Sometimes our desires present us with a host of unwanted consequences.
I came to a new understanding of the term "discrimination" when I spent some time in an ashram in Kerala, India, for eight months during 2006 and 2007. It was at one of Ammaji's morning question and answer periods that a monk stood up and, in front of one thousand other monks and nuns, asked something very personal. He wanted to know what to do when sexual desires arise from time to time.
Now, as a visitor from the West, I thought this monk showed courage and humility to ask such a question in front of so many of his colleagues. 'Amma' (meaning 'Mother') replied with a simple story:
She spoke of a married man who, one morning, went to visit his best friend. When he knocked on the front door neither his best friend nor his beautiful wife came to receive him. So, he opened the front door, walked in, and sat down in the front room to wait for his best friend to arrive.
It just so happened that his friend's wife, having finished her morning shower, came into the front room wearing something 'very small'. Immediately, the man thought to get up and "go and hug" the woman. However, his second thought was "Oh, but she is my best friend's wife!" And because of that particular secondary thought he remained seated.
Amma explained that this is called 'the faculty of discrimination' at work. The man did not immediately act upon his impulse to "hug the woman"...but stayed seated when he remembered his best friend.
She went on to say to this monk that his sexual desires will continue to arise from time to time until his 'enlightenment'...and in the meantime, he is to simply use his discrimination.
In short, the 'faculty of discrimination' quietly guides us to make useful decisions in our daily life. Without the blessing of discrimination in our daily life, untold damage may result. Avoiding substances which affect, or dull, the faculty of discrimination becomes significant when one is intent on creating less 'collateral damage' in life. Needless to say, that little story has since proved invaluable in my own life.