Suspending judgement


In mindful meditation there ‘is no attitude of criticising or judging, [no] right or wrong, or good or bad. It is simply observing, watching, examining. You are not a judge, but a scientist. When you observe [the] mind, and see its true nature clearly, you become dispassionate with regard to its emotions, sentiments and states. Thus, you become detached and free, so that you may see things as they are.’ – Walpola Rahula, What the Buddha Taught.

In Buddhism there are many reasons why suspending judgement is considered to be important. Here are two:

Anicca – impermanence. If everything is in flux, in process, then judgements must always be being revised to keep pace with a changing world. Therefore, it is important to be non-dogmatic and non-absolutist. There can be no fixed, unchanging judgements.

Pratityasamutpada – conditionality, interdependence. If everything is interwoven with everything else, then we would require knowledge of every side of an argument, and all aspects of an issue or subject, to arrive at a definitive judgement. But, as we can’t be aware of all aspects, or all the currents of causality that give rise to a phenomenon, (and because they are always changing) then it is best to suspend judgement. Also, judgements themselves are relative: ‘good’ only makes sense in relation to ‘bad’; ‘right’ to ‘wrong’; ‘pleasant’ to ‘nasty’; ‘like’ to ‘dislike’.

The Buddha was always careful not to make dogmatic assertions and to question and show to be invalid, dogmatic assertions made by others. He kept an open dispassionate enquiring mind – whereas, the making of judgements is about closing the mind, fixing things, terminating enquiry.

Hold lightly to your beliefs, for someone, somewhere, thinks the opposite.

Maintain balance, openness and equanimity.

The ancient Greek sceptics used a term, epoché, to refer to suspension of judgment.