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Buddhism, making judgments and not judging

KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest?Europe Veteran

It seems to me that Buddhism contains a lot of judgments. A right view, right speech, right livelihood... when things are beneficial, when things are skilfull... precepts to adhere to... wholesome and unwholesome mental states. It seems to encourage you to continually monitor yourself, to find and squash those unwholesome mental states, perhaps even to judge yourself, omg I'm having not sticking to right speech so often, I must be a very bad Buddhist!

Compare that to for example the opening of the Xinxin Ming, the famous poem by the Third Patriarch of Chan Sengcan:

The Great Way is not difficult
for those not attached to preferences.
When not attached to love or hate,
all is clear and undisguised.
Separate by the smallest amount, however,
and heaven and earth are set infinitely far apart.

It seems to indicate that a great deal of peace of mind, and perhaps a large part of the cessation of suffering, is to be found in non judgment - not attaching to love or hate. Intuitively I feel this must be true, that a lot of the trouble is in the mind's attempts to categorise things as good-bad, loved-hated.

How to square this with the inherently judgmental nature of the teaching? The sangha's wisdom on this point would be much appreciated.

Tiggerele

Comments

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    I don't think the teachings are judgmental, but our perception can make them seem so. Our world is dualistic by nature. It is pretty hard to explain things without using dualism to do so. But we can sense that that is not the only way, and we can work to be in that place more often. But try to have any conversations about anything that doesn't imply opposites and thus comparison and judgement of sorts as to which is "better." But I also think it is possible to share our thoughts without being attached to them. Not easy to do for sure. We are pretty attached to our thoughts and defending them if they are challenged. But I think we know it doesn't have to be that way. Operating from that place all the time is the hard part.

    dhammachickTigger
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    It seems to me that Buddhism contains a lot of judgments. A right view, right speech, right livelihood... when things are beneficial, when things are skilfull... precepts to adhere to... wholesome and unwholesome mental states. It seems to encourage you to continually monitor yourself, to find and squash those unwholesome mental states, perhaps even to judge yourself, omg I'm having not sticking to right speech so often, I must be a very bad Buddhist!

    Compare that to for example the opening of the Xinxin Ming, the famous poem by the Third Patriarch of Chan Sengcan:

    The Great Way is not difficult
    for those not attached to preferences.
    When not attached to love or hate,
    all is clear and undisguised.
    Separate by the smallest amount, however,
    and heaven and earth are set infinitely far apart.

    It seems to indicate that a great deal of peace of mind, and perhaps a large part of the cessation of suffering, is to be found in non judgment - not attaching to love or hate. Intuitively I feel this must be true, that a lot of the trouble is in the mind's attempts to categorise things as good-bad, loved-hated.

    How to square this with the inherently judgmental nature of the teaching? The sangha's wisdom on this point would be much appreciated.

    @Kerome you will find that some Dharma teachers tend to use an alternative to the term "Right" Thus have I heard "Complete" or "Perfected" being used, ie, to see things from "all" angles and finding a balance, so to speak...Oops did "I" just attempt "Right" speech ???? :wink:

    Having to be "Right" in a sense sound somewhat self "righteous" ....

    The Eight-Fold Path

    dhammachickTiggerlobsterCarlita
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Yes, @Shoshin, I have heard this also. Just as the word 'dukkha' has been narrowed to extreme, to mean 'suffering' so other terms in Buddhism have been translated too loosely. I too have seen 'Right' as 'Appropriate' 'Skillful', 'correct' and 'Deliberated'.
    The word Noble also, has undergone a translation that could be misunderstood. Noble, in this sense, means indisputable, Understood accepted and acknowledged to be accurate by the Enlightened ones.

    But back to judgement.
    @karasti speaks a lot of sense, but if I might be permitted to do so, I would personally say that the stance of being Judgemental is a particularly tricky one for me. I don't need to really elaborate as to why, I'm sure.
    I often find myself placed in some awkward and challenging situations, and I often have to 'take 5' to evaluate my own reactions, and consider my responses, in the hope of Doing the Right Thing.

