Getting over a bad past?

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Sonzai
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Getting over a bad past?

Postby Sonzai » Fri Mar 04, 2011 5:08 pm

Hello, this is my first post here I've been thinking about this for days and finally decided to make a post about it. I'm 18, Ive looked into Buddhism off and on for 2 years and only recently begun to seriously look into it.

What do you do if you have been a bad person? I'm not quite sure from what Ive read on Theravada Buddhism if there is anything to do?

Ive done a lot of bad stuff since I was a kid. Some very serious things that I regret a lot. Lately Ive just been trying to suppress the memories mostly, because every time I remember them I feel sick with myself and full of guilt. Sometimes its unbearable when I remember it all. I told a friend I was looking into Buddhism and he simply laughed and responded "You're too bad to be a Buddhist" I feel like hes right sometimes, Buddhism is about reaching enlightenment but I think to myself how could I ever reach that after all the pain ive caused.

So, what do I do to make up for what ive done in the past? How do I move on from it all and be a good person?

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Re: Getting over a bad past?

Postby PeterB » Fri Mar 04, 2011 5:25 pm

There is a practice called Metta Bhavana ( you could google it ) where you send thoughts of loving kindness to all the people you like and all the people you dont like...all the people you have harmed and all you see as harming you. You start with sending thoughts of loving kindness to yourself. Not in a glib way. Not glossing over what you have done or failed to do.
Just as you are. The past is gone. Tomorrow is another day.

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Re: Getting over a bad past?

Postby Tex » Fri Mar 04, 2011 6:06 pm

Sonzai wrote:What do you do if you have been a bad person? I'm not quite sure from what Ive read on Theravada Buddhism if there is anything to do?


Start with forgiving yourself. That guilt doesn't help anything and you can't change the past. So learn what you can from it and then let it go. Focus on what you can control: the present and the future.

Sonzai wrote:I told a friend I was looking into Buddhism and he simply laughed and responded "You're too bad to be a Buddhist"


Fortunately, there is no such thing as "too bad to be a Buddhist" -- even a former mass murderer can reach the goal:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el312.html

:buddha1:
"The serene and peaceful mind is the true epitome of human achievement."-- Ajahn Chah, Living Dhamma

"To reach beyond fear and danger we must sharpen and widen our vision. We have to pierce through the deceptions that lull us into a comfortable complacency, to take a straight look down into the depths of our existence, without turning away uneasily or running after distractions." -- Bhikkhu Bodhi

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Re: Getting over a bad past?

Postby Annapurna » Fri Mar 04, 2011 6:22 pm

Sonzai, welcome here.

Here is a story about a man who was probably a lot worse than you, and still became a monk under the Buddha and reached the highest Buddhist goal, -enlightenement, so don't let your friend discourage you.

Angulimala

So, what do I do to make up for what ive done in the past? How do I move on from it all and be a good person?


You stop being bad, like Angulimala.

It is a good thing that you regret so badly. Many of us weren't exactly saints before they found Buddhism and have to regret a few things too, or continue to do so.

Perhaps you can calm down your guilty conscience by making positive efforts in the right direction.

Like: If you were bad to your mom, and she is still alive, tell her you love her and that you are sorry, and because you know that action speaks louder than words, DO something nice for her as well, as often as you can.

And if you can do something good and wise for someone else you damaged....

That's a start. :smile:

Good luck and lots of success.
http://www.schmuckzauberei.blogspot.com/

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Re: Getting over a bad past?

Postby jackson » Fri Mar 04, 2011 9:03 pm

In my experience memories of harmful actions I committed haven't left me, in fact not a day goes by where I don't remember them, but my attitude towards them has become one of acceptance. I think the important thing is to learn from your mistakes, really look at the pain it's caused and open up to what it has to teach you, then make a vow to not repeat whatever you have done. There's an analogy that the Buddha gave in the Dhammapada that talks about how just as a water jar is filled drop by drop so too can one purify their mind. I imagine very few people become saints overnight, it's more a gradual process that happens over time, but if you want to become a better person then I'd encourage keeping the five precepts (refraining from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, false and harmful speech, and using intoxicants). I'm not saying become a Buddhist (that's up to you) but I've found keeping the precepts to be a great protection against causing harm to myself or to others. Anyway, I wouldn't expect the memories to go away but they become easier to live with over time and making a strong effort to be a better person and free the mind from suffering has been the greatest gift I've given myself.
Best wishes, :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: Getting over a bad past?

