Buddha on Forgiveness & Reconciliation


To encourage right reconciliation among his followers, Buddha gave precise instructions on how to achieve them through forgiveness and reconciliation. Forgiving mind is like the earth is non-reactive and unperturbed. To forgive you simply unburden yourself of the weight of resentment and cut the cycle of retribution. Reconciliation means a return to amicability, and that requires more than forgiveness. It requires the reestablishing of trust. Thus there are right and wrong ways of attempting reconciliation: those that skillfully meet these requirements for reestablishing trust, and those that don’t. To encourage right reconciliation among his followers, the Buddha formulated detailed methods for achieving it, along with a culture of values that encourages putting those methods to use. The methods or instructions embody principles that apply to anyone seeking reconciliation of differences, whether personal or political.

Encompassing these instructions is the realization that genuine reconciliation cannot be based simply on the desire for harmony. It requires a mutual understanding of what actions served to create disharmony, and a promise to try to avoid those actions in the future. This in turn requires a clearly articulated agreement about — and commitment to — mutual standards of right and wrong. Even if the parties to reconciliation agree to disagree, their agreement needs to distinguish between right and wrong ways of handling their differences. This means that right and wrong have not really been transcended in such a community. They’ve simply been realigned: If you can claim a non-dual perspective, you’re in the right no matter what you’ve done. If you complain about another person’s behavior, you’re in the wrong. And because this realignment is not openly acknowledged as such, it creates an atmosphere of hypocrisy in which genuine reconciliation is impossible. So the solution lies not in abandoning right and wrong, but in learning how to use them wisely.

Buddha backed up his methods for reconciliation with a culture of values whereby right and wrong become aids rather than hindrances to reconciliation. To prevent those in the right from abusing their position, he counseled that they reflect on themselves before they accuse another of wrongdoing. Furthermore, the Buddha recommended that they determine to speak only words that are true, timely, gentle, to the point, and prompted by kindness. Their motivation should be compassion, solicitude for the welfare of all parties involved, and the desire to see the wrong-doer rehabilitated, together with an overriding desire to hold to fair principles of right and wrong.

To encourage a wrongdoer to see reconciliation as a winning rather than a losing proposition, the Buddha praised the honest acceptance of blame as an honorable rather than a shameful act: not just a means, but the means for progress in spiritual practice. In addition to providing these incentives for honestly admitting misbehavior, the Buddha blocked the paths to denial. In setting out these standards, the Buddha created a context of values that encourages both parties entering into a reconciliation to employ right speech and to engage in the honest, responsible self-reflection basic to all Dhamma practice. In this way, standards of right and wrong behavior, instead of being oppressive or petty, engender deep and long-lasting trust. In addition to creating the external harmony conducive to Dhamma practice, the process of reconciliation thus also becomes an opportunity for inner growth. Lord Buddha who admitted that not all disputes can be reconciled has stated there are times when one or both parties are unwilling to exercise the honesty and restraint that true reconciliation requires. Even then, though, forgiveness is still an option. This is why the distinction between reconciliation and forgiveness is so important. It encourages us not to settle for mere forgiveness when the genuine healing of right reconciliation is possible; and it allows us to be generous with our forgiveness even when it is not.

In this background today’s saying in*SPKNENG* reads “Oba apith samagada nethnam wiruddada” meaning “You are either with us or against us” reflects very much the present mood of the vociferous opposition south of the country who are in parliament and outside that goes against the teachings of Lord Buddha. Picking on every incident that is occurring, tarnishing it with a political tone, registering their opposition to every move made by those politicians representing the minority Tamils in North and East of the country, who have come up with their own proposal for inclusion into the New Constitution. It is regretted that the silent majority has gone into their shell, as reported earlier in Northern Breeze, and the vacuum they created has been promptly filled by these vociferous opposition south of the country.

The silent majority, many among them are true followers of Lord Buddha and willing to follow his teachings. The ruled must make public feedbacks as early as possible on the right and wrong of their ruler’s actions to sustain good governance. If the silent majority want the National Government to get on with the job in hand and continue with the good governance for which they were elected. They who elected the rulers into power must come out of their shell to provide feedback. They must understand that the important ingredient of true democracy is the feedback it gets from its ruled. It is in situations like this the country remembers and feels the loss a Clergyman Of Peace and Courage late Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero a true Buddhist monk of our time, who led the civil society to force the wind of change that brought in the National Government last year.