In his mystical poems, the renowned Indian mystic philosopher KABIR (1440-1518) pondered on how a student of spirit has to act in practical daily matters in order to live in balance.
— Do not criticize —
One should not indulge in criticizing others. We should not deal with other people’s mistakes, because by dwelling on them they are likely to enter our own state of mind. Wherever one person has to say something negative against the other, a negative atmosphere is bound to develop between these two (even if the criticism is not being voiced)
In India the following story is being told:
Two teachers, looked upon as sages, once came to a rich man who accommodated them with the best of hospitality. One of them thought: “If I can convince the rich man how wise I am, he will probably donate me more than a fair share.” Therefore, as soon as his companion had left the room he turned to his host saying: “I studied the Vedas and the Holy Scriptures. Compared to me my companion is a mule.”
The rich man listened without saying a word. After a short while the first teacher left the room, and the second teacher immediately seized the opportunity to let the rich man know that his companion was “nothing more than an ox, carrying along with him books he does not understand.”
Again, the rich man listened silently. Soon lunch time came, and he served his guests food in bowls covered with napkins. When the two preachers uncovered the bowls, they noticed to their surprise that one bowl was filled with grass and the other with straw.
The rich man explained: “I have to assume that this is the kind of food you like most. One of you called the other a mule, and mules like to eat fresh grass. The other called his companion an ox, and as an ox prefers straw, I served straw.”
Needless to say, these two preachers had learned their lesson, thanks to a great teacher (who was the actual sage in this case).
— Start With Yourself–
The questions is how can we overcome our inclination to criticize one another, which is so common. The masters advise us: If you want to criticize someone, criticize yourself. This has the advantage that you can free yourself from your own mistakes.
When it comes to criticizing ourselves we are normally very generous, because we have difficulties seeing our own shadows and misjudgments, as shows the following story:
A man came to a master and requested to be initiated. The master said to him: “Come back in a month. But beware of lies until then.” The man replied: “That is no problem for me at all, because I never lie.” – “Very well. But should you, against all odds, catch yourself lying at one occasion or another, put aside a pebble each time, and bring the pebbles with you next time you come here.” The man agreed, even though he was convinced that he would not have to bring even one pebble.
When he came home his wife asked him where he had been, and he thought to himself: “If I tell her that I went to see the master she will probably be angry”, and so he made up an excuse. Immediately he became aware that he had actually told a lie, and so he picked up a pebble and put it aside.
One month later he returned to the master, and again requested to be initiated. When the master asked him for his pebbles, he replied: “I accumulated such a mountain of pebbles that I cannot carry them around with me, they are too heavy. I had never paid attention to the mistakes I made. Only when I was asked to pay attention to them did I realize how many there are during each day.”
–Do Not Overestimate Others —
Kabir also advises us not to “praise somebody to the skies”. This advice is not as easy to understand as the advice not to criticize. Why, we may ask, should be not praise someone’s good traits? Is their good example not giving the ability to unfold these traits within ourselves?
This may be correct, but we have to consider one single important aspect: When we have nothing but praise for someone, we get attached to them, and we will follow them, even if they choose a wrong or harmful way, in which case we too, as being attached to them will have to bear the consequences.
Kabir therefore advises that if we feel the urge to glorify someone, it should be God, because if we get attached to God, we will find enlightenment and do not have to return to this world.
Our lesson of living together in balance means neither to look down on others nor to set them on a pedestal, but to meet them in the spirit of equality and impartiality.