Forgiving Heart | 10 . 2 . 18

ForegivingHeart

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Right & Wrong

– Thanissaro Bhikkhu

What is the wise understanding of right and wrong in the buddhist tradition? The Buddha based his methods for reconciliation with a culture of values whereby right and wrong become aids rather than hindrances to reconciliation. To prevent those in the right from abusing their position, he counseled that they reflect on themselves before they accuse another of wrongdoing. The checklist of questions he recommended boils down to this: “Am I free from unreconciled offenses of my own? Am I motivated by kindness, rather than vengeance? Am I really clear on our mutual standards?” Only if they can answer “yes” to these questions should they bring up and pursue the issue. The Buddha recommended that one determine to speak only words that are true, timely, gentle, to the point, and prompted by kindness. The motivation for actions should be compassion, solicitude for the welfare of all parties involved, and the desire to see the wrong-doer rehabilitated, together with an overriding desire to hold to fair principles of right and wrong.

To encourage a wrongdoer to see reconciliation as a winning rather than a losing proposition, the Buddha praised the honest acceptance of blame as an honorable rather than a shameful act: not just a means, but the means for progress in spiritual practice. As he told his son, Rahula, the ability to recognize one’s mistakes and admit them to others is the essential factor in achieving blamelessness in thought, word, and deed [MN 61]. Or as he said in the Dhammapada, people who recognize their own mistakes and change their ways “illumine the world like the moon when freed from a cloud” [Dhp 173].

In addition to providing these incentives for honestly admitting misbehavior, the Buddha blocked the paths to denial. Modern sociologists have identified five basic strategies that people use to avoid accepting blame when they’ve caused harm, and it’s noteworthy that the Buddha’s teaching on moral responsibility serves to undercut all five. The strategies are: to deny responsibility, to deny that harm was actually done, to deny the worth of the victim, to attack the accuser, and to claim that they were acting in the service of a higher cause. The Buddha’s responses to these strategies are: (1) We are always responsible for our conscious choices. (2) We should always put ourselves in the other person’s place. (3) All beings are worthy of respect. (4) We should regard those who point out our faults as if they were pointing out treasure. (5) There are no — repeat, no — higher purposes that excuse breaking the basic precepts of ethical behavior.

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Forgiveness Meditation

When someone harms us or is a source of ill will or causes us deep grief, meditation is indeed very effective to reduce this type of suffering. In other instances, for example when one gets stuck or feels a block in their Loving-Kindness meditation practice, one may find it beneficial to do a Forgiveness Meditation. This enables one to remove the barriers that may be there.  And after the Forgiveness Meditation, a true warm sincere Loving-Kindness arises.  

Forgiveness meditation is a way of opening oneself up to the possibilities of true healing and love for oneself and others. The forgiveness meditation is a soft, gentle way of learning how to lovingly-accept whatever arises and to leave it be, without trying to control it with thoughts.

Sometimes in our lives, there can be a feeling of letting someone down by not doing enough to help them. Of course this is just mind saying “I should be better”, “I should have done better”, “ I failed and I am not worthy” and “ because of that I should suffer even more.”

The forgiveness meditation is not ever to be used as a club to beat away a feeling of sadness, or anger, or frustration or any other kind of feeling. Once again, the forgiveness meditation is a soft, gentle way of learning how to lovingly-accept whatever arises and to leave it be, without trying to control it with thoughts.

Of course, blaming kinds of unwholesome thoughts and feelings don’t have anything to do with reality. Nor does anyone need to blame themselves for their friends or family members decisions. These complicated feelings that cause difficulties can be gently addressed by a Forgiveness Meditation practice.

This meditation is done by sitting down and beginning the forgiveness process by forgiving yourself.

I forgive myself for not understanding

I forgive myself for making mistakes

I forgive myself for causing pain to myself or anyone else

I forgive myself for not acting in a wholesome way.

The way one does this is by first forgiving themselves. This is done by taking each of these 4 statements, Beginning with  “I forgive myself for not understanding” Repeating silently this forgiveness statement over and over again. Place that feeling of forgiveness in your heart, ( visualize in your minds eye, a soft pink radiant glowing light of forgiveness) and permeate your whole body with that pink glowing light, radiating and feeling the soft acceptance within yourself, your body and your heart.

