This transcript of Khentrul Rinpoche’s audio teaching has been lightly edited for easier reading.
Today, I’m going to talk about what is patience and forgiveness. What is the difference from the perspective of different cultures, different religions, and different philosophies? In general, forgiveness is something that is considered a good quality and we believe it is important to forgive. And not everyone can forgive, and only those that do have some deep quality can do it. But most people cannot do it. Even if they say they forgive and even if it looks like forgiving on the surface, still, in the middle of their heart, they are not really forgiving. So that is normal. That is international. That is universal.
But, according to Tibetan culture and Tibetan Buddhism, there is not really a common word that everybody knows as forgiveness. Tibetans only have different categories of patience. They don’t even have words that are different from patience, tolerance and forgiveness. They just say different types of patience. In English this is very clear. In places where Christianity is dominant, forgiveness is embedded in the culture where it is held up as an ideal, and something that everyone considers that most people should do it. Anybody who cannot forgive is quickly judged as so bad. But in other cultures, people are not so quick to judge those people who can not forgive. In some cultures those people who cannot forgive and even those people who seek revenge or fighting are judged is seen as a good quality.
The main thing I want to talk about today is the question: is forgiveness good for everyone, all the time, regardless of any conditions? We’ll examine that today. So the answer is yes, in general, people being able to forgive is a really good quality. I agree. But it does not hold true for any case, any time, any situation, any circumstances that we must forgive or not? That is a question mark.
For instance, when we say forgive, that means showing definitely the other peoples actions are something bad, they have done something wrong. Then forgiveness implies there is no reaction to someone doing something wrong. So should it be like that all the time, anytime, any situation? The answer is no. We have to think about why this person is doing bad things and just what is the degree of bad is it? Why do we forgive and what is the benefit of forgiveness? We have to consider all this.
Firstly, when people do bad things to other people, there are gradations. It can be bad, medium bad, or extremely bad.
For normal, ordinary people, they can not forgive all of these degrees. They always have a reaction, anger and hatred. But if we have developed a good quality, good consideration, a broad view and a little wisdom, even some compassion, then we can see if it is really necessary to react or not react. This means that some people’s bad actions are not really harmful. Usually what ordinary people think is harmful is not really harmful when you consider it at a deeper level.
Some circumstances may be very easy and simple to forgive and everybody should forgive in those cases. In some cases where it is very easy to forgive, some people aren’t really forgiving. They are ignoring or don’t care (enough to react.) When there are no consequences, everybody can do that.
That means, if without thought or any deep consideration, you think it’s bad, but it’s not really. Which means somebody says you are ugly, you are looking so bad or something. People can see it. You really looking bad or not. You really ugly or not. And you are, is it easy to see through people. Obviously our five senses detect very easily things, you saying something, judging something, much worse than they appear. These slights are easy to forgive if we have a little wisdom, a little broad view. We don’t have to react. Third parties can see the other person is wrong and you are so right. You are so peaceful and wise by not reacting. So those situations can be easy to forgive and everybody should do it without question.
However, there are some bad doings that are medium harmful. They are temporarily harmful, but not in the long-term harmful. In the long-term, this could even be beneficial or could be a little bit harmful, or it may become nothing. It is unpredictable. In the moment it seems temporary and maybe a little bit harmful.
This may be a little bit harder to forgive, but, if you consider it carefully, most of the time it is good to forgive. And if you are able to forgive, that means you are brave. You know, whoever can forgive is kind, and it is a sign of bravery. It is not only being kind, not only just being patient, but also you are brave. And it is also a sign of being wise.
Then there are very bad actions with very harmful consequences. Temporarily harmful, but also harmful for the long-term. For those kinds of actions, it is not necessarily best to forgive all the time, any time, whatever the circumstances. It is not like that. It is not that simple. You have to consider these circumstances very carefully. So when I say it is not necessary to forgive I’m talking about the actions. In the mind you always have some degree of forgiveness, which is always good. That means you are not really stuck in the resentment and anger and hatred. So that’s always good.
But at the action level, it is not always necessary to forgive. Why? Because if you forgive everything, no matter what the level the degree of the action, no matter what the consequence of the action, and whatever the circumstance is, you always just do nothing. No reaction. This is sometimes good, but sometimes these people can be corrupt. They can do more and more worse things. Why? Because they are, uh, what do you call that word? It’s not spoiled, but it’s similar. So this could reinforce a bad habit, where they think they can do anything to anyone. That is a mistake.
If they treat everyone like that, temporarily they damage many people, and in the long term they completely damage themselves. So that’s why it would be kind to challenge their actions where they can learn a lesson. If they can teach them a lesson it is very, very important if your motivation is right. Your motivation has to be based on love and kindness.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean that your behavior is like kind kissing. You may take what looks like very rough action, very challenging action that comes from kindness and compassion. So you can do that. This means that when anybody does something harmful, you have to think about what is the degree of harm. What are the consequences of this harm, for yourself, for others, and for the person doing the harm.
And then, you have to react or not react, different reaction or no reaction. You have to do something suitable to the given situation. If you do that, then you are training yourself. You are also training the other person who has a bad habit of treating others very badly. Or maybe their attitude and motivation is very selfish. Or sometimes they don’t have huge motivations. They just have instant bad actions.
