Summary: Sathi talks about forgiveness both of yourself as well for others. He talks about the danger of holding in anger toward another and offers several practical tips on how to let go including thinking of nice things that person has done and realizing that none of us are perfect.
[singing bowl signals the end of the meditation session.]
[Sathi] Are there any questions or suggestions for discussions today?
[meditator] I was watching a video on YouTube by Jack Kornfield on forgiveness and he was talking about inner and outer forms for forgiveness in Buddhism and paravana is one thing he mentioned. I know very little about that. I would like to think I’ve dealt with that, but it keeps coming back.
[Sathi] So, did you say, paranivanna? Parinivanna. So, forgiveness. Just think about if you need somebody to forgive you, when you are seeking forgiveness. Think about what is happening to you. Are you in the place of power or are you at where are you at that time? If someone is asking you to forgive something where are you then? If you do something good, wonderful or after you have given help to somebody, will you forgive that person? No.
We only forgive somebody after you happen to make a mistake, or some wrong doing. Automatically you are folding yourself into the weak place once you make a mistake.
If you happen to do something wrong on the road, all the sudden you are pushing yourself into the weak place. You are giving power to other people to blame you. When somebody else does a mistake, you think that person deserves punishment. You honk.
But, once when you realize you have done something wrong you will say, “Oh, I’m sorry.” That is how you are trying to bring yourself back, by apologizing.
For spiritual practice, practicing forgiveness is a good practice. The main reason is, the main power behind it is, no one is perfect. You are not perfect and others are not perfect. When you are not perfect after you realize this, then you can easily forgive yourself.
But, if you think you are perfect, you will have a difficult time to forgive yourself. If you think another person has to be perfect,
Just think about your spouse or your kid, you will have a difficult time to forgive them, as long as you are expecting them to be perfect.
For a mindful person, becoming perfect is not real. We are always purifying and uplifting ourselves after realizing our mistakes.
So, the base of forgiveness is honesty. As an honest person, you are seeing how much you are not perfect. In the past, of course, we have done a lot of mistakes. In the present, maybe we are still making mistakes. Only sometimes we are aware of it. Sometimes we just ignore it. Sometimes, in the future we will make mistakes. As a person who is committing mistakes then you will see that others are in the same category.
As a mindful person, we notice how we get into those mistakes. How are you getting into those mistakes or wrong doings? Because when you get caught up into something else… as an example, think when you happen to be angry, what can you control? You cannot control your verbiage. That language is not your normal language. The way how you express things. Your attitudes. Even your looks. When you get caught up in that mindset, you will lose yourself. You don’t have strength to present yourself you don’t have energy to represent yourself. You lose your skills.
Then you recognize you have become a weak person. Once you become that weak person, you commit into something that you would not approve of later. You would not agree later that that is the person that you have become.
But, an unmindful person will justify it. Giving power. Giving reason. They think, “Yes, you deserve to have this look from me. You deserve to hear this from me. You deserve to receive this reaction.” Without seeing what really is happening. we blame other people or outside, to justify ourselves. Forgiveness. Being able to forgive is a wonderful skill. It is a skill. It is not a weakness.
If you cannot forgive somebody, that is the weakness. We indirectly think, “I am perfect.” We indirectly think, “Since I am perfect, everyone else should be perfect.”
We are blind thinking that way. Once we open ourself to recognize this reality, as long as you are seeing that you are not perfect, you have no right to hate someone for their mistakes. Because they are not perfect. Then, what else should you do? Forgive. The only option you have as a mindful person is to forgive other people for their mistakes. That is the mindful action. Seeing who you are. Seeing how you would lose yourself if you get caught up in certain emotions or feelings.
If I bring this to the next level, when a little kid does something wrong according to adults, how would you treat if you know they are kids then you think, “Oh, they cannot understand things as I do.” Just by throwing them into that category of ‘kids’, ‘little ones’, you think they don’t have capacity to understand this. Therefore, what do you do? You will have forgiveness for them right away. Just by knowing that they are kids.
For the spiritual person, when you are becoming mature, with your speciality, with your practice, anybody else who is not on the path is like being a kid. When you talk about spiritual qualities, what are you talking about? What is the action of the spiritual “babies”? Spiritual “babies” become angry, frustrated, anxious because they don’t have any qualities developed. Mature spiritual people have developed generosity, compassion, happiness, and joy.
If you look at a greedy person with a bad look, then you are being another spiritually weak person. Or if you are giving someone a hard time for somebody who is angry. Then you are being a weak person. Another spiritual “baby” or immature person.
The second step is, when another person commits something wrong, then you realize, that person is immature in their spiritual development. You can see even with small kids. They have great compassion. Sometimes you will be surprised by seeing how generous they are. I have seen some kids and they are very generous. Some kids they are very compassionate. They are willing to share what they have. What that means is that somehow they have this mature spiritual quality. Those are not perfect. That is why we have to understand this imperfections of ourselves and other living beings.
