Ignore Public Criticism? Sometimes, Yes.


By K S Venkataraman

I heard this story by Sivakumar Ayya on Tirumandiram, a canonical work on Saiva Siddhantam in Tamil with 3000 four-line terse verses, many of them in what is called Sandhya bhasha with words having esoteric and hidden meanings. This makes it impossible to translate many of the verses into comprehensible English. You need a good commentator such as Sivakumar Ayya to explain the import of the verses.

In any case, this is his advice on the need for us to develop indifference to public criticism when we are trying to do something good:

There was a rich man in a village. After experiencing everything life offered him, he saw the futility of all his worldly pursuits. So, he gave up all his wealth and became a mendicant.

As a mendicant, he was lying down on the floor on a roadside public place using bricks as a pillow. Two local village women passing by recognized him. They were talking: “Look, this man was rich. He left everything and became a sannyasi. See how he is now lying on the floor!”

Her companion commented: “Uh! If he is really a sannyasi, why does he need bricks as a headrest for sleeping?”
The mendicant was listening. Seeing their point, he removed the bricks he was using as pillows and was trying to fall asleep.

The two women were returning after their errands. Seeing that the mendicant was sleeping without even the brick as his headrest, the first woman told her friend: “See, he heard your comment and is sleeping without the headrest. He is indeed a true sannyasi.”

Her cynical companion commented: “What sannyasi is he, trying to overhear the conversation between two women?”     ♣

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