Buddhism and Forgiveness
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Forgiveness is a very important in Buddhism. Could the Buddha have become enlightened without learning to become forgiving? Surely, it could not be possible. Could we imagine a Bodhisattva, a Lord of Compassion, as an unforgiving being? Surely, this too would be unthinkable. Therefore, part of the path towards enlightenment must include learning how to forgive.
An unforgiving attitude cannot fit with trying to live a life in accordance with the Eightfold Path and the Four Noble Truths as taught by Gautama Buddha. Craving vengeance must be one of the lowest forms of craving and wanting others to suffer, no matter how justified it seems, only serves to ensnare such a one in self-perpetuating misery.
Learning to forgive, and making this part of our regular practise, can be a part of gaining merit. In fact we gain many merits from learning how to forgive. We gain merit because as we forgive we let go of the pains of the past and become freer and happier within ourselves. We also gain merit in becoming more compassionate towards others. We feel more empathy towards them and their suffering – even though their suffering may have caused them to try and create suffering for us.
Forgiving oneself also creates merit. We will not allow ourselves to have what we feel we do not deserve. Therefore, when we are feeling unforgiving towards ourselves we tend to block the flow of goodness into our life. This will mean that we have less goodness to share with others. When we forgive ourselves we gain merit by allowing more goodness to come into our life so that we have more good to share with others. We will also tend to feel more forgiving towards others as we have become less harsh and more compassionate in our nature.
The practise of forgiveness, such as using the method The Four Steps to Forgiveness, helps us purify our mind from habitual thoughts of resentment, anger, guilt and shame. The regular practise of such a method leads us to eventually realise a state of mind where specific acts of forgiveness become less and less necessary. We have less to forgive, because we become less reactive to the events in our daily life.
There is something mysterious about forgiveness. Forgiveness is not simply an act of will. We do not just decide to forgive and then it happens. It is more like we flow into forgiveness, like we flow into the sleep state. We use our conscious mind to create the right conditions where sleep can happen, but we cannot force ourselves to fall asleep. Likewise, we create the conditions for forgiveness to happen; but we cannot force it.
Forgiveness is also a natural process like sleep; yet unlike falling asleep we become more awake. We can cultivate forgiveness such as by using The Four Steps to Forgiveness. This seems to link us to our Buddha nature – which then allows forgiveness to take place. Yet, Forgiveness only truly happens by the Grace of our deeper nature.
Just as we can trust nature to invariably do its part if we plant a seed in our garden, we can trust our Buddha nature to invariably respond to our efforts to forgive. It will add its power to our efforts so that forgiveness becomes possible even in situations that we thought we could not ever forgive.
Why not try The Four Steps to Forgiveness using one of the links on this page and see for yourself?
Written by William Fergus Martin, Author: Forgiveness is Power.
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Four Steps to Forgiveness
Four Steps to Forgiveness
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William Fergus Martin