This article discusses the book ‘The Four Noble Truths’ by Geshe Tashi Tsering (ISBN 9780861712700). You can learn about Geshe Tashi Tsering at geshetashi.org.
In the previous article titled ‘The Four Noble Truths & The Contaminated Five Aggregates’ on the Four Noble Truths we made the following distinction: the five aggregates are the resultant and not the cause of our suffering. In the case of our current suffering in the five aggregates, the source of our problems is the ignorance of the law of karma and our self-grasping. In this article we will focus on the aggregate of discrimination.
The Aggregate of Discrimination
The five aggregates are our body and four facets of the mind, the third of which is discrimination (interpretation and labeling). On pp.40-41 Geshe Tashi Tsering describes discrimination in this way:
the discrimination aggregate refers to the interpretation and labeling of that raw sensation into concepts such as “friend”, “father”, “beautiful,” and so on. Discrimination can also be called perception.
The meditation on ‘Equanimity’ pp 106-110 in How to Meditate: A Practical Guide by Kathleen McDonald (ISBN 9780861713417) describes how the labels of “friend”, “enemy”, and “stranger” can change over time. Over time, strangers we just met can become close friends, old friends can become like strangers, and enemies can become our friends. Over many lifetimes these relationships change and people change roles like a game of musical chairs!!
At the conclusion of the meditation is that labels like “friend”, “enemy”, and “stranger” can be useful as some people have earned our trust and friendship and some people are malicious. However, it is important to recognise the equality between people in that all people wish for happiness, wish to be free of suffering, and deserve happiness free from suffering. The name of the meditation could be called “equality” instead of “equanimity”!!
In a way we could think of think of this labeling of “friend”, “enemy”, and “stranger” as microjudgements that we use to alter our behavior around somebody. These microjudgements can be useful as some people have earned our trust and friendship and some people are malicious.
However, many microjudgements are far more fickle than this, and are based on very little information. For example, our opinion can be based on as little as:
- A bad encounter with a work colleague.
- A friend seemingly distant or non-communicative.
- When somebody we are seeing does not promptly return our messages.
- Our mood and how we are feeling at that point in the day.
On reflection, we found that we are more fussy with strangers who are yet to build up a degree of trust. We might be particularly suspect of strangers if we live in a city. As a precaution with a stranger and without an established history we might be quicker to make a judgement. However, most interactions with strangers are brief exchanges, with little personal information shared with the stranger. This raises the question: is our suspicion really required?
Other judgements might also be unnecessary and bring little real benefit, only making us seem fickle and unreliable. We will try an experiment of labeling less and looking for the equality more.