“Drive All Blames Into Oneself”
Humans, throughout time immemorial have been capable of committing the most cruelest crimes imaginable, some intentional, some based on self defense, emotional reaction or ignorance. However, there is always hope for regret and personal change if we really desire to do so. We cannot have contrition and heal negative karmic patterns, as long as we constantly blame others for our wrong views, misconduct and wrongdoings. Oftentimes, those who we blame and perceive as “evil” and “enemies” are just mirrors of our own unseen bad behavior and karmic traces. I’ve done some work in the prisons, and with war veterans with complex PTSD, who have a hard time recovering from the pain and trauma of what’s called “moral injury,” from the actions and experiences during wartime. However, there’s a tried and true method of healing from even the most egregious negative patterns and past, even that of unforgivable war crimes.
We had a famous Buddhist Saint named Milarepa, who in his past, had reportedly practiced black magic and out of vindication, caused the death of many people. He later, sincerely regretted his dark past, turned over a new leaf and used the rest of his life to be a tremendous benefit to others to ultimately attain full enlightenment. In order to begin this process of getting on the right track and healing, we have to be honest with ourselves about who we are, what we’ve done and like in any 12 Step program, take the first step and admit with all humility, that we have committed wrongdoing. We no longer justify our bad behavior nor blame others. The Dharma offers the powerful Four Powers as a remedy for unwholesome actions, to forgive oneself, make deep personal change and ultimately be free of guilt, blame and shame:
THE FOUR POWERS
1. The power of REGRET – of a negative activity or pattern.
2. The power of REFUGE – re-establishing of the right attitude of non-harming, compassion and benefit.
3. The power of RESOLUTION – decision never to repeat the negative action again.
4. The power of REMEDY – applying the antidotes, purifying action, making amends to any who you have harmed.
*Lojong Training Slogan
If we’ve even committed any of the heinous crimes which are considered truly unforgivable~ like killing an enlightened being or causing the downfall of the Dharma, there are purification methods which involve powerful transformative rituals. With the Mindfulness Peace Project they work with war veterans that have a hard time forgiving themselves and integrating back into normal society after having been involved with unforgivable actions. What is done, is you take the root of the person’s faith if they have any, and create some type of ritual process of contrition, forgiveness and absolution. One might imagine God or Jesus or all the Buddhas or the Sun, in front of you and you and “confess.” You speak out exactly what you’ve done wrong, and then you imagine that whomever or whatever you have faith in, even if it’s just our “higher self,” completely forgives you and with great sincere regret, you vow to never do those actions again. It turns out that these rituals can be very powerful in liberating the negative guilt and unhealed karmic seeds that we hold within us that wind up re-creating patterns of depression, self-doubt and social harm.
None of us, no action is irredeemable; each of us have within us a human conscience, however dormant. I think we all have an innate longing to live our best life possible, even people with damage, trauma and personality disorders. Through causes and conditions, wrong views and unresolved wounding from our past, we can commit heinous deeds. In contrast, we can also turn our lives around and completely heal if we have the foundation of the willingness to be honest and make the deep personal changes required to really learn and grow. This premise of radical compassion even in the face of war veterans, or hardened criminals, is the root of all possible prison reform and restorative justice that our society is sorely lacking.
This amazing organization called The Compassion Prison Project, understands that at the root within all human hearts, is goodness that cannot forever be covered. Their premise is that each of us could take a wrong turn in life and the people that commit crimes are usually responding to early child abuse and neglect and unresolved trauma, and should be treated with exceeding understanding and therapeutic compassion, rather than reifying the notion that they are criminals and should be punished. I foresee an entire new day dawning with our understanding of human nature, the importance of self forgiveness and healing on personal level and how this can become the building blocks of healing society as a whole.