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Im in the process of trying to 'wake up' I made a grievous error with a colleague recently. I sent a nasty email about something she was involved in. I was trying to manipulate her-even perhaps bully her with my views

I was drinking a lot at the time. I have since realized the error of trying to control anybody or not to take the views of others to heart. I have realized my error after reading various guides to Buddhism. I have offered an apology but now a considerable amount of my colleagues hate me.I see it in their eyes and way they communicate with me. How does a novice Buddhist deal with this?

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You are not going to become any better if you are just looking for a way to escape from the consequences of your mistakes. You need to put forth an honest effort to become better. Here are some steps that will help you in doing that.

  1. If you haven't already done it, send another mail to all those who received the original mail, correcting the previous mail and apologizing for it. Mention that you have realized your mistakes after getting guidance from Buddhism.
  2. Go to the Buddha and take the Triple Refuge and the five precepts. When you take the 4th precept, make sure to promise to refrain from all 4 forms of wrong speech: lying, hateful/vulgar speech, divisive speech, idle speech.
  3. Practice on-the-go-Metta meditation towards your friends and colleagues regardless of the way they look at you. Meaning, you have to chant in your mind "may you(other) be happy, may you be well, may you be successful, may you be free from suffering" as you interact with them.
  4. Whenever the thoughts of regret come to the mind, simply discard them as impermanent, suffering and non-self. Later as the mind becomes more matured and capable, try to observe these thoughts to see the 3 characteristics.
  • Thank you so much for the replies. I think if im being fully honest I did intend to hurt her . – Barryseeker Jun 14 '18 at 7:13
  • The past is in the past. What matters is what you are going to do to improve at the present moment. Follow these 4 steps with an honest effort and you will notice the difference within a month – Sankha Kulathantille Jun 14 '18 at 7:17
  • The four steps below? – Barryseeker Jun 14 '18 at 9:33
  • @Barryseeker in the answer I gave do you see 4 items starting from the apology letter? – Sankha Kulathantille Jun 14 '18 at 9:45
  • @SankhaKulathantille excellent, excellent Sankha! The one thing I would add is that regret can be useful. However, it is important not to mistake regret with guilt. Guilt is never useful. It is just an ego-centric activity. To understand the difference think of the feeling you have right after you came upon a cup of liquid and thinking it was nourishing juice you drank it happily. After drinking it you turn the cup around and find a poison label. Would you feel guilty for having drank the poison? No. Would you feel regret for doing so? Absolutely!! – Yeshe Tenley Jun 14 '18 at 13:47
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Answer given by dhamma 4life is very nice arisen out of real and genuine concern/compassion about the questioner.It is very appreciable and important that you have developed an interest in buddhism ,which is a very true and gives guarantee of attaining liberation if followed ardently and honestly giving stress of 10% to the codes of conduct and 90% to the practice. First of all whatever you have done to your colleague ,was it not out of deep interest of wellbeing of her? if yes then dont bother at all ,howsoever others may have whatever look in their eyes. Afterall we are surrounded by mundane people controlled by their ego,jealousy,hatred. And as we have these things in us it will not be proper to think that why they behave with you like this. As long as you are true in your intention ,forget about everything happening to you or whatever you have done.Whenever we commit mistake ,our so called built up image of a goody person gets little bit shattered . That image building is part of the running of ego.(here i mean running of a machine) . So our mind convince us that say sorry ,by doing so the shattered image again rebuilds itself by assuming that i have said sorry. okay i have done wrong but i am so good that i have said sorry also for it. this assumption makes us again ready for commiting mistakes. So saying sorry is of no use . Now as pointed out by dhamma 4 life , you are very much engrossed in thoughts about the things happened . I do not know what you are trying to practice ,but if it is vipassana then observe the sensations rising on arising of thoughts and be equinimous ,dont react to them with aversion,be neutral. It is the sensations produced and the reaction of us towards them is the root cause of whatever we do ,feel happy or sad . So make use of the situation. In buddhism dukkha is the base from where to move further. Our father/mother sometimes speak harsh words/beat us but never feels guilty about it bcs he is very sure of his good intention behind it. Your action is immaterial, your intention behind it is important .As buddha quotes "intention is kamma". Go in some 10 day retreat to practice vipassana available and convenient to you. Afterall we are not that which we see in the eye of people. people's eyes see very superficially. Pl bear in mind that the interest developed in buddhism /your starting of the practice let it be in crude way , is of very very importance and of top priority, So don not waste time in this senseless,foolish things of engrossing in those thoughts again and again. Wish you practice/study buddhism ardently and genuinely to go further and further on the path. heartily best luck.

