I read somewhere that the Truth in mystical teachings is revealed to the degree the reader or listener is ready. Until then, the mind will focus on the meaning of the words themselves, but the wisdom to which they point will be utterly missed.
Take, for instance, a central precept to many teachings: to avoid judging anything, ever. Now, I’ve read some variation of those words countless times. Examples include The Great WayL
If you wish to know the truth, then hold no opinion for or against anything. To set up what you like against what you dislike is the disease of the mind.
And the one with which just about all of us are familiar in the Bible:
Judge not lest ye be judged.
Similar pointers can be found in the words of Robert Adams, Ramana Maharshi, David Carse, etc.
So why is judging considered a mistake?
Like most, I assumed it had to do with a moral teaching or some kind of karmic algorithm. If I judge you, then God (or whatever) will judge me. But you see, that is the mind’s interpretation, which is precisely why so many religious types routinely make such a mess of scripture and mystical teachings.
Your mind is always going to make a mess of things because it is such a terribly limited vessel. It is an invention OF the Truth, of the infinite, and a finite instrument cannot know the infinite.
If we seek earnestly enough and long enough, ideally a ‘grace’ enables a bit of light to peek through. Which is why, at long last, the admonition against judging is at last understood as a caution that to be ‘attached to preferences’ or to judge is to reinforce the notion of a ‘me’ separate and apart from the world around me.
In other words, the problem arises not in the judgment itself or in the object being judged, but in the implication that there is something doing the judging in the first place. Or as Randall Friend so eloquently puts it, the moment something is judged (labeled), the universe and the thing doing the judging (you) are created. If there is a table, for example, there must also be a tree that was the source of its wood, a carpenter to assemble that wood, an earth to call home, a universe within which that earth exists, and on and on. Literally, everything is created the moment one thing is created.
Sounds very woo-woo and a bit meaningless, right? Actually, it points to the most profound of Truths, the one you and I overlook countless times every moment of every day. It gets to the very essence of who or what we are – that thing that wants to find peace, meaning, happiness, God, etc.
Let’s take the tree out of which the table was constructed. Humans, being the labeling machines that they are, have drilled down to the point at which our tree is known as a Big Leaf maple (Acer macrophyllum), just one of 128 species of maple trees. Here’s a photo of our tree, big leaves indeed.
Now what happens when we start stripping away the labels/judgments we make about that tree? Let’s start by eliminating ‘big leaf’ and then ‘maple’ and then ‘tree.’ After all, these are just labels, words whose meanings are inextricably linked to that which they describe.
But what is that? Well, while we’ve removed all the formal labels, we’re still judging it as a ‘thing’ native to the ‘Pacific Northwest’ of the ‘United States’ on a planet called ‘Earth’ in the ‘Milky Way’ galaxy which itself is a part of the ‘universe.’ So we need to erase all those labels too, since they’re equally meaningless outside of the mind that created them.
If you’re inclined, you can go in the other direction too, drilling down into the tree’s cellular structure, then its molecular makeup and on down, down, down into the atoms and the quanta and the energetic probabilities. Curious, isn’t it, that the deeper science looks into the nature of things, the more inconclusive their search (or, perhaps, the more conclusive their inability to find anything)?
Ok, now that we’ve stripped away all the labels, all the judgments, all the mind-made definitions and meanings from the image above, what is is left?
Really study that image and ask yourself what ‘it’ is.
You can’t, of course. It’s no-thing, nothing. Yet clearly, something is there. (You can have an equally fun and futile time attempting to determine where the tree ends and the rest of existence begins – or in other words, where and when and what makes the tree separate and apart from everything else.)
This is why the spiritual seeker is told not to judge. Not because you’re going to burn in hell or because karma is going to get you. It’s because with every judgment or label you create the universe and, even more important, a you doing the judging/labeling. (Brings to mind another phrase from the Bible, In the beginning was the word. What exists without a label attached to it?)
The mystical teachers are fairly consistent in urging you to leave the world alone and instead practice some version of the exercise we just did with the tree, but on yourself.
Meaning, who or what are you when you remove all the labels?