http://www.UrbanDharma.org ...Buddhism for Urban America


The Urban Dharma Newsletter... June 24, 2003


In This Issue:

2. Forgiveness and Self-Examination ...By Gregg Krech
3. Forgiveness
4. Temple/Center/Website- of the Week:
Theravada Buddhist Society of America
5. Book Review:
A Beginner's Guide to Forgiveness ...
How to Free Your Heart and Awaken Compassion ...Jack Kornfield ...Audio CD, 74 minutes


2. Forgiveness and Self-Examination
...By Gregg Krech


“Spiritual life begins from introspection;
without it there can be no spiritual life.” ...D. T. Suzuki

One cannot walk two paths at the same time, particularly when they go in different directions. If we reflect on our past, most of us will find instances in which others have hurt or wronged us. We may become absorbed by these memories and thoughts. Indeed, we may be guided by others towards absorption with these events based on the assumption that this process is therapeutic.

Our ultimate goal, we are told, is to forgive those who have caused us suffering and difficulty, whether they be parents, former business partners, ex-wives, old friends or criminals. Once we are able to forgive, perhaps we will find release from our anger and resentment. Perhaps we will find inner peace and spiritual rest. Perhaps the demons of the past will finally be banished.

Taking this path can require a great deal of time and energy. Sometimes it takes years of counseling, which costs a great deal of money. But is this path really “therapeutic” and is it a path with a Heart?

When Freud developed the foundation of contemporary Western psychology 100 years ago he departed from another path - religion and spirituality. This departure was not necessarily all bad, but he left behind several elements that were essential to the well being of the human mind and spirit. One of those elements was self-examination. By self-examination I mean the willingness of a human being to honestly and relentlessly examine his conduct according to some set of moral guidelines.

In rare instances the framework for such self-examination existed outside of a religious framework, such as the elaborate method developed by Ben Franklin in which he performed a daily examination of his behavior measured against personal values such as frugality, justice, sincerity and cleanliness. Nowhere in Franklin’s system did he attempt to judge others against these standards. Only himself. And nowhere in his system was there a place for forgiving others for their infractions, for his was a system of “self-improvement.” What does the evaluation of others’ mistakes or weaknesses have to do with improving one’s self?

Historically, the value of self-examination and the methods for doing it exist within a religious or spiritual framework. Traditions such as Christianity, Buddhism and Judaism each have moral precepts which serve as a basis for self-examination. But rarely have such practices been promoted or integrated into the therapeutic process of psychology. The 12-step program of Alcoholic’s Anonymous is one place where we find such a method. The 4th step of this program asks the recovering alcoholic to make a “searching and fearless moral inventory” of his conduct towards others. In the description of this process, AA warns us to beware of the most common excuse for avoiding such self-examination – “that our present anxieties and troubles are caused by the behavior of other people – people who really need a moral inventory.” In this passage, AA has revealed the two opposing paths – one in which we examine and judge the conduct of others, and the other in which we sincerely examine our own conduct.

A rarely known method of self-examination and self-reflection comes from Japan. It originated in the self-reflective method practiced by a small sub-sect of Jodo Shinshu (Pure Land) Buddhism. It was later developed into a method of psychology that is now used in Japan in the fields of marriage and family counseling, education, alcohol and drug rehabilitation and criminal rehabilitation. The name of this method is Naikan, which means something like “inside observation” or introspection. The method was introduced into the U.S. about 25 years ago by David Reynolds, Ph.D. who later combined it with another Japanese therapy (Morita Therapy) and uses the umbrella term, Constructive Living to describe the marriage of both approaches.

Naikan, as a method, is relatively simple. It asks people to examine their relationship with another person using the following three questions: 1. What have I received from this person? 2. What have I given to this person? and 3. What troubles and difficulties have I caused this person? It is the third question which grounds us in the principle of self-reflection. In fact, the roots of this type of self-examination can be found in several ancient Buddhist texts, such as the following passage:

Look not at the faults of others,
at what they have done or left undone;
Rather, look at what you yourself
have done or left undone.

(Dhammapada, verse 50)

In the traditional practice of Naikan in Japan, one attends a week-long retreat and reflects on most of the key people from one’s life - such as parents, siblings, teachers, friends, children, etc. During the week the participant spends about 100 hours in quiet self-reflection. This is a clear contrast to the type of Western psychotherapy where, over the course of several years, the client may rarely engage in any kind of self-examination of his behavior towards others.

What does this have to do with forgiveness? I would like to argue that the energy we devote to trying to forgive others is misdirected. The more we focus on the “sins” of others, the more we nourish resentment and anger in ourselves. But the true path of self-examination can be a meaningful journey for many reasons.

First, evaluation of our own conduct is more useful if our purpose is learning and self-improvement. Second, awareness of our own mistakes, errors and selfishness brings us a dose of humility - a valuable asset both spiritually and in human relations. Third, examination of our conduct towards others, in light of the support we have received from others, opens the door to spiritual/religious experience including laying the foundation for gratitude and faith in a power beyond oneself. Finally, I believe in the profound therapeutic power of honesty in acknowledging who we are and what we’ve done. Our healing comes much more from accepting the reality of the harmful things we’ve done to others—lying to our parents, cheating our former business partners, deceiving our former lovers—than from condemning others for what they did to us. In the end we may find that we are in no position to grant forgiveness, and that we, ourselves, have received forgiveness without asking for it.


