I don't want to harbor ill-will anymore and I want to forgive others for what they did to me and also forgive myself for my past actions.

So I remain aware and mindful of the thoughts of ill-will that pop up and mindful of corresponding feelings. But this does not seem to alleviate the stream of thoughts and feelings all day.

How can mindfulness be employed effectively for forgiveness?

  • What do you think being able to forgive someone else would provide you? What would it provide them? When you've done something wrong and regret it do you find solace when others forgive you? What happens when they don't forgive you even though you've apologized? I'm asking these questions because I think there might be something deeper going on then your question indicates. Like maybe you are confusing regret and guilt? Or you have some belief in universal justice still? – Yeshe Tenley Aug 9 at 13:44
  • @YesheTenley I just have a continuous stream of thoughts and thereby bad feeling about how my close friends behaved with me and on other occasions how I behaved, I don't want these thoughts and feelings anymore. Yes, I also regret what I did and that also has a component of guilt, so I even want forgiveness for myself. No, I am not saying this for Kaarma or universal justice, I really just want to start feeling good about myself, about who I am. – user13135 Aug 9 at 14:04
up vote 3 down vote accepted

I want forgiveness for what others did to me and also forgiveness for myself for my past actions.

The first part isn't in your sphere of control. Having preferences like that other people better forgive you is in and of itself ok, however, if you turn that healthy preference into a command that they SHOULD forgive that will result -as in your case - in anger.

You can however cultivate self-acceptance. You judge your acts as bad but not your personhood. You judge the deed, not the doer, for the doer is fallible and too complex to give a global evaluation.

Just observing ill-will won't necessarily change your underlying beliefs and the resulting perceptions. You need an alternative perception that weakens the old belief. Therefore, mettā is employed to attenuate anger and increase kindness.

Refer to MN 62

"Develop the meditation of good will. For when you are developing the meditation of good will, ill-will will be abandoned.

"Develop the meditation of compassion. For when you are developing the meditation of compassion, cruelty will be abandoned.

"Develop the meditation of appreciation. For when you are developing the meditation of appreciation, resentment will be abandoned.

"Develop the meditation of equanimity. For when you are developing the meditation of equanimity, irritation will be abandoned.

~

You can also try to view people as unique, complex and fallible human beings (like you!), whose mind and body are constantly changing (like yours!), and that they too are often prey of environmental factors and prior mind/body conditioning (again, like you!) -> At that moment in time these people haven't had better coping skills to regulate their thoughts, feelings and behaviours. In short: "It seemed so to them."

See them as human beings that have certain aspects that are annoying and then you can take that aspect and wish them metta with regards to the opposite positive quality. So if a person is annoying or dishonest, you can wish them: "May they know the happiness resulting from honesty and friendliness".

No matter which technique you employ, repetition is key. I employ especially the self accepting technique for over 2 years and it works out. Of course, sometimes I do get angry, but that is to be expected because I too am a fallible human being who can learn from his mistakes and try to restrain himself in the future.

My teacher gave me the following instructions. After the vipassana meditation session, end with giving and asking forgiveness; and after that do a short metta wish.

Example:

<< forgiveness >>

I wish to ask for forgiveness from all beings and persons whom I have, in the past, with or without intention, hurt or harmed in thoughts, words or deeds.

I wish to forgive all beings and persons who have, in the past, with or without intentions, hurt or harmed me in thoughts, words or deeds.

[Note: English is not my first language. Please create a sentence that makes more sense to you. Hope you get the gist though.|

<< metta wish >>

Ahaṁ sukhito homi (niddukkho homi, avero homi, abyāpajjho homi, anīgho homi, sukhī attānaṁ pariharāmi)

May I be happy, free from suffering, free from enmity, diseases and grief, free from troubles, difficulties and dangers and look after myself with ease.

Sabbe sattā sukhitā hontu (niddukkhā hontu, averā hontu, abyāpajjhā hontu, anīgha hontu, sukhī attānaṁ pariharantu)

May all beings be happy, free from suffering, free from animosity, diseases and grief, free from troubles, difficulties and dangers and look after themselves with ease.

I usually do that one just in Pali. So, both things are to be done at the end of each regular meditation session.

Hope this helps.

First, it may be right to disassociate the act from the person. I'm told that a state-of-the-art among pre-school teachers (and maybe parents), for example, is that when a young child does something wrong, you don't say:

You're a bad boy!

