Let's face it; sectarianism is dumb.
It provides many people these days a seemingly reasonable alibi to avoid acknowledging any concept of a Supreme Being in their lives. In recent years there have been a few bestseller books positing the idea that many of the ills of society can be attributed to not just religious sectarianism, but religion in and of itself. These authors explain theistic contemplation as an undesirable remnant of our evolutionary progress from primordial goo to an Anglo-saxon academic.
For those who accept that there is a God, sectarianism is a hindrance towards developing a relationship with Him. The mentality that "God only loves us" or "We are the only one's who know God" is difficult for any serious devotee of any tradition to maintain – simply because it's not true.
Nonetheless, it seems as if when we human beings turn towards divinity and ponder upon the absolute we can get pretty contentious with one another. Indeed, some of the most horrific acts in recorded history have been perpetrated by those who claim divine authority.
So I try to avoid a sectarian outlook, or any mentality that God favors me over anyone else. In my experience, members of ISKCON readily accomodate such liberal aspirations. In the communities I've participated in, anyone who carries such an exclusive perspective on themselves has a difficult time earning the respect of their peers. After all, who appreciates someone who looks down on everyone around them? Many times I've heard devotees say, "If we meditate on the good of others, we take on those good qualities. If we meditate on the bad in others we take on those bad qualities." Such is the power of association.
Still, the truth must be understood. If we observe something that is clearly insidious, making such discrimination is desirable. We may also need to communicate such observations to family and friends that we have a responsibility towards in order to edify or, at least, protect them.
So criticism isn't always wrong, neither is it always right. We must learn how to discriminate in such a way that helps us to avoid the undesirable and, at the same time, avoid making offense which is also undesirable.
How do we know when our 'discrimination' has turned into 'fault-finding'? I think this is a matter of personal introspection. We have to try to see our motivation.
Do we honestly wish the best for the person we are criticising? If not then we should be very cautious that we aren't guilty of even worse maliciousness than we are trying to condemn.
Are we completely certain that our observations are correct? Wrongly accusing a person of something for which they are innocent is a grave error with huge karmic consequences.
Are we over-confident in our ability to read others' motivations? This is a bad habit that we can smugly slip into. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to accurately interpret the multi-dimensional realm of what motivates people to do either good or bad deeds.We mortals just don't have the ability to conclusively determine such areas of subtlety. Best to be humble.
These same questions can also be asked collectively. Does our religious group honestly wish the best for those we are condemning or are we content that they will just 'suffer in hell for all eternity'? I should point out that I've not encountered any ISKCON member who thinks this way. Growing up in the 'Bible-belt' of the USA, however, this was standard fare. Two different denominations would have church services across the street from each other and both would think that the others were doomed to hell for not accepting the particular tenets of their tradition.
Thus far I've discussed, as far as I'm able, the type of fault-finding that ordinary upright people contend with. I'm just sharing my personal thoughts based on my own experience and struggles, I don't claim any supernatural ability to understand this subject matter. I hope nobody takes anything I've written as conclusive truth.
Just recently I was shown an example of fault-finding that seems to take the art to a whole new level. Apparently if you are truly dedicated to criticising someone, once you've exhausted the areas where you honestly feel there are shortcomings, you can then just make up new faults and start criticising those.
See for yourself: Watch video here.
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