Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Why Forgiveness is at the Core of Peace and Spiritual Growth

[Huffington Post] Sharon Salzberg, a renowned Buddhist teacher, was once approached by a participant at one of her meditation workshops who revealed to her that he had survived a terrorist attack. The man told her that he felt “overwhelmed” by the forgiveness meditation she led the class in, and said, "I don't know if it is possible to learn to forgive. I do know that it is possible, and in fact essential, to learn to stop hating."
Salzberg shared the anecdote to demonstrate a critical element of forgiveness. “We should not be sentimental about forgiveness: It is often a difficult, knotty spiritual practice,” she told The Huffington Post. “We may recognize, like that meditator, that taking a position of hatred is destroying us, and that if we are to truly live, out of compassion for ourselves we work to be free of hatred.”
The International Day of Peace, which falls on Sept. 21 every year, serves as a reminder that only through unity and compassion can we right the wrongs engineered by war and violence. To do this, we must learn to forgive -- and that can be the greatest challenge of all.
“Forgiveness is the ultimate spiritual practice,” said Rev. Adriene Thorne, executive minister of Middle Collegiate Church in New York City. “All other spiritual offerings depend on it.”
In the Christian tradition, Jesus offers the foundational example of forgiveness. A biblical parable from Matthew 18 illustrates: “Then Peter came and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.’”
“It is this same ridiculous forgiveness we receive from God that we are required to extend to our neighbor,” Thorne said.
That’s easier said than done. “Forgiving others can be very hard depending on the nature of hurt caused,” said Gadadhara Pandit Dasa, a lecturer and Hindu chaplain at Columbia University. He pointed out that Hindu scriptures contain many stories in which people who have been persecuted forgive their aggressors. “In one story, a five-year-old child, Prahlad, forgives his incredibly abusive father,” Dasa said. “In another story, a mother forgives the murderer of her five children.”
These are chilling tales that call into question the feasibility of forgiveness. The difficulty of the practice is compounded by a pervading “eye for an eye” rhetoric that dominates American culture, Dasa added. Read More