Postby Jhana4 » Fri Mar 04, 2011 9:21 pm

Sonzai wrote:What do you do if you have been a bad person? I'm not quite sure from what Ive read on Theravada Buddhism if there is anything to do?


Welcome Sonzai.

1. Stop doing the bad things.
2. Make amends for the bad things as much as is possible.
3. Tell yourself that you have no power to undo the past, it is the truth
4. If you did nothing but good things for next 82 years, ask yourself would you be a good person at your death?
5. Understand people's anger, accept that some people will never forgive you.
6. Tell yourself there are no bad people only bad acts.
7. Do good things.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.

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Re: Getting over a bad past?

Postby Ben » Fri Mar 04, 2011 9:24 pm

Greetings Sonzai and welcome to Dhamma Wheel!
At such a young age you have a desire to change your life for the better. And for that I think you should be congratulated! So many people live their lives engaged in harmful activities without coming to the same point you have.
I second Peter's advice re: Metta Bhavana (loving kindness meditation). Get that going for a little while and then investigate attending a residential meditation retreat of some variety. Somewhere where you can take refuge in the Triple Gem, adopt the five precepts and start developing self-mastery by developing concentration, and developing wisdom (vipassana) into the nature of reality. A meditation retreat will also give you some depth of meditative experience, support and the theoretical background on an extraordinarily useful tool for self-transformation.
kind regards

Ben
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Re: Getting over a bad past?

Postby Jhana4 » Fri Mar 04, 2011 10:09 pm

Sonzai, this book has nothing to do with Buddhism, but it can help you to feel better about yourself. If you feel better about yourself you will do more good things and fewer bad things.

HTH

http://www.amazon.com/Overcoming-Rating ... 552&sr=1-1
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.

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Re: Getting over a bad past?

Postby perkele » Fri Mar 04, 2011 11:06 pm

Hi Sonzai!

I may have felt similar when I was your age. But didn't have the maturity to change for the better. Also, although I found to the Pali Canon somehow, I didn't trust today's Buddhism and thought after 2600 years, whatever institutionalized or organized practice there is today and calls itself "Buddhist" must be flawed and can't be taken serious.
So I spent seven years hating and pitying myself and speculating about enlightenment without any practical approach to the life that I had messed up. That's a thing you should not do. :jawdrop:
What others said here about Metta Bhavana is certainly very useful. I myself did a Metta Bhavana retreat about a year ago. If anything helped me then that. Following the instructions and doing formal meditation without a teacher, at least for me, is very hard to do. So visiting such a retreat might be very very helpful. At least you are told what to practice all the time, so you can do it with a humble attitude.
The greatest difficulty I had was my arrogance. It all looks and feels so artificial and I had a hard time subduing my contempt. But it was part of the practice. And I went there because I was desperate. And it was an eye-opener.
And otherwise, what is probably more important, as others told you:

1. Do good things. Even if at the moment you do not see much good you can do. Maybe you can't. But the time will come. Possibilities will come if you keep yourself ready and don't give up.
2. A friend joking that you are too bad to be a Buddhist, things like that, trying to "be a good person", you just need some humble self-esteem to go through that. Cynicism is a bane in such a situation. But if you don't get friendly support you must go without it. People don't share your pain, your guilt, your conscience. So it's easier to joke around. But you just stay clear, make the best of it, endure it.

Blahblah. Not knowing anything better than you probably... but just trying to encourage you to do the best. Even if everything is dark.

