First there is discernment and then comes judgment. If you hear a caw of a crow, you discern it is a caw. The discernment is such you automatically know it is not the meow of a cat, a bark of a dog, a crack of thunder in the sky, or any other sound. These are all different sounds and each can be discerned. Even if all these other sounds were present in that moment, there is the recognition of that is a caw…which is discerned from a meow, bark, or clap of thunder.
Judgment may then arise. Judgment is valuation. Perhaps you don’t like crows, so when you hear a caw of a crow…you grimace in disgust. Perhaps you like crows, so when you hear a caw of a crow…you hear it and feel pleasure. Liking or not liking is judgement. Saying the sound of the caw or the crow itself is good or bad is a judgment.
Most people judge butterflies and rainbows positively and so when a butterfly or rainbow appears we react with pleasure. You can see the joy on a child’s face when there is a butterfly or rainbow. Many adults also still have the same reaction.
Crows, on the other hand, could bring different feelings and reactions based on a positive or negative judgment. If you were taught crows are dirty birds and scavengers, then you might not like crows. Perhaps your culture is superstitious and so crows might be considered an ill omen. Much of our judgment is a reaction based on earlier conditioning due to childhood upbringing and culture.
Some of our judgment comes from our own life experience. Perhaps you were harassed by dogs as a child and so you judge dogs to be a threat. So when you hear a dog bark, you discern the bark…then there is a judgment that it is bad and a potential threat. Anxiety and fear may arise, and then in constant self-commentation and judgment…we might judge ourselves because we fear…we might even judge the judging of our fear.
Judgment can sometimes become quite subtle, because so often the labels we use are charged with positive or negative connotation. So as soon as we choose the label for something, we often have already judged it as positive or negative.
Say we are talking about the day’s weather. It is a cloudy day. Feel within yourself the reaction or feeling you get from each sentence:
- It is an mostly cloudy day.
- It is an overcast day.
- It is a gray day.
- It is a gloomy day.
In a way, you could say these are equivalent terms for the exact same kind of day. However, if you keep your sensitivity and pay attention to what you feel inside…your gut reaction perhaps…you will notice that the valuations may be different depending on the phrase used. Of course, the valuations for each phrase may differ from person to person as well.
Discernment is simply being aware of whatever it is. You see an apple…for example. So far, there has been no value judgments. Once the eyes have seen and the brain has discerned its shape and such…now thoughts come in about the value of it (judging). You might not like apples or you might like apples. There is a judgment. Let’s say you like apples. Perhaps you notice some bruising or even a worm hole. More judgments arise…it is not fit to be eaten…I don’t like this apple…etc.
Nothing is inherently good or bad. Nonduality means there is no separation…no otherness. If you see a magnet…you can discern there is a north pole and a south pole…but we don’t have to judge the north pole to be better than the south pole. There is no north pole without a south pole. You cut off the south pole of a magnet and the magnet creates a new south pole. The poles imply each other and go together.
It is possible to discern, but not judge. You can discern or see a difference between one wave on the ocean and another wave on the ocean. However, you can also understand and realize that “wave” is a mental construct. A convention of speech and thought in order to talk about each wave. However, ocean is all there is (or perhaps more exactly…water is all there is). You can understand and realize the non-otherness and non-separation of the ocean waves while discerning differences between one wave and another.
Discernment and differentiation do not imply duality. All there ever has been or ever will be is nonduality. It is the mind that divides and separates. This serves us in our survival and functioning in the world. It makes it easy to speak about different elements and aspects of our world. However, it is possible to not be fooled by the mind, thought, or speech.