I'd like us to try a little word association experiment for a moment. What comes to your mind when you hear this phrase?
"Jedi act without prejudice."
Yes, it's from our Doctrine, but don't go looking for it just yet; we'll put this in a broader context shortly. For now, just think of your first reactions to this precept.
For many of us, "prejudice" is something of a loaded term, isn't it? At least here in the States, that single word is frequently associated with a whole raft of issues that our society has been grappling with for centuries. Some hear the word "prejudice" and immediately think of "racial prejudice." It connotes discrimination, whether subtle or overt, against a person or a group of people on the basis of some immutable characteristic, such as ethnicity, national origin, religious belief, sexual orientation. So it's understandable that this commotation of "prejudice" might be the first thing that comes to your consciousness. In many so-called Western societies, we are under significant social pressure to conform to a standard of behavior that leaves no room for overt discrimination of this sort. We could get into a comprehensive discussion about what characteristics are immutable, things people cannot change about themselves, and which are not immutable, or overt versus subtle discrimination, or why it's still okay to hold prejudiced viewpoints about some characteristics like gender when we would find these views abhorrent if we were talking about race. But that's not the purpose of this message.
So it's perfectly valid if your first reaction was along these lines. "Well, I'm not racist." You can check that one off, right?
Or perhaps you've done some thinking about this question already. You recognize that everyone has biases, preconceived opnions, that your mind brings along to any analysis. It doesn't even have to be one of the big ones like race or religion. Here's an easy one: I loathe the taste of lima beans. Oh, I'm well aware of their nutritional value. I know that some people really like them. I'm still not going to eat lima beans. If you serve me lima beans, I don't have to taste them, I don't have to take your lima beans on their individual merit. I've come to the table with a preconceived value judgment, and that is going to control my behavior with respect to your lima beans. That's a valid definition of prejudice. But "Jedi act without prejudice." Does that mean I'm not Jedi if I don't eat lima beans? How do you reconcile that?
Okay, now we can take a step back and look at the broader Doctrine. Teaching 11 says:
"Jedi are mindful of their thoughts. We recognise the beauty in others and we provide help to those who come seeking it. Through our benevolent actions we strengthen not only ourselves but also our communities. Jedi act without prejudice."
If you read the last line back through the entire teaching, it starts to make more sense. "[O]ur benevolent actions" refers to acting for another's benefit despite any preconceived biases or value judgments we may discover ourselves to hold. "We recognise the beauty in others" no matter who or what they are, what beliefs they hold, or what we perceive they may have done to themselves or others, or even to us personally. And here's a big one: "[W]e provide help to those who come seeking it." Period. There's no qualifier on the end of that sentence. It doesn't say, "[W]e provide help to those who come seeking it unless (fill in the blank)."
There are six clauses in this teaching, and sometimes when you read a part of our Doctrine it can seem like different ideas are grouped together in ways that don't necessarily make intuitive sense on the first reading. But they're really not random at all. There is a purpose to the way these six clauses are structured together. "Jedi are mindful of their thoughts." We perceive and acknowledge our prejudices, our preconceived value judgments and biases and opinions, our past hurts, the things that lodge within the reptile brain and trigger emotional responses. But we don't let any of those things affect our benevolent acts, our recognition of the miraculous in everyone we encounter, our providing help to all who seek it. Because "Jedi act without prejudice."
May you be at peace and live in love.