Metta
Moritz

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Re: Getting over a bad past?

Postby poto » Sat Mar 05, 2011 5:08 am

Hey, this is something I know a little about!

I've done more than my share of bad things, the bulk of it when I was younger. I think I'm at a point in my life where I've let go of all of that and moved on. Of course, there are other people who haven't let go of my past and sometimes they will remind me of such. I'm trying to not let that bother me, as it's just another thing to let go of.

Starting out, I would say just take it day by day. Don't be too eager to take the 5 precepts all at once. And try to remember that they aren't commandments, just training rules, so don't sweat it if you can't keep them all the time. If you do take them, then just do it one day at a time. At first I would say at least try to keep the first precept and try to avoid killing on most days. If you can manage that, then consider adding some more precepts when you are ready.

Also, a regular meditation practice would be highly recommended.
"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." -- C. S. Lewis

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Re: Getting over a bad past?

Postby robertk » Sat Mar 05, 2011 5:20 am

Guilt is just dhammas, happiness is just dhammas, sadness is mere dhammas, feelings are dhammas.

They are all there to be known and insighted when they arise. To think any of them are preferable objects is not understanding their inherent anatta nature: to wit they arise because they are conditioned to arise, it cannot be other than it is.

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Re: Getting over a bad past?

Postby pilgrim » Sat Mar 05, 2011 6:50 am

There's something real you can do.
You can dilute the bad you have done by doing good, lots of it.

"Now suppose a man throws a lump of salt into a small cup of water. What do you think, monks: would that small quantity of water in the cup become salty and undrinkable through that lump of salt?" — "It would, Lord." — "And why so?" — "The water in the cup is so little that a lump of salt can make it salty and undrinkable." — "But suppose, monks, that lump of salt is thrown into the river Ganges. Would it make the river Ganges salty and undrinkable?" — "Certainly not, Lord." — "And why not?" — "Great, Lord, is the mass of water in the Ganges. It will not become salty and undrinkable by a lump of salt."

— AN 3.110

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Re: Getting over a bad past?

Postby ground » Sat Mar 05, 2011 7:06 am

Sonzai wrote:... I regret a lot.

Regret, regret, regret ... practice regret, wholehearted regret ... never ever try to rationalize your faulty deeds away or to excuse them ... BUT do not condition yourself with thoughts of "guilt".
Practice loving kindness/metta and practice karuna/compassion toward all those that you have harmed and those that harm themselves through such misdeeds like yours (including yourself).
Resolve wholeheartedly to refrain from any such kinds of missdeeds in the future and recall this resolve as often as you can and establish your conduct accordingly.

Kind regards

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Re: Getting over a bad past?

Postby Annapurna » Sat Mar 05, 2011 8:05 am

And don't get into a habit of beating yourself up.

The past is gone, a bright future can be forged, and for this you need to live in the "here and now", not in the past, beating yourself up.
http://www.schmuckzauberei.blogspot.com/

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Re: Getting over a bad past?

Postby Sonzai » Sat Mar 05, 2011 6:41 pm

Wow, thanks everyone I was surprised to see that many replies.

PeterB wrote:There is a practice called Metta Bhavana ( you could google it ) where you send thoughts of loving kindness to all the people you like and all the people you dont like...all the people you have harmed and all you see as harming you. You start with sending thoughts of loving kindness to yourself. Not in a glib way. Not glossing over what you have done or failed to do.
Just as you are. The past is gone. Tomorrow is another day.


Thanks after looking into Metta Bhavana I think its a good place to start, I needed to start doing more meditation anyways.

Tex wrote:Start with forgiving yourself. That guilt doesn't help anything and you can't change the past. So learn what you can from it and then let it go. Focus on what you can control: the present and the future.


Thats my problem, My mind cant seem to let it go. I hear monks talking about letting go of the past all the time but I just have a hard time doing it. I might think ive finally got over it and let it go from a hour or so and then a memory comes back and its all back again. Thanks for linking the story of Angulimala, I had never heard the story before until now and I think its just what I needed to read right about now.
Annapurna wrote:
You stop being bad, like Angulimala.

