thus, materialistic people regularly compete, fight, disagree and war among themselves. Unless they are trained to satisfy the senses of God, there cannot be peace in the society.

The Best Combination

The first combination is the best combination in the above four cases. Mistakes are common in this world, but one who commits mistakes must accept them and receive feedbacks for improvement. Due to a strong sense of selfishness and self-righteousness, arrogant people cannot take any feedback for their misdeeds. They tend to think whatever they think, do or speak is all right. Just as an already filled pot cannot take any more contents into it, when one’s mind is filled with pride and greed, one cannot accept any well-intended advice. But if one is open to receive corrections from guru, or other Vaiṣṇavas, one can do great service to oneself, others and the Lord.

And those who correct others’ mistakes must do so with a well-intended heart and responsibility, and not to show one’s own superiority or dominion over others. A feedback-giver must communicate the feedback in a dignified way, and at an appropriate time. If necessary, one may be strong in giving feedback like Kṛṣṇa chastised Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gīta, but ultimately that should inspire the other person, not demotivate, discourage or intimidate him or her.

When the feedback-giver and feedback-taker both are in right spirit and consciousness, individually and collectively there is an improvement in the quality of service to the Supreme Lord, the community of His devotees and humanity in general.

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