Guilt and Worry…


I read Stacey’s response to yesterday’s blog entry defining The Four Noble Truths and what gets in the way of seeing reality and the reference to guilt in the context of the reading pinged at me so I decided to elaborate on what is guilt and how Buddhist practitioners see it.

I am not sure which one of my fellow practitioners wrote about guilt, but I remember his definition in Buddhist practice. He said that being guilty means seeing or projecting one’s mistakes, yet not knowing what to do about them and even refusing to correct them.

Guilt is a negative and paralyzing emotion. Frustration created by guilt and worry preclude change and growth. It implies non-acceptance of oneself or the situation. When we label ourselves as unworthy, mean, unlikable…we are in the grip of ego. Sister Robina Courtin called it too much “self-cherishing” and it is a form of self-deprecating laziness, a pretty typical “hindrance” . Guilt is a disturbing attitude. The guilty person does not see clearly, so much so that they become consumed with their “self -hatred” which is actually self-centeredness.

The awakened person sees the behavior, the thoughts and notices…What am I attracting? What did I feel/think about interacting with the person who triggered my negative feelings? What were my intentions in relating in such manner to that person? Intention is the key to creating negative karma, and guilt creates loads of negative karma!

So Buddhism offers sincere repentance as a positive and transformative practice. We can admit that we were not very nice. We can even admit that we were down right nasty! But we can also commit  to not repeat the actions/thoughts/words and resolve instead to “commit random acts of kindness” among other more rigorous cleansing practices. Yes!

Friday night is the beginning of the Jewish Day of Atonement. It is the day to clear the slate, confess and repair the wrongful deeds. Judaism beckons you to repent and tells you to look within. Yes, the best repairing is within to contemplate what in you led you to act in ways that were wrongful toward others or what within yourself brought about feelings of guilt. It may be that you forgot that the other is not better or worse than you and that seeing the other as separate from you is what created guilt and worry in the first place. So…don’t worry…be happy!

Try chanting the mantra of the prajnaparamita hridaya sutra-the Heart Sutra in Sanskrit or The Perfection of Transcendent Wisdom. Repeat it to yourself 9 times every time you feel worry coming on and envelop yourself in its marvelous words when you truly mean that you are sorry.

Gate Gate Para Gate

Para Sam Gate Bodhi Svaha!

Yes…here is the translation:

Gone, Gone Beyond

Beyond the Beyond

Awakened All

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