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.