Gregg Krech is the Director of the ToDo Institute near Middlebury, Vermont and one of the leading experts in the U.S. on Japanese methods of psychology. He is the author of several books including A Natural Approach to Mental Wellness and his newest book, Staring at Truth: The Art and Practice of Self-reflection, will be published next year by Stonebridge Press. More information about Japanese psychology can be found on the web site www.todoinstitute.org

3. Forgiveness


The prescription to love your enemy and to requite evil with good is sometimes thought of as an impractical and perfectionist ethic, able to be practiced only by a few exceptional souls. But, in fact, this doctrine is widely taught in all religions as a fundamental principle for pursuing relationships with others. The person who insists upon vengeance or retribution is not necessarily committing a crime, but neither will his act of revenge be helpful to spiritual advancement. Revenge, which requites evil with evil, only multiplies evil in the world, while love, by in which one strives to overcome evil with good, spreads goodness in the world.

True love is unconditional and impartial--thus the metaphor of the sun that shines down on all life. It is tested and proven by encounters with those who are difficult to love. Where true love prevails, there no enemies are found. The concluding passages dispute the prescription to love your enemy when it apparently contravenes the principles of justice and right. Sometimes the best way to love an evil person is to make him face justice, or to hinder him from doing wrong. Nevertheless, these corrective actions should be done with a loving heart and with the other person's welfare uppermost in mind.

"He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me!"
In those who harbor such thoughts hatred is not appeased.
"He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me!"
In those who do not harbor such thoughts hatred is appeased.
Hatreds never cease through hatred in this world;
through love alone they cease. This is an eternal law.

Buddhism: Dhammapada 3-5

You have heard that it was said, "You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy." But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Christianity: Matthew 5.43-48

My Lord! Others have fallen back in showing compassion to their benefactors as you have shown compassion even to your malefactors. All this is unparalleled.

Jainism: Vitaragastava 14.5

Of the adage, Only a good man who knows how to like people, knows how to dislike them, Confucius said, "He whose heart is in the smallest degree set upon Goodness will dislike no one."

Confucianism: Analects 4.3-4

I should be like the sun, shining universally on all without seeking thanks or reward, able to take care of all sentient beings even if they are bad, never giving up on my vows on this account, not abandoning all sentient beings because one sentient being is evil.

Buddhism: Garland Sutra 23

What kind of love is this that to another can shift? Says Nanak,
True lovers are those who are forever absorbed in the Beloved.
Whoever discriminates between treatment held good or bad,
Is not a true lover--he rather is caught in calculations.

Sikhism: Adi Granth, Asa-ki-Var, M.2, p. 474

The sage has no fixed [personal] ideas.
He regards the people's ideas as his own.
I treat those who are good with goodness,
And I also treat those who are not good with goodness.
Thus goodness is attained.
I am honest with those who are honest,
And I am also honest with those who are dishonest.
Thus honesty is attained.

Taoism: Tao Te Ching 49

It may be that God will ordain love between you
and those whom you hold as enemies. For God
has power over all things; and God is Oft-forgiving,
and Most Merciful.

Islam: Qur'an 60.7

Aid an enemy before you aid a friend, to subdue hatred.

Judaism: Tosefta, Baba Metzia 2.26

Do good to him who has done you an injury.

Taoism: Tao Te Ching 63

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Christianity: Romans 12.21

God said, "Resemble Me; just as I repay
good for evil so do you also repay good for evil."

Judaism: Exodus Rabbah 26.2

Conquer anger by love. Conquer evil by good.
Conquer the stingy by giving. Conquer the liar by truth.

Buddhism: Dhammapada 223

Man should subvert anger by forgiveness,
subdue pride by modesty,
overcome hypocrisy with simplicity,
and greed by contentment.

Jainism: Samanasuttam 136

May generosity triumph over niggardliness,
May love triumph over contempt,
May the true-spoken word triumph over the false-spoken word,
May truth triumph over falsehood.

Zoroastrianism: Yasna 60.5

The good deed and the evil deed are not alike.
Repel the evil deed with one which is better, then lo!,
he between whom and you there was enmity shall
become as though he were a bosom friend.But none
is granted it save those who are steadfast, and none
is granted it save a person of great good fortune.

Islam: Qur'an 41.34-35

A superior being does not render evil for evil;
this is a maxim one should observe; the ornament
of virtuous persons is their conduct. One should never
harm the wicked or the good or even criminals meriting
death. A noble soul will ever exercise compassion even
towards those who enjoy injuring others or those of cruel
deeds when they are actually committing them--for who is without fault?

Hinduism: Ramayana, Yuddha Kanda 115

Someone said, "What do you say concerning the principle
that injury should be recompensed with kindness?"
The Master said, "With what will you then recompense kindness?
Recompense injury with justice, and recompense kindness with kindness."

