The Place of Forgiveness

Inevitably in working with the mixed difficulties of communities, teachers, and ourselves, we will be asked for a certain measure of forgiveness. Forgiveness does not condone the behavior of students, community members, or teachers who have caused suffering, nor does it mean that we will not openly tell the truth and take strong action to prevent future abuse. In the end, forgiveness simply says that we will not put someone out of our hearts. From the perspective of forgiveness, we recognize that we have all been wronged and we have all caused suffering to others. No one is exempt. When we look into our hearts and we see what we cannot forgive, we also see how we believe the person who was wrong is different from us. But is their confusion, fear, pain really different from our own? Years ago, as our Buddhist community was going through a painful period dealing with a teacher who had gotten sexually involved with a student during a celibate retreat, we had a series of confused and angry meetings. We were trying to understand how this had happened, and what we needed to do about it. But these important questions were often asked with a tone of outrage and indignation. Then in the middle of one of the most difficult community meetings, one man stood up and asked a question of the group in a tone of great kindness. “Who among us in this room,” he asked, “has not made an idiot of himself or herself in relation to sexuality?” The room broke into smiles as everyone realized we were all in it together. It was at that point that we began to let go of some of the blame and look for a wise and compassionate response to everyone concerned in this painful circumstance.   This excerpt is taken from the book, “A Path with Heart

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