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In addition to all the good answers here's some solution from my experience.

  1. One of the problems you have dealing with this situation is Guilt that you are still feeling about sending that email in the first place. This guilt can be dealt with skillfully. Now that you have already accepted the problem that's the first step. As you have already said that you were drinking at that time, sit for meditation and contemplate on the following.

    You didn't have had a real choice to make at that time as you were not mindful and aware of your action in that moment of anger, your brain/mind reacted to something she did. In that moment limbic system of your brain completely took over the neo-cortex and you acted out of emotions of anger and hatred. In part, it was also your biology so have forgiveness for your self for what got done through you.

  2. You are saying, I see it in their eyes and way they communicate with me, you have to trust me on this, it is largely made up by your mind. At the most you can say, your colleagues don't have a good opinion of you. What happens is we are filled with some expectations from people, based on our past mind projects these expectations, and you end up experiencing what you were looking for in the first place. Think about this, if they are filled with hate over an email, every time they see you, it is really their problem, not yours. Contemplate on these words of Buddha.

“By doing this (holding on to anger) you are like a man who wants to hit another and picks up a burning ember or excrement in his hand and so first burns himself or makes himself stink.” Visuddhimagga IX, 23.

So, in effect don't think about the hateful eyes of your friends.

  1. As pointed out by other answers, practice metta meditation. The best place to start is Ajahn Brahm's youtube videos of guided metta meditations. No matter what has happened to give metta and loving kindness to your friends. Dukkha is an inevitable consequence of human life. Maybe your friends need metta too.

    1. Also, contemplate the following verse from Dhammapada

One should not consider the faults of others, nor their doing or not doing good or bad deeds. One should consider only whether one has done or not done good or bad deeds. --- Dhammapada Verse 50.

The point is you cultivate the pure mind by following the 10 paramitas. Don't focus on others, like everything else, others will change.

Hope this helps. Metta to you.

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There is nothing you can do about the past, and Buddhist deals with it in a way that avoids clinging to the past. Let it go for that is what makes you suffer. Also, all memories can be transformed if done skilfully, it just takes time and they will flourish in their own way. But that requires non-violence towards your thoughts and memories, no matter the content, good or bad.

As for present, try mindfulness. Be mindful, keeping right view in mind so you do not act wrongly (through wrong view), that is right mindfulness. Let it get you to the shore. If you find yourself lost in thoughts and guilt, or feeling being despised of, again, be gently mindful of it. I stress gently, as such is the way of non-violence, as opposed to violence that is being harsh on yourself and your thoughts.

183. Avoid all evil, cultivate the good, purify your mind: this sums up the teaching of the Buddhas.

281. Guard your thoughts, words and deeds. These three disciplines will spend you along the path to pure wisdom.

(Dhammapada)

Be compassionate towards those who hate, as hate does not bring happiness. Be compassionate towards yourself.

I advise plenty of Metta (Loving-kindness) meditation throughout that hard time you are having. It will definitely help to purify the mind.

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You might know this already but here's some advice.

It's appropriate to apologise (people do apologise, in the Suttas; and apology or confession is prescribed in the Vinaya). I think that elements of an apology include:

  • Saying, "I understand that action was wrong"
  • Saying, "Understanding it (and having understood it) as wrong, I will not do it again"
  • And then, in fact, not doing it again

I think that part of the reason for an apology is that, without it, the victim of your offence might live in fear that you'll do it (hurt them) again.


You said "I have offered an apology", but it's not clear how clear (nor how public) your apology was, nor whether it was "accepted" and if not why not.

Anyway, maybe if it's not accepted that's out of your hands? You said "I have since realized the error of trying to control anybody" -- and maybe this is an example, i.e. you can't force people to accept the apology.

The "second noble truth" associates suffering with craving -- craving is wanting things to be other than they are -- perhaps part of your suffering is your wanting your colleagues' action to be other than they are.


