Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"Why I sit..."

Part V (Forgiveness)

Forgiveness...that's what I wrote in my last post (Part IV). People usually have mixed feelings about forgiveness. Some understand that it heals but have difficulty in putting it to practice. Others--quite a number of them, feel that forgiving people who have hurt you, harmed you is a sign of weakness. It is a like condoning and excusing the bad behaviour or actions of the other person. Some feel that their anger towards the person harming/hurting them is justified and therefore there is nothing wrong in "righteous indignation" or righteous anger.

I understand how that feels having gone through such experiences myself. Tales of other's acts of forgiveness of their tormentors evokes mixed feelings of admiration and disbelief and some times makes you want to be able to do likewise, but yet seems an unthinkable path to follow.

"Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned"

said The Buddha, and how true it is! However righteous or justified one might think our anger is, this is so true! So how do we behave with a person who has wronged us? Before we act, we need to understand ourselves first, calm ourselves down and reach a state of balance. It is a choice--and a sane and rational one.

Viktor Frankl said "Between a stimulus and a response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."

We need to understand the pointlessness of reacting with anger in the face of an unpleasant situation, take a step back, calm ourselves down and the deal with the situation. This is where I found my meditation practice very useful. It helped me find the gap between the stimulus and response, it made me aware of the choices I had.

When a person says unkind things to me the initial reaction is one of anger and the training in observation of natural respiration helps me focus on my breath till I calm down. Sometimes I do nothing else but just calm down--if it is not an appropriate situation to say something back to the person, I just don't say anything.

I also realized that the person who acts in an unkind and angry manner could be doing so for many reasons. Maybe he has problems himself which I am unaware of ? His outburst of abuse may or may not be directly linked to me who was at the receiving end. If you feel/think you have done something to warrant the other's anger, the best thing would be to apologize for it. If you feel/think you have done nothing to cause his anger, the best thing would be to forgive him, because then his anger is not due to something you did, but something he is not able to handle and therefore is in need of some compassion.

Also, are we not guilty of behaving in a similar manner at some time in life ? Sometimes overcome with our cares and stresses do we not burst out in anger ? Do we not wish to be treated with compassion ourselves at such times, for mistakes we have committed?

Unfortunately, we are so immersed in our own lives and needs that we rarely think that each one is going through their own private hell. What externally appears to be a happy, successful life may not in reality be exactly that all the time. Each one of us need some love, some compassion.

The practice of Vipassana meditation opened up such avenues of thought. The discourses of Goenkaji combined with the practice enabled me to appreciate a different perspective and find value in doing so. Because by learning to forgive, I was only helping myself--I was refusing to engage in negative thoughts of the other and instead cultivating positive thoughts of compassion and unconditional love.

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