The Heart of Forgiveness.

Via Linda Lewis
on May 29, 2013
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His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje

“Inside each of us there is a noble heart. This heart is the source of our finest aspirations for ourselves and for the world.” ~ His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje

The 17th Karmapa has written a book entitled, The Heart is Noble in which he talks about mistakes and forgiveness. He says patience allows us to relate constructively with our own mistakes and those of others when they occur.

What is called ‘confession‘ in most religious traditions in Tibetan literally means ‘parting with faults.‘ In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition it involves separating ourselves from harmful or negative activity.

If we have made a mistake or caused harm, it is ideal to admit our fault directly to the person or people involved or harmed. If that is not possible, at least this ‘parting with faults’ could be made with a trusted friend or third party. Voicing the error of our ways is a first genuine step in acknowledging and separating from a fault so that it does not become a habitual pattern.

But the matter is not closed with mere words.

It is important to generate the feeling of remorse—not guilt, but genuine remorse:  “Such action was harmful. I do not want to do that again.”

Only then can we forgive ourselves and make a fresh start. By separating from the fault, we recognize that the action does not define who we are and we can leave it behind, rather than be haunted or plagued by it.

As the Karmapa says,

“The point is to create the conditions to make an authentic break with our mistakes….Once you have made the sincere and heartfelt determination to leave that conduct behind, there is no longer any need for self-reproach.”

Cultivating this ‘parting with faults’ and forgiving ourselves can be a way of training us to forgive others. But this does not mean condoning another’s past hurtful behavior.

But when people harm us, they also harm themselves and define themselves by their negative actions—whether they admit it or not. Their harmful ways are not in their best interest, to say the very least.

They are in fact also victims—victims of their own harmful behavior.

Recognizing this, allows us to open to the possibility of forgiving them, if they are brave enough to acknowledge, voice with remorse, and genuinely part with that behavior which caused harm.

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Ed: T. Lemieux/Kate Bartolotta


About Linda Lewis

Linda Lewis met the Vidyadhara Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche in 1972 and, following Rinpoche’s invitation, immediately moved to Boulder, Colorado to be a part of his young and vital sangha. The predominant themes in her life have been teaching in contemplative schools–Vidya, Naropa, and the Shambhala School in Halifax, Nova Scotia–and studying, practicing, or teaching his Shambhala Buddhadharma wherever she finds herself.


16 Responses to “The Heart of Forgiveness.”

  1. kriss says:

    Loved this!

  2. Tara Lemieux says:

    What a most beautiful article, Linda ~ and I believe this will be a book I shall be reading in my garden.

  3. Geoff Withnell says:

    Beautiful. Judaism (I am myself a Jew) has the similar concept of Teshuvah – Return. When we have made mistakes, we must back track, and return to the path of truth. And a portion of the way back is to admit to ourselves, and to others we may have harmed, that we made those mistakes, do what we can to mitigate the consequences, and move forward. Of course moving forward requires that we be mindful of this mistake, so we do not repeat it.

  4. Michelle Visser says:

    Lovely! In the Zen tradition I am most familiar with, they speak of living by vow and repentance. The metaphor they use is the path of the sailboat; it is not possible to sail a straight line–it is only possible to continue returning to the path when you find yourself off course. I think recognizing mistakes, forgiving oneself and others, and vowing to act differently are all part of that returning to the path. Thanks for the beautiful reminder, Linda!

  5. I'm grappling with forgiving my ex-husband for the way he ended our 23-year marriage, multiple affairs with no remorse, admittance of any wrongdoing, or recognition of the impact upon me. I know it only hurts me to hold on and want recognition and apology, and that I may never get it. I want to forgive and let it go, part of me feels like I let him off the hook to do so…

  6. Wonderful article! I agree, it's really important to forgive others and even yourself when mistakes are made. Many people still seem to have a hard time being able to do that.

  7. Linda V. Lewis says:

    Oh, thank you for sharing. That is similar and so beautiful–not to mention helpful!

