Applied Buddhism: The mechanics of judging

Many things can be judged, and I’d wager you’ve judged both people and actions in the past.

That man over there, why is he so fat? Oh, I don’t like how he’s so fat. He probably overeats and indulges, he just doesn’t know when to stop. I’m much better than that fat man. And look at her! That woman dresses like a slut. You can almost see her labia from the other side of the street! I bet she has cheap sex every weekend and doesn’t even feel guilty.

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Usually judgements are a good idea, a way of assessing a situation based on the evidence that you have. But the judgements I described are not really productive. They are prejudices¬† and they can do nothing to further your mind’s development.

It doesn’t even matter how someone ends up having their prejudices. Were you raised Protestant in a Catholic corner of Switzerland (or worse, Ireland) and so automatically judge all the Catholics? Are you an ex-smoker who cannot tolerate the weak will of your smoking peers?

When such feelings arise, you should examine your mind. You don’t need to trace exactly where these feelings came from, but look at what your mind is doing when you judge. Feel how you’re feeling. Chances are it doesn’t feel very good. You might be raising yourself to some moral high ground by judging someone else, but the ill will thus created will come back to you like a boomerang. So the point is not to let it happen.

Every single time you notice a judgement forming, look at it from a distance, find out if it’s prejudice. The woman in the skimpy dress might spend her weekends alone studying medicine and the scantily clad outings are just a fun hobby. The fat man might be a chef with a habit of sampling too much of his own food, and he might be condemning himself every day with ten times the intensity of your prejudice. In both cases, what was the point of your judgement? How is it helping either them or you?

Buddhism takes a hard stance against prejucide and discrimination. It’s a powerful thing: Even just hearing about Buddhist concepts makes people more tolerant of each other. Christianity and other monotheistic dogmatic belief systems do not do this – and this isn’t my prejudice talking, it’s the result of those studies.

That doesn’t mean following Buddhist teachings automatically makes you a better person. Yes, it might do that at some point, but that is mostly the result of hard work and introspection on your part, not of the fact of being Buddhist.

The freer of judging you become, the easier everything gets. Including becoming freer of judging.

Buddha photo is (CC) Akuppa John Wigham, used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.

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