To live a life inspired by dharma means coming under a certain discipline and following certain rules of conduct. It is important for people to acquaint themselves with these rules. It would be ideal if they lived according to them on their own because to abide by them out of compulsion is not a matter of pride. "Sampradaya" or tradition is something that has evolved naturally and it is natural that people adhere to them. The customs and rules making up a sampradaya are not all of them written down in the sastras.
Anything laid down as a law becomes a matter of compulsion. Nowadays everywhere people are asked to "Do this" and "not to do that." Notices are displayed about this and that. They are displayed even where I perform the puja (in the Matha), notices that say, "Don't keep talking", "Don't wear shirts", etc.
When I speak thus and ask you not to do this or to do that, I myself am guilty if offending against the good rule I just spoke about. When I say, "Don't do", it becomes a law. I should speak to you thus: "You think about it yourselves whether it is right to have such notices."
"Do not magnify the faults of others," say the wise. "But if there is something good about a man speak appreciatively about it." I myself, however, am bringing your faults into the open. But, to repeat, you must not bring to light the drawbacks of others but only their good qualities. See, even the crescent moon is cool and radiant. That is why Siva wears it in his matted hair, makes its beauty known to the world. The same Siva swallowed the terrible halahala poison concealing it from everyone, so says Dandin in one of his poems.
Pointing a finger at the faults of others or exaggerating them in speech and writing has become the practice today. The more learned a man is, the more eager he is to find fault with others. "Finding fault is indeed the work of a vidvan," it is said. "The word vidvan itself is said to mean a dosajna." But a dosajna is one who knows the faults of something or somebody, not one who reveals them to the world or exaggerates them.
If you think a person has any drawbacks you must speak to him about them in a friendly manner [so that he may correct himself] but not constantly harp on them and expose them to the outside world. We must be worthy enough to speak about the faults of others and we cannot take upon ourselves the role of an adviser when we need to correct ourselves.
Advice given by us then would be counterproductive. If we tell a man what is wrong about him he might even feel boastful about it. When are we fit to advise others? When we are worthy enough and when we know that our word will have the desired effect.
If we praise a person for his good qualities he will have greater enthusiasm to cultivate them further. But there should be restraint in praise too- praise indeed is a tricky thing.
That is why the wise say: "Isvara and the guru alone may be praised directly. Friends and relatives, instead of being praised to their face, must be spoken of well to others. You may praise a servant only after he has carried out the job entrusted to him. (It is like patting a horse after a ride). You may never praise your son."
I have been finding fault with you all the while. As I said fault finding is not an exercise to be welcomed but the stanza just quoted frees me from any blame because it says that children should not be praised and that you must tell them what is wrong with them. So no fault can be ascribed to me for my having found fault with you.