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Buddhadharma : Spring 2019
COMMENTARY 17 the same guidelines for speech that the Buddha taught: Is my speech true? Is it helpful? Is it the right time? It’s my responsibil- ity to respect that, for the person I harmed, it may never again be the right time. That’s painful, even to write. The consequences for misbehavior are not up to me as an individual. They are not up to any individual. Put another way, the consequences aren’t up to the “small self,” the self who thinks there is such a thing as an individual self. The ceremonial power relaxes the tight sense of that small self; the appropriate consequences naturally follow. Clearly, it is difficult to acknowledge having knowingly or unknowingly harmed others—the news offers proof of this daily. In the Buddhist world as well, I have been surprised by the inability of some teachers to acknowledge their own gross boundary violations and the harm they’ve causes to stu- dents and sanghas. This shows an absence of clarity of mind. Clear-minded repentance would allow them to accept the consequences of their actions. That might mean understanding and forgiveness, but it might not—severe consequences might include criminal prosecution, banishment from the sangha, or other losses. But the greatest loss would be to remain submerged in delu- sion about our relationship to others, and this is what the repentance ceremony has addressed from its earliest days. This great loss is all around us. Are people really willing to allow such delusion and deceit to develop? Isn’t jail better than delud- ing oneself? I meet with many prisoners in a maximum-security prison in Texas, and there, I’ve seen radiant clarity of mind. Some of those men, in their own way, are freer than the “free world” people who are unable to confess and repent their misdeeds. All of us are capable of focusing only on our good intentions, of deceiving ourselves about our actions and their consequences. I am sure my own capacity for self-deception is huge. And as a human being, I’m bound to make more mistakes—some that I recognize and, even more humbling, some that I don’t even see. Luckily, the next full moon is coming up. As it rises, I’ll request that all the buddhas come forth and listen.