You reprove the act, not the person:

Don't hit people when you want something. Ask for it, use your words.

Two reasons:

  • The criticism is more specific (what not to do) and constructive (what to do instead)
  • The lesson that "I am a bad boy" is not the lesson that you want the child to learn!

Similarly you might think about your friends "That was an unskillful action, hurtful", rather than, "They are bad, they hurt me" etc.


Second, if I fall of a bicycle unexpectedly and hurt myself, I've been inclined to worry about it until I work out how and why it happened -- so I can avoid repeating the mistake ... because I don't want to live in fear of its happening again for the same unknown reason.

Likewise it seems to me that a sincere and important part of an apology is something like, "I did wrong and I won't do it again."

I think that if you have any real assurance that it won't happen again, then you can afford to forgive and/or forget it (but otherwise that's more difficult).

Sometimes the hurt is of a kind where you can't get an apology: where "they" won't apologise, or the actor is a bit impersonal (maybe a war, a crime, a car crash). That kind of experience can cause what people call "post traumatic stress disorder" (PTSD) where you keep reliving the experience. PTSD is a real problem, there are therapies for it (I don't know of any Buddhist therapies) that you might want to investigate further, one of which they call "mindfulness" -- which includes being/remaining aware of what's happening now and the fact that the traumatic experience is past.


Third, if you want to forgive yourself in some way, perhaps it's good to do good things -- to intend well (e.g., kindly), and to act well when possible.

Buddhism praises both harmlessness and generosity, for example. Practising either or both of these, perhaps remembering (when you recollect your "past lives") that you have been harmless and well-intentioned, may result in your experiencing no remorse.


Fourth, you may want to compare yourself with others -- see that you're like others, better than some, only human ... not judge yourself too harshly.

The Christian prayer includes "forgive us, like we forgive others" (which sounds sensible to me).

Also when "compare yourself with others" it's good to find or recognise people who you think may be better than you, and learn from them, learn to practice as they do.

  • 1
    I marked this answer up, even though we should be trying to wean Friedrick Nietzsche away from Christianity. – Dhammadhatu Aug 10 at 1:00
  • I think there's something like it in a metta chant for example too: "May i be free... May you be free..." – ChrisW Aug 10 at 8:47
  • I think instructions for metta mediation (metta bhavana) say to start with someone dear to you (because it's easier to generate metta for someone dear), and then take as your object someone less dear -- intending that the same metta as for the dear person will be generated for your less dear person. I did mention a Christian version here, because I found it more succinct (quotable), explicitly about "forgiveness", and relevant to the (perhaps slightly unusual, according to Buddhism) situation where a person isn't already feeling that about themself. – ChrisW Aug 10 at 9:51

"Mindfulness" means to "remember to apply" the teachings.

Therefore, mindfulness remembers the teaching that anger & hatred bring suffering and thus remembers to give up anger, hatred, resentment, etc, per Dhp 5:

Dhp 5. Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world. By non-hatred alone is hatred appeased. This is a law eternal.

Mindfulness also remembers the reality of Dependent Origination; that the "doer" of bad karma is "ignorance" rather than "persons", per SN 12.17.

“How is it, Master Gotama: is suffering created by oneself?”

“Not so, Kassapa,” the Blessed One said.

“Then, Master Gotama, is suffering created by another?”

“Not so, Kassapa,” the Blessed One said.

“How is it then, Master Gotama: is suffering created both by oneself and by another?”

“Not so, Kassapa,” the Blessed One said.

Without veering towards either of these extremes, the Tathagata teaches the Dhamma by the middle: ‘With ignorance as condition, formations come to be; with formations as condition, consciousness…. Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering. But with the remainderless fading away and cessation of ignorance comes cessation of formations; with the cessation of formations, cessation of consciousness…. Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering.’”

Thus, similarly, the "doer" of past unskillful action was "ignorance" rather than "myself".

If it is realised the doer of past unskillful actions was "ignorance" then those actions will also be seen clearly as wrong actions; thus those actions will not be repeated in the future. Dhp says:

172. He who having been heedless is heedless no more, illuminates this world like the moon freed from clouds.

173. He, who by good deeds covers the evil he has done, illuminates this world like the moon freed from clouds.

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