Written by:

Updated on:

October 21, 2015

Donald Rothberg talks about the nature of the judgment on the mind, what it looks like, why it’s important to work with, and transforming the judgmental mind.

Transforming the Judgmental Mind: An Overview, by Donald Rothberg:

[ai_playlist id=”194284″]

About Donald Rothberg:

Donald Rothberg, Ph.D., has practiced Insight Meditation since 1976 and has also received training in Tibetan Dzogchen and Mahamudra practice and the Hakomi approach to body-based psychotherapy. Formerly on the faculties of the University of Kentucky, Kenyon College, and Saybrook Graduate School, he currently writes and teaches classes, groups, and retreats on meditation, daily life practice, spirituality and psychology, and socially engaged Buddhism. An organizer, teacher, and former board member for the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Donald has helped to guide three six-month to two-year training programs in socially engaged spirituality through Buddhist Peace Fellowship (the BASE Program), Saybrook (the Socially Engaged Spirituality Program), and Spirit Rock (the Path of Engagement Program). He is the author of The Engaged Spiritual Life: A Buddhist Approach to Transforming Ourselves and the World and the co-editor of Ken Wilber in Dialogue: Conversations with Leading Transpersonal Thinkers.


Yesterday evening, I mentioned that it was judgment day yesterday. And was that really just 24 hours ago? Or was it actually 3 days? How many would say 3 days? Okay.

So, there is apparently a bumper sticker that we were thinking of giving to everyone who completes the retreat and the bumper sticker says, “None-judgment day is near.”

I want to give a kind of overview of the work of transforming the judgment on the mind, talking about the nature of the judgment on the mind, what it looks like, why it’s important to work with, and transform the judgment on the mind, and in brief, how we do it. So it’s a kind of an overview, both of the nature of the judgment on the mind and how the transformation occurs.

Now, I was reflecting that in some ways, we can talk about this practice that we do in the very simple way, which is always helpful that in one way of seeing what we’re doing here is that we are in the developing capacity to be responsive rather than reactive. To be able to increasingly present in the moment and not be driven so much by our habits, by our tendencies, by our conditionings, and this opens up in the states we call freedom.

Responsiveness is a very ordinary way of talking about freedom. Meaning, that we are not reactive. And there are different dimensions to this. This quality of being responsive. There is a dimension of awareness. Can I be aware of what’s happening without that reactivity? Reactivity is a term that we use in another state of the contents to refer to many tendencies. One is to compulsively, semi-consciously, or unconsciously push away what’s happening in the experience.

And the other type of reactivity is the counterpart. It’s the grab-hold of experience. Again, compulsively, semi-consciously, and unconsciously.

And the third support for the reactivity is often grouped with the first form, which is sometimes called aversion, the pushing away. And the second form, which is sometimes called grasping or greed, the grab-and-hold. And that third form, for that third support, is typically called delusion. And as long as we are held by the aversion, by the grasp-and-hold, and by the delusion, we can’t really be responsive. We can’t really be free. And of course, what happens in that space of being driven by the aversion, the grasping and the delusion is that those are really the roots of suffering, whether individual suffering, or interpersonal suffering, suffering at the level of community, more collective suffering, the suffering of violent, and conflicts, and worse.

And the practice is really to continually train to be responsive. And the responsiveness has that quality of awareness, to be able to be present, which we train in the mindfulness. It also has the quality of an open heart. It has the quality of kindness, and warmth that we’re also training in. And again, our training is to increase to be able to bring qualities of awareness, and qualities of kindness into all situations. Of course, we can do that more easily in some situations than others.

And then, I would say that maybe the third quality of this responsiveness is this understanding. You could call that wisdom. So we really train in a simple way, to talk about the essence of the practices that we train in awareness, in kindness and the open heart, and then wisdom.

And we also, as a large part of our training, we see what gets in the way of the awareness being manifest, the kindness being manifest, and the wisdom being manifest. And as I mentioned last night, in a way, we could see the entirety of our training as on the one hand, cultivating these beautiful qualities. And on the other hand, seeing what stands in the way. And one of the main forms of habitual energy that stands in the way is what we’re calling the judgment of mind.

It’s quite a force, and I think, very much so in contemporary culture, particularly in terms of self-judgment. We don’t seem to find self-judgment in the same way in other cultures. Before, sort of modern, Western culture. If I have plenty of other issues and problems, and you find the judgment of others. Some of you may have remembered that Jesus has these lines about judging others. Judge not, lest you be judged. Probably some of you studied that a long time ago. Judge not, lest you be judged. Why do you point to the plank in your brother’s eye, or the ___ in your brother’s eye, when all the time, there’s a plank in your own, hypocrite, take the plank out of your own eye? And then you will be able to take out the splinter out of your brother’s eye. I can’t give you the exact verse and chapter, and so forth, but some of you may have remembered that. So, you don’t find this particularly soft judgment in the same way. In fact, many of the Asian teachers who first brought Buddhist practice to the West were very confused by the Western judgment on the mind. Particularly, self-judgment. And I remember being at the Insight Meditation Society in Massachusetts in the late 1970s. I think, 1979, one of the first trips of the Dalai Lama to the US. And it was wonderful. You know, I didn’t have to go anywhere. I was just doing a retreat, and he had to come to my retreat. That was pretty cool. And there was a time for questions and so on. As the question, my memory is that they were on cards. They’re just, were some cards… And someone asked the question, “I don’t think that I deserve love. Please comment.” And the Dalai Lama was befuddled. And that’s not usually what happens to Dalai Lama’s. And he was, he actually speaks pretty good English as probably many of you know. And he went back-and-forth to the translator for four or five minutes.

If you liked this recording and would like to make a direct financial contribution to this teacher, please click this link.

Material on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License

Find more mindfulness exercises related to loving kindness, compassion, and heart practices here.

Become a Certified Mindfulness Teacher

About the author 

Sean Fargo is the Founder of Mindfulness Exercises, a former Buddhist monk of 2 years, a trainer for the mindfulness program born at Google, an Integral Coach from New Ventures West, and an international mindfulness teacher trainer. He can be reached at [email protected]