Judgment and the Spiritual Path
By Scott Shaw
"I enjoy your book, About Peace. I was surprised to see the photograph that you have chosen to put on the home page of your web page. I am really disappointed that you have chosen to use women as objects to promote yourself. Please consider how offensive this is. I had considered buying more copies of your book to give as gifts, but now I am really disillusioned about who you are and what you believe and promote."
This is an e-mail that I received and it pretty much speaks for itself. What it also ideally depicts is the perceived illusion, the maya, if you will, of how people expect other people to behave. In fact, what many people desire is that other people act in a predetermined manner that they deem appropriate in accordance with their own definition of reality. Which leads me to the point of this article...
I often discuss with people how personal judgment, about another person's life and another person's choices, truly effects, in a negative manner, an individual's own life and their own interaction with life-fulfillment and enlightenment. The statement that is posted above is an ideal example of what keeps one from truly embracing all this world has to offer.
Is the above e-mail based in spirituality? No, it is not. It is based in judgment. And, this is the reason that I always suggest to people that they remove themselves from all preconceived notions and never sit in judgment of another person's life.
Why? Because, in a nutshell, no outside individual can ever possess all of the facts and understanding about another person's life and why they do what they do.
But, let's continue...
Buying a Book
If a person buys one of my books and they enjoy it or it helps them, that's great. If while reading the book, they find some sense of deeper meaning and life-happiness, even better. That is why I wrote About Peace and other books on spirituality. But, you have to understand an essential fact about life, we each seek what we seek. If we are seeking spirituality, then we will find spirituality. We will travel to places where spirituality exists and we will find books like About Peace and other spiritual writings.
It is just the simple fact of life; we find what we are looking for.
But, now here comes the other side of the issue, when we are looking for something, we have already come to define what we consider the definition of that SOMETHING to be. If we are seeking spirituality, we have already defined in our mind what we consider spirituality to look like. As I have talked and written about many times, spirituality is quite commonly defined in very limited terms: a person must look a certain way, dress a certain way, and do certain things.
The question then arises, however, is what you define as being spiritual, true spirituality or is it simply what your thinking mind has decided spirituality should look like?
You really need to ask yourself that question, because if spirituality is only defined by what you expect it to look like, then it is not spirituality at all, it is simply mind-stuff and that is the chief causation factor for maya, illusion. And, this is the primary reason why people never truly interaction with enlightenment, (another subject I have written extensively about), because then they are bogged down with their own created illusion of what they think enlightenment is supposed to be. Thus, they never free themselves enough to truly embrace Nirvana.
Now, it is important to understand, I am not criticizing the individual who wrote me this e-mail. In fact, I find it quite amusing, because if they knew anything about me or my website they would know that I do not, 'Use women as objects to promote myself.' I just thought the photo they referenced was a fun memory and an interesting image. And, the photos on the website are in a continuos state of flux.
Believe me, I get e-mails and letters all the time, most are very nice and complimentary. But, a few, like this one, want me to change who I am and want me to behave in a manner that the author finds appropriate.
It is essential to understand, however, that an individual who writes an e-mail like this is not simply focusing all their attention upon me. They invoke this type of behavior across the board. They want everybody to be the way they want them to be. But, this is not true spirituality. And, someone invoking this style of behavior has no right to judge anybody — not if they are an ordinary person or a well-know spiritual teacher or guru. Why? Because, attempting to dominate the actions of other people is based in ego; thinking, 'I know more than you. I know what is right, you don't.'
That mindset is not spirituality!
I mean, let's think about it; how many of us remember when churches across the U.S. where claiming that rock n' roll was the devil's music and anybody who listened to it was a sinner? How ridiculous was that? Or, remember in the 1960s and into the 1970s if you were a male with long hair you were a totally outcast and in complete opposition to all that was just and right. What a joke!
The point I am making here is the same point that I discuss in the book About Peace and elsewhere in my writings,
As long as you have desires, as long as you have definitions, you will never be free. Because, you will never be happy unless your definitions are met. Which they never will be. And, you will never find enlightenment, unless enlightenment meets your expectations. But, expectations have nothing to do with spirituality or enlightenment. Expectations are not true spirituality. They are simply judgment. And, judgment has nothing to do with true spirituality!
Ultimately, what you have to do is to define what you want out of life. And, as previously discussed, you will find what you are looking for.
If you are looking for someone to criticize, you can find a million reasons, in a million people, to criticize. But, if you are seeking true spirituality, then you simply allow everything and every person to be as they are.
People Are Beautiful
Let's face it, women are beautiful. Women find men beautiful. Everybody and everything is beautiful. People ARE objects (as the e-mailer stated). We are things — moving, living, feeling THINGS. So, yes, we are objects, if you want to call people objects. But, that does not make us lesser human beings. What makes us lesser human beings is to unleash our judgment upon the world. For that is the basis of all conflict. And, conflict has nothing to do with true spirituality.
Feel what you feel. That is the predetermined condition of life. But, you do not have to spread your own predetermined feelings upon others.
How many of us enjoy truly artistic photographs or paintings of people? I do. But, do I sit there and say that a specific photograph or painting is not spiritual or is not artistic because of what the subject in the photograph is or is not wearing? No, I do not. I may like, I may not. But, that does not change the fact that I appreciate it as art.
Here is the question you must ask yourself, "Who has the ultimate knowledge that gives them the right to judge anybody and tell them how they should live their life?"
Do you have that ultimate knowledge?
This is Life
This is life, you must decide who and what you are going to be. Are you going to walk through life full of predetermined judgment? Or, are you going to truly understand spiritually and accept everything and everyone for what and who they are - allowing each individual to be who they are, embracing the arts and life as they see fit?
To people who don't know me, my life may appear to be a contradiction. But, it really is not. For me, what my life is about is bridging the gap between perceived spirituality and the world. You see, this is really common sense, but many people do not understand the simple fact that you can live in the world but not be of the world. That you can walk with sinners and still be a saint. You do not have to dress a certain way. (I used to be a Swami. Think how I used to dress.) You can do what you do, have some life-fun and still be contributing to the overall good, as opposed to the overall-bad which is born out of judgment.
We all must understand that what we think is only what we think. But, do we need to tell other people what we think? No, not unless they ask. Do we need to try to influence other people to feel what we feel, do what we do? No, that is not spirituality.
Ultimately, we must learn to keep out opinions to ourselves. Because, in truth, the only one who cares about our opinions is ourselves.
Live, love, be who you are, do what you will do. Let go and be free of judgment. This is Zen
IS — is enlightenment. This is Zen.
IS NOT — is not enlightenment. It is not Zen.
IS or IS NOT is your choice.
Enlightenment is your choice.
Who are you going to be? It is your choice.
This is a chapter from the book:
Zen: Tales from the Journey
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No part of this article may be used without the expressed permission of Scott Shaw or his representatives.