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The Vedic Perspective on Criticism

According to Vedic rishis, anyone dedicated to criticizing others without the willingness to accept criticism is a Murkha or a fool. But this doesn’t mean that we must not criticize or that criticism by itself is bad. Just that before we criticize others we need to be willing to accept criticism with the same fairness we expect from the person we are planning to criticize.

Exclusive to Vedic Management Centre by U. Mahesh Prabhu

Let me start with a tale from my book – RISHI TALES 1:

The old king, on his deathbed, told his son, “My boy, be good and do good, and never disregard our minister’s comments or suggestions.”

After the death of the king, this prince ascended the throne.

The young king was never happy with the old minister for he always found some fault with the king’s ways.

The young king bore the minister’s criticism patiently for five years but one day, he could hold back no longer and burst out, in open court “Old man, don’t you ever find any virtue in me?” In fact, the king had decided to dismiss the minister that day.

All the courtiers looked at both the king and the minister with anxiety. “My lord,” said the minister gravely, “I will reveal today what your great virtue is, now that I am going to retire. Your greatest virtue is you have silently borne all my criticism. None but a king of great nobility could have done that, I salute you, my young master, as I leave!”

Tears welled up in the king’s eyes. He descended from his throne and embracing the old minister beseeched to him to stay on. “No, my master,” said the minister, adding “one should not continue in the same work forever. One must know when to retire.” Saying thus, the minister retired – for good.

This is just one of many tales from ancient Vedic India, which speaks subtly, yet impactfully, the virtue of handing as well as handling criticism. In this story, originally written by an unknown rishi in Vedic Sanskrit, neither the king nor the minister is shown in poor light. The minister’s approach to criticism was with humility and objectivism. All Vedic texts from Vedas, Upanishads, Aranyakas until Arthashastra unanimously accept that “Knowledge is that which instills humility” or “विद्या ददाति विनयम्.”

When an individual bears criticism, better known in Vedic Sanskrit as वितन्डम् (Vitandam) or निन्दनम् (Nindanam), with the serenity of mind (s)he was regarded as पंडितम् (Panditam) or a wise person. Giving, accepting as well as understanding criticism was considered as the hallmark of learning, civility, nobility as well as wisdom in Vedic India.

For example, read the following Shloka from Neeti Shastra:

 

धृति: क्षमा दम: अस्तेयं शौचमिन्द्रियनिग्रह: ।
धी: विद्या सत्यमक्रोधो दशकम् धर्म लक्षणम् ।।

 

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