Once, when you realize this, then as soon as you see another person’s wrong action, or wrong doing, you will be able to forgive them right away. There was a monk who asked Buddha’s permission to go and recite at a village. The people in this village were very angry and responded very quickly with anger. They don’t tolerate ideas from outside. So, before this monk went, after he sought permission from Buddha, Buddha asked, “As you know, those people are not nice to outsiders. If they don’t feed you, what will you do?” The monk said, “If they don’t feed me, I will think, oh, they are good people. Even if they did not feed me, they did not treat me badly. Therefore, they are very good people.”
[Buddha asked, ]” How about if they treat you very badly and harshly? What would you do?” [The monk replied, ] “Even if they are harsh to me, I will think they are still good people. They are only being harsh. They did not beat me.” Now, this is a technique you can use. If somebody does something wrong, just think, “Oh, I’m glad this person is only doing this, and not more than this!” [laughing]
This helps you to settle into yourself. Not to lose yourself. So, most of the time, what happens, when somebody makes a mistake, we allow that person to drag us down with that mistake. You become angry. When somebody does something wrong on the road, what do you do? They should the finger and they scream at them. Somehow the person has triggered them and you have a war inside your car because of another person’s action.
That’s not real power. Real power is that you remain as who you are. That person’s weakness is not affecting or changing your mind. Or, not changing who you are. That is the real power.
So, anyhow, that monk. Then, Buddha asked this monk, “What if they beat you? [The monk answered, “Oh, I will still think those people are good people. They only beat me, they did not kill me. They didn’t cut my hands and legs off.” [Buddha: ] “How about if they cut your limbs off?” [Monk: ] “Oh, those are good people. They didn’t kill me. If they kill me, there is no one to think.” [laughing, after a pause]
Buddha said, “You are well qualified to go to that place.”
What is our trouble? We are expecting saints around us. We want our family to be saints. We want our mother and father to forget who they are and be saints. You want your spouse to be a saint. You want your friends to be a saint. Because when you happen to make a mistake you want them to forgive you and you don’t want them to make any mistakes. That is our trouble.
So, our practice, our spiritual practice, is about learning the reality. Recognizing who we are. Even seeing your mistakes through other’s mistakes. Seeing you through other’s mistakes. That is how this mindful person is observing and recognizing other’s mistakes. When another person is burning their own self due to their anger you will recognize that this person is really suffering because of this anger. Or, this is how anger is burning myself, even if I don’t see it. You will see the danger.
Just by seeing other people. Just look when people are angry, they lose their voice. They lose their calmness. They lose their appearance. Everything they lose. They totally lose themselves. When people are sad, the same thing happens. When people are anxious, the same thing happens.
When people are joyful, then you recognize this and say, “I like this person.” When people are generous, they are happy. You like this person. You like the calmness of the person more than what you receive from the person.
When people are being tolerant, then you see it. You like that person. As a mindful person we recognize the difference. In between being who they are and not being who they are. Then, for their mistakes, we forgive them, especially knowing that you will not lose yourself due to another person’s mistake.
Once Buddha said, “People who don’t see this, they punish themselves for other people’s mistakes.” Anger is one of these. You punish you for another person’s mistakes. Fear, anxiety. When this comes to you, think about forgiving yourself. We are having difficulty to forgive ourselves. Most of those psychological troubles comes from this situation. Anger, or difficulty in forgiving others or yourself. The trauma situations come from the same roots.
If you know you are not perfect. If you know your past is not you. Your past is not you. If you could understand things in the past that you understand today, I’m sure you might not do those mistakes that you did in the past. Since we have changed, you are seeing, “Oh, that was a mistake. I wasn’t supposed to do that.” “I wasn’t supposed to say that.” If you can mindfully say, “Oh, I have lost myself. That was my mistake.”
As a mindful person you are training yourself not to fall into the same situation again. That is where you want yourself to be. Once you have such an understanding, you will not find anything which you cannot forgive yourself. You will forgive anything [you did] in the past, especially by knowing “I was not perfect.” That is how you can move forward and cultivate yourself. Forgiving is a skill we cultivate. One who sees the reality and being able to forgive.
Hope I answered your question. Are there any thoughts or other questions?
[meditator] So, what I’ve experienced, there are two different kinds of ways of forgiving. From what I’ve seen, it is when there are people who make mistakes and then there’s people that have harmed you in the process of their mistakes. One doesn’t really affect you but it can make you angry, it can make you feel like they got in your way. The other seems to last longer there’s more to it than anger. There’s sadness and the feeling of betrayal. And, growing up I think we all see the world as such a vulnerable child thinking that everyone else is perfect, I don’t know what I’m doing here. And even our parents, we expect them to be perfect because they are teaching us everything. And then the minute we find out that they are not perfect it totally crashes all our ideas of what the world should be. And to me, I think that is really [inaudible] more than anything I felt sadness. And it stuck with me for a long time.
