A spiritually elevated person is sensitive to being unduly praised. He feels uncomfortable. Although people who praise him may be well-meaning, but he nevertheless feels uncomfortable.
He feels uncomfortable because, for one thing, such praise only reminds him of his limitations, his shortcomings, his weaknesses, his decadence, his faults, etc.
He knows that the Way to Perfection (Jeevan Padavee) is through self-criticism and not through self-adulation. He also knows that the success (abidance in Mool) is not the same thing as worldly recognition.
The Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) teaches us that the worldly praise (honor, recognition, glory, grandeur, ਦੁਨੀਆਵੀ ਇੱਜਤ ਦਾ ਮਾਣ…) is false and temporary, which inflates one’s ego and separates him from his Mool (Source, Jot, Truth…). Hence, it puts one on a wrong path.
- ਮਨਮੁਖ ਅਹੰਕਾਰੁ ਸਲਾਹਦੇ ਹਉਮੈ ਮਮਤਾ ਵਾਦੁ ॥ ਜਿਨ ਸਾਲਾਹਨਿ ਸੇ ਮਰਹਿ ਖਪਿ ਜਾਵੈ ਸਭੁ ਅਪਵਾਦੁ ॥: Manmukhs (perverse) loud arrogance (pride, self-conceit…), egotism and attachment; and (because of this, they cause) quarrel (controversy, dispute, argument…). They, whom they praise, die away; and all (those who do praising – Manmukhs) pine away in wrangling (i.e., this chain or order of praise-slander is unavailing, useless, futile…). (sggs 301).
To the contrary, however, a fraud or an unwise person (i.e., Manmukh, Sakaakat, Mayadhaaree…) deems false to be real and enjoys self-glorification, or being praised, glorified or recognized by others, because he is not able to understand the ridiculousness of such praise. He fails to recognize the fact that such glorification is an implied insult. One’s intellect gets plundered when it follows Maya.
- ਦੁਨੀਆ ਕੀਆ ਵਡਿਆਈਆ ਕਵਨੈ ਆਵਹਿ ਕਾਮਿ ॥: Worldly praises are of no use (sggs 45).
ਦੁਨੀਆ ਕੀਆ ਵਡਿਆਈਆ ਨਾਨਕ ਸਭਿ ਕੁਮਿਤ ॥੨॥: O Nanak! (If the Divine is forgotten) All worldly praises are like bad friends. ||2|| (sggs 319).
Not only that, those who utter false praises are false themeselves. Sonner or later, their falsehood gets exposed.
- ਕੂੜੁ ਠਗੀ ਗੁਝੀ ਨਾ ਰਹੈ ਕੂੜੁ ਮੁਲੰਮਾ ਪਲੇਟਿ ਧਰੇਹੁ ॥ ਕੂੜੀ ਕਰਨਿ ਵਡਾਈਆ ਕੂੜੇ ਸਿਉ ਲਗਾ ਨੇਹੁ ॥: Falsehood and deception wrapped up in false gilding remain NOT undetected. (False ones) utter false praises, (for they) love falsehood (sggs 311).
On the other hand, a truly Wise person (the Gurmukh, Daas, Jan, Bhagt) is always suspicious of praise. In other words, he never accepts it at its face value. Since he is after “Parmaarath” (Supreme Truth, Excellent Thing, Spiritual Realization, Supreme Objective, Supreme Wealth, Spiritual Knowledge …), he is careful for he knows he is walking on a razor’s edge to reach his life’s ultimate Goal of Mool-Abidance.
- ਗੁਰ ਕੈ ਸਬਦਿ ਸਮਾਈਐ ਪਰਮਾਰਥੁ ਜਾਣੈ ॥੨॥: By being absorbed in the Gur- Shabad, know the “Parmaarath” (Supreme Truth …). (sggs 419).
A truly spiritual person is not so much interested in self-glorification, recognition, or praise as in improving himself. He knows praise can be a temptation to relax, to become bloated with pride, to become egotistic (Haumai), to lose longing to know or seeking, and so on. Instead, he constantly wants to bring out the best in him. He always try to be better than his own self.
He is also aware that praise gives false sense of euphoria and weakens the zeal needed to meet all challenges on the Way of Truth. Thus may serve to undermine motivation.
Other pitfalls of praise are it fosters dependency; becoming accustomed to praise one overlooks opportunities for growth; it gives rise to arrogance, ignorance, egotism, self-conceit, complacency, unrealistic expectations of always being praised, misplaced priorities due to addiction to praise, and so on.
