Buddhist Philosophy

Judgment is Not Dharma

Judgment is a tricky thing for us to acknowledge. In November 2015, Phakchok Rinpoche taught at Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling Monastery. A major point of his teaching was on how we can begin to understand our minds. Dharma means knowing our own minds. And Rinpoche says we don’t know and transform our minds by studying books! Instead, we will help ourselves more when we study our own minds and thereby know to transform our own minds.

Judging Mind

How does that knowledge relate to judgment? Look at your mind right now. It is full of many thoughts, isn’t it? Rinpoche asks us to do this examination right now– as we watch this teaching. Try it as you read or watch!

We are in a beautiful situation. Yet if we think of something bad that happened earlier, we find ourselves full of judgment and negativity. We travel back to that situation and replay the problem.  But who creates that? Our own minds!

Studying someone else’s mind is not Dharma. That is called judgment. Assuming, judging, and imagining are not Dharma. We need to be clear about that!

As we observe our own minds, we probably notice that we cannot rest. We cannot let go. And we seem to never pause our thoughts. No ending of our thoughts and judgments means we are in saṃsāra. As we pay more attention to what’s going on, we can honestly admit that we are constantly judging.

Observing Mind

As beginners, we have more success when we watch our minds in a quiet calm place. The peaceful surroundings help us to have some space to observe our minds. See how thoughts spin like crazy. When we try to rest, our mind goes off chasing after a thought. This agitation provides proof that we cannot control our thoughts.  Watch how we vacillate. We like, then we dislike.  But, we are not in control. Rinpoche says that stress and anger are much easier to change.  But judgment is much harder for us to eradicate. Why? Because we don’t see the situation, the problem.

Dharma practice means clearly seeing the situation. We acknowledge our judging minds. We start to see that we don’t give space to ourselves or others. And when we judge, we always think we are right! Rinpoche tells us that we are very brave to want to see this. Now we have the tools to make the journey toward freedom. The result of that journey depends on us.


2 responses on "Judgment is Not Dharma"

  1. Wonderful, precious advice! Thank you!

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Suggested Reading

Dudjom Rinpoche, The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, trans. and ed. by Gyurme Dorje and Matthew Kapstein (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1991), vol. 1, pages 468–474.

Ngawang Zangpo, Guru Rinpoche: His Life and Times, Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2002.

Nyoshul Khenpo, A Marvelous Garland of Rare Gems: Biographies of Masters of Awareness in the Dzogchen Lineage, trans. Richard Barron (Junction City: Padma Publishing, 2005), pages 41–48.

Padmasambhava, Legend of the Great Stupa, Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, 1973

Padmasambhava & Jamgön Kongtrul, The Light of Wisdom, trans. by Erik Pema Kunsang (Boudhanath: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1986-1999), pages 43-47 & Appendix 5.

Taranatha, The Life of Padmasambhava, Shang Shung Edizioni, 2005

Tulku Thondup, Masters of Meditation and Miracles, Shambhala, 1996.

Yeshe Tsogyal, Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava, translated by Kenneth Douglas and Gwendolyn Bays (Emeryville: Dharma Publishing, 1978, republished 2008).

Yeshe Tsogyal, Lotus Born: The Life Story of Padmasambhava, Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2004.

‘The Life of Guru Padmasambhava’ in A Great Treasure of Blessings, The Tertön Sogyal Trust, 2004.