Monday, September 6, 2010

Compassion and forgiveness

Question : (Unedited)
Hi! I don't know much about buddhism but I have read a bit on compassion.  I tend to hold grudges quite often, and it is hard for me to forgive people.  Do you have any suggestions on how I can find compassion towards people who have hurt me, instead of holding these grudges?
Thank you very much! 

My comment:
 Hi L...,

Thank you for asking me.

"Compassion" is a very big word and a tall order.  It is easy to feel compassion for others, while still not lifting a finger to do anything.  The dictionary defines it as "sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it".  Perhaps replacing "practise compassion" with "act with compassion" will send a clearer message.

The degree of compassion one may have will depend on one's spiritual qualities and external circumstances.  
We must be careful not to become "good hearted fools". We have to be pragmatic in conducting our worldly affairs. It is easy to deceive ourselves that we can be really compassionate for all and sundry. If we are not up to the standard, so to say, we just cannot be compassionate to all. We simply don't have all the qualities that enable us to behave as such. So the next practical approach to take is to do our best. We must first of all assess our level of spiritual maturity, and then to practise according to that level. Given time, we may be able to improve ourselves in our spiritual pursuits and hopefully be able to really feel compassionate for more people of all characters. At the same time to act on it.  In the meantime we need not have to take on the role of a "perfect" Buddhist.  In this world of imperfection, we just have to try our best and leave the others which we cannot control.

The Buddha reminded us that "anger" is one of our 3 evil roots. The 3 evil roots are "greed", "hatred", and "delusion". "Anger" is a form of hatred. "Delusion" is our ignorance to comprehend the true nature of our lives and the world. These 3 roots cause us great pain because we react to conditions in the wrong way leading us to greater miseries. Take "anger" for instance. Medical science has proven that when we get angry, our system heats up, all energy wasted to further support this heat wave when we wallow in this cycle of adding fuel to the fire. Our bodies literally burn inside us; consuming us both spiritually and physically. Knowing this fact, do we still want to hurt ourselves by this foolish behaviour?
It is already bad enough that others had hurt us. Do we want to further hurt ourselves? By getting angry, we think that we are getting even with the other party. No. It is like spitting up in the air.

"What does one do about people who have wronged us?"
It is easy to advise that we radiate loving kindness to them. I find this to be too difficult for most people. Why not take the rational approach? First we have to be sure that they are the ones who had wronged us. Many times we may be the culprits. Well, assuming they had hurt us. First, is to take whatever rational approach available, legally or diplomatically. Now come to the spiritual aspect. You have done whatever that needs to be done...that's all. Now you get on with your life. When we start living life in this positive manner, we will have inner peace. Let nature, kamma, or whatever, takes its course. The Buddha reminded us that if we follow the Dhamma, his teachings, the Dhamma protects us. This is the type of confidence that a wise Buddhist will have. Given time, we will find that we can genuinely forgive those who had hurt us. Then we will have complete peace in ourselves.

In the meantime, if thoughts of hatred and unforgiveness crop up, just note that emotion and be mindful that this emotion is negative, unproductive, and detrimental to one's health.  Then let go of the thought.  Given time, you will feel a sense of inner peace.  Time heals.  

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