17.02 – On the value of judgments and the judgment of values
Some people oppose value-judgments of any kind: “According to one person’s values, a particular act may be wrong. But why should that person’s values be imposed on others?”
Such notions are good if they foster tolerance and open-mindedness. However, they can become bad if they themselves claim to be absolutes. After all, the idea that “there should be no value-judgments” is itself a value-judgment that reflects the values of only some people. Why should their values be imposed on everyone else?
The fact is that we just can’t deny the value of judgments. The world externally and the mind internally present us so many options (“eat this”; “wear this”; “go here”; “watch this”; “love this person”) that we would be overwhelmed without some kind of values to judge those options.
At the same time, not all judgments are of equal value. An alcoholic dying of liver disorder may judge a bottle of liquor as invaluable, but a doctor treating that alcoholic will judge that bottle as unallowable.
The Bhagavad-gita (17.02) offers us a schema called the three modes of material nature for judging various values. This schema is strikingly non-sectarian and intuitively persuasive. It categorizes people according to their psychological and behavioral characteristics into three modes: goodness, passion and ignorance. These modes form a continuum with goodness at the top and ignorance at the bottom. The judgment of those situated in goodness reflects reality much better than that of those situated in ignorance. Krishna as the Supreme Being is situated above this continuum and has the most complete perception of reality. So his judgments are the most valuable; they reflect reality most accurately, completely and coherently.
By connecting with him through devotion, we can harmonize our judgments with his, thereby gaining a similarly authentic insight of things.