Buddhist Philosophy

Meditating Without Judgment

Meditating without judgment means that we stop the inner, “How am I doing?” commentary. Don’t we do this in most of our activities? This habit carries over to our meditation, but it is not at all helpful.  Phakchok Rinpoche reminds us in this audio excerpt to check our judging minds. However, we also can remember not to beat ourselves up if we notice this tendency. Simply notice that we’re judging and begin afresh, without expectations. Our meditation cushions should not be courtrooms! We aren’t putting ourselves on trial during every meditation session, and we aren’t good or bad meditators. We simply practice.

Reminder: Four Mind Changings

Meditating without judgment

Meditating without judging does not mean that we forget to examine our motivation. In fact, the four mind changings are extremely important in our Vajrayāna tradition. Teachers remind us repeatedly about the four mind changings because they make the base of the practice perfect. And if we have a perfect base, then our meditation will proceed smoothly. Rinpoche reviews the four mind changings:

  • Precious human rebirth
  • Impermanence
  • Karma
  • The faults of saṃsāra (cyclic existence)

First, we acknowledge the fortunate situation of our current birth. Next, we acknowledge that we do not know what might happen tomorrow—our time is very fleeting. Then, when we remind ourselves of karma, we should take it personally. Thus it is important to wish to improve our good actions and reduce our bad actions.

Rinpoche reminds us also to be clear about what we mean when we say the faults of saṃsāra—they are not something vague and mysterious. Instead, the five negative emotions are the faults of saṃsāra. And the five negative emotions also are always linked with comparison and judgment. Who does this judgment? Me.

Meditating Without Judgment and Comparison

What do we mean about judgment in meditation? When we meditate, we tend to have an underlying comparison running in the background. Before we even sit down on our cushion, we may begin with an expectation or hope. Then, we might get distracted, and start to think, “yesterday, my meditation was a little better—today’s is not so good.” And we also might think, “I hope tomorrow’s meditation is better than this”.

That constant comparison or evaluation is judgment. And when we judge our meditation like that, there is a high possibility that we don’t keep it analytical. Instead, emotion follows. We might feel frustrated, depressed, or upset. But meditation is blind; we should just do it without comparing it to yesterday or tomorrow. We need to remind ourselves not to compare or to judge.

It might sound counter-intuitive, but if we don’t drop the judging, then our meditation will not improve. That’s another reason why it is important to review the four mind changings and understand the connection between our emotions, our judgment, and our ego. Also, we need to understand that even if our emotions don’t seem especially strong, our constant judging and thinking shows that they are with us.

This audio teaching is in English and is translated into Japanese.

Reflection Exercise: Meditating without Judgment

What are the faults of saṃsāra?  This week, take some time to reflect on your own negative emotions.

But, watch carefully and see if you can catch any judging that is happening. Are you able to observe your thoughts without comparing yourself to others?  If not, have you ever realized this before?  Did you even know you were doing this so often?  

Can you say to yourself, “I’m angry!” or “I’m jealous of her or him”? And can you do that without beating yourself up?  Can you simply say-“-ahh–that’s what is happening”–and drop any story?  Try this for a week or two–and see how you relate with your own mind. Doesn’t it feel good to let go of this burden? Gradually, are you finding it easier to relax when these feelings pop up?

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