Discerning the "good" and the "bad" in others

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Discerning the "good" and the "bad" in others

Post by retrofuturist » Sun Mar 24, 2019 10:03 am

Greetings,

I read the following on a Buddhist forum...
No. Judging others as a "good person" or a "bad person" is not particularly emphasized in the Sutta Pitaka. Rather, examining oneself is more the emphasis. Which suttas would support the feeling of being "quite comfortable" in making such judgments about others?
This topic is to share and discuss suttas, where the Buddha details criteria by which it is appropriate to judge other people or their actions as being "good" or "bad".
AN 10.134 wrote:“Mendicants, I will teach you what is good and what is not good. Listen and pay close attention, I will speak.” “Yes, sir,” they replied. The Buddha said this:

“And what, mendicants, is not good? Wrong view, wrong thought, wrong speech, wrong action, wrong livelihood, wrong effort, wrong mindfulness, wrong immersion, wrong knowledge, and wrong freedom. This is called what is not good. And what is good? Right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right immersion, right knowledge, and right freedom. This is called what is good.”
AN 10.155 wrote:“Mendicants, you should not associate with a person who has ten qualities. What ten? Wrong view, wrong thought, wrong speech, wrong action, wrong livelihood, wrong effort, wrong mindfulness, wrong immersion, wrong knowledge, and wrong freedom. You should not associate with a person who has these ten qualities.

You should associate with a person who has ten qualities. What ten? Right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right immersion, right knowledge, and right freedom. You should associate with a person who has these ten qualities.”
AN 10.199-210 wrote:“Mendicants, you should not associate with a person who has ten qualities. What ten? They kill living creatures, steal, and commit sexual misconduct. They use speech that’s false, divisive, harsh, or nonsensical. And they’re covetous, malicious, with wrong view. You should not associate with a person who has these ten qualities.

You should associate with a person who has ten qualities. What ten? They don’t kill living creatures, steal, or commit sexual misconduct. They don’t use speech that’s false, divisive, harsh, or nonsensical. They’re contented, kind-hearted, with right view. You should associate with a person who has these ten qualities.”

“Mendicants, you should not frequent a person who has ten qualities. you should frequent … you should not pay homage … you should pay homage … you should not venerate … you should venerate … you should not praise … you should praise … you should not revere … you should revere … you should not defer to … you should defer to … is not a success … is a success … is not pure … is pure … does not win over conceit … wins over conceit … does not grow in wisdom … grows in wisdom …

A person who has these ten qualities makes much bad karma. … makes much merit. What ten? They don’t kill living creatures, steal, or commit sexual misconduct. They don’t use speech that’s false, divisive, harsh, or nonsensical. They’re contented, kind-hearted, with right view. A person who has these ten qualities makes much merit.”
There are of course more, but these are some of the key ones I've read recently. Feel free to share more suttas along this theme, or to explain why you agree or do not agree that there's in scope in the Dhamma to apply judicious discernment, in order to assess as the actions of another as "good" or "bad".

:buddha1:

Metta,
Paul. :)
"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"It is natural that one who knows and sees things as they really are is disenchanted and dispassionate." (AN 10.2)

“Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” (Flannery O'Connor)

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Re: Discerning the "good" and the "bad" in others

Post by DooDoot » Sun Mar 24, 2019 10:30 am

Potaliya, of these four people, it is the person who criticizes those deserving of criticism at the right time, truthfully and substantively; and praises those deserving of praise at the right time, truthfully and substantively. That is the person I consider to be the finest. Why is that? Because, Potaliya, understanding of time and context is the best.

https://suttacentral.net/an4.100/en/sujato
Not by passing arbitrary judgments does a man become just; a wise man is he who investigates both right and wrong.

He who does not judge others arbitrarily, but passes judgment impartially according to the truth, that sagacious man is a guardian of law and is called just.

https://suttacentral.net/dhp256-272/en/buddharakkhita
Then, Ānanda, the critics will pass such judgement: ’This one has the same qualities as the other. Why, then, should one be inferior and the other better?’ Such judgement, indeed, will for a long time cause harm and suffering to those critics.

“Now, Ānanda, one who has heard the teachings and acquired much learning, who has keen understanding and attains temporary liberation of mind—such a one surpasses and excels the other person. And why? Because the Dhamma-stream carries him along. But who can be aware of these differences except a Tathāgata, a Perfect One?

“Therefore, Ānanda, you should not be a hasty critic of people, should not lightly pass judgement on people. He who passes judgement on people harms himself. I alone, Ānanda, or one like me, can judge people.

https://www.bps.lk/olib/wh/wh208_Nyanap ... udgeOthers

Alternative translation: https://suttacentral.net/an6.44/en/sujato
Last edited by DooDoot on Sun Mar 24, 2019 10:33 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Discerning the "good" and the "bad" in others

Post by retrofuturist » Sun Mar 24, 2019 10:32 am

Greetings,

Thank you for sharing those sutta extracts DooDoot, especially as they show the context by which one should or should not judge another.