  8. Linda V. Lewis says:

    Ah, and the way you put it, you remind me of meditation itself. When we get distracted we remember to return to the breath–it's all part of practice. If we could meditate perfectly it would be called "fruition" instead of practice!
    Also, remembering to return to the breath and recognizing mistakes are both aspects of mindfulness–one in meditation, the other in post-meditation.
    Thanks so much!

  9. Linda V. Lewis says:

    Yes, there's often a tendency to give ourselves a hard time for having a hard time!

  10. Cat says:

    I really appreciated this article. It's exactly what I needed this morning and I'm grateful to be open enough to hear the message and to change my behaviors. Thank you for sharing this wisdom.

  11. Linda V. Lewis says:

    Thank you! It's the best reward a writer can have–to find out that what was written was helpful!

  12. Linda V. Lewis says:

    I do understand. That is really hurtful. As Pema Chodron says, it's best to "start where you are". You are alive and full of awareness. You are loveable. The love and affection you initially gave to your husband you need to direct toward yourself, have loving kindness toward yourself. Your awareness will continue to strengthen as you nurture and nourish yourself. The letting go will then begin. Letting go of expectations is huge, but one feels so much lighter afterwards! Let go before trying to forgive. Letting go creates the needed space for forgiveness to be possible later.

  13. gyurme pawo says:

    Thanks Linda.

    In the years since my first wife left me until now I have realized the power of true forgiveness. The space that it has created has allowed me to reconnect with the original reason that we became friends in the first place and with the fact that no matter what has occurred we are still parents of children.

    Lojong practice (training the mind) and the slogan "drive all blames into one" has helped me to redirect responsibility inward and as Chogyam Trungpa said.. "you actually begin to see the possibility that aggression and neurosis is expanded if you drive your neurosis into somebody else".

    The shift in perspective that this has created has allowed me the patience to relate with both of our mistakes. Through the application of lojong I have been able to develop compassion and maitri. In fact, my marriage break up has been pivotal in turning my mind toward dharma, thus allowing me to learn to free "myself from myself". Actually, the next slogan is "be grateful to everyone" and has worked wonders in transmuting a painful situation into an actual sense of gratitude. This is actually hard to grasp for some and I certainly haven't thanked my ex-wife for cheating but it has actually made things workable for me.

    I have asked myself countless times….How do I let go? Most of the time I had no answer but sometimes dharma would trickle through and help me to provide the space for forgiveness to take hold.

    Thanks again Linda!


  14. Linda V. Lewis says:

    This is really beautiful Paul. You are a true practitioner. We don't get to practice the paramitas unless we rub against difficult times. For example, if everything is rosy, we don't need patience; but when faced with anger–our own or others–then wow! There's an opportunity to practice patience!
    Your applications of the slogans is right on! When feeling hurt or deserted, you have your children to be grateful for. Resentment toward a former partner is still attachment. The less we focus on the outer object of our loss, pain, disappointment–the more we are able to let go and work with our own expectations. Dissolving those expectations is another way to let go, but being now a single parent, still seeing your former wife, that is supreme practice!

  15. This is a beautiful article. Thank you for writing it. It seems that learning to forgive is one of the great human lessons/experiences in our lives. We are often making mistakes and "bumping" into one another, and inevitably there is conflict…learning to navigate this conflict is no easy task. Though your article provides some real concrete and possible solutions. However, in a conflict, what if person A (who did a hurtful action to person B) expresses remorse, apologizes and 'parts with their faults", but person B continues to perpetuate the story line by not letting it go?…person B continues to find fault in person A, does not forgive and further persecutes person A for their mistake? I am stumped by how to navigate this scenario.

  16. Linda V. Lewis says:

    If we are person A, there is no guarantee that person B will forgive. We can ultimately only work on ourselves. Having previously hurt B, we are not the person to point out that B is continuing to hurt his/herself by perpetuating the story line. Of course we too are hurt. That's where we continue to forgive ourselves and not hang our head low. We move forward–perhaps by inviting a mediator, a 3rd person "C" to help. Good luck! This was a great and practical question.