Practising Right Discrimination
How can we practise and cultivate Viveka, the ability to discriminate between reality and illusion? (There is more on the meaning of right discrimination in Find Out More.)
We know that under the influence of feelings like fear and anger we have a distorted view of the world. Cultivating calmness and tolerance helps us to see things more as they really are.
Then, the world looks flat, the sky appears to be blue, matter appears to be solid. Careful investigation has revealed much more of the truth underlying these appearances.
So these methods are steps in the cultivation of viveka, right discrimination, and we can always continue to learn valuable lessons from them.
The ultimate goal of the practice of the non-dual teachings is knowledge of the Ultimate reality that abides beyond all theories and appearances.
The teaching is that reality is unchanging and unchangeable. Anything that changes can only be a fragment of total reality, and total reality is only divided up into parts by experiencing minds. So anything that changes must be at least in part appearance. We seek reality by seeking what is unchanging and by discriminating between the changing and the unchanging, this is the way to discern the real from the apparent.
Is there something in our immediate experience that does not change? Yes, say the non-dual teachings. It is the is-ness in everything; also the I-am sense in each of us; and also the inner light that reveals both light and darkness and all possible experience. This is unchanging.
What does change is our awareness of this element in our experience. Often it is entirely obscured by our concern with the world and our reactions to events. On the path we work to raise our awareness of this element in our being, and then to investigate its true depth and nature.
Guided by the non-dual teachings on the oneness of reality, we can learn to discover the real abiding in the apparent, by applying the test of unchangeability in our reflective contemplation.
In practical life, we cultivate discrimination by making decisions according to what will help us in the quest. We can practice right discrimination in what we read, watch, eat, the company we keep and what we choose to do with our leisure time.
Another distinction of great practical significance is between our self, and everything else.
Here, ‘everything else’, that is, everything that is not our self, includes all the thoughts, imaginings and feelings that go through our mind. We experience these, much as we experience external sights and sounds, so they not our self. They are objects experienced by our self. Equally, they are changing, at every moment. Our self is that which experiences all the changing objects and ideas equally, without being changed by them.
This way of distinguishing between self and not-self is one aspect of meditation. In meditation we learn to calm and clarify our minds, then to stand back from our minds and loosen the sense of being identified with the thoughts and feelings in the mind, and then to turn attention beyond the thoughts to that which illumines, underlies and ultimately transcends thoughts.
We can also practice discrimination during our study and reflection times, and eventually throughout conscious living. If we have grasped the distinction between things as they appear, and reality in itself, we will have understood that the apparently obvious reality of the ordinary, in fact conceals a great mystery. Then life becomes a true school and a new richness and fascination opens up for us.
Here then are practical steps we can take. Reflect on the non-dual teaching that there is an abiding reality independent of experience, until one is convinced of the validity of this view, and that it opens the possibility of finding lasting fulfilment and happiness. Then seek, in meditation and reflective enquiry, the element in immediate experience that does not change, both ‘within’ and ‘around’.
Read more on practicing right discrimination in this book extract.
We can develop viveka through meditation practices such as the ‘dismissing thoughts’ practice in this set.
If you are doing some regular meditation and reflection on the non-dual ideas, you are welcome to contact us with any questions about the teachings, or for further suggestions about your practice.