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One Has No Right To Say That The Other Is Wicked

We are always making this mistake in judging others; we are always inclined to think that our little mental universe is all that is; our ethics, our morality, our sense of duty, our sense of utility, are the only things that are worth having.

The more we learn, the more we find out how ignorant we are, how multiform and multi-sided is this mind of man.

When I was a boy, I used to criticise the ascetic practices of my countrymen; great preachers in our own land have criticised them; the greatest man that was ever born, Buddha himself, criticised them.

But all the same, as I am growing older, I feel that I have no right to judge. Sometimes I wish that, in spite of all their incongruities, I had one fragment of their power to do and suffer. Often I think that my judgment and my criticism do not proceed from any dislike of torture, but from sheer cowardice — because I cannot do it — I dare not do it. Then, you see that strength, power, and courage are things which are very peculiar.

 We generally say, ‘A courageous man, a brave man, a daring man’, but we must bear in mind that courage or bravery or any other trait does not always characterize the man. The same man who would rush to the mouth of a cannon shrinks from the knife of the surgeon; and another man who never dares to face a gun will calmly bear a severe surgical operation, if need be.

Now, in judging others you must always define your terms of courage or greatness. The man whom I am criticizing as not good may be wonderfully so in some points in which I am not.

The whole universe is one of perfect balance. I do not know, but some day we may wake up and find that the mere worm has something which balances our manhood. The most wicked person may have some good qualities that I entirely lack. I see that every day of my life. Look at the savage! I wish I had such a splendid physique. He eats, he drinks, to his heart’s content, without knowing perhaps what sickness is, while I am suffering every minute. How many times would I have been glad to have changed my brain for his body!

The whole universe is only a wave and a hollow; there can be no wave without a hollow. Balance everywhere. You have one thing great, your neighbor has another thing great. When you are judging man and woman, judge them by the standard of their respective greatness. One cannot be in another’s shoes. The one has no right to say that the other is wicked.

From The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, (Kolkata: Advaita Ashrama, 2016), 2.24-6.