Dealing With Guilt

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Dealing With Guilt

Postby bradley » Fri Sep 17, 2010 8:03 pm

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Re: Dealing With Guilt

Postby Ytrog » Fri Sep 17, 2010 9:18 pm

Though I'm not really qualified to give advice I would like to point you to a video (Dhamma talk by Ajahn Brahm) about the Four Ways of Letting Go. I think it would be suitable, because it seems that you seem to have trouble of letting go of your past.

I hope this helps a bit. :anjali:
Suffering is asking from life what it can never give you.


mindfulness, bliss and beyond (page 8) wrote:Do not linger on the past. Do not keep carrying around coffins full of dead moments


If you see any unskillful speech (or other action) from me let me know, so I can learn from it.
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Re: Dealing With Guilt

Postby manas » Fri Sep 17, 2010 9:21 pm

Hi Bradley,

I have read that there comes a stage in one's practice of the Path where this happens. You are not alone in having these feelings of remorse for previous wrongdoings (of course I don't know the particulars (nor do I need to) of what you did, but I mean the feelings of guilt / pain are similar in any case). I too am at that stage. I've been told that it is actually a sign of progress. It is the aching recognition (for me) of my previous heedlessness. I look back and see all kinds of either mean or just plain stupid actions that I would NEVER act out today. And while it is easy to forgive myself and move on from foolish and unskilful acts I did to myself (eg intoxication), it is much harder when the unskilful action involved harming or hurting another living being. The argument goes in my mind that 'it's not for me to forgive myself, it's for them to forgive me', and there is the wish to apologize to all of those beings (some of whom are now dead!). So I really understand what you are going through. I have had some crying / sobbing spells that rival those I had while grieving the loss of my dear father, crying about what I have said or done to other beings in the past. It hurts, and I'm not going to pretend it doesn't!

I see it as a stage. We need to actually feel this so that it sinks in. We don't want the arising of 'moral shame' and 'fear of the ill-consequences of wrongdoing' to be just a head-trip. No, I have allowed the tears to fall, allowed my heart to ache, and felt the pain of those other beings with sorrow, and I have virtually sworn that I am never going to do any of those things again! Certainly not in this lifetime!

And now, I wish to warn you of a danger - the danger of too much lamentation. You will need to know for yourself when you reach a stage where you have made the recognition, felt the sorrow fully, but are now (this will sound strange) actually attaching to the pain! Attaching to the guilt, to the remorse! That is the time when you need to have some words with yourself, in my opinion. "Enough of this now...it is time to let go, and move on".

How to do this? I have been contemplating the following:

1. We beings have all wandered through Samsara for countless aeons, in countless lives, and, since eternity is a very long time, have probably done pretty much everything there is to do, whether skilful or unskilful. We've rejoiced in heavens, howled in hells, (and thus performed the actions that lead there) and lived various lives as a human. So anything you feel bad about right now would pale in comparison to things you probably did in previous births. But then again, that's everyone! What are we going to do? If we lamented every little harmful thing we had ever done, we would have to keep lamenting virtually forever, and then we would not have any time or evergy left for the process of awakening...

2. It is, ultimately, all Kamma working itself out. Take a wider view, and see how while in a heedless state of mind, you were the 'delivery agent' for the kamma-fruitions due to those other beings, just as when things have happened to you, it has been your own previous kamma ripening also. You are now gradually extricating yourself from that whole process, by walking the Path towards greater wholesomeness, towards freedom. You are moving in the right direction. :anjali:

3. Cultivate unconditional loving-kindness. (This is a long-term project for me). Starting, of course, with yourself. There are heaps of instructions available online, find what works for you. What better apology can we send to all those beings is there, than to radiate unconditional love to them all?

I hope something here was of assistance. I don't pretend to have all the answers, and since I am also going through a guilt / remorse stage (it's fading now, but only with conscious letting go) I look forward to getting some more tips from others also.

