Fault Finding: A Critical Mistake
Posted on July 22, 2017 | Our Religion is Love
“A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.” Muhammad Ali
There was a cartoon I saw recently on Facebook. It had two people turning away from each other a little, and one person is saying "you've changed." And the other person is saying "I hope so." I thought that was actually a very important point to make.
For those who are on a spiritual journey change is inevitable. It should be anyway. An integral part of our spiritual journey is ‘change’. That is, to improve; to grow. To ‘grow and improve’ refers to that change that takes us from where we began to where we're heading in our journey.
In the Bhagavad Gita Sri Krishna talks about many different things. Such as the nature of the soul, the nature of the Supreme Soul, the nature of this world, the body, etc. There’s a chapter called "The Divine and The Demoniac Natures” where Krishna talks about the consciousness of a divine or a transcendentalist (a spiritual person), and of course the opposite of that (referring to the person with a demoniac nature). One of the things He talks about is, for someone who is in divine consciousness, they have an aversion for fault finding. So this is one of the symptoms of a person who's actually changing for the good; someone who is growing. They cultivate or develop an aversion for fault finding.
That's a fairly strong word, an "aversion." It's like, have you ever stepped in dog poo? You know how averse you are to that? You have to actually throw your shoes out. You cannot clean the shoes, there's an aversion to the smell.
So Krishna describes we should develop and cultivate an aversion to fault finding. Fault finding is actually a kind of poison. It's a poison of the heart and it's a poison of the mind.
Unfortunately, it is very common, particularly in this day and age of the internet. You know you go to any YouTube clip or any forum, and people are criticizing each other. For example, I regularly look on YouTube for different tunes to learn and improve my guitar playing. Someone is going out of their way to teach some tune, and underneath in the comment section you have people criticizing, "Oh you're not very good, might as well give up." And so many other types of negative/fault finding comments. So fault finding, unfortunately, is a very common experience.
In the Vedic texts and yoga wisdom as passed down by the sages, it's very clearly described that we should try to give up this trait of fault finding if we actually want to be happy in life. Because fault finding is just like drinking poison.
There’s a nice story that illustrates this.
There was a great king who was aware that he was not going to be living much longer, so he wanted to pass on the running of the kingdom to one of his two sons. So, he called his first son in and said "I want you to go throughout the kingdom and find a good person."
So, the son went off for one year travelling around the kingdom. He went to all the different people who he thought would have that quality of goodness. He went to teachers, yogis, spiritualists, farmers. He went and spoke to, interviewed, and got to know many, many people for a whole year as he travelled around the kingdom.
When he came back to see his father, his father asked him, "Did you find a good person?"
And the son replied "When I started off I thought it would be easy to do, but actually as I went around and spoke to all kinds of people, and as I got to know them, as I got to see their behaviour, I could not find one person who did not have a fault, who was a perfectly good person."
So, the more he got to know people he could actually see there's a fault in every single person.
Then the king sent his other son out. He said, "I want you to go throughout the kingdom and find a really bad person." So in the same way the second son went around for a year going to all kind of places like prisons, spoke to many different people, the criminals, thugs.
After a year he also came back and reported to his father. His father said, "Did you find a very bad person?" He said, "I thought it would be very easy when I set off, but actually the more I got to know people I saw that everybody has a good quality. There's actually good in everybody. I could not find a truly bad person."
I'm sure you know what the moral is, and which son got to take over the responsibilities of the kingdom. It's the second person who actually could not find a perfectly bad person, who saw good in everyone.
We’re advised that this unwillingness to find fault is something we should cultivate. These days it’s very popular to practice mindfulness meditation where you get to be very aware of how you live your life. You could do an exercise where you go through a day and just see, even if we don't verbally say something against someone, how often in our mind are we actually looking at others and very easily - unfortunately too easily - finding fault in their behaviour and character.
I’m sure you know about the 12 Step Program. In it they talk about just taking it one day at a time when trying to overcome an addiction. So, in this ‘No Fault Challenge’, just try to go one day when you don't find a fault in anyone at all: your mother, your father, husband, wife, drivers on the road, and just see how you go. See how many days you can go actually not finding fault, at least not acting on what's there in the mind. It'll be for our benefit and for the benefit of others.
There are words of wisdom from Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur, who is a great saintly person in our yoga lineage. There is a particular list of twenty-five things which will help us on our spiritual journey, a short sequence of ideas. Number four says, "Let me not desire anything but the highest good for my worst enemy."
Spiritual consciousness is very different than material consciousness. In fact it's described to be the difference of night and day. Of course, in material consciousness we wish the worst for not only our worst enemies, but even people who may slight us. So Srila Bhaktisiddhanta is saying "Let me not desire anything but the highest good for my worst enemy." This is actually spiritual consciousness.
It's not going to happen overnight. It's not like an artificial thing that we can fake, but it gives us a little insight. He also says "Look within, amend yourself rather than pry to the frailties of others." He says, "When faults in others misguide and delude you, have patience, introspect, find faults in yourself. Know that others cannot harm you unless you harm yourself."
This tendency to find fault can actually be something which is a positive thing, if we can redirect it to our own selves. It doesn't mean we have to be down on ourselves and get depressed about it. When we make time for introspection in this way, we can see there are areas in our life, different parts of our character, where it could be a good thing if we were to change or even eliminate them. So, really, it isn't a negative thing. It's actually the most positive thing.
This tendency to find fault can find it's perfection when we look at ourselves and then amend ourselves rather than trying to control and amend others. The easiest way to bring about this change of consciousness is known as Hare Nama Sankirtan, or the regular hearing and chanting of the pure holy names of the Supreme. This singing and chanting of the Holy Names purifies the heart and the mind of all kinds of unwanted things which are covering us – in this case the tendency to find fault in others.