Here is another sutta, where truthfully discerning the qualities of oneself and another are central to determining how to engage others, as per this extract from the Khaggavisana Sutta...
Sn 1.3 wrote:If you gain a mature companion, a fellow traveler, right-living & wise, overcoming all dangers go with him, gratified, mindful.

If you don't gain a mature companion, a fellow traveler, right-living & wise, wander alone like a king renouncing his kingdom, like the elephant in the Matanga wilds, his herd.

We praise companionship — yes! Those on a par, or better, should be chosen as friends. If they're not to be found, living faultlessly, wander alone like a rhinoceros.
Metta,
Paul. :)
"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"It is natural that one who knows and sees things as they really are is disenchanted and dispassionate." (AN 10.2)

“Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” (Flannery O'Connor)

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Re: Discerning the "good" and the "bad" in others

Post by budo » Sun Mar 24, 2019 10:35 am

I agree that we should keep our gardens clean and simple, free from people who destroy the garden, or who want to add junk to the garden.

However, the Buddha says we should not see the object, but instead the process behind the object, so when we criticize or praise, we judge actions, not subjects.
“When one says: ‘All those who have not abandoned the fetter of being are beset by suffering, vexation, despair, and fever, and they have entered upon the wrong way,’ one thus disparages some. When one says: ‘All those who have abandoned the fetter of being are without suffering, vexation, despair, and fever, and they have entered upon the right way,’ one thus extols some. This is how there comes to be extolling and disparaging and failure to teach only the Dhamma.

“And how, bhikkhus, does there come to be neither extolling nor disparaging but teaching only the Dhamma? When one does not say: ‘All those engaged in the pursuit of the enjoyment of one whose pleasure is linked to sensual desires … have entered upon the wrong way,’ but says instead: ‘The pursuit is a state beset by suffering, vexation, despair, and fever, and it is the wrong way,’ then one teaches only the Dhamma. When one does not say: I All those disengaged from the pursuit of the enjoyment of one whose pleasure is linked to sensual desires … have entered upon the right way,’ but says instead: ‘The disengagement is a state without suffering, vexation, despair, and fever, and it is the right way,’ then one teaches only the Dhamma.

“When one does not say: ‘All those engaged in the pursuit of self-mortification … have entered upon the wrong way,’ but says instead: ‘The pursuit is a state beset by suffering, vexation, despair, and fever, and it is the wrong way,’ then one teaches only the Dhamma. When one does not say: ‘All those disengaged from the pursuit of self-mortification … have entered upon the right way,’ but says instead: ‘The disengagement is a state without suffering, vexation, despair, and fever, and it is the right way,’ then one teaches only the Dhamma.
-MN 139

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Re: Discerning the "good" and the "bad" in others

Post by Bundokji » Sun Mar 24, 2019 12:20 pm

budo wrote:
Sun Mar 24, 2019 10:35 am
the Buddha says we should not see the object, but instead the process behind the object, so when we criticize or praise, we judge actions, not subjects.
Indeed. I remember a dhamma talk by Ajahn Brahm in which he emphasized the same distinction. He said there are bad/stupid actions, but not bad/stupid people.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.

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Re: Discerning the "good" and the "bad" in others

Post by chownah » Sun Mar 24, 2019 12:35 pm

I think this sutta quoting the buddha saying.....:
https://suttacentral.net/an6.44/en/sujato
And who is it that knows how to assess individuals?....
....
....
....Those who pass judgment on people harm themselves. I, or someone like me, may pass judgment on people.
.....is strong support for the quote in the original post which said:
Judging others as a "good person" or a "bad person" is not particularly emphasized in the Sutta Pitaka. Rather, examining oneself is more the emphasis.
Note that the claim is that judging is "not particularly emphasized" which I think is actually an understatement especially considering the sutta referenced above.

It seems that the sutta emphasis on judging people is that only someone like the buddha should do it and others will be harming themselves if they judge. This does not mean that we should discard the points of discernment about who we should hold in close association like the ones which retrofuturist has pointed out.
chownah

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Re: Discerning the "good" and the "bad" in others

Post by Srilankaputra » Sun Mar 24, 2019 5:12 pm

retrofuturist wrote:
Sun Mar 24, 2019 10:03 am
or to explain why you agree or do not agree that there's in scope in the Dhamma to apply judicious discernment, in order to assess as the actions of another as "good" or "bad".
A lion is not bad, but i wouldn't want to get in to a cage with one.

Judicious discernment is valuable in assessing wether a person is an obstruction to our own progress in the path. But if we pollute our own minds with ill will towards that person it will be harmful to us.

