by Madhavananda (das) GGS (Gopal Jiu Publications – IN)
Correction and chastisement is the business of guru. Those who aspire for bhakti should be careful not to try to cheaply thrust themselves into the position of guru, the position of Krishna. Therefore Bhaktivinode instructs us that if we want bhakti then, guru-abhimāna tyaji — “give up the abhimāna or conceit that you are guru.”
Guru is that person in whom we have faith. The injunction for vaiṣṇavas is that we should not instruct others unless they have faith in us — aśraddhadhāne vimukhe’pyaśṛṇvati yaścopadeśaḥ śiva-nāmāparādaḥ. When we neglect, vidhiṁ vinā, this injunction of śāstra the result is utpātāyaiva kalpate — an unnecessary disturbance is created both in our personal bhajan and in society.
How does this unnecessary disturbance manifest in society? When others see us bestowing our “blessings” upon anyone we choose in the form of instruction and chastisement, then they think, “Oh I can, or even should do that also.” Soon we have a world of self-appointed reformers — self-appointed gurus. A world in which, disregarding śāstric injunction, everyone feels free to instruct others, whether they have faith in them or not. The result of this is chaos communication — millions of people talking “at” each other, with no faith and no real listening.
This doesn’t mean that we should not speak up and warn someone if their house is on fire, or even forcibly pull them out if we are able. However, if they won’t listen to you and you are not strong enough to pull them out on your own, then what can be done?
We can only run to the fire department and report the emergency.
We can pray to higher authorities for the benefit of such persons. As Prahlad Maharaja prays to Nrsimhadev in Bhāgavatam 5.18.9: svasty astu viśvasya khalaḥ prasīdatāṁ — “May there be good fortune throughout the universe and may all envious persons be pacified.”
Aside from this, there is one other, often neglected solution for helping faithless persons — teaching by our own example. By doing so we may be able to generate faith in those who don’t have faith in us.
When we live what we speak, when we teach by example, then we will have the right to speak and correct others. Anything else is just the subtle sex-life of cheaply wanting to be guru.
My revered spiritual master Sri Srimad Gour Govinda Maharaja instructed us:
… You have no right to chastise, no right to correct anyone. You are not guru. Guru has that right. If you see something and you have a good heart, “He is doing something wrong that is detrimental to his bhakti.” Then go to him, pay obeisances, and tell him confidentially, not in front of others, “O my brother, I see this thing and it pains me very much that you are doing this and this. This is a great impediment on the path of devotion. I fear you will not be able to make any advancement. Therefore I am coming to you and telling you. O my friend, please don’t do it. Be serious about your bhajana.” Tell him in such a humble way. Speak to him confidentially, not in the presence of others. If he is serious, he will admit, “You are my great friend. I am blind to my own faults. You pointed them out, so I will be careful.” He will accept it. But if you speak in the presence of others the reverse effect will be there….
Devotee: Sometimes I may want to correct someone, but I can see that the person won’t accept what I have to say.
Gour Govinda Swami: So why shall you tell him? You should think, “He won’t accept it, so why shall I tell him? Let him go. As you sow, so shall you reap. What can I say to such a person?” (The Worship of Sri Guru, p. 43, 48, 49. Evening program, San Francisco, 31 May 1994.)