It is a good thing that you regret so badly. Many of us weren't exactly saints before they found Buddhism and have to regret a few things too, or continue to do so.

Perhaps you can calm down your guilty conscience by making positive efforts in the right direction.

Like: If you were bad to your mom, and she is still alive, tell her you love her and that you are sorry, and because you know that action speaks louder than words, DO something nice for her as well, as often as you can.

And if you can do something good and wise for someone else you damaged....

That's a start. :smile:

Good luck and lots of success.


Ive already stopped being bad, well mostly. I only wish I could help those ive harmed but unfortunately for me thats not possible for most as ive lost contact with nearly everyone that I did. So I guess ill start with just being nice to everyone else and not harming anyone else. After realizing all the pain ive caused I have no desire to do that to anyone else, especially since ive experienced it myself already. Thanks also for posting that story.

jackson wrote:In my experience memories of harmful actions I committed haven't left me, in fact not a day goes by where I don't remember them, but my attitude towards them has become one of acceptance. I think the important thing is to learn from your mistakes, really look at the pain it's caused and open up to what it has to teach you, then make a vow to not repeat whatever you have done. There's an analogy that the Buddha gave in the Dhammapada that talks about how just as a water jar is filled drop by drop so too can one purify their mind. I imagine very few people become saints overnight, it's more a gradual process that happens over time, but if you want to become a better person then I'd encourage keeping the five precepts (refraining from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, false and harmful speech, and using intoxicants). I'm not saying become a Buddhist (that's up to you) but I've found keeping the precepts to be a great protection against causing harm to myself or to others. Anyway, I wouldn't expect the memories to go away but they become easier to live with over time and making a strong effort to be a better person and free the mind from suffering has been the greatest gift I've given myself.
Best wishes,
Jackson


Thanks, I know they will never leave me fully, or at least I hope they never do, for fear I might fall back onto old habits if they did. I hope like you said the memories become easier to live with. As for becoming a Buddhist I think Ive pretty much decided even though my friends and family aren't exactly happy about that. I feel I have a lot more to learn before I should actually call myself one, Theres still a lot about Buddhism I don't understand. So ive been trying to learn more about it and read a few books since theres no monasteries close to me.
Jhana4 wrote:4. If you did nothing but good things for next 82 years, ask yourself would you be a good person at your death?


I thought about this for a while, and I think I would be but I doubt if in 82 years I told someone every bad thing Ive done if they would agree.

Ben wrote: Get that going for a little while and then investigate attending a residential meditation retreat of some variety. Somewhere where you can take refuge in the Triple Gem, adopt the five precepts and start developing self-mastery by developing concentration, and developing wisdom (vipassana) into the nature of reality. A meditation retreat will also give you some depth of meditative experience, support and the theoretical background on an extraordinarily useful tool for self-transformation.
kind regards

Ben


Thanks for the advice. Id love to attend a retreat somewhere in the future, for the moment thats not really possible but hopefully some day it will be.

Jhana4 wrote:Sonzai, this book has nothing to do with Buddhism, but it can help you to feel better about yourself. If you feel better about yourself you will do more good things and fewer bad things.

HTH

http://www.amazon.com/Overcoming-Rating ... 552&sr=1-1


Thanks for the suggestion, ill look into it.

perkele wrote:
1. Do good things. Even if at the moment you do not see much good you can do. Maybe you can't. But the time will come. Possibilities will come if you keep yourself ready and don't give up.
2. A friend joking that you are too bad to be a Buddhist, things like that, trying to "be a good person", you just need some humble self-esteem to go through that. Cynicism is a bane in such a situation. But if you don't get friendly support you must go without it. People don't share your pain, your guilt, your conscience. So it's easier to joke around. But you just stay clear, make the best of it, endure it.

Blahblah. Not knowing anything better than you probably... but just trying to encourage you to do the best. Even if everything is dark.