    (See above for different definitions of 'Right.... ;) )

    @Kerome, the extract you quote is known to me, and it goes on to say:

    "Don't keep searching for the Truth;
    Just let go of your opinions."

    (see here).

    I think that's extremely difficult, given that we are conditioned from an early age to make decisions based on what we see and hear....
    Even Neo had to choose between red and blue, after hearing two sides....

    But in the end, we have to let go of everything, which is what we strive to do.
    We have to ensure that we do so with Wisdom and discernment.
    Letting go of opinions, evaluations and judgement, should not turn us into passive yes-men.....

    TiggerlobsterKeromeherberto
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    @federica Indeed, and I think we should all be doing that. Sometimes I do well, sometimes not. I assume, at least in part, you are speaking as being a moderator here? It is hard. I moderate a few local FB selling pages (and have moderated other places in the past) and judgement is definitely difficult. Especially in a small town when you know all the wrongdoings of everyone and have to decide how to be fair knowing what you know about their history etc. It's complicated managing that kind of stuff, for sure. Crap hits the fan fast sometimes!

    I do think judgement, generally speaking, does have a place. We have to judge if a person or place is safe for us, for example. It plays a part in every decision we make. But it's different when you are playing judge, jury and executioner in your mind with every person you encounter and using it to hold yourself up in the process.

    Tigger
  • TiggerTigger Toronto, Canada Veteran

    Maybe that's the middle path here. To not judge in the negative and harmful way but to judge to ensure your own path is not compromised and that you make the right choices and stay safe, among other things.

    dhammachickShoshin
  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    To my mind making judgments involves a relative understanding of the world, this is different than that. But can still understand and prefer certain things to others (ice cream tastes better than boiled celery, happy is better than sad) I think I prefer the word discernment.

    Judging things takes an absolutist stance of the world. This is right/correct/best, that is wrong/incorrect/worst. I'd say that it involves more selfing, seeing things from one point of view.

    TiggerkarastiShoshin
  • "Don't keep searching for the Truth;
    Just let go of your opinions."

    (see here).

    IMHO Exactly so.
    'You know, the very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They don't alter their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit the views, which can be uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering.'
    Dr Who
    Seems pertinent now that powerful Trumpe (tm) ignorance is altering facts ... or trying to ...

    There are facts as well as we can know them and our opinions. We can always find an opinion contradicting ours, implying duality. Discernment is knowing when a stated opinion is an appropriate/skilful impact and when an ingrained karmic pattern ...

    TiggerRandy
  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran

    It's interesting also in the light of @JaySon's thread here where he talks about Ajahn Chah's approach basically being the same as Sengcan's, and simplifying the whole Path down to just one principle.

    I've found the Noble Eightfold path really helpful from a perspective of taming the mind, pruning some impulses which I really don't need, insight into various things. But I also find there is a certain pressure that comes from adhering to the different parts of it... some of it comes naturally, like not killing, and some of it still feels like self-monitoring.

    I like the freedom of Sengcan's / Ajahn Chah's approach but I suspect it only works once you are past a certain point in working on yourself.

    Tigger
  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran

    @Tigger said:
    Maybe that's the middle path here. To not judge in the negative and harmful way but to judge to ensure your own path is not compromised and that you make the right choices and stay safe, among other things.

    Do you not think that the right choices are the natural choices, once someone explains to you how the world works? I have found so many cases where with the right insight the urge to do something that would be wrong vanishes, and suddenly the natural choice reveals itself...

    lobsterkarasti
  • TiggerTigger Toronto, Canada Veteran

    I absolutely think so @Kerome. Doing the right thing usually feels more natural to me and just feels right from the get go. The more right choices I make, the easier it is to identify them and continue to make them. It's when I am not properly following my path that life gets harder and the path darker.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @Kerome said: Do you not think that the right choices are the natural choices, once someone explains to you how the world works?

    It depends whether they tell you THE truth, or THEIR truth....

    I have found so many cases where with the right insight the urge to do something that would be wrong vanishes, and suddenly the natural choice reveals itself...

    But that is down to your discernment and perception, not necessarily down to what influences you.

    lobster
  • @Kerome said:
    ... I have found so many cases where with the right insight the urge to do something that would be wrong vanishes, and suddenly the natural choice reveals itself...