Until… this talk really hit me because I kind of flipped to a different side. Instead of blaming myself and thinking I was wrong and I kind of flipped it and I don’t think I went the whole other way, blaming people and seeing everyone else is wrong, I’m having a hard time understanding what is justified and what is something that is hindering me. There are somethings that I feel are good for me because I finally have some strength in my beliefs and my understanding of who I am as a person.
[Sathi] Thank you for bringing this up. This is a very practical question. Let me tell you what Buddha said in this similar situation. Buddha said two things. When somebody is not perfect or not doing the right thing at the the right time, which makes you angry. Don’t let yourself get stuck in there. Think about something good that person has done in the past. Think, “Even though this person isn’t doing it right now, this person has this quality and I appreciate it.” The reality is, we must judge someone on a small percentage, say 10%, but 90% of this person is good. So, what are we doing? Passing judgement on people just based on one or a few experiences. Then, we throw everything on that person.
This exact same question came [to the Buddha] when a person was blaming their own parents. Then Buddha said, “Even though your parents are doing this to you right now can you think of any good that they have done in your life?” And the person said, “Oh yes, of course. They have done this and they have done that.” [Buddha said, ] “Okay, you have listed so many things that your parents have done for you. Can you focus on those? Even though they are not able to do those things now? In the past they have done this for you.” So, that is a very good anecdote for us. Think about anybody. That could be your neighbor who started to be nasty. You can’t think of anything good that person has done. Then, maybe you can say “Oh, even though this person is treating me this way, they are good for each other.” [laughing] “Even though they are bad for me, they are good for each other.” I’m glad, I’m happy for that.
This is about removing poison from yourself. Your heart. Think about something good that they have done. Focus on that. That’s the second idea.
Now, you can think of anything from the past and you can think of what you are doing now. You can think, “Even though they do not know how to treat each other, or haven’t done anything good in the past, they have this potential of doing good things, of being good people.” “I wish that they may find it.” That is how you can remove this poison which can be harmful to yourself.
But, for the first item I mentioned, that is something you can apply for your family or friends. I’m sure you can find many things but maybe you hang on to one or two to blame them. That is your mistake. Because you choose to remember the few things and then blaming them. Why don’t you choose something good about them, and see their goodness. This is how you are changing yourself. That is the advice given by the Buddha.
So, the second thing is just realize that without the right support or right direction, they don’t know exactly what is good or bad.
But, once when they are able to think with a little bit of support, all human beings have the capacity to recognize what is good and what is bad.
I frequently visit one of the prisons here. Normally people don’t want to see those prisoners outside. Even people don’t want to move to a neighborhood where the prisoners live even though they are out from the prison. For society they are very bad people. And some of them are in the prison for thirty or forty years. Most of them are life-time prisoners. They are there for their lifetime. But, if you happen to meet those people in person, you can see a lot of goodness in their heart. A lot of compassion. They are realizing their mistakes and what they have done in their past. This is who we are. We have this skill of seeing ourselves.
But, for outsiders, these are always bad people. Because [the outsiders] don’t know their heart.
Just think about yourself. others don’t know the goodness (or badness) or yourself. Others don’t know. But, if they pass judgement on your one reaction to something you have done If that is how that person is seeing you for your entire life, Do you think that is right? It is not. So, we need to understand this capacity for ourselves. Be mindful of that.
Recognize our potentials. That is why if you are having a hard time forgiving somebody, today is the day. When you go back home, talk to that person. Let go. Let go of what you are holding. Because you are the one who is suffering with it, not the other person. Recognize the goodness the other person has done. Just pick one thing. You don’t need a hundred things to claim that person is a good person, Just pick one good thing that person has done and appreciate it. That is how you can help yourself to bring yourself up.
Don’t keep yourself on the downside by holding that anger, frustration, or memory. By thinking, “Oh that person deserves this for acting that way…” I’m sure all of us have had an experience like this in our life. Just look how you are holding it.
Help yourself to empty yourself. Help empty yourself. So, that is what the Buddhist teachings mean to “empty yourself.” And how to purify yourself. And mindfully letting go. Paranivanna is happening moment by moment. Fully paranivanna is happening for an enlightened one. But, with the realization of letting it go, by letting go of things you are holding.
Experience the freedom. That freedom brings joy. Today is the day. Just look at somebody you haven’t forgiven yet and make sure to stop that pain today.
I think it is time to end our discussion. Thank you very much for being here. Since it is almost 8:15, I’ll say no Chai & Chat today.
Recorded on September 16, 2019 at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Mankato, Minnesota.
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