Perhaps it is the most common question I hear: “How do I know if I am being judgmental or discerning?” Considering that “the spiritual path is the path of discernment” (Adi Shankara), it is perhaps the most important question you can ask. Yet it is also the most difficult for you to answer.
Lady Justice wears a blindfold. The idea is that She is unbiased and objective. But let’s realize that the blindfold also signifies that justice is administered through oblivion. She is not objective alone. She is also subjective. Laws change as people change. A 5 to 4 Supreme Court decision molds social mentality often for decades to come… until the pendulum swings the other way. Is that system discerning or is it perpetually judgmental? Either way, it is simply the way of the world. History has proven that over and over again. Of course, every generation seems to consider itself to be the enlightened generation… the generation that finally got discernment right.
And who do you think you are? What molds your viewpoint? You can justify anything with the intellect, and you do according to your viewpoint. What molds your viewpoints? Do you place your thumb on the scale of your own inner justice? Or perhaps a better question is, are you willing, or able, to take a step back and see yourself? Consider how you hold the scale of self-evaluation. Judging yourself harshly is putting your thumb on the scale. Any issue you have puts a thumb on the scale. Issues with authority? Self doubt? Self-righteousness? Defiance? Fear? For any and all issues, you place your thumb on one side of the scale.
I suggest you consider placing a counterbalancing thumb on the other. Of course you may think to suggest removing the thumb from the scale. But if you see the thumb is there, it is already removed. Or is it? If you judge yourself harshly, I suggest considering the opposite. If you are self righteous, I suggest the opposite. If you see your own bias, I suggest your reaction to that realization compromises your understanding of it. Those who are instinctively kind to others are often the first to cruelly judge themselves as sometimes being unkind. Those instinctively judgmental of others are often the first to stand up for their self-righteous viewpoint.
Are you judgmental or discerning? It all comes down to the nature/tone of “your relationship with…” Your relationship with what? Your relationship with everything within and without you. With yourself, with society, with authority, with friends, with loved ones and so on. To overcome being judgmental and to become discerning, you must find balance within yourself. To do so, you need to consider your nature and the nature of all things.
Consider strengths and weaknesses. Look at world history, social history, and your history. When the scales tip one way, consider the other. In all situations, be open to seeing the strengths as well as the weaknesses within and without. To anarchists I say, consider the value of society and authority. To puppets I say, think for yourself. To the self critical, I say be kind to yourself. To the self righteous, I say be humble. It starts with your relationship with yourself. Find balance there first. Only then can you have a healthy relationship with what lies outside of you.
Do understand that discernment does not preclude passion. The more fully you find your Self, the more discerning you will be. You will know your wisdom and thereby find your true path in life. And your true path in life is filled with passion. It is the river that carries you to the ocean.
Yet judgment also can be most passionate, so life’s journey must begin within. Find your inner wisdom first. As Lord Krishna said to Arjuna, “Established in Being, perform action”.
Be you in conflict or comradery, always do your best to keep to the high road. There are no absolutes in the relative. Yet everything gravitates back to the Absolute, back to the Divine. That is the nature of existence. The path of discernment is the path of balance. You will fall. That is fine – just get back up. Your job is to do your best to keep your balance as you face the wind and go forward, forward, always forward.
That is called the Path of Discernment.
Thank you again. This blog has again opened up more channels for inner exploration. Refelcting on this in my mind’s eye, I see the balance beam between judgement and discernment. Judging others or myself I see the judgement side rise and discernment side dip and the view of myself is blank or void. I am completely missing in the picture. But when I have chosen discernment (Maybe?) and not judged I see “me” in the picture. But then I think is this just more judgement?
I have been working on not judging and trying to rest wih situations before I choose. By doing this I am starting to see another persons view and my first thought slowly shifts. I don’t know if this is discernment, but I have occasionally felt more at ease with my choice. I know keep meditating. 🙂
P.S. Happy Birthday!
There is so much to reflect on in this blog. Words like “your relationship with” and “Find your inner wisdom first”
are more than just words to me. It reminds me of the chapter in The Golden Frog titled “Joseph” when Bruce is questioning Nathaniel about his friendship with Joseph. Nathaniel replied,
“Joseph has a very big heart,” Nathaniel said slowly and warmly, as if savoring every syllable of his words. You know, Bruce, we’re trained from childhood to access people based upon very superficial criterion. Assume for a minute that Joseph is enlightened. How would that affect you?”.