So you need to distinguish what’s going on and then apply something suitable to the specific circumstances. But of course, always your motivation must be based on love, compassion, and kindness. So that means, the physical action, body action, speech action may not look like its kind, but that doesn’t mean the motivation behind it is not kind and loving. So this we need to remember and be mindful. Everybody. And the most important, we have to focus and emphasis on our mind and our motivation. Is it based on love, compassion or kindness? Yes or No? This always should be our focus. Not the focus 100% on the body and speech for both the receiver and the one doing the action.
Of course, if there are some choices, even at the physical level, kind action and kind speech is of course the best, but sometimes that’s not suitable. That may not be the option because this person is not responding to those things. And if you become wrathful, awesome actions maybe they will respond.
So that’s why when the vajrayana, tantra according to tantra. When we say tamyam, that means someone who broke the holy Samaya, which means that the holy commitment was broken. In that case we should not have contact with them.
People often misunderstand this thinking, “oh we have not forgiven them, we’re not forgiving.” People think like that. That is a huge mistake. Why is that a huge mistake? Because tantrayana is the most profound teaching, practice and commitments. That is why, the holy commitments result in incredible, powerful benefits. But at the same time, if you do the opposite, they also have powerful harmful consequences.
When somebody breaks their Samaya vows on purpose, with disrespect, this is a serious problem. Even you know you broken the vow, even you know this is disrespect but still you do and if you criticize your holy teacher; if you criticize your holy siblings, the Sangha, the community; if you criticize the precious Dharma, the holy teachings; if you do that, and we think, “Oh, we must forgive whatever you’re doing,” and we stay friendly with you, there will be harm done to both parties.
Why? Because one party is holy and one party is the opposite. So if you keep connecting with them, then your holiness, the sacred teachings and commitment, everything becomes tainted. There is a bad influence. When I say bad influence, now I’m not talking about the obvious level. The obvious level of influence is also possible, but it is a subtle bad influence. Something we cannot see with our eyes and with our mind. Yet still, it is there. This is really really possible. Because the whole universe, materialism, everything even according to science, the subtle level things we don’t know but still there is something going on. There are many energies, there are many powers. There is a lot going on all the time. We cannot see it and we cannot feel it, but something is still going on. Similliarly according to this practice with this holy commitment and holy practice if you mix with these opposite of the holy people if you mix with these people. Your practice, your spiritual progress and your realizations can be delayed, and so it is for the other person. In fact, it makes far worse karma, more harmful. So that’s why it is better to stay away. Physically stay away. No sharing body, sharing speech, or sharing thoughts. But still you can have the compassion. You can still have love. You can still have kindness in your mind.
So this means you don’t give up on this person forever, but you give up this person temporarily. This is not a contradiction. Even one sentient being you forgive, you deliver to enlightenment to buddhahood. You give up this, you can not just to forgive one sentient beings. In the Vajrayana and even in the Mahayana, you do not forsake a single sentient being. But at the same time, you have to disconnect temporarily. This kind of person, who is deliberately breaking their samaya vows with no attempt to repair, you have to disconnect as part of Vajrayana practice.
If you don’t disconnect, then you are breaking your own vows, your own holy commitments. So then you also become similar to this person who is the opposite of a holy person. So if you don’t want to lose this sacredness, you don’t want to lose this holiness, you have to distance yourself from corrupt body, speech and thoughts.
You can give many lessons, challenging lessons, if it helps the other person to realize the harm they’ve caused. Hopefully he will realize the mistakes he’s made and have regret. At that part he is ready to start. That means this person has to show, confirmed this realization, this incredible deep regret, he has to show through his actions to the Sangha. If he does this, then the Sangha and the holy teacher, everybody can enter into negotiation. Only at that time, if he has voluntarily done everything purification process, there can be reconnection with the holy Sangha.
But until (there is the expression of regret and engaging in purification,) then you have to disconnect. If this person is not ready in this life to repair samaya and dies, you have to keep disconnected. And you always pray that he’s ready for next life or immediate nex tlife. or 10 life time next. You have to pray. Everybody. The whole sangha.
Everyone in the Sangha who share the same teacher, who share the same lineage, who share the same empowerment, who share the same holy texts and whatever else they share; those people have a responsibility forever. That responsibility and commitment is forever, not just temporarily. Temporarily, it is not good for both parties. People often don’t understand this because people have very simple judgments. They have a simple way to judge what is very complicated. A simple way to judge very profound things. So that’s why people don’t understand.
Profound Dharma becomes more and more and more profound. More and more and more complications for normal people. For holy people more and more profound means it makes sense more and more. But for ordinary people more and more profound means more and more complicated. So we have to understand everyone.
And then we have to see what kind of action takes place. Should we forgive? What kind of action do we not forgive? Which means through the obvious body, speech mind level. In the mind of course, we always forgive. But in the body and speech actions, you can not. A simple way of saying this is that in your mind you always forgive. What does this mean? You always forgive means that you are always kind and compassionate. You care, really care, for others spiritual wellbeing. But in human level, body speech and action. You have to stay distant. (When samaya vows are broken,) you have to stay at a distance. You cannot be like before. You cannot be like equal as the holy people, the real Sangha people, you have to have distance.
So in these things, if you think very carefully, then you understand at a more profound level. It’s not as simple as forgive or not forgive, black and white. So in all the circumstances of what I said, you have to think very carefully, then try to understand everybody and then it becomes very useful.