How many times have you had a friend exclaim:
“Hey, no judgment!”
…when you’ve just admitted to staying up past 3AM binge-watching Netflix.
How many posts have you seen from parents with the hashtag “#judgmentfreezone” to fend off haters when they’ve parented in some unconventional way?
The use of “no judgment” here is well-meant and important.
Because this dad should be free to parent his child however he feels is best for himself and his child, right?
And if you were self-effacing enough to share your Netflix antics, you certainly don’t deserve to have your friends think less of you just because you got really into some show.
But based on these examples, you’d think that the word judgment was a bad thing.
Judgment is like a 4-letter word in yoga.
So what’s up with that? When I looked up the word judgment in the dictionary and discovered its synonyms – it’s a whole different story.
Have a look:
And the synonyms – they are all positive!
SYNONYMS FOR judgment
Now sure, judgment is defined as the act of formulating an opinion, but the dictionary makes it clear that that opinion is formed wisely, with good sense, and with discretion. By default, it’s a “good judgment.”
It’s clear from the dictionary that a judgment is not a flippant decision. And it’s clear that forming an opinion isn’t a bad thing.
In fact, the list of synonyms shows us that judgment is the same as being aware, intuitive, prudent, intelligent, wise, discerning, and even genius!
The truth is, we are always making judgments:
- We judge whether it’s safe to cross the street.
- We judge whether to speak up and say something when a stranger is being persecuted.
- We judge what’s best for the world and our neighbors when we choose to weed by hand vs. spraying deadly Round Up.
My beef isn’t with the word judgment itself.
My beef is with the use of the word judgment when what you really mean is harsh, biased, dogmatic, intolerant, or hateful.
Because making a judgment is supposed to be a good thing – something we want to cultivate as yoga practitioners!
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna spends most of Chapter 2 laying into Arjuna for his poor judgment and makes it clear that what will empower him to altar his fate is his capacity to refine his judgment, tune his awareness, and think critically.
This capacity he refers to is the Sanskrit word, “buddhi”, which is part of a familiar trio of the subtle body (sukshma-sharira) you may have seen before:
Let’s unpack this, shall we?
Manas is the organ of intelligence and the place of emotional convergence. It’s like a central headquarters where all sense converges and feelings originate.
Feelings turn into thoughts and identities which then make up the ahamkara, often translated as ego sense, but more accurately it’s the “I doer” or “doing I”.
Ahamkara is when you look in the mirror or at a childhood photo and you say, “That’s Me”. It’s the way you recognize and make your “I”.
Buddhi is the higher capacity of intelligence of emotion. It’s the you that knows you have an “I”. It’s the relationship you have to your “I”.
And don’t you know it, buddhi translates literally as judgment! but it’s also:
Discernment, as in putting things through a process.
Awareness as in sensibility.
Intelligence as in, using your wits.
Woke, as in being hip to what’s up in the world around you
Critical thinking, as in learning how to think MORE, and think hard, even when it’s unrelenting and you’d rather watch Netflix. It means being willing to ask any question, even the tough ones.
Buddhi is what Krishna wants Arjuna to refine as a yogi.
If you have poor judgment, usually your ahamkara has failed to crystalize into buddhi.
There is clear evidence of poor human judgment and lack of awareness everywhere you go on earth:
- Witness what’s happened to planet earth and our climate and you’ll find poor judgment and lack of sensibility at the core of it.
- Bear witness to videos of black men being murdered for simply existing, and you’ll find poor judgment and lack of sensibility at the core of it.
Because if you lack discernment you will easily lose your moral compass and be ethically incapable.
And you’ll be more easily corruptible.
So the moral of this story is – get good at judging! Be okay with the word.
And yeah, stop with the dogma, the bias, the hate, and the harsh intolerance, but don’t stop making sound judgment calls.
Though cultivating your buddhi will take time, if you want the good stuff of life, you’re going to have to think harder, sharpen your mind, think critically, ask every question, and be in it for the long haul.
Amy Ippoliti, a gifted teacher’s teacher, has been leading yoga teacher trainings since 1999. Her students have gone on to become leaders, authors, conference presenters, and teacher trainers in the yoga world – both in the United States and all over the globe! She is revered for her innovative methods that bridge the gap between ancient yoga wisdom and modern-day life, helping yoga students “turn up their own volume.” After years of feeling powerless to help her teacher training graduates actually survive as yoga teachers, she started studying business, marketing, finances, and technology. In 2010, when she felt confident enough to share what she had learned, she created “90 Minutes to Change the World”. This professional development program inspired her and Taro Smith to found 90 Monkeys. Amy is a writer… Read More