“Judge Not” by Bob Marley
Don’t you look at me so smug
And say I’m going bad.
Who are you to judge me
And the life that I live?
I know that I’m not perfect
And that I don’t claim to be.
So before you point your fingers,
Be sure your hands are clean.
Before you judge yourself.
If you’re not ready for judgment.
Oh oh oh.
The road of life is rocky
And you may stumble too.
So while you talk about me,
someone else is judging you.
We, as humans, do a lot of judging. And sometimes, that’s important, because we need to make decisions about the ethics of behaviors, whether someone is doing something dangerous, legality, our own choices, etc. But, often, we go beyond judging what someone else is doing (or has done) at a particular time, and we start making judgments about that person’s internal state (motives, rationales, etc.), future, or past. We aren’t just judging, we are being judgmental. And that’s a problem. We don’t really see it as a problem when we are doing it, but it seems worse when someone else is judging us in that way.
So, what does all of this have to do with yoga? A few things. First, as with every other part of our lives, sometimes we judge others in yoga. We may judge their motivations for yoga (she’s just here to work out – she doesn’t understand the REAL importance of yoga), we may judge their performance (obviously he is just flexible – it’s all easy for him – that’s not even real yoga), we may even judge their yoga appearance (that outfit is completely inappropriate for class – I think she’s just here to wear the clothes). Yoga practice is not an area that we always manage to be successful at avoiding judgment. Second (and perhaps even more importantly), yoga does not end when we leave the mat. In the yamas of yoga, we learn the principles of ahimsa and satya. Ahimsa, non-harming or compassion for living things, is difficult to observe simultaneously with judging others. How are we being compassionate when we look down upon others for not living up to our personal standards? By doing so, we do not show compassion, nor respect for those around us. Satya, or truthfulness, is also related to this issue. When we engage in judgments like this, we often do so on the basis of assumptions about things we cannot know – assumptions about the internal, the past, or the future. To do this is to depart from the truth.
Avoiding being judgmental in this way isn’t easy. I have a very difficult time with it myself. But, we can try; we can practice. We can work toward reducing this tendency in ourselves, both for others and for ourselves. In the words of the Buddha:
Do not be the judge of people; do not make assumptions about others. A person is destroyed by holding judgments about others.
Or in the words of the Marley – “judge not.”