Metta, from m.
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Re: Dealing With Guilt

Postby IanAnd » Fri Sep 17, 2010 10:19 pm

bradley wrote:When I was younger I committed a lot of crimes, some of them very serious. After five years of practicing Buddhism and successfully resolving a lot of inner and outer problems I've come to a point where the guilt, shame and regret I experience due to my past wrong doings is the most prominent 'negative thing' which needs addressing, and I'm having a lot of trouble deciding how to address it.

Hi Bradley,

Welcome to Dhamma Wheel.

We've all been through the point that you're at today, in one way or another. The short answer is that you must learn to forgive yourself first so that you can let the past be the past and move on. What happened in the past is in the past. This is now. Comfort yourself with this knowledge. By this I mean, you've already done the hard work necessary in arriving at a place of recognition of past deeds. That's the first step toward beginning to live a life of honor and virtue. But it doesn't help when the old feelings of guilt and shame arise, does it. Yet, still, you have to realize that what is done, is done. It's over with. You are not the same person who committed those actions. You are wiser and hopefully more compassionate now. Those last two are attributes of a noble person. If you had known then what you know now, you might have been able to have avoided those unwholesome actions. The important thing is that you now see these wrongs and have made an inner commitment not to do them again. That is a noble gesture.

Yet, even that realization might not immediately take away the guilt and shame you experience. So, what to do?

The only thing, in reality, that one has to do is to change their attitude about what occurred in the past. If you can see all the conditions that led up to your taking the actions you took, and you truly regret those conditions, that's all that can be truthfully asked of you to do. From there, its just a matter of changing your attitude about what occurred.

You've probably paid a heavy price for your past unwholesome actions. Reflect on the price you paid and realize that the kammic result (the unwholesome result of the actions) has evened the score. In one way or another, you will have to resolve these issues within yourself, arrive at some peace with them. The sooner the better, for you. But all in due course. Reflect on these matters and see how you feel afterward. If you have truly corrected the inner turmoil and ignorance, then you have done everything that could be asked of you. There's nothing more to regret.

All the best to you.
In peace,
Ian
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV
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Re: Dealing With Guilt

Postby jackson » Sat Sep 18, 2010 12:13 am

I've got a lot of guilt too, which I've noticed is more present if my practice is lacking somewhat, but I've found that as the years go by I'm able to deal with it as it arises. There are a few things that have helped me greatly, one is to be the best person I can be, meditate practically every day, be generous with time and money, don't break the five precepts, and I've found that now when the guilt arises I can look back on the last 8 years or so of my life and actually rejoice because I've made a good effort to change my ways and it has worked. Basically what comforts me is that I know I won't repeat my mistakes, I've learned from them and can move on somewhat. Another thing is just to accept the guilt. The memories of the past are likely going to be with me until I die, and I view the arising of remorse as the results of my kamma, sometimes I even physically bow to guilt just so I will open up to it and allow it to be as it is. Sure the past is painful, and not a day goes by where I don't think about it, but it's a much lighter burden to carry than it used to be because I'm more accepting of it nowadays. Another thing I've done lately which is a bit of an experiment but I think may bring good results is that whenever I begin dwelling on an unwholesome action is to bring up something wholesome, like an act of generosity, that way the mind doesn't fall into habitual negative patterns. And I know someone already mentioned it, but metta practice is very important. Anyway, you have my sympathy, hopefully some of this advice will help and I wish you all the best.
With metta, :smile:
Jackson
"The heart of the path is quite easy. There’s no need to explain anything at length. Let go of love and hate and let things be. That’s all that I do in my own practice." - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Dealing With Guilt

Postby Jason » Sat Sep 18, 2010 1:11 am

bradley wrote:I'm very bad at putting things in to words, this is my third attempt at writting this properly. This time I'll keep it as short and to the point as I can.

When I was younger I committed alot of crimes, some of them very serious. After five years of practicing Buddhism and successfully resolving alot of inner and outer problems I've come to a point where the guilt, shame and regret I experience due to my past wrong doings is the most prominent 'negative thing' which needs addressing, and I'm having alot of trouble deciding how to address it.

