The Incredible Practice of Forgiveness

The Incredible Practice of Forgiveness

Upcoming / ongoing:

Second Sunday Circle:  The Art of Solitude. Date: August 11 from 2:00 to 3:45 p.m. Location: The Sol Center, Tucson, AZ. $30/session, Sol Center member discount is applicable. Registration is required. (MORE INFO)

Dear Friends,

The Incredible Power of Forgiveness

Hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed. This is the ancient and eternal law.

~ Buddha

Without forgiveness, if we have done harm or if it has been done to us, we are caught in past misdeeds. We remain stuck in a pattern repeating the hurt and pain of l bygone events. As human beings, we need to learn forgiveness, to end cycles of revenge and violence, and attempt to start anew, whether there is conflict between the Russians and Ukrainians, the Hutus and Tutsis, the Palestinians and Israelis, or in many other places experiencing civil war and internal discord.

Buddhist psychology offers different teachings and practices for the manifestation of forgiveness. This could be the practice of compassion; yet compassion and forgiveness do not ignore the truth of our suffering.  Forgiveness is not easy to practice. Some think it is weak, yet it requires steadfast courage and strength. Truly  only forgiveness and love can bring forth the calm and happiness we wish for.

When we practice forgiveness as individuals, we begin by seeing that we have hurt others at some time; just as we have knowingly or unknowingly been harmed by others. It is inevitable in this human realm to make these errors. Sometimes we notice that our betrayals are small, sometimes larger and destructive. To extend and receive forgiveness is fundamental for letting go and renewing ourselves from a difficult past. Forgiving others does not mean we are condoning the hurtful deeds of another person toward us. We can do our best to make sure these deeds never happen again by understanding the possible causes. It has been said, “Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.” 

In Buddhism, forgiveness is understood as a way to end suffering, to bring dignity and connection to our life. It is basically for our own sake, for our own balanced emotional and mind state. This is illustrated by the story of two ex-prisoners of war who meet after many years. When the first one asks, “Have you forgiven your captors yet?” the second man answers, “No, never.” “Well then,” the first man replies, “they still have you in prison.”

We may still be suffering awfully from past actions, and yet it is painful to hate. Without the practice of forgiveness, we perpetuate the illusion that hate can heal our pain and that of others. Forgiveness is a mindfulness practice that helps us to see clearly. It can help us acknowledge what is not fair, harmful, or wrong.  Over time it is possible to see clearly the wounds of the past and to come to understand the conditions that brought them about. This can give us the strength to resolve and release any bitterness and hate in our hearts.

Finding a way to forgive ourselves is one of our most important tools in healing the pain. Just as others have been caught in suffering, so have we. If we look directly at our lives, we may be able to see the anger and fear that have led to our own ways of inflicting harm on ourselves and others. Perhaps we can finally find forgiveness for ourselves and hold the pain with compassion. Without mercy, we may continue to live with self-hate and unhappiness.

Forgiveness acknowledges that no matter how much we may have suffered, we will not put another human being out of our heart.

In lovingkindness and compassion,