Use the statement, the feeling and the radiant light filling your body as the object of your meditation. 

The thing is, mind it tricky and it will sometimes have huge resistance to forgiving yourself and will come up with all kinds of thoughts to distract you and blame yourself. But when you see the mind taking off and thinking unwholesome things then gently 6R those thoughts and feelings, then gently redirect your attention back to forgiving yourself again. Sit with that feeling of loving-acceptance for as long as it lasts, then make the statement again to help the loving-acceptance last for longer.

6R Review

When your mind wanders in meditation…

Recognize that

Release the distraction

Relax your body and mind

Return to your object of meditation

Re-Smile give yourself a little smile, like the Buddha

Mind will naturally have a lot of, “But… But… But…” interruptions and try to distract you and condemn you and then make you feel guilty or sad or angry or whatever it wants to do. This is where patience needs to be cultivated, softly allow those distracting (hindrances) to be there and then you gently bring your attention back to forgiving yourself. Do this softly with the 6R’s. Return to using the statement, the feeling and the radiant light filling your body as the object of your meditation

Having forgiven yourself allow your mind to go to the person(s) you are now going to forgive. Softly, gently, start forgiving them.

I forgive you for not understanding

I forgive you for making mistakes

I forgive you for causing pain to myself or anyone else

I forgive you for not acting in a wholesome way.

Pick one of the 4 statements—whichever one that seems most appropriate at the time. Using that one statement,  “I forgive you for not understanding” Repeating silently this forgiveness statement over and over again. Place that feeling of forgiveness in your heart, Visualize in your minds eye, a soft pink radiant glowing light of forgiveness and permeate your whole body with that pink glowing light, radiating and feeling the soft acceptance of forgiveness within yourself, your body and your heart. 

And now see them in your mind’s eye and look into their eyes and see their acknowledgment of your forgiveness. Then, place that forgiveness into your heart. Visualize in your minds eye, a soft pink radiant glowing light of forgiveness and permeate your whole body with that pink glowing light, radiating and feeling the soft acceptance of forgiveness within yourself, your body and your heart. 

Completing the Circle of Forgiveness

This forgiveness meditation starts by forgiving yourself, then forgiving another person, then you “hear” them forgive you too. This is a complete circle. It will eventually make things change in your mind so there will not be any guilt or frustration or sadness or anger or making excuses for making mistakes and then feeling hard about yourself. Making excuses about anything means that one doesn’t take responsibility for their own actions and this is a subtle attachment to be forgiven and to be let go of.

Pick one of the 4 statements—whichever one that seems most appropriate.. Using that one statement,

hear that person saying:  “I forgive you for making mistakes.” Hearing from that person this forgiveness statement over and over again. Place that feeling of forgiveness in your heart, Visualize in your minds eye, a soft pink radiant glowing light of forgiveness and permeate your whole body with that pink glowing light, radiating and feeling the soft acceptance of forgiveness within yourself, your body and your heart. 

And now see them in your mind’s eye and look into their eyes and acknowledge you have received their forgiveness. 

Eventually there may develop an equanimous acceptance and feelings of understanding toward that person who caused so much pain.

Expanding Forgiveness into your life:

Now, this is the sitting meditation but there is still more to the meditation and that is to forgive everything and everybody, all of the time. Use this forgiveness as your only object of meditation. Forgive yourself for bumping into something or if cooking for cutting yourself or burning yourself or for making mistakes. Put forgiveness into everything all of the time. Forgive thoughts for distracting you, forgive others for distracting you. In short forgive everything all of the time. When walking from one place to another forgive yourself and/or others. Any tiny distraction, forgive it. Forgive yourself for not remembering, forgive yourself for making mistakes. Forgive every thought, every memory, forgive every pain that arises. 6R and forgive ALL OF THE TIME!!! If you forget to forgive something then forgive yourself for forgetting and then start again.

It may take some time before the mind begins to let go of these attachments but patience leads to liberation (eventually).

Resentment and Ill Will are old energies, unwholesome habit patterns we all carry within us, knowingly or sometimes unknowingly. So it is necessary to keep this practice going for quite some time so the attachments will loose their hold on your heart and you can free your energies to follow wholesome, uplifting states leading to peace and a sense of wellbeing and eventually awakening.

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