Observation vs. Judgement: What's the difference?

@Ecotrain has raised this very complicated question this week.

Okay, it may not be so complicated for you but to me the nuances of it has often perplexed me. When I first heard this term, it was really difficult for me to understand what "judging others" mean?

I feel, judging or making an opinion upon our observations of facts, on the basis of our past experiences with similar observations is quite natural to us. We are right sometimes but may also be wrong at other times.

We normally make judgements or conclusions on the basis of our past knowledge, experiences and our belief system . When we are right, we get re-assured and strengthen our existing belief system but when we are wrong again and again, then we are compelled to re-callibrate our belief system to accommodate this new results. However, it doesn't come easily!

We make thousands of small and big judgements everyday of our livess. Our tendency is to arrive to some conclusion on everything we come across, as soon as possible. Without coming to conclusions we can't find peace with ourselves.

Some people jump to conclusion immediately while others would like to explore little more before they can draw any conclusion. So the whole idea of "not judging others" seemed quite weird to me at first.

The Ultimate Truth

However, I also understand that not judging anyone gets you closer in finding the ultimate truth.

We often see things and facts through the coloured lenses of our mind. All facts are obscured because of this judgement layer in our mind. That's why the enlightened souls insisted on "seeing the world as is". They say, the perfect vision is "to see as is". One who could "see things as is" were called "seer".

Buddha talked of Right Understanding in his Noble Eightfold Path. Mahavira talked about Right Knowledge or Samyak Gyan.

But how many of us can become a Buddha?

For most people, it is difficult to make any relationship with anyone they meet without judging them on the basis of their past knowledge or experiences. When you see a snake you immediately make a judgement that he can bite you and become careful; while some religious minded person will bow in front of him and offer some milk to him. On seeing a street dog, some people will make a judgement that he will bite and pick up a stone to shoo him away; while others may want to give him a friendly pat and offer him some love and food.

Won't you say both of these reactions are prejudiced in some way? Should we be so cold and neutral to neither to love nor to hate any stranger? Can judging others help us to protect ourselves?

Well, many think their judgement and intuition can protect them from dangers. It's a different matter whether they are wrong or right, however.

Regarding racism

Racism is a foreign word to me. In India, I only came across this word some years back, in context to the crimes & discrimination against North East Indian people in Delhi.

However, casteism is more severe a problem in our society.

Some years back, when I was travelling through villages, I was surprised to see that people were finding it extremely difficult to make relationship with me without knowing my caste. On meeting, the first question I was asked was my name. But when I used to tell my name, they will appear very confused. Since I had dropped my family name and adopted a made up word as my surname,, they were unable to deduce my caste.

So the very next question was about my caste, which I never answered the way, they wanted to listen. Now this will become an issue with them as they were at a loss for how to behave with me. I used to wonder why people can't connect with me without knowing my caste. People will gather in groups and try to assess my caste on the basis of my behaviour and my dress up. It was a very strange experience for me but I didn't take an offense as that is how they are wired.

Some people were hesitant to even offer me water as they were afraid if I were of a higher caste than them. Some people will hesitantly approach me to offer me a shelter for the night . With folded hands they will first state me about their own caste and apologize to me if their caste was lower than mine.

Since I never disclosed my caste, my identity became a mystery to them. Seeing such a stronghold of caste system in villages was very shocking to me. But more than that, I was shocked that people were finding it difficult to connect or mingle with me in the absence of any knowledge of my caste.

Is "judging" others so important that you can't even interact with them without judging?

It's easy to say that judging others is wrong but most people who are against judging others continuously keep judging people in their circle at some level.

Last year, I was denied entry into a five star hotel at Delhi because I walk barefoot. People judge you on the basis of what brand of clothes you wear, what model of vehicle you own, what kind of business you are in, what locality or city you belong to etc. etc. A friend of mine never gets comfortable with a person until she knows their sun sign. Without knowing their sun sign she dont know how to behave or relate to them! There are more weird basis for judging than these.

So would people ever stop judging others? There have been several campaigns and movements to eliminate discrimination on several basis like caste, race, colour, gender, species, geographies etc. But somewhere I have a feeling that tells me that even if all these campaigns become successful, people will find some other reasons and criteria to judge others. What do you think?

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