Metta
Moritz


Thanks for the encouragement. I will try my best.

poto wrote:Hey, this is something I know a little about!

I've done more than my share of bad things, the bulk of it when I was younger. I think I'm at a point in my life where I've let go of all of that and moved on. Of course, there are other people who haven't let go of my past and sometimes they will remind me of such. I'm trying to not let that bother me, as it's just another thing to let go of.


I hope I can get to that point also some day, I also have problems with others that keep reminding me of my past, and its been a real bother to me lately. To the point ive thought of leaving everyone and going where I have a fresh start and a clean slate although I think everything would still follow me and eventually come back. Ill try to let go of that too.

robertk wrote:happiness is just dhammas, sadness is mere dhammas, feelings are dhammas.

They are all there to be known and insighted when they arise. To think any of them are preferable objects is not understanding their inherent anatta nature: to wit they arise because they are conditioned to arise, it cannot be other than it is.


Thank you, although ill be completely honest that went right over my head. I have a lot to learn.

pilgrim wrote:There's something real you can do.
You can dilute the bad you have done by doing good, lots of it.


Thanks for posting that, I was doing exactly that looking at everything as the small cup of water. It amazes me how The Buddha seems to have a teaching for every situation.

TMingyur wrote:Regret, regret, regret ... practice regret, wholehearted regret ... never ever try to rationalize your faulty deeds away or to excuse them ... BUT do not condition yourself with thoughts of "guilt".
Practice loving kindness/metta and practice karuna/compassion toward all those that you have harmed and those that harm themselves through such misdeeds like yours (including yourself).
Resolve wholeheartedly to refrain from any such kinds of missdeeds in the future and recall this resolve as often as you can and establish your conduct accordingly.

Kind regards


Thank you, I've already decided to stop doing as I have in my past. I dont think I could ever do it again, realizing all the pain its caused.

Annapurna wrote:And don't get into a habit of beating yourself up.

The past is gone, a bright future can be forged, and for this you need to live in the "here and now", not in the past, beating yourself up.


Thanks again, ive been doing that for a while. I will try my best to live in the here and now.

Again thanks everyone for all the replies, I'm happy I found a place like this to help me along this path and do what I can to "dilute" the pain ive caused in the world as much as I possibly can.

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Re: Getting over a bad past?

Postby Annapurna » Sat Mar 05, 2011 7:28 pm

Thank you, Sonzai, for replying to everybody. This is rare and I appreciate it for that reason even more.

:anjali:

BEST wishes.
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Re: Getting over a bad past?

Postby beeblebrox » Sat Mar 05, 2011 8:07 pm

Sonzai wrote:Thats my problem, My mind cant seem to let it go. I hear monks talking about letting go of the past all the time but I just have a hard time doing it. I might think ive finally got over it and let it go from a hour or so and then a memory comes back and its all back again.


I think that this version of "you" from the past is really going to stick around for a while... so maybe it might be helpful to see that this "you" isn't really here today, anymore.

You can try to view this "you" with some compassion. (Just like we would with anyone else.) Study its memories, listen to it, accept the reasons for everything that it did (including the lame ones), and how all of this has led to where you are today.

You can even forgive this "you" for its past... regardless of what other people would think... free that person, for once. Be someone who can stand for that person, without any problem. That would make it really happy. I think that's exactly what we should try to do for everyone else, who might be going through the same thing.

It's really all one big loop, everything the same... a cycle of countless "births," loads of suffering, all leading to the countless "deaths," absolutely no exceptions. Everyone really deserves to be free of that, the past "you" included.

:anjali:

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Re: Getting over a bad past?

Postby dhammapal » Sun Mar 06, 2011 1:24 pm

I suffer from flashbacks and guilt. My latest idea when the flashbacks come is to say "I can't handle that!", recognizing that the flashbacks are external and I can't be expected to handle more than taking care of my present behavior.

Check out my forgivenessBuddhism Yahoo Group with >100 researched posts mostly on self-forgiveness.