I have to remember that my judgements are often based on how I think someone or some situation is “supposed” to be as opposed to just “how it is”. Judgement tends to keep me from seeing the good in everything. Meditation helps
me see that good in all things. There is so much beauty in the world if I just allow myself to see it.
Thank you Maharshi for sharing your love and wisdom.
“To the self critical, I say be kind to yourself.” Seeing the good in everything is an often misunderstood concept. At the depth everyone is Divine. But on the surface, people can be quite convoluted. It is not wrong to see that in others. By so doing, you are not necessarily being judgmental. You can do so while being discerning. See the convolutions as the dance people do around their Divinity. It is not always so easy to do. But to not see the convolutions as convolutions is a form of denial. When the Divinity is buried beneath the convolutions, it is not always so easy to see. It may then be enough to just know that it is there, albeit hidden from your view.
Please Roy, be kind to yourself. That is a big part of your spiritual path my friend…. the path of Discernment.
Such a message..complex yes however simple as well. A monumental task however what could be more rewarding? Several years back it would have been very confusing however since I have learned to breath..I feel my way through which creates moments of clarity. The path seems so very long however when I look back..i just smile and keep moving! I enjoy the word “However” it feels very flexible:)
Thank you Brahmarshi for your tireless efforts.
well said Michael…
I have thought all night about “be kind to yourself”. I realize I’m my own worst critic. It helps to know that by seeing this “convolution”, I’m not being judgemental. I realize everybody has their “stuff”. So do I. I also understand it’s much easier to find fault with others than with myself. I must develop compassion for myself before
I can extend it to others. I think it was Lao Tzu who said “Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is enlightenment”.
In January, 2013 you wrote a blog titled “A Real Master” In it you said, “Spiritual evolution is indeed the Razors Edge. That is why a true master is so important. The student keeps slipping to one side or the other. The master holds the beacon light that illuminates the way.”. Thank you for holding the light.
And of course, it is not about trying to change or get rid of your stuff. It is about having a healthy relationship with it. The best way to change your stuff is to have a healthy relationship with it. If you try to push it away, it just stays with you longer and gets driven deeper… like the rabbit and the tar baby.
The words “healthy relationship with” are stuck in my mind. On February 12 of this year your blog was titled
“Relationship with the Self”. It fits in very nicely with this current blog and furthered my understanding. This is the
last paragraph: “Life is all about your relationship with all things in life. Know your relationship with the Self for whatever it is. Then you come to understand it. Then you evolve it. That is an organic, i.e. a natural, process. Meditation and reflection move it along much more quickly. You are doing well. But do not try to turn an apple into an orange. The humility of your relationship with your Divinity is a thing of beauty. No need to judge it harshly. Embrace it, not only for what it is, but also for what it will naturally blossom into.”
Thank you again.
Rich blog and conversation!
When I think about being discerning, I’m often thinking “What’s the ‘right’ or ‘good’ thing to do?” And defining what is ‘right’ and ‘good’ is home turf for conditioning! Then there is the relationship with it… I tend to force myself to do things I believe to be “good for me” or “the right thing to do.” But this mandatory mechanical relationship often has me doing the right “thing” (in my head) in the wrong “way” (not in natural timing, not coming from being). And so I easily slip well off the razor’s edge of wisdom.
What struck me in your recent talk about discernment vs. judgement is the difference in where each comes from. Discernment comes from the depth of our being. Judgement comes from our preconceived notions. Feeling is key here for me; I can think myself in circles (or, ha ha, into boxes)! I’d like to pay more attention to where my sense of what seems right is coming from, and how my relationship with that feels.
There’s a saying in one of my favorite styles of dance. Before entrusting your weight to another dancer (by leaning, being lifted, etc), one of my teachers would say, “Feel into their bones… Feel how they are connected all the way to the ground. If you can’t feel the ground through their bones, it’s not a good idea to give them your weight!” It’s a nice analogy; I can feel for the “ground of being” behind a situation or action, before I “give it much weight”. It also reminds me that as life is an ongoing dance, discerning is an ongoing process, not a one-time trick to decide and justify what I “should” do. Although I have used it often this way, as if it could assure me and justify that I’m a “good person”!
Maharshi, I would love to see your comment about seeing the convolutions and divinity in people posted as a blog. And perhaps also expand on “relationship with what is ‘right’ or ‘good'”?
Beautiful comment. The analogy with dance is wonderful. Yes, I was thinking to say more about “relationship with”. Your suggestion about convolutions and divinity is also very good. Honestly, I am quite backed up with blog ideas right now, but wil try to get to them all. Maybe it is time for another book. I am thinking of a “The Golden Frog 2” also.