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Buddhadharma : Spring 2015
spring 2 0 1 5 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 31 This is when it’s important to know the dif- ference between remorse and guilt. Remorse is a healthy response to inappropriate action, speech, or thought. It’s a healthy response because it’s telling you, “This is painful.” But most of us probably turn that into guilt. In guilt, there is remorse but also an inappropriate amount of self-flagellation. This is the unhealthy nature of guilt. For me, it seems that guilt is a kind of cover-up, a way to numb the pain: “Yes. You are rotten to the core, Viradhammo!” But this is self-view. What does it feel like when we just go to the pain? If I say something that is unkind to someone and then see that it causes hurt, I think, “Oh, I did it again!” And there’s the jab. There’s the pain. There’s the result of my action. This is why meditation is so important, because when we sit we get the results of our life. Sometimes it’s difficult to sit when there is suffering because we want to get away from it. However, if we actually sit and feel the pain without judgment—really feel the physical and emotional feeling of that—we can contemplate: This is the result of that; with this, there is that. We see dependent origination, that the origin of this feeling depends on a certain action or condition. If we really feel the pain that registers in our minds in an intuitive way, in a fundamental way, we understand that when we do certain things, we are going to suffer. We realize cause and effect. What can we do then? Well, we can use skill- ful thinking rather than guilty thinking. We can say, “From now on, I’m going to try not to speak in those ways.” We can make that intention. And establishing that intention helps us be more mindful. So, five days later, when I say the same thing again, instead of thinking, “There you go again. You’re no good—you’re rotten to the core!” I can go back and examine: What’s the result? The result is that it hurts. It really hurts! You feel it. That pain can teach you. You learn that with the arising of this condition, you get that condition, but when this condition isn’t there, you won’t get that. If you go through that process again and again, with those habitual patterns of suffering, eventually you begin to see the arising of that unwholesome condition. Mindfulness is now established. Mindfulness is very powerful. It’s like recollec- tion or remembering. It sees: “Ah, there it is, the impulse to wisecrack. But I’m not going to react to it, I’m not going to follow that one.” I button my lip; I don’t say it. Then there’s the joy: “I didn’t do it! I didn’t get sucked in.” The heart is freed from that particular habit. Now in all of that, there has been no hatred. There has been intention, but it hasn’t been bound up with self-view; there has been no activity of desire. I’m not trying to become a person who doesn’t do that. There is no activity of aversion. There is mindfulness, wakefulness. That’s training, always working from wakefulness and intention: I’m going to be awake rather than become some- thing. I’m going to be awake and aware of the way things are. Purification, the third aspect of commitment that I find helpful, is probably one of the most difficult because it’s so boring. Of course, I can only speak for monastic life, because I never really developed the training as a layperson. I know that monastic life is not fun; it’s not meant to be. Though I love the brotherhood and find the monks inspiring, there are times when I don’t like the people, or I feel annoyed or intimidated or fed up. But I have the freedom to watch that, and this is the purification. This is where we have to have tremendous patience. A favorite reflection of mine is “Infinite patience, boundless compassion.” This is the prac- tice. When it all begins to surface—when you start to feel annoyed at the apartment and the marriage or fed up with the kids—desire manifests as frustra- tion. But then, if we can bear with the frustration rather than judge it, we go through a purifica- tion. So we have to allow this stuff to surface in the mind; we have to allow the rubbish to become conscious. This is why the teachings of anatta and anicca, non-personality and change, are so important, because if we didn’t have these teachings, we would take it personally. But the more we contemplate these teachings and discover that they’re true, the more courage we have to allow these things to come up into consciousness. The more courage we have to let them be conscious, the more patience we have to bear with them, and the more we realize the underlying peace of the mind. If we’re always shifting according to personal desire, we can never really understand how it operates in the mind. ➤ continued page 82