I would really appreciate it if someone could offer some advice or point me in the right direction of some relevant teachings, or a past thread which I missed while looking where this has been discussed.

Thanks in advance.


Metta


I've found that turning all of that guilt into a motivation for positive actions has helped me deal with those same feelings. Here's something I wrote about it a long time ago:

    Many times, the emotional feelings of shame or guilt that're associated with the results of our unskillful actions are looked upon as undesirable things—we see them as just unnecessary thorns in our side. Because we act out of a basic need to be happy, we like to think that all of our actions, whether good or bad, are justifiable. The outcome of this kind of thinking, however, is that when we commit acts of body, speech and mind that turn out to be harmful to ourselves or to others, we want to find some excuse in order to justify those actions. Unfortunately, since we don't posses the wisdom to see that there are other kinds of happiness in the world besides those that're based on fulfilling our sensual desires, we cling to the kinds of happiness that depend upon us to continually feed them. Happiness then becomes an act of relentlessly feeding our desires to the point that our happiness comes before the happiness of others. If we feel that we have to hurt others, steal from others, lie to others or whatever else we deemed necessary in order to be happy, then we'll be able to talk ourselves into doing anything to obtain that happiness.

    Once we come to a point where we begin to see the effects of our unskillful actions, however, we're unprepared for how to skillfully deal with such consequences. When our conscience catches up with us, our first reaction tends to be to run away from those feelings of guilt and remorse that happen to arise. If we can't outrun them, then we try to bury them underneath the haze of drugs and alcohol. Essentially, the ways in which we try to rid ourselves of these feelings are just as harmful as the actions that brought those feelings into being. We indulge in even more unskillful behaviour in order to cover up the memories of our anger, embarrassment, fear, grief, hatred, pain, selfishness, etc. in an attempt to just get through another day. To make matters worse, these unskillful actions are what have the potential to become unskillful habits or addictions because these temporary solutions are unable to permanently get rid of those painful feelings, and we gradually become dependent upon them to ease our suffering. Because we lack a better way to deal with these things, we become prisoners trapped within our own nightmarish world.

    One of the many things the Buddha said was that these emotional feelings of guilt and remorse are actually guardians, treasures and associated with skillful qualities. To begin with, these feelings of guilt and remorse are a warning sign that something is wrong. They alert us to the fact that somewhere, deep down inside, we're uneasy about something we might've done or said, or at least thought about. In the Buddha's teachings, feelings of guilt and remorse are said to guard us from harm. Without conscience and concern, or shame and fear of wrongdoing, we're unable to recognize those who deserve respect such as mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, teachers, etc. (AN 2.9). In addition, if we're unable to recognize these people for what they are in relation to ourselves or to other people, we're more capable of doing unskillful deeds of body, speech and mind that directly cause them pain and suffering. Not only can this cause us suffering internally when we reflect on those unskillful actions, but it can also cause suffering externally by placing ourselves in trouble with the authorities or other people.

    When it comes to skillful qualities, conscience and concern are said to arise out of clear knowing (Iti 40). This clear knowing can be seen as a kind of internal honesty which is aware of our intentions. This awareness doesn't try to cover up our intentions or make excuses for them, but it's an awareness that's open and honest about the qualities of our intentions that enable us to cleanse them of their impurities. In other words, the qualities of ignorance, desire and greed that arise in the mind are seen for what they are. This enables us to develop a sense of moral responsibility that's derived from self-esteem. When we view unwholesome actions as beneath us, when we see that they cause us harm or give rise to bad destinations, we'll be more inclined to refrain from committing those actions, or if we've committed them, to refrain from committing them again. We do this because we have respect for ourselves, and we see the benefits of making the right choices by observing that, as Thanissaro Bhikkhu notes, "unskillful intentions, based on craving and delusion, invariably lead to unpleasant results."