I feel, we don't have the right to label people, considering we cant see how the future will pan out.
O seeing one,we for refuge go to thee!
O mighty sage do thou our teacher be!

Paccuppannañca yo dhammaṃ,
Tattha tattha vipassati

“Yato yato mano nivāraye,
Na dukkhameti naṃ tato tato;
Sa sabbato mano nivāraye,
Sa sabbato dukkhā pamuccatī”ti.

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Re: Discerning the "good" and the "bad" in others

Post by binocular » Sun Mar 24, 2019 6:49 pm

retrofuturist wrote:
Sun Mar 24, 2019 10:03 am
This topic is to share and discuss suttas, where the Buddha details criteria by which it is appropriate to judge other people or their actions as being "good" or "bad".
/.../
There are of course more, but these are some of the key ones I've read recently. Feel free to share more suttas along this theme, or to explain why you agree or do not agree that there's in scope in the Dhamma to apply judicious discernment, in order to assess as the actions of another as "good" or "bad".
It seems inevitable that one will judge other people or their actions. Sometimes, one does that only in the privacy of one's mind; other times, one tells others about it.

The pivotal point seems to be why, with what intention one judges others or their actions; what is it that one tries to accomplish with that judgment, and how will one use that judgment.

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Re: Discerning the "good" and the "bad" in others

Post by binocular » Sun Mar 24, 2019 7:01 pm

Bundokji wrote:
Sun Mar 24, 2019 12:20 pm
Indeed. I remember a dhamma talk by Ajahn Brahm in which he emphasized the same distinction. He said there are bad/stupid actions, but not bad/stupid people.
But for all practical intents and purposes, judging the person and judging the person's actions are the same. For example, if you don't want to inhale cigarette smoke via second-hand smoking, you don't go near people who smoke. Your negative judgment of second-hand smoking reflects negatively on smokers.
He said there are bad/stupid actions, but not bad/stupid people.
How exactly does that work out in practice?

I've often heard statements like "He's a good person, he's just made a few mistakes" (and even "He's a good person, it's just that his religion is wrong"). And then the other way around, "Even bad people can sometimes do good things."

If there are "no bad/stupid people", does that mean that everyone is good? Or that some people are good, but some are neutral?

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Re: Discerning the "good" and the "bad" in others

Post by Bundokji » Sun Mar 24, 2019 8:23 pm

binocular wrote:
Sun Mar 24, 2019 7:01 pm
If there are "no bad/stupid people", does that mean that everyone is good? Or that some people are good, but some are neutral?
Focusing on the action is avoiding hasty generalizations in my opinion.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.

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Re: Discerning the "good" and the "bad" in others

Post by binocular » Sun Mar 24, 2019 8:43 pm

Bundokji wrote:
Sun Mar 24, 2019 8:23 pm
Focusing on the action is avoiding hasty generalizations in my opinion.
But a less than hasty one would be appropriate?

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Re: Discerning the "good" and the "bad" in others

Post by cappuccino » Sun Mar 24, 2019 9:10 pm

it wouldn't make sense to do things for the wrong reason

therefore, everyone has good reason

though the five precepts are the guide

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Re: Discerning the "good" and the "bad" in others

Post by cappuccino » Sun Mar 24, 2019 9:13 pm

to break a precept is perilous and unwise

your reason doesn't matter

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Re: Discerning the "good" and the "bad" in others

Post by pegembara » Mon Mar 25, 2019 5:01 am

Stupid fools live having
themselves as their own foes,
committing wicked deeds,
which produce bitter fruit.

The fool thinks it sweet, as long as
the wicked deed does not ripen,
but when the wicked deed ripens,
the fool undergoes suffering.

The bad man may wish for respect,
and status amongst monastics,
control in the living quarters,
worship amongst good families:

https://www.ancient-buddhist-texts.net/ ... -Fools.htm
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.

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Re: Discerning the "good" and the "bad" in others

Post by salayatananirodha » Mon Mar 25, 2019 5:14 am

http://obo.genaud.net/dhamma-vinaya/pts/an/10_tens/an10.075.wood.pts.htm wrote:Wherefore, Ānanda,
be ye not measurers of persons,
take not the measure of persons.

A person is ruined, Ānanda,
by taking the measure of other persons.

But I myself, Ānanda,
and whoso is like unto me,
could take the measure of persons.
16. 'In what has the world originated?' — so said the Yakkha Hemavata, — 'with what is the world intimate? by what is the world afflicted, after having grasped at what?' (167)

17. 'In six the world has originated, O Hemavata,' — so said Bhagavat, — 'with six it is intimate, by six the world is afflicted, after having grasped at six.' (168)

- Hemavatasutta


links:
https://www.ancient-buddhist-texts.net/index.htm
http://thaiforestwisdom.org/canonical-texts/
http://seeingthroughthenet.net/wp-conte ... _Heart.pdf
https://www.dhammatalks.org/index.html

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