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Buddhist Views About Criticism

Buddhism is a spiritual path that encourages followers to renounce attachment to the world and find a more beneficial method of dealing with everyday interactions. Buddha taught that it was critical to counteract the everyday emotions that can cause stress and conflict. The Buddhist beliefs regarding criticism reflect this idea of preserving harmony and avoiding harm to others.

Criticism and Anger

When people are criticized, the criticism often stirs feelings of defensiveness and anger. These feelings can also short-circuit any self-examination that can lead to improvement. Criticism of others often stems from judging others’ conduct too quickly. In finding others deficient in some way, people reassure themselves that they themselves are right. Both of these reactions are in error. Buddhism teaches a more thoughtful analysis of others’ actions, and a quieting of self-defensiveness in order to consider the situation more carefully and react more appropriately.

On Accepting Criticism

Many people find it difficult to accept criticism, especially when it is unfair or misrepresents the true circumstance. When training in Buddhist beliefs, people strive to control their immediate negative reaction to consider how why the person criticizing would think this. They try to put themselves in the other person’s position to determine what miscommunication or misunderstanding might lead them to the incorrect criticism. A serious Buddhist might also examine his own actions to determine if he is, in fact, at fault in some way. Perhaps some word or action led to the criticism or misunderstanding. In this way, Buddha taught people to control their anger and increase their insight into other people.

On Giving Criticism To Others

Buddha taught that humans’ basic perceptions are incorrect. They may not have the full information and may be jumping to a conclusion based on self-interest or misunderstanding. Buddhists are encouraged to ask: “Is it true?” They are more likely to try to get more information before making the criticism to ensure that they have understood the situation correctly. Buddhists also try very hard not to incite anger. If they find it necessary to criticize to save someone from error or harm, they attempt to do so in a mild and informative way, always trying to avoid arousing defensive reactions. A Buddhist will ask himself: “Is it kind?” Finally, a Buddhist will ask himself: “Is it necessary?” Will not questioning the action lead to some kind of harm to the person or those around him? If so, then it is incumbent in Buddhism to say something to prevent harm to others.

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2 comments

  1. Luminous 26 March, 2013 at 02:12

    I agree with the things written here. However, empathising to this extent will certain people might be quite impossible or “hard” at least considering a type of person characterized by the most negative of adjectives.. For example, someone really “abusive, ill mannered and natured, someone who is a rapist, a cold blooded murderer, someone who robbed you off, a person who regardless of however much you try and struggle to treat kindly still continuing to be in a state of self-denial and refusing criticism of any kind might push one’s limits. Some emotional maybe even physical responses can almost be predicted given that we are all human and we share common interests and no matter how much these emotions or humanly ways are tamed or excercised in order to create a better impression of man himself, some reactions towards stimulus will be inevitable. Think about a ruthless and abusive man who hit someone on the street and then came to you and through a few punches at your face too. Now, how will you react to such behavior? Not any kind of philosophy or spiritual teaching will make me just walk away or mildly criticize this person so he can better himself. My first reaction would definitely be self-defense, then I might in my own defense still throw a few punches at him and then I’d be uttering abusive language maybe because of the initial “violent” and “physical” nature of the happening itself. However, later when I go home, I would think about my own actions too and feel sorry for my own behavior. If the initial stimulator is not violent in nature in the physical sense but rather a verbal attack on my personality I might be able to reconsider my feelings and absorb them into my perception of how I see my attacker and myself. So, when we talk about criticizing, the nature of the thing being subject to our criticism and deciding from who’s point of view we will make this criticism is an important factor. It’s easy to crticize from an all-observing third person point of view but when we are in a situation ourselves it’s not so easy considering certain stimulators and human reactions.

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