There's a saying that "people are heir to their own kamma". If colleagues are unhappy maybe that's a result of your actions, not their fault, i.e. you shouldn't blame them for being unhappy. Blaming them will only perpetuate your own suffering.


Some people talk of "body, speech, and mind". The body permits experience (e.g. of pain and pleasure); and speech help people understand what you say, and what you say might be kind or unkind. Your mind is important because it determines what you say (and what you experience).


If you're successfully avoiding alcohol now, well done. Drinking is against the fifth precept.

In the West some people are alcoholic addicts, which is difficult to resolve. One of the (non-Buddhist) methods or programs that people try is a "twelve step program". If you are or were alcoholic you might find this description of its Process informative, and perhaps steps 8, 9, and 10 of the 12 steps.

I don't know, some people (non-Buddhists) find a 12-step program more helpful than nothing and continuing with addiction as before; but it is non-Buddhist.

Instead you might want to explore some Buddhist resources such as http://5th-precept.org/


You might want to learn to practice the Brahmaviharas:

These four attitudes are said to be excellent or sublime because they are the right or ideal way of conduct towards living beings (sattesu samma patipatti). They provide, in fact, the answer to all situations arising from social contact.

and:

The Brahma-viharas are incompatible with a hating state of mind


There's a bit of discussion in comments under Sankha's answer, continued in this chat room.

If I can try to summarise:

  • There are different states of mind (including emotions, views, perceptions); which may be categorised as wholesome or skilful (they lead towards non-suffering), or as unwholesome or unskillful (their result is suffering).
  • Craving (e.g. "I wish things were other than they are") is unwholesome.
  • Desire (e.g. "I want to follow the wholesome Buddhist path) can be wholesome.
  • Aversion (e.g. "I don't like this") is form of craving and unwholesome.
  • Skilful variants of aversion are called something other than "aversion": e.g. not wanting to hurt people is called "compassion" (not called "aversion to hurting people"), and knowing the difference between wholesome and unwholesome might be called "wisdom" (not called "aversion to the unwholesome"). Maybe "aversion" is always associated with an unwholesome state of mind.
  • A sense of "shame" (i.e. Hiri) might be defined as wholesome (see also those alternative translations: "self-respect, conscientiousness, moral self-dignity, dignity"). Conversely a lack of shame (being "shameless") might make a person untrainable (immoral or amoral).
  • A sense of "guilt" (i.e. Kukkucca) might be defined as unwholesome (also translated "regret, worry, remorse"). That might seem odd, or a subtle difference, because I guess that "shame" and "guilt" imply something similar in English, but there's an important distinction in the Pali.

I think that the difference between Hiri and Kukkucca is that Hiri results in virtuous behaviour and non-suffering, and Kukkucca is associated with non-virtuous behaviour and suffering.

A result of skilful/virtuous behaviour is meant to be "absence of remorse": which results in joy and so on ... i.e. it's the absence of remorse that's wholesome and is a foundation for peace of mind.

I suppose an example might be:

  1. I used to have a bad habit
  2. I later eventually understood the error (and associated suffering), and eradicated the habit
  3. Now I don't (and shouldn't) feel remorse (about a bad habit which is in the past and no longer exists), instead feel a lack of remorse as a result of having stopped the habit (conditioned by the non-existence or eradication of the habit).

I think (I can't find a reference) that even a desire for fame or for people to hold you in high esteem, caring about reputation, might be a form of greed of craving (and "conceit") and unwholesome.


If you're looking for suggestions about how to communicate, you might get (non-Buddhist) answers if you post on InterpersonalSkills.SE or Workplace.SE.

I guess the Buddhist answer (even about how to communicate) is to be clear about your mind state. I recommend the first few verses of the Dhammapada, for example:

  1. Mind precedes all mental states. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought. If with an impure mind a person speaks or acts suffering follows him like the wheel that follows the foot of the ox.
  2. Mind precedes all mental states. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought. If with a pure mind a person speaks or acts happiness follows him like his never-departing shadow.
  3. "He abused me, he struck me, he overpowered me, he robbed me." Those who harbor such thoughts do not still their hatred.
  4. "He abused me, he struck me, he overpowered me, he robbed me." Those who do not harbor such thoughts still their hatred.
  5. Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world. By non-hatred alone is hatred appeased. This is a law eternal.

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