Confucianism: Analects 14.36

According to Anas ibn Malik, the Prophet said,
"Help your brother whether he is oppressor or oppressed."
According to Anas, after the Messenger of God said,
"Help your brother whether he is oppressor or oppressed,"
Anas replied to him, "O Messenger of God, a man who is
oppressed I am ready to help, but how does one help an oppressor?"
"By hindering him doing wrong," he said.

Islam: Hadith of Bukhari

4. Theravada Buddhist Society of America (TBSA)


The  Theravada Buddhist Society of America (TBSA) was founded in 1980 to support the sasana activities in general and the Dhammananda Vihara activities in particular.  A brief history of TBSA can be read in "Happy 20th Anniversary TBSA" by U Myat Htoo, President. The news and articles in this web site cover how TBSA has helped propagate the sasana in Bay Area and beyond. For example, see "Dhamma in a Foreign Land" by U Nandisena.

There are two major branches of Buddhism: Theravada ("Way of the Elders") as practiced in Burma/Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, and Mahayana ("Greater Vehicle") as practiced in China and Tibet.

Burnese Sayadaws played an important part in upholding the tradition of Theravada Buddhism. The Fifth Buddhist Council was held in Mandalay, Burma during King Mindon's reign. The Pali canon was transcribed on to kyauk-sa (stone enscription). The Sixth Buddhist Council was held in Kaba Aye (World Peace) Pagoda Cave in Rangoon, Burma from 1954 - 56.

Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw was the Questioner. Dhammananda Vihara and numerous meditation centers throughout the world teach and practice the Mahasi method (of alternating sitting and walking meditation) in conformance to the classic "Four Foundations of Mindfulness". Read the four-part article by Sayadaw U Silananda.

Venerable Mingun Tipitaka Sayadaw recited and recounted the Three Baskets: Vinaya (Rules), Sutta and Abhidhamma.

His memory feat has been recorded in the "Guiness Book of World Records". For details, see "Mingun Sayadaw".

Sayadaw U Silananda was the Chief Compiler of the Tipitaka Pali-Burmese Dictionary and the associated Commentaries. For more details on Sayadaw's projects, see "TBSA Twenty Years in Commentary" by Hla Min.

TBSA regularly holds events that are prominent for Burmese Buddhists. They include: Htamane pwe (Ovada Patimauk Festival), Thingyan (Burmese New Year), Kason, Waso, Thadinkyut, and Kathein (offering of Kasina robes).

With the permission of YMBA, TBSA reprinted "The Life of Buddha", with drawings by U Ba Kyi, renowned artist and arts teacher, and the description by the lateSayadaw Ashin Janakabhivamsa, prolific writer of Burmese and Pali works. An English translation [which was printed as a supplement to the original Burmese work] was incorporated into the edition printed by TBSA. It is a book that every Buddhist should have.

Eight years ago, Dr. Lynn Swe Aye and Dr. Khin Nyo Thet established the "Aye-Thet Scholarship" fund. See, "Beneficiaries of the Aye-Thet Scholarship" and related articles.

TBSA is currently soliciting donations for the construction of a new monastery and an associated "swan-sar-kyaung and ei-dhamma-yone" (auxiliary building where the resident and visiting Sayadaws are offered meals, and where group meditation can also be conducted). For details, see "Donors" Page.

TBSA has published newsletters. For a historical perspective, see "Fruits of Cetana".

Some of the early work on the TBSA web site was done by Kevin Kyar, Sayadaw U Nandisena and Ko Aung Zaw Maung. The current web master Ko Thant Lwin Oo has worked hard to improve the look and feel of the web site, and to ensure that the contents are up to date.

This work would not have been possible without the dedication of the Sayadaws, Executive Committee members, the Board of Directors, the Newsletter Committee members, the donors, and last but not the least the authors and their readers. See "Tribute to the TBSA Officers".

5. A Beginner's Guide to Forgiveness
...How to Free Your Heart and Awaken Compassion ...Jack Kornfield ...Audio CD, 74 minutes


I believe that the most profoundly healing thing anyone can do - whether they want to heal themselves or to heal others or to heal our Earth - is to truly forgive. Anytime anyone can really forgive a wrong - including forgiving ourselves for wrongs committed - it shifts everything for everyone and gives us all fresher air to breath.

What is marvelous about Jack Kornfield's teaching on this CD is that in addition to discussing the nature of forgiveness and its many gifts, he also teaches a practice that, if done over time, opens the human heart and enables us to really forgive. The 'forgiveness meditation' which he teaches comes from his training as a Buddhist monk in Cambodia - it is simply amazing and is something I wish I could share with everyone, so powerful is its capacity to move us closer to being able to completely forgive even devastating wrongs. I can't think of anything the world needs more, than that we all come to be able to do this.

Through stories, teachings and guided meditation, Kornfield opens the way for us to understand

* how forgiveness and compassion are possible in situations of suffering

* how forgiveness can be coupled with strength and self-protection

* the practices that lead to forgiveness of yourself and others


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