I am asking this personal question because I am recently found myself in a situation that shook me up quite a bit and I can’t seem to figure out how to deal with it. I made a wrong decision which hurt someone, because I betrayed and broke the trust of that person. I am a very compassionate person and I aim to do no harm to anyone , ever. So consciously putting myself in this situation was probably the worst thing I have ever done simply because I hurt someone. I deeply regret my decision because I was acting out of delusion and ignorance. And I take 100% responsibility for what I did, knowing it was wrong. I try to see the necessity in the action itself (I hope this makes sense, I do not mean it was right and this is not an excuse) as it helped me personally to overcome the delusions and break attachment, only through this I was able to see clear, but I deeply regret hurting someone else’s feelings with it and doing wrong towards that person. I often see teachings on how to overcome betrayal if you are the one getting betrayed - but how can you restore your karma and move on after being the one who betrayed and breaking the trust? And I am not talking about seeking forgiveness from that person, because that is something I simply can not expect as I take responsibility for my actions. I feel like it had to happen in order for me to be able to move on and overcome certain things I was so attached to, and I do not ever in my life want anything like this to happen again, and I make sure it won’t, but it still is haunting and torturing me that I did harm to someone and created such bad karma. So how can I restore it and let go of the fact that I did harm? Thank you in advance for your answers.

2 Answers 2


It isn't necessarily difficult to act unskillfully and through that, betray someone else, and it can usually only be a gradual process to recover from either betraying or being betrayed. But it's the same process to follow in either case. And results can't be expected instantly. The first step must be the process of forgiving ourselves. You have wholesomely taken responsibility for what you did, but you seem stuck there. So try these words, and also sincerely mean them. "I forgive myself for acting unskillfully and hurting someone else. I vow to now begin anew." (and of course not do it again). If it is at all possible, ask the person you betrayed if they can consider forgiving you too. Showing contrition to the betrayed can prove helpful. But in some cases (including my own), it can take a lifetime of practising to really forgive someone and the same is true of believing you are forgiven too. That doesn't mean it's too difficult to try to do it, and, little by little, hopefully, your heart will soften and the wound will start to heal, even if you never truly forgive yourself, or if the one you wounded finds they can't wholely forgive you.


On the level of ultimate truth, Buddhism does not teach "we" or "the self" act out of delusion and ignorance (SN 12.17). Instead, Buddhism teaches ignorance & delusion act (SN 12.17). There is a difference between incorrectly placing 100% responsibility upon "our self" and correctly placing 100% responsibility upon ignorance. In Buddhism, the acter or doer of unskillful action is ignorance (SN 45.1) rather than a "self" (SN 12.17).

Morally, Buddhism does not teach there is a "necessity" in performing unskillful actions for the purpose of learning from the results of those unskillful actions. However, if there is ignorance, it is expected & inevitable unskillful actions will be performed. For people who lack Buddhist or religious knowledge, they will inevitably engage in unskillful actions, and, positively, some people will learn from the results of these actions, change their way of life/behaviour & gain wisdom. If you do not ever in your life want anything like this to happen again and make sure it won’t; this is sufficient redemption in Buddhism. MN 61 says:

Having done a action, you should reflect on it: 'This action I have done — did it lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Was it an unskillful action, with painful consequences, painful results?' If, on reflection, you know that it led to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both; it was an unskillful action with painful consequences, painful results, then you should confess it, reveal it, lay it open to the Teacher or to a knowledgeable companion in the holy life. Having confessed it... you should exercise restraint in the future.

MN 61

MN 86, which is about a reformed mass-murderer who attained full enlightenment, says:

Who once was heedless, but later is not, brightens the world like the moon set free from a cloud.

His evil-done deed is replaced with skillfulness: he brightens the world like the moon set free from a cloud.

MN 86

Often, it is the ignorance of both parties that results in one party getting hurt. When this occurs, the hurt of the one party is due to the ignorance operating within the mind of that one party. We cannot accept 100% responsibility for the hurt that occurs to another person due to the ignorance operating in the mind of another person. It is only if we hurt a person who is completely uncomplicate when 100% responsibility falls upon our self, such as if we drive a car under the influence of alcohol, drive through a red light and kill or injure a person. About this principle, the Dhammapada says:

  1. He who inflicts violence on those who are unarmed, and offends those who are inoffensive, will soon come upon one of these ten states:

138-140 Sharp pain, or disaster, bodily injury, serious illness, or derangement of mind, trouble from the government, or grave charges, loss of relatives, or loss of wealth, or houses destroyed by ravaging fire; upon dissolution of the body that ignorant man is born in hell.


A common contemporary example relates to sex. Most monks in Buddhism in recent times are not properly teaching what sexual misconduct is. Sexual misconduct in Buddhism is essentially the same as other religions, namely, the only option for sex for a practicing Buddhist is in marriage. In marriage, two people have made a formal conscious commitment to each other, hopefully based in appropriate thoughtful planning. Therefore, when two people living in non-Dhammic/religious societies engage in heedless uncommitted sex and one party get hurt, it is both parties who transgressed the Law of Dhamma (Nature) or sinned against 'God'. It follows the hurt party reaps what they have sowed. From a Dhammic or religious point of view, it is the duty of both parties to reconcile their transgressions with the Dhamma or with 'God'. In short, in these types of circumstances, we are not responsible for the personal negligence & ignorance of another person who manages to get themselves hurt due to ignorantly & willingly interacting with another ignorantly willful person. We are only responsible for our own unskillful actions and the other person is only responsible for their own unskillful actions. The Dhammapada says:

  1. By oneself is evil done; by oneself is one defiled. By oneself is evil left undone; by oneself is one made pure. Purity and impurity depend on oneself; no one can purify another.


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