I have been reading about the violence in Myanmar and it makes me sad that Buddhist monks should be committing acts of murder and arson, truly we are witnesses to the decline of the Buddhist Dharma, and I hope that there will be peace there and that monks can somehow go back to the precepts. Please let’s send metta to the golden land of Myanmar and for those Muslim’s who have died and are in fear for their lives, my peace be with them all.
The Buddha was conversing with his monks when a man walked up directly to the Master and spit right into his face. The master gently cleaned his face with his robe and looked up at the man and asked “do you have anything else to say to me”? Ananda his close attendant jumped up and scolded the man, master he said “we cannot let this man do this he must be punished or else others will come and disrespect you, we should make an example of him!” The Tathagata said to Ananda This man has not offended me but you have offended me with your words. Ananda bowed to the Buddha and said Master I don’t understand. The master then faced all in attendance including the man, This man is a stranger and others have said to him that Sakyamuni is an atheist , he leads people away from religion, he takes people and makes them follow him to beg, he causes families to suffer when their children seek him out, he is an evil demon. When I asked him what else he had to say, it was because he spoke from his heart without words and this way of speaking is always powerful, it proceeds before thinking and is to the point; this form of communication is full of emotion and force. This man did not spit on me but rather he spit on a notion of who he thought I was and he spit on the minds impression of what it thinks I am. The man quickly turned and ran out of the place the Buddha was sitting.
Finally home he found he could not eat and when he tried to sleep he could not find peace but the words of the master spun in his head and when the light of day peeked into his home he rushed out to find the Buddha, and upon getting to the grove where the Tathagata was sitting he ran up to him and throwing himself down he put his head on the masters feet and cried out” forgive me lord, forgive me. The Buddha reached down and picked up the man and said now, now there is nothing to forgive, but yesterday I spit in your face my lord! Said the man. The Buddha turned his lotus eyes to the man and said” the man you spit on yesterday is no more he is gone and the one who did the spitting is also gone they no longer exist , now why don’t we sit and talk and they walked away and sat.
This is how the Buddha forgave and it has a lot to do with Kanti, now when we read in the sutras about Kanti it is translated to mean Patience, this is just one of its meanings, the other is to letting go of the desire for retaliation and revenge, which to me is the same as forgiveness. If we look at many of the sutras we very seldom read about forgiveness but to me this is most central to living a Buddhist life. It is not easy to forgive, many of us have learned from the theistic traditions how godly it is to forgive, the gospels and the whole of Christianity is based on this premise “if god forgave us than we should forgive others” sometimes known as the golden rule. The function of forgiveness in Buddhism has a different flavor in that having and cultivating the practice of Patience is a paramita or perfection. Now if someone harms us intentionally that’s one thing but it is even harder when someone unintentionally without their knowing it hurts us, you see to forgive is to let go of hurt, to give up grudges. The extending of feelings of good will to those who offend us is forgiveness, to those who oppress us, to those who hate us, who regard us as enemies. Forgiveness is an act of self-transformation, when we forgive we transform negative mental states into positive mental states, which is the heart of the Metta sutra. Now does that mean forgive and forget, well we really cannot forget the memory of the event, it stays in the mind to remind us not to succumb to people or events that can hurt us but with that in mind if it is safe to do so then we should forgive. Well suppose you cannot forgive for other reasons that would put you in a vulnerable position try writing a letter never meant to be sent in which you write out your forgiveness and then burn or destroy the letter. I cannot remember how many arguments my wife and I have had but we know enough to drop it and continue as before, knowing we will never agree with everything, seeing eye-to-eye does not work all the time.
Holding on to resentment, revenge, retaliation, and the “I hope they suffer just like I did” scenario is like planting weeds in your flower garden, the weeds will kill and choke the tender flower sprouts. Look at the world in the age of the terrorist where hate along religious lines has created so much pain, hurt and hate along racial lines still rears its ugly head. The great Buddhist Saint Shantideva wrote:
“The mind can find no peace, nor can one find calm and delight, nor can one sleep well or feel safe while the knife of anger and hatred is stuck in our hearts. Those we honor in this world with honor and respect and even one’s own family and best friends stay away from us, the one who realizes that hatred is our enemy and strikes it down, he will be happy in this world and in the next.”
Forgiveness is a no brainer, you know to have a real enemy is rare, I mean think about it, a real enemy lives just to see us suffer and die only a real enemy has the time and resources to carry their hate out, once more Shantideva says “It is the best good fortune to have a real enemy because they provide us with an opportunity to practice real patience and forgiveness. “No one ever prevents us from doing good and even if they do, it is still and occasion to practice Kanti, for Kanti is the greatest of virtues. As for myself I hope that if I have hurt any creature thru action, word or thought that they may find it in their hearts to forgive me for my ignorance and I in turn forgive those who cause me harm. Peace be upon you all lets practice Kanti and grow in the light of Amitabha.
Roberto Keiyo is part of the Lay Minister program with the Bright Dawn Way of Oneness Sangha. To learn more about Bright Dawn Way of Oneness please visit us here.