    <3 Exactly.
    Initially this conforms to ethical, moral and value based behavour, based on upbringing or choosen ideals. That for most of us involves kindness, forgiving, compassionate behavour. 'Tough love' comes later. So we can to a degree show the stages:

    • Best for me: seen in toddlers, Trump and the emotionally stunted
    • Cooperative: win-win emotional trading, seen on Facebook, maturing teens, most social animals
    • Altruism: found in parents, mature adults
    • Inspirational: from Sangha, committed spiritual people
    • Saintly and enlightened behavour: not always apparant
    Tiggerherberto
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    @Kerome Yes, that is my experience as well. That you can find the best response for the situation if you know how to do it. That doesn't, however, mean another person involved is going to be happy with your response. I think when we can operate from a heart center (for lack of better term) rather than only mind/logic/ego that is where the better answers come and our ability to see reality or the truth for what it is is better as well.

    Tiggerlobster
  • ZeroZero Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    It seems to me that Buddhism contains a lot of judgments. A right view, right speech, right livelihood...
    Compare that to for example the opening of the Xinxin Ming, the famous poem by the Third Patriarch of Chan Sengcan:

    The Great Way is not difficult
    for those not attached to preferences.
    When not attached to love or hate,
    all is clear and undisguised.
    Separate by the smallest amount, however,
    and heaven and earth are set infinitely far apart.

    How to square this with the inherently judgmental nature of the teaching?

    The former, right view, right speech, right livelihood for example, are the contra to wrong view, wrong speech, wrong livelihood and both are ways of karma, of generating karma.
    The latter is, in the language of the way of karma, an exposition of the cessation of karma and therefore inherently flawed by reason of its exposition in the language of the way of karma.

    Randy
  • Lee82Lee82 Veteran

    Treat all with loving-kindness and not judgement.

    From MN21: Kakacupama Sutta:

    Monks, even if bandits were to sever you savagely limb by limb with a two-handled saw, he who gave rise to a mind of hate toward them would not be carrying out my teaching. Herein, monks, you should train thus: 'Our minds will remain unaffected, and we shall utter no bitter words, we shall abide compassionate for their welfare, with a mind of loving-kindness, never in a mood of hate... Monks, if you keep this advice on the simile of the saw constantly in mind, do you see any course of speech, trivial or gross, that you could not endure?

    Randyele
  • Monks, even if bandits were to sever you savagely limb by limb with a two-handled saw, he who gave rise to a mind of hate toward them would not be carrying out my teaching.

    [Lobster faints]

    Our uniformed branch put the Seals, Special Raft Service, Special Air Service, First Earth Battalion and other Sangha to shame ...
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Earth_Battalion

    ... mind you the Seeks [sic] have the Khalsa as a military force
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khalsa

    Could mention axe carrying dervishes, Hindus with tridents and the 'Comedy Christian' in the White Housing, Kalachakra cult recruits etc ...

    and now back to ... judgemental, moi? ...

    Randy
  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran

    @karasti said:
    That you can find the best response for the situation if you know how to do it. That doesn't, however, mean another person involved is going to be happy with your response. I think when we can operate from a heart center (for lack of better term) rather than only mind/logic/ego that is where the better answers come and our ability to see reality or the truth for what it is is better as well.

    That has been a lot of my journey with Buddhism... finding answers to a series of internal questions which eventually lead to letting go of things and an unfolding of love. Finding suffering was an important milestone, the Three Poisons were another. Posing the questions is about insight, finding the answers is about wisdom, and then your understanding changes and some of your hindrances vanish.

    karastilobsterTigger
  • Hi, I'm new here. This is a Most important distinction right now, from this perspective. Thank you all for your wisdom. I thought I was certain about the distinction, then I began to wonder.

    Still - it seems to me that Discernment differs from Judgment by use of adjective.
    "The horse is a Palomino." Ideally, without inference, vs "The horse is a powerful, young, beautiful Palomino." With lots of inference.

