*dusts off soapbox*
A kindly tip of the hat to Barbara for bringing this article to my attention.
The insane media attention given to Brit Hume’s comments on the lack of forgiveness or, more appropriately, lack of “Divine Forgiveness” in Buddhist practice has gotten plenty of ire and boot-stomping about the buddhoblogosphere (including my own, honestly, but I did make funny jokes).
There is a process that needs to be followed when someone reacts with anger. To say that a Buddhist shouldn’t get angry or show anger is silly. The comments that flooded in stating that Buddhist shouldn’t react are just as condemning as Hume’s own inane comments. Buddhism doesn’t teach you to repress or withhold your feels (other religions do a perfectly good job at that), only to attempt to actually understand the underlying cause and direction behind the act. Buddhists are human.
Even the angriest chest-thumping Buddhist eventually will see the opportunity for personal growth or at least for open and honest dialogue and discussion. Once you clear the dust, acknowledge your anger and allow it to pass, the Buddhist will sit, learn and analyze the events in a way that will hopefully bring benefit in the future. It is a greater disruption to spiritual practice to hold on anger than feeling the emotion of anger.
This is where I see a huge strength in Buddhist practice. Buddhists tend to look upon things as causal chains. An event is part of a procedures and process and not just an isolated event. When a Christian commits a sin (say adultery) there is a moment of forgiveness (“Its between me and my God”), where the sinner admits to God (or at least an envoy of God) the sin and humbly asks for forgiveness. This is a moment; a spot of time where sinner becomes forgiven. No chain, no causation. No learning. It’s just a moment; granted a “Divine” moment but just a moment none-the-less.
A moment such as this does not exist in a vacuum in Buddhist practice. That moment is only a point in the process of introspection. Since there is no “divine” aspect to wrong action in Buddhist thought, a Buddhist will seek the root cause of the action to understand it and avoid repeating it. This is not a perfect process and people have to build up a level of wisdom (obviously falling a few times) on the Path before they can come up with the clarity of mind and concentration to understand the actions and how they affect others. There is an aspect of compassion here as well. Change is required for the betterment of all other sentient beings (at least those directly effected by the actions) and not required as a check mark against getting into heaven (or winning a Teddy Bear).
Nothing in Buddhism is instantaneous. Even enlightenment that seems to occur in a moment is the culmination of a lifetime of practice (or lifetimes).
Mahayana ( “Great Vehicle”) Buddhism, with its plethora of savior figures, makes place for a warmer, more positive conception of forgiveness than we find in early Buddhism. But even there salvation centers not on forgiveness but on release from delusion and suffering through meditative insight into the nature of reality. Buddhism queries the reality of the passions that make forgiveness necessary and also queries the reality of the objects of those passions. My anger, resentment, and hatred are delusions, and so is the crime or offense the other is thought to have committed against me. Indeed, my very concept of “myself” and of “other” is pervaded by delusion and fixation. Even if these Buddhist ideas were totally untrue, it would still be very wholesome to meditate on them at a time when national, ethnic, and religious identity has so often shown a murderous face.
Even the cosmological aspects of Buddhism (Bodhivattvas and Buddhas, Amitabha) don’t grant any rewards or prizes to practitioners. They offer help and guidance but if you fuck up, Amitabha isn’t going to bail your ass out. That part is up to you. Amitabha isn’t there to forgive you; he’s there to support. The deities of Buddhism provide compassion, not forgiveness. They don’t ask for humble groveling. Instead they lay out tools for you to use if you need them or if you can figure out how. Some of us grab the shovel and some of us grad a screwdriver. The tools are as varied as are the practitioners.
And that last sentence “Even if these Buddhist ideas were totally untrue, it would still be very wholesome to meditate on them at a time when national, ethnic, and religious identity has so often shown a murderous face.” speaks volumes. Even the most die-hard Buddhist will sit back and say…”Fuck it, even if it is bullshit, this viewpoint is worthwhile on its own”.
The topic of forgiveness may seem at first sight remote from the concerns of Buddhism. Buddhism does not conceive of ultimate truth in the guise of a personal God. Its concepts of error and defilement do not readily translate into the Biblical notions of sin and guilt. The Buddhist solution to unwholesome dispositions is to overcome them by following the path that leads to release; acts of pardon and grace have little to do with it. In some early Buddhist texts, the emphasis falls not on forgiving, but on the foolishness of taking offense in the first place:
From the article, author Father O’Leary states that Buddhism focuses on the foolishness of the individual. Which I suppose is true but it seems more that the focus is on the foolishness inherit in not taking the opportunity to learning from the mistake and to cultivating wisdom from a bad act. Maybe this is what Hume was trying to say and just did a poor job of it.
In contrast, Biblical rhetoric is full of references to enemies, slanderers, persecutors. Buddhism might unmask a delusion here, rather than go on to talk of forgiving one’s enemies and blessing one’s persecutors. Biblical salvation is atonement for evils that have already occurred; but Buddhist salvation is more an effort to prevent the evils from arising in the first place. When they have already arisen, it calmly proceeds to dismantle them by going back to their roots.
Holy shit! That is pretty much it. I said good-bye to Christianity for largely this reason. I don’t want atonement for my sins or forgiveness and I sure as hell don’t plan on atoning for any “Orginal Sin”. Whether or not those I transgress against forgive me is furthest from my mind (those transgressions are over, already trampled over during the steady onslaught of time). Those bridges are burned. The best I can do is to accept the consequences, take the opportunity to learn and then continue on my way. Honest striving towards the betterment of my personal wellbeing and the happiness of those around me is all any religion (or non-religion) can offer.
The rest is just empty calories.
Listen, do you want to sit back and get fat off of the idea of “heaven” or do you want to work at making yourself a better person and this world a better place. If you would like to make the world a better place how about you stop trying to convert people and just for one fucking moment….focus on growth that isn’t measure by numbers and statistics.
At this point half of the most outspoken Christian critics are so full of “heaven-cake” that they can’t even see their “dharma-dick”. I think you forgot it is there.
Cheers and God Bless,
*steps down off soap-box…proceeds to sit*