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How do we feel about this one? Sound a little harsh perhaps? Perhaps implying that people judge is judgement itself?
We make judgements every day. Judgement is after all, the ability to make a considered opinion. But is carried with it other connotations and we should take a look at them all.
So, probably the most aggressive one is the idea of divine retribution. Here, the understanding is that as we have performed some reprehensible act, that God or the Universe will enforce some form of penalty on us. I’m sure that theologians discuss this one for hours. With polarised views looking at hour a benign and compassionate God could ever pack someone off to hell for what they have done. Or, from the perspective of the old Vedic view of Karma, that everyone involved in the Tsunami in the Far East some years back, somehow deserved it. These ideas just don’t quite wring true. Our pure spiritual practise needs to go in to this and ask these questions. If these views don’t make sense, then I think we can safely say that they aren’t applicable to us. They rest with superstition. But we still need to explore if there is something here. Is there judgement from a universal perspective? When we meditate on this, we have to look at where the mind and all its superstitious ability is kicking in and try to see past that veil. There is lots of cosmology in Tibetan Buddhism with its many layers. It carries with it the ability to transcend to the upper layers with our spiritual practise each time we go through a rebirth. Interestingly, the realm of the human is seen as a better realm to be in than the realm of the Gods. The gods have a wonderful life with everything they need. But they don’t have suffering. It is this that stops them from achieving enlightenment. Humans have the opportunity to understand and experience suffering. This teaches us much and helps us move towards true enlightenment. I personally find it hard to believe in These realms but I do find the model it depicts can be found in our own everyday lives. There is the realm of the hungry ghosts. Greed and grasping are a major part of this persons life. They can never satisfy their desire to have more. And there are many Gods. People who have everything. Decent, moral and ethical people but completely out of touch with the rest of the world. Either way, there is lots of potential for judging here. When someone isn’t in our realm, there is the potential for judging them.
The next area is where judging is the decision of the court or a judge. This area is more Denise’s expertise than mine so please forgive my lack of knowledge here. I do believe in the court system and the need for it. There is a need for judgement here. In the UK we have the Jury system. Ancient and fascinating. Denise can tell you it’s history. But it does seem to me quite a compassionate approach. Rather than asking a single person to cast the judgement, when that person will bring in their own veil of preconceptions and mental habit, we spread it across 12 people who, because of the complexity of us humans, will have many different perspectives.
Now we move up a layer. To the opinion or conclusion. We of course many hundreds of these every day. About pretty much everything. Where I believe it is most damaging is with people. We form opinions of them even before we know them. Our practise here is to notice the mind doing this. To notice this process going on and, in noticing, we stop it and open up to the person in front of us. Of course people sometimes “show their true colours to us. But here we need to apply empathy. To stand beside them and see things from their perspective before we judge.
Facebook is a riot of judgement. Pick any of the big topics around today. Brexit. There’s a good one. Take a look at the polarised views expressed and then take a look at the rather personal comments made. These are made by people who don’t know each other at all. But they form a judgement based on a few lines. And they I have no doubt, make a whole bunch of assumptions about the other person. In there own mind they are personally claiming to “know” the other person. Facebook is just dreadful for this.
Finally, judging is about making informed decisions. For me, I come back to that one word again. Is this wholesome? Of course we make lots of mundane. Decisions each day. It would be rather tiresome if we looked at each and every one and questioned its wholesomeness. But the biggies, those that may carry a spiritual side to them, we should ask, is this wholesome. There will be many, every day.
So, what about meditation? How are we going to bring this in to our meditation practice? Clearly we are doing something very odd if meditation results in a court case!
I think there are two things we need to focus on here. Our internal judging and the development of habit to ensure we notice our judging when we are off the cushion.
When we meditate there is lots of judging that goes on. When the mind wanders, we scold ourselves for not having a concentrated mind. Doubts creep in. “I’ll never be able to do this”. We judge ourselves. This is all very natural and very human. We bring a sense of gentle nurturing care into the situation. See this judging behaviour with good humour, accepting it and letting it go.
This forms habit.
Keep a sharp eye for self recrimination and self blame. When the mind wanders, be gentle on yourself. Bring yourself back to the meditation subject. Perhaps notice the arising of that judging, blaming mind, again with a sense on interest and humour. All of this builds habit in the mind.
Habit, once built, cuts in when ever it feels it belongs. So this means that this habit that we have built on the cushion, will emerge in our daily life. We will start to see this judging and blaming behaviour in our daily lives.