Discrimination is a curious word. It means the act of distinguishing or making fine distinctions; discernment. But we often use it today to mean treatment based on category rather than merit; for example racial discrimination. I view the latter as ego-driven judgment that separates self and other. This is not discernment.

Rick Archer wrote an article on ethics & spiritual teachers as an introduction to his panel at the Science and Nonduality conference this fall. He highlights the importance of discrimination on the spiritual path: in our choice of teachers, in what we accept as truth, in how we live our lives, and so forth.

photo by shadowfax the second

Discrimination is a quality of the intellect. When mind drives the intellect, it becomes a judge and views things as good or bad relative to the ego and its stories. This leads to the negative forms of discrimination. The news is full of examples. They report not just events but judge them and blame. Filling 24 hour news, they’ve drifted more into opinion and speculation. They’ve forgotten how to discriminate response from facts. Fact gets lost in a story and the point gets missed.

Discrimination is more subtle and comes from taking a step back into a more neutral view, like the witness. Fine distinctions are not possible if there is simplistic categorization.

An identified judge will see a teacher as good or bad. Guru rating sites, for example, are usually guru bashing sites. The ego wants to feel right, so it tries to make everything else wrong. This means it likes to silo and stay separate from other, as other is deemed wrong, bad, or evil.

A clear intellect will be more nuanced and see a teacher as human. They see what has value and what doesn’t serve. It’s still a yes/no evaluation but more nuanced, more granular. The subtle intellect accepts variation more and is less inclined to silo or isolate.

When I was young, most spiritual aspirants viewed followers of other paths with suspicion and dismissal. They had the true path and others were thus deluded. Nowadays, there are events like the Science and Nonduality conference or interview shows like Buddha at the Gas Pump that bring together a huge range of teachings and perspectives. The Internet has allowed a sharing unheard of before. But that also means it increases the need for discrimination. The level of noise and platitudes has increased exponentially.

A classic example would be a phrase like “support of nature.” As we move more into sync with the flow of life and nature, we get more support for fulfilling our desires. Results come quickly and smoothly. The path of right action becomes clear.

But we still have to discriminate. I’ve mentioned before about being surprised what fell away and what stayed after waking. We’re all a mixture of emphasis of natural laws. Those laws include ones for dissolution and destruction. Do we want to amplify the support of such laws? We’ll see this mostly in feeling and effects. Do our actions bring harmony and peace or division and discord?

There is a place for dissolution and we may see more of it for a time before and after major shifts. Adyashanti’s book The End of Your World speaks to this. But the point of the process is to integrate and move to a higher point of balance, to evolve.

If we think in platitudes, we may just go with whatever impulse arises. But more than likely, we’ll need to discriminate which qualities we favour or give life to.

This is not about suppression, just attention. I have laws that adore rich food, for example. It’s not in my interest to favour them often. 🙂

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  1. morten

    Interesting post. A German journalist asked Maharishi in Vlodrop: Who are you ? “I am normal human being”. The adulation of Saints comes from elswere, certainly not from them

    1. Right. We also live in a culture that exalts fame and charisma. For example, at the SAND conference, famous people get the main stage, sell tickets, and draw a large audience. They’re often not awake and can’t help them evolve.

      Those with profound skills and insights are often much less visible, attracting a small crowd even though they have more to offer.

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