Discernment vs judgment

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Training of Sila, the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).

Discernment vs judgment

Postby LinLin64 » Fri Jan 24, 2014 9:08 am

Hi - I'm new to this forum and am hopeful it may become a very valuable resource. It looks very helpful.

My current question is around a work situation. How does one understand the difference between discernment (referred to by the Buddha in the Full Moon Shorter Discourse, which I see as positive) and being judgmental (negative)?

The situation: For 2 years I have been involved part time in an organization whose values I hold dear (environmental sustainability). The head, I have come to see, consistently stretches the truth, tells half-truths, omits key information, works 'creatively' in terms of funding (placing expenses in line items that do not really fit that line item), speaks harshly (literal finger pointing, name calling, etc), and has gained a reputation in town that many people have simply said they cannot work with her.
I see that she has worked on herself to try to improve her interactions with people, and I have wanted to support that.

Now it has been nearly two years and my instinct is to give up, walk away from the organization, and associate with people and organizations grounded in the Dhamma and ethical behavior.

I keep thinking a more skillful practitioner would be able to turn the situation around, and that it is 'good practice' for me. For a time I thought she was making positive changes but recently, as pressures have increased, she is back to her old ways.

Walk away and call it exercising good discernment? Or stay and continue trying to establish a more ethically sound ground in the workplace?

With thanks,

LinLin
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Re: Discernment vs judgment

Postby Sam Vara » Fri Jan 24, 2014 10:48 am

I keep thinking a more skillful practitioner would be able to turn the situation around, and that it is 'good practice' for me. For a time I thought she was making positive changes but recently, as pressures have increased, she is back to her old ways.


A really skillful practitioner might be able to induce her to do all sorts of good things, but we all just have to do what we can. Maybe your own "good practice" consists in being patient with the situation, or maintaining your good will despite provocation. She alone is reponsible for her actions, not you.

There are two different questions here. One is about whether you are behaving ethically in continuing to work with this person. Providing you don't react badly to her, or copy what she does, then it seems you are behaving ethically. The other question is about whether you want to work with objectionable people. That is not so clearly ethical, just a matter of personal preference and what you are prepared to put up with.
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Re: Discernment vs judgment

Postby LinLin64 » Fri Jan 24, 2014 11:54 am

Thanks for your reply, Sam Vara, and the reminder to do what one can.
You also wrote...
There are two different questions here. One is about whether you are behaving ethically in continuing to work with this person. Providing you don't react badly to her, or copy what she does, then it seems you are behaving ethically.


It has gotten more difficult to maintain my equilibrium recently, with the recent ramping up of the half-truths. And then there is this, from Bhikkhu Bodhi...
Particularly critical to our spiritual progress is our selection of friends and companions, who can have the most decisive impact upon our personal destiny. It is because he perceived how susceptible our minds can be to the influence of our companions that the Buddha repeatedly stressed the value of good friendship (kalyanamittata) in the spiritual life... If we aspire for the highest — for the peaks of transcendent wisdom and liberation — then we must enter into association with those who represent the highest.

I'd like to think her behavior isn't influencing me, but these words ring very true and strengthen an inclination to disassociate, freeing up time to spend with those who hold the Dhamma dear.


And for the other question you separated out, Sam Vara,
The other question is about whether you want to work with objectionable people. That is not so clearly ethical, just a matter of personal preference and what you are prepared to put up with.

Honestly, I feel I've given it a very fair shot, working hard for nearly 2 years to shift things. With the recent regression, I find myself deeply weary of it now.
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Re: Discernment vs judgment

Postby daverupa » Fri Jan 24, 2014 11:57 am

Have you recourse to a Human Resources department?
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Discernment vs judgment

Postby Mkoll » Fri Jan 24, 2014 12:44 pm

Power relationships with people that don't happen to inspire respect in their subordinates are tough. But that's just the way it is in society, in my limited experience. The grass isn't likely to be much greener on the other side, if at all.

I'm guessing that if you had had some good opportunity to leave, you'd have already taken it. I mean, if money or something else with a similar holding power wasn't an issue, you'd have left already, right? If I'm wrong in this assumption, then I'd advise leaving ASAP.

Do the best where you're at. Ven. Thanissaro has a great packet with a list of suttas to do with the brahmaviharas. Some of the relevant ones to your situation are: SN 47.19, AN 7.60, AN 5.161-162, and AN 10.80. I especially like Ven. Sariputta's advice in AN 5.162 about paying attention to the wholesome aspects of someone you're at odds with, and if they have no wholesome qualities, to develop compassion towards them in their dire situation. Also, the end of AN 10.80 is a great one-liner:
One does not get worked up over impossibilities


:anjali:
Peace,
James
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Re: Discernment vs judgment

Postby LinLin64 » Fri Jan 24, 2014 2:31 pm

Unfortunately there is no HR, daverupa. In fact one issue is that I am trying to put in place comprehensive HR policies and was told by my colleague that she intends to discriminate and opposes putting at least one key policy element in place.

BTW, the feeling I have is not hatred but rather exasperation and shock in response to unethical behavior, harsh words, etc. Plus concern that the unethical behavior reflects on the organization, and on me if I choose to remain part of it.
What has been keeping me there is a 1) commitment to the environmental values of the organization and 2) seeing this situation as good practice. But my spiritual values take first priority, and there are other ways to express the environmental values. And any situation is an opportunity for practice, including the process of disassociation.

The quote to not get worked up over the impossible is very helpful. It helps me hold the situation more lightly.

It is time to watch over myself (SN 47.19) and leave the situation. It will be possible to do that with a sense of goodwill. And it will create space to devote to more wholesome associations.
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Re: Discernment vs judgment

Postby culaavuso » Fri Jan 24, 2014 5:23 pm

Judicious Not Judgemental by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:One of the most difficult but necessary skills we need to develop as meditators is learning how to be judicious without being judgmental. And as a preliminary step to developing that skill, it's good to reflect on the difference between the two.

Being judgmental is basically an effort to get rid of something we don't understand and probably don't want to understand. We see something we don't like and we try to dismiss it, to stamp it out without taking the time to understand it. We're impatient. Whatever we're being judgmental about, we just want to get rid of it quickly.

Being judicious, however, requires patience together with understanding. A judicious choice is one you've made after understanding all the options, all the sides of a question. That way your choice is based on knowledge, not on greed, aversion, or delusion.


Also remember that beings are the owners of their actions. This means there is no way to control her.
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Re: Discernment vs judgment

Postby LinLin64 » Sat Jan 25, 2014 4:48 pm

Thanks so much for your comments, everyone.
I have decided to resign and have had a conversation with the head, which went very well.

What was particularly helpful was AN 10.80. It helped in changing my thinking from "a skilled a practitioner would be able to shift this, so I must keep trying" to simple acceptance of how things are.

From there it was easy to choose to turn away from the crooked path in favor of a straighter path. And by emphasizing that I was choosing a straight path (spending time on pursuits more directly linked to and supporting my spiritual beliefs), it gave a surprising ease to the conversation.

With a deep bow of gratitude,

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