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Using right discrimination: Q&A with Swami Swaroopananda

Question: How does one use right discrimination without passing judgment?

Answer: Right discrimination, or viveka, is not about other people. Right discrimination is about oneself. Viveka means discrimination between the permanent and the ephemeral, and it has to do with me, not with other people. It’s not about sitting and judging others. That is not right discrimination; that is poor discrimination. The real problem is that I identify with false things, with things that are ephemeral, and I make wrong choices based on that mistaken identification.

The reason viveka is related to oneself is because what you see outside is your own prarabdha karma. If you see something outside that is wrong, it is nothing but the result of your actions in the past which are ripening in the present. It is your own doing, according to the yogis. When you look outside, whatever you see, you are seeing your own mind. You are seeing yourself. Therefore, if you see darkness outside, you had better start doing some serious yogic practice to purify the mind. Why do you see darkness outside? It is because of your own mind. You may not believe it, but this is how it is.

Viveka always has to do with me because I mistake things that are ephemeral as real, and I ignore the permanent. It is said, “Identify what is permanent, identify what is ephemeral, and discriminate between the two,” because the ephemeral is false, and the permanent is true. This is viveka, this is right discrimination: Find what is true, and stick to it, and do not attach yourself to what is ephemeral. That’s all. You should also be compassionate, and good to others. Don’t be judgmental, because when you judge others, you are actually judging yourself, because the others are yourself. That is who they are.

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Swami Swaroopananda is the acharya (spiritual director) of Sivananda yoga centers and ashrams on the West Coast of the United States, in the Middle East, and in the Bahamas, and is one of the foremost disciples of Swami Vishnudevananda. This Q&A is from one of the spontaneous question and answer sessions that he frequently offers at Sivananda centers and ashrams around the world.