    When it comes to Buddhism, I agree that semantics gets in the way of clarity.
    However, isn't it true that "Right View" is not so much right rather than wrong - it's a clearly defined title, defined by the Buddha, as are all other usages of the word "Right." As is the term "Skillful", complete with examples and definitive instructions.

    Am I right? I think it's all in the Eight-fold Path -

    https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bodhi/waytoend.html

  • CarlitaCarlita Phò thiện hạnh (Kind Virtue) United States Veteran
    edited October 16

    @Kerome said:
    It seems to me that Buddhism contains a lot of judgments. A right view, right speech, right livelihood... when things are beneficial, when things are skilfull... precepts to adhere to... wholesome and unwholesome mental states. It seems to encourage you to continually monitor yourself, to find and squash those unwholesome mental states, perhaps even to judge yourself, omg I'm having not sticking to right speech so often, I must be a very bad Buddhist!

    Compare that to for example the opening of the Xinxin Ming, the famous poem by the Third Patriarch of Chan Sengcan:

    The Great Way is not difficult
    for those not attached to preferences.
    When not attached to love or hate,
    all is clear and undisguised.
    Separate by the smallest amount, however,
    and heaven and earth are set infinitely far apart.

    I guess I'd say instead of judgement, I'd replace it with discernment. Instead of "right", I'd say wise discernment.

    So, if you are discerning what speech is beneficial to your awakening and what is not, by definition of what is enlightenment and what is not, there is some form of duality. If not, we all would be enlightened or not enlightened but not have the advantage or disadvantage to practice or not to practice because there is no choice in what is beneficial and what is not. So there needs to be discernment or beneficial judgement to find whether The Buddha's teachings are appropriate for one person and not for another.

    Discernment of speech that is beneficial towards our enlightenment would be X. Deciding what is beneficial for our enlightenment in regards to livelihood is Y.

    We would not be following The Buddha's teachings if we did not think there is something benefitial (or right?) about what The Buddha taught compared to another religious teacher with whom could teach something we are completely opposed to.

    I was born, raised, and most likely will die a westerner and proud of my western culture. So, duality is a part of it. In a good note, it is healthy because you need to define what is beneficial for you and what is not. If you can't decern which it is because you want to say all or nothing, then how would one follow any religious thought if one feels they are in one place. Kind of like being enlightened sitting on your cushion but if someone yelled at you or you see a beautiful jewel you want to steal from the store, since there is no duality, you can yell or steal it without harm and with harm at the same time.

    Beneficial and discernment is probably a better word.

    It's all in context too.

  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    How to square this with the inherently judgmental nature of the teaching?

    By realizing that the Xinxin Ming is referring to your own personal preferences and judgments, preferences that have kept you stuck in suffering. For example, I prefer to be young and not get old. I prefer to be healthy and not get sick, I prefer to continue living and not die. I prefer to get pleasure and avoid pain. None of which is realistic or actually possible.

    The second half of the 2nd stanza shows the context.

    If you wish to see the truth
    then hold no opinions for or against anything.
    To set up what you like against what you dislike
    is the disease of the mind.

    It's not contrary to standard Buddhist practicing because it's not saying don't live in
    accordance with what the Dharma demands. It's saying don't live in accordance with what our likes and dislikes demand.

    Randylobster
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited October 17

    “Those are my principles, and if you don't like them...well I have others.”
    Groucho Marx

    Without the sun, the lily is closed. We have to open.

    I am grateful to my harder certainties (dukkha holdings) as they are not in accordance with the free unfolding that @seeker242 reminds us of.
    I can present ignorance as confessions of limited consciousness (impediments) and this is where the companionship of the wise, the three jewels and the casual Bodhisattva illuminate our dank, dark obscurations.

    In many ways we do not let our opinions, judgements and choice discernment's define us. What defines us is the rippling singing sun ... the dance that @IronRabbit mentions in the next post ...

    Randy
  • IronRabbitIronRabbit Veteran
    edited October 17

    Buddhism; Making judgments and not judging.....Yes. That's it!
    Not possible to be non judgemental or judgemental all the time, so it is a dance - in and out, back and forth. Practice until such time....

    lobsterKeromeseeker242Randy
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