Posted by: Upāsaka Subhavi | 01/08/2022

Thoughts on Forgiveness

The topic of forgiveness has been on my mind of late as a as result of an incident that happened on my birthday. Funny how the habits of a lifetime make deep ruts in the mind.

Anyhow, I realized almost immediately that I needed to purify my heart and mind and neutralize the poison so that it didn’t cause my to act any more unskillfully than I already had. My immediate thigh was of forgiveness but, as I had recognized from years of practice, there is no real Buddhist forgiveness practice.

According to some authors like Ken McLeod, the very concept of forgiveness is foreign to Buddhism. In his view, it simply doesn’t belong and, in a very strict sense, I believe he’s right. And yet, in a more practical and important sense I think he misses the point.

Thanissaro Bhikkhu:

When you forgive someone who’s wronged you, it doesn’t erase that person’s karma in having done wrong. This is why some people think that forgiveness has no place in the karmic universe of the Buddha’s teachings, and that it’s incompatible with the practice of what he taught. But that’s not so. Forgiveness may not be able to undo old bad kamma, but it can prevent new bad karma from being done. This is especially true with the bad kamma that in Pali is called vera. Vera is often translated as “hostility,” “animosity,” or “antagonism,” but it’s a particular instance of these attitudes: the vengeful animosity that wants to get back at someone for perceived wrongs. This attitude is what has no place in Buddhist practice. Patience can weaken it, but forgiveness is what clears it out of the way.


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