“Judge not, that ye shall not be judged.”
So says the Bible. For the longest time I couldn’t really work out what the problem was with judgement. I couldn’t see what the difference was between judgement and opinion. We’ve all got a right to hold our opinions, so I thought maybe a judgement was merely a particularly strong opinion, perhaps with some moral component attached to it.
Recently though, as a result of (I think…) my practice, the problem with judgement has really clicked into place for me.
Judgement is based, like so much else, on an illusion. When we judge, we look at a situation or an action done by someone other than ourselves and we tell ourselves, “I wouldn’t have done that. If I’d been in that situation I would have behaved differently. I would have behaved better.”
The world and our minds are full of this kind of thinking. Judgement fuels many of the decisions we take and is at the basis of many of the things we think we know about ourselves and about people and the world. Our notions about what we think is true and untrue, what is real and unreal, what is OK and what is not OK are based to a large degree on judgement. It is judgement that enables us to walk past beggars in the street. It is judgement that makes it possible to change channels when the war is on TV, because we are eating our dinner and the images are turning our stomach and our conscience. It is judgement that allows us to decide that this or that person is just bad, wrong and not worthy of our compassion, engagement or time. Judgement allows us to condemn and ignore.
This kind of coldness is, needless to say, an unpleasant aspect of human behaviour. The problem with judgement, however, goes further than unpleasantness. As asserted above, judgement is based on an illusion. How do we know what we would or wouldn’t do in the shoes of another? How can we be absolutely sure? Truth is, we can’t. At best, judgement is a failure of the imagination, at worst a rejection of compassion.
Why would anyone judge? More than likely out of fear – of the unknown, of weakness, of the inability to understand why things are we see them to be.
I’ve come across no explicit warning against judgement in the Buddhist or Hindu texts I’ve seen. With their emphasis on seeing things for what they are through meditation, and on compassion, I would imagine that judgement would appear so unhelpful and erroneous it wouldn’t even get a mention. But then, who am I to judge?
Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soha