    While all of this might be useful to consider before we make any more unskillful decisions in the future, the Buddha also discusses what to do about unskillful things that we might've done in the past. Unfortunately, we're unable to undo past unskillful actions, but fortunately there are ways in which to lessen the inevitable harmful results of those actions. Although the complexity of the relationship between actions and their results can be hard to understand — one that reaches far beyond this present life — that same complexity allows for the possibility of limiting the consequences of past unskillful actions. The first step is to at least observe the five precepts, which are to (1) refrain from harming living beings, (2) refrain from taking what is not given, (3) refrain from telling falsehoods, (4) refrain from committing sexual misconduct and (5) refrain from taking drugs and alcohol that lead to carelessness. This helps to prevent further damage from being done, and to construct the foundation for the rest of our practice. The next steps are to abandon wrong view and develop expansive mind states of good-will, compassion, appreciation and equanimity (SN 42.8).

    The development of good-will, compassion, appreciation and equanimity is so powerful that it can take us from being restricted, small-hearted and dwelling in suffering to being unrestricted, large-hearted and dwelling with immeasurable concentration—a state of mind that's only possible with the absence of hostility and ill will. The Buddha also described four assurances that can be experienced in the present by those people who, filled with doubt, cultivate and develop such purified states of mind: If there is a world after death, if there are results of skillful and unskillful actions that're done, then one can be assured that they'll reappear in a good destination after death. If there's no world after death, if there are no results of skillful and unskillful actions, then here in the present one can be assured that they'll live safely, free from hatred and malice. If evil results befall one who commits evil actions, then one who doesn't entertain evil thoughts towards another can be assured that they'll not experience ill results. And, if evil results don't befall one who commits evil actions, then one can be assured that they're safe in any case (AN 3.65).

    It's hard to imagine that cultivating certain mind states can have a tangible effect on our lives. Nevertheless, the Buddha often spoke of the immeasurable benefits of cultivating good-will, compassion, appreciation and equanimity. He once compared the actions of a person who commits an evil deed with an untrained mind — a mind undeveloped in regards to virtue, discernment, etc. — to a glass of water. As there's so little development in the mind of such a person, one evil act is like a salt crystal that's then dropped into that glass of water and the water becomes unfit to drink. He further compared the actions of a person who commits an evil deed with a mind that is well trained — a mind developed in regards to virtue, discernment, etc. — to the River Ganges. As there's so much development in the mind of such a person, one evil act is like a salt crystal that's then dropped into that great river and the water doens't become unfit to drink. The former person, due to their actions, goes to a bad destination whereas the later person experiences the resulting pollutant for barely a moment in the here and now (AN 7.6).

    Ultimately, those emotional feelings of shame or guilt that're associated with the results of our unskillful actions can be looked upon as catalysts to overcoming the results of our unskillful actions if they're seen with the proper insight. When we become remorseful by realizing that what we've done wasn't right, perhaps because we're told by a wise person that such actions are blameworthy, we'll also realize that what we've done can't be undone. These feelings, if they're not properly understood, have the potential to become debilitating. However, when due to those feelings we abandon the taking of life, taking what's not given, telling falsehoods, committing sexual misconduct and taking drugs and alcohol now and in the future, we can be said to have abandoned those evil deeds, those unskillful actions, and to have overcome them. Even more so, when we abandon those unskillful actions now and in the future, as well as cultivate, develop and then pervade all four directions with good-will, compassion, appreciation and equanimity, the inevitable consequences of our past unskillful action will count for next to nothing (SN 42.8).
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

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Re: Dealing With Guilt

Postby bradley » Sat Sep 18, 2010 11:43 am

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Re: Dealing With Guilt

Postby Ytrog » Sat Sep 18, 2010 1:11 pm

You're welcome. Thanks for the podcasts :bow:
Suffering is asking from life what it can never give you.


mindfulness, bliss and beyond (page 8) wrote:Do not linger on the past. Do not keep carrying around coffins full of dead moments


If you see any unskillful speech (or other action) from me let me know, so I can learn from it.
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