In its essence, praise is a comparison. For example, when we say “You’re wonderful!” (somebody else is not). “You are an extraordinary!” (superior to someone else). “You are very intelligent!” (someone else is less), and so on.
The fact is if one is susceptible to praise one is also susceptible to criticism, or slander. The Gurbani urges the Wise person to shun both — be above both praise and criticism.
- ਉਸਤਤਿ ਨਿੰਦਾ ਦੋਊ ਤਿਆਗੈ ਖੋਜੈ ਪਦੁ ਨਿਰਬਾਨਾ ॥ ਜਨ ਨਾਨਕ ਇਹੁ ਖੇਲੁ ਕਠਨੁ ਹੈ ਕਿਨਹੂੰ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਜਾਨਾ ॥੨॥੧॥: Renounce both praise and blame; seek instead the state of Nirvaanaa (Aatmic Avasthaa devoid of Vaasnaa). O Nanak (however)! This is a difficult game; only a rare who has become the Gurmukh understands it! ||2||1|| (sggs 219).
A Wise person (Brahm-Giaanee) is his own best judge, because his standards are that of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib — Wisdom or Upadesh of the Gur-Shabad! He examines himself, more critically than the worst critic.
- ਨਾਨਕ ਪਰਖੇ ਆਪ ਕਉ ਤਾ ਪਾਰਖੁ ਜਾਣੁ ॥: O Nanak, if someone judges himself, only then is he known as a real judge (sggs 148).
He wants to learn more and more from the Gurbani (Gurmati Bhagti). He wants to leave ego (Haumai) behind. He knows his best is yet to come! If people criticize him he is not dismayed. If someone points to him his defects he had never suspected they existed in him, he does not get angry. Instead, he starts working on those defects to remove theme. On the other hand, however, if worldly people praise him, he hardy takes notice of it.
- ਗੁਰਮਤਿ ਪਾਈ ਵਡੀ ਵਡਿਆਈ ਸਚੈ ਸਬਦਿ ਰਸੁ ਪੀਜੈ ॥: Realization of Gurmati (Wisdom of the Gurbani) is the great glory; drink in the essence of the True Shabad (sggs 568).
Not only praise, but SGGS also teaches us to shun slander. Because, if you are not following the ways of the world, you will be slandered as well!
However, those established in their Mool, care less if and when they are praised, slandered or criticized by the worldly people. Nothing can deviate them from the Way of the Truth. Baabaa Kabeer says:
- ਨਿੰਦਉ ਨਿੰਦਉ ਮੋ ਕਉ ਲੋਗੁ ਨਿੰਦਉ ॥…: Slander me, slander me — go ahead, people, slander me (by telling lies about me)… (sggs 339).
Also, Baabaa Nanak’s life teaches us very important lesson in this regard as well. For example, contemptuously, many would call him “Bhootanaa”, “Betaalaa”, “Vaechaara”, etc. But this did not deter him from his Goal.
- ਕੋਈ ਆਖੈ ਭੂਤਨਾ ਕੋ ਕਹੈ ਬੇਤਾਲਾ ॥ ਕੋਈ ਆਖੈ ਆਦਮੀ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਵੇਚਾਰਾ ॥੧॥: (For not following the worldly ways…) Some call (Nanak) “Bhootanaa” (a ghost…); some call “Betaalaa” (demon…); Some call “Vaechaara” (wretched, helpless, poor…). ||1|| (sggs 991).
Hence, the SGGS counsels us not to be susceptible to praise or slander:
- ਉਸਤਤਿ ਨਿੰਦਾ ਸਬਦੁ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ ॥: (Abandon both) praise and slander; (instead) engage in Shabad-Vichaar (sggs 1331).
- ਨਾਨਕ ਦੁਨੀਆ ਕੀਆਂ ਵਡਿਆਈਆਂ ਅਗੀ ਸੇਤੀ ਜਾਲਿ ॥ ਏਨੀ ਜਲੀਈਂ ਨਾਮੁ ਵਿਸਾਰਿਆ ਇਕ ਨ ਚਲੀਆ ਨਾਲਿ ॥੨॥: O Nanak! Burn worldly praises in fire. These (accursed or burnt praises) have made (mortals) forget the Divine Naam. Not even one of (these praises) goes with him (sggs 1290).
The Wisdom of the Gurbani urges its Sikhs (i.e., learners or students of the SGGS) NOT to live life for applause but for a cause (Truth, Mool-Abidance …), which cannot be made to an order — ਕਿਤੁ ਬਿਧਿ ਪੁਰਖਾ ਜਨਮੁ ਵਟਾਇਆ ॥ (sggs 939).