My Secret Double Agent: Judgement

Lotus with honey bee

Lotus with Honey Bee

“Fear is born from arming oneself.

Just see how many people fight!

I’ll tell you about the dreadful fear

that caused me to shake all over:

Seeing creatures flopping around,

Like fish in water too shallow,

So hostile to one another!

— Seeing this, I became afraid.”

 ~The Buddha, Excerpt from the Attadanda Sutta: Arming Oneself

“The wild geese do not intend to cast their reflection. The water has no mind to receive their image.” ~Zenrin Kusho

“Not by harming life

does one become noble.

One is termed noble

for being gentle to all living things.”

~The Buddha, Excerpt from the Dhammatthavagga Sutta: The Judge


Dear Friends,

This past week, I’ve had a few conversations about the habit of judging. Addiction seems like a more accurate word, since judging feels like an unstoppable force that arises despite all efforts to let it go. As tender and vulnerable mammals, we did not get to the top of the food chain without a legacy of vigilance and judging. It’s hard wired in our neurobiology to assess situations and individuals to determine safety or risk. Looking at my judgement this week, I had a few thoughts about this very active part of my mind. I would wager, that most of us have an unacknowledged movie that plays continually in our minds. It’s called, What the World Should Look Like, According to Me. When someone bumps up against this vision of how things should be, there’s an immediate reaction. I’ve realized that my judgement, which looks like it’s doing some good work–keeping me safe, is actually a double agent, working for the side of continued suffering.

An example of the hidden working of judgement could go like this: if my world view values generosity, my judgement may say, “Look at that! She took all the credit for that work and didn’t acknowledge anyone else. She’s out for herself.” Or it may go in the opposite direction, “Wow, they gave their car to charity. I’ll never feel comfortable giving a big donation like that. They are so much better than me.” No matter what judgement I have, the act of judging separates me out from the other and actually encourages fear. When I judge someone as less than myself, there is the thought that I am not safe, my world view is challenged. I need to get away. When I judge that I am less than, I am vulnerable to the same judgement from someone else and I am not safe either. If there is a feeling of equality, then there is an identification we are the same and joined in a fragile bubble together. The idea that, you feel what I do, leads to disregarding the individual physical and emotional differences every unique being possesses. The double agent of judgement, who seems like a friend, in reality gives us more fear, more anxiety, takes us out of ourselves, and brings more suffering. One thing I’ve learned about judging is that it doesn’t change anything, it only makes me righteous, doubtful, or delusional.

The Buddhist scriptures are very clear about judging. Judging is called, Attachment to Views. The Buddha is reported as saying that all views, “equal, superior, or inferior,” are all flawed (SN IV.9). “Those who seize at perceptions and views go about butting their heads in the world” (SN IV.9). Attachment to views is one of the mind states that must be abandoned if we are to become unbound and wake up to reality.

This non-attachment to views does not mean that all views are fine—Go ahead and act badly; it’s all concepts. Buddhist Monk and scholar Thanissaro Bhikkhu, writes, “An important point to notice is that attachment to views must be abandons through knowledge, and not through skepticism, agnosticism, ignorance, or a mindless openness to all views” (1993, p.62). The knowledge is gleaned from personal experience and confidence in the path of truth and beauty, The Ennobling Eightfold Path. This path contains, morality, practice, and wisdom. We know that not all actions, beliefs, and words are kind, useful, or contain wisdom. Not judging doesn’t mean we become blind to this. We become aware of how judging pulls us out of our own experience and arms us. Judging gives the ammunition to start wars, both large and small. For me, the first step is recognizing the harm I do to myself when I judge, that going along with this cozy, familiar, judgy path is going to take me to an unsafe place.

This week, I invite you to practice awareness of judgement with me, to recognize the duplicitous nature of this habit and to reject the conditioned pull to judge. Returning awareness to the body is a great antidote to the judging mind, asking, what am I doing now? What do I feel in my body? Sending loving kindness to myself and wishing for my safety and freedom, when I catch myself judging, is another way to be kind to myself and my addiction. Bringing my mind to this long-standing pattern is going to be a challenge for me, but I am confident, it will pay off.

May we all trust our light,




Bhikkhu, T. (1993) The mind like fire unbound: An image in the early buddhist discourses. Barre, Massachusetts: Dhamma Dana Publications. Retrieved from: file:///C:/Users/rick/Documents/mindlikefire00thanmiss.pdf


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