The topic tonight was forgiveness through loving kindness meditation. We had an insightful discussion before the actual meditation about the nature of forgiveness.
Forgiveness is about self liberation. A quote from the Buddha says:
Holding on to anger is like holding a hot coal that you are going to throw at someone.
Feeding into the seed of anger in our heart might give us self righteousness, but we also hurt ourselves without solving the real problem.
To forgive is to not to forget. Forgiveness should never be condoning wrong behavior. Instead, we are acknowledging the fact that people might be undergoing confusion and suffering when they hurt others. Knowing this fact allows us to relate hurtful behavior to fundamental elements of humanity and to not target our anger at a specific person. As Martin Luther King. Jr. has wisely pointed out, once we are aware of the fact that there is some good in the worst of us, and there is some evil in the best of us, we are less likely to hate our enemies.
The meditation goes as follows. We imagine three scenarios: instances where we have hurt others, where others have hurt us, and where we have hurt ourselves. We seek forgiveness from others, and offer forgiveness to the people we have hurt as well as to ourselves. The three sentences for each scenario are:
If I have hurt or harmed anyone, knowingly or unknowingly, I ask for their forgiveness.
If anyone has hurt or harmed me, knowingly or unknowingly, I offer them forgiveness.
For all the ways I have hurt or harmed myself, knowingly or unknowingly, I offer myself forgiveness.
Notice that rather than direct apology, we are “offering” forgiveness to cultivate the intention.
The next step is to visualize each of the three cases and repeat a longer text which says the similar. At the end of the meditation, feel the breath and notice the changes in your body (likely you feel some pressure is gone).
After the meditation, Sumi offered two pieces of advice on how to forgive. First, we should understand that quite often people are acting badly because they are confused themselves. Second, we should be aware that most times the harm is not personal. Some hurtful behavior is directed towards a certain group of people, not an individual in particular.
Next time we will do loving kindness for all beings.