With metta / dhammapal.

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Re: Getting over a bad past?

Postby Stephen K » Sun Mar 06, 2011 4:25 pm

Sonzai, you are a wise person:

A I 103 wrote:By three things the wise person may be known. What three? He sees a shortcoming as it is. When he sees it, he tries to correct it. And when another acknowledges a shortcoming, the wise one forgives it as he should.

You see your shortcoming as it is, and you are trying to correct it.


Change is always possible:
Dhammapada 173 wrote:He, who by good deeds covers the evil he has done, illuminates this world like the moon freed from clouds.


Explanation: If the evil habits of behaviour of an individual get replaced by his good behaviour, he will illuminate the world.

( http://www.buddhanet.net/dhammapada/d_world.htm )



Also, please read this sutta — http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Here's an excerpt:

SN 42.8 wrote:"A disciple has faith in that teacher and reflects: 'The Blessed One in a variety of ways criticizes & censures the taking of life, and says, "Abstain from taking life." There are living beings that I have killed, to a greater or lesser extent. That was not right. That was not good. But if I become remorseful for that reason, that evil deed of mine will not be undone.' So, reflecting thus, he abandons right then the taking of life, and in the future refrains from taking life. This is how there comes to be the abandoning of that evil deed. This is how there comes to be the transcending of that evil deed.

"[He reflects:] 'The Blessed One in a variety of ways criticizes & censures stealing... indulging in illicit sex... the telling of lies, and says, "Abstain from the telling of lies." There are lies that I have told, to a greater or lesser extent. That was not right. That was not good. But if I become remorseful for that reason, that evil deed of mine will not be undone.' So, reflecting thus, he abandons right then the telling of lies, and in the future refrains from telling lies. This is how there comes to be the abandoning of that evil deed. This is how there comes to be the transcending of that evil deed.




You're not a robot, an angel, an Arahant (an Enlightened one), a God or a saint. You are a human being. That's what human beings are like — imperfect. You're not evil or bad, you've just made some mistakes. None of us are perfect, and all of us have done things we're not proud of. Cheer up! You are a lovely human being!
With metta,
Upāsaka Sumana

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Re: Getting over a bad past?

Postby fragrant herbs » Sun Mar 06, 2011 4:59 pm

Sonzai wrote:Hello, this is my first post here I've been thinking about this for days and finally decided to make a post about it. I'm 18, Ive looked into Buddhism off and on for 2 years and only recently begun to seriously look into it.

What do you do if you have been a bad person? I'm not quite sure from what Ive read on Theravada Buddhism if there is anything to do?

Ive done a lot of bad stuff since I was a kid. Some very serious things that I regret a lot. Lately Ive just been trying to suppress the memories mostly, because every time I remember them I feel sick with myself and full of guilt. Sometimes its unbearable when I remember it all. I told a friend I was looking into Buddhism and he simply laughed and responded "You're too bad to be a Buddhist" I feel like hes right sometimes, Buddhism is about reaching enlightenment but I think to myself how could I ever reach that after all the pain ive caused.

So, what do I do to make up for what ive done in the past? How do I move on from it all and be a good person?


I have done really bad things in my past too, but we have to let our past not rule our future. When I joined a Buddhist group in California I told the monk that I felt guilty and not good enough for Buddhism because of my past, and he said:

"That is because you don't know who you are."

That was all I needed to hear at the time. I am not sure if you understand that since you are new to Buddhism, but somehow I understood it even though I was new. And this doesn't mean that it is easy letting it go. I left that group and Buddhism for a while, and now I have a new teacher, and I think, "What did I do to deserve having such a good teacher? If he only knew my past, and sometimes when I write him about things that bother me I think, "This is going to end it for me. He will reject me." But he doesn't, and so I just strive on trying to be a better person and letting go of the past.

And when I look at it all it was only a few years of my life that I was not doing what was right, and here I am 68 and can say that for 65 years I have not been a bad person, but it is hard letting go.


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