Buddhist notion of Forgiveness and Reconciliation
BUDDHISM AND RECONCILIATION
Bhikkhuni Thich Tinh Van
Life as historically manifested is twofold, individuals and communities as well. The teachings of the Buddha are meant as much for the building of an order of communities as for the harmonious ordering of an individual’s personal life. In addition, Buddhism is concerned with the cessation of suffering, it must necessarily teach the way to the cessation of social suffering no less than the suffering of each individual. It is precisely to mention of forgiveness and reconciliation.
I. General Reconciliation
After inflicting violence against one another, different individuals/communities move forward by learning more about the causes and results, then deciding to sit, listen and discuss together in order to clarify tolerantly the ideas. Because without virtue life cannot stand, without love life is dead, that is why we need to defend human rights, respect territorial rights and cooperating together in various other proper activities for developing a sustained peace. If so, individuals/ communities in the immediate aftermath of violent conflict need to find out the causes leading to the problem. Most of the problems are happened by lacking of self-confident and mutual understanding plus poverty, low educated levels, social injustices, political injustices … or lack of care from particular needs of individuals and communities for a long time … To solve them all, out of the truth commissions, trials, reparations, apologies, public memorials and forgiveness, we need undertake to redress injustices in the past in order to restore relative orders in the present and the future. In general, men need to assemble in harmonious spirit, discuss in harmonious spirit and dissolve in harmonious spirit with one another.
In Buddhist tradition, especially in stories of the Buddha’s former births, there were some extremely evil figures such as Devadatta/ Angulimala/ Uppalavanna… finally be perfected ones by making efforts to repent. Thus, there are the confession and repentance of perpetrators, victims have advice to forgive. Such forgiveness is not only an acceptable law for open-minded state but also is a giving kindness, loving, friendship, understanding, equanimity and goodwill, which be found in the Four Sublime States (Brahma-vihara).
A Vietnamese proverb says, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ is meant to emphasize that no one in this world can live forever because everything is impermanent. But now we are born as human beings, we must receive warmly this valuable result as the reward of good action. Investigating that when something happens, out of an agreement reparation and consolation to reduce the suffering, one should develop Forgiveness towards all sentient beings with the realization that, during the immeasurable long passage through the samsara, there is being who has ever been one’s mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter, relative or friend... With developing goodwill, one is free from ill-will; with compassion, one is free from cruelty; with sympathetic joy, one is free from aversion and with equanimity, one is free from greed.
Among these four excellent qualities, equanimity is the crown and culmination, because the thoughts of ‘mine, self, I-making’ are forsaken. Thus, the teaching of emptiness will be our guide on the path to deliverance and to perfect equanimity of understanding. The unshakeable nature of anatta is the manifestation of the highest strength. Like the lotus that is unsoiled by the mud, one live unaffected by worldly temptations: ever calm, serene and peaceful.
For the subject ‘Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Buddhism’, Buddhist communities are required to the performance in right action of body, speech and thought. Each precept has its function, the restraint of the body from evil acts, the restraint of the tongue from evil speech and the restraint of the mind from evil thought is maintained in many Sutta of Buddhist tradition. These three unwholesome roots may be swept away by sincerely keeping the Precepts, whereby happiness will be experienced in making an effort as well as the chance to develop wisdom. Thus moral conduct is the hallmark of true spiritual attainment. Establishing the goal of the liberal human rights to maintain and to strengthen the emotional attitude by avoiding harm to others. Man must start with himself if he has to train someone in the case to wish for developing a deep, inner attitude towards life and living. So Forgiveness and Reconciliation are founded upon the principles as Non-violence, Compassion and Effort.
Individuals/communities need to claim and pay damage for victims to remove a certain sufferings. In fact, what we call ‘healing’, meaning is consisted of duties that one is able and unable to perform. In case this healing is not adequately brought about, individuals should realize that ‘we all must die some day’ or we have to think about ‘returning good for evil’, evil will be brought to ruin and then we cease quarrels. On the other hand, out of healing, we need to understand the wrong cause in order do not repeat it again. So right understanding is very important in reference to Buddhist tradition. And forgiveness or knowledge of the Noble Truths/ reconciliation will be taken places. At the same time, we should expose truthfulness, fostering, kindness and other ethical qualities. These moral precepts are provided a wholesome foundation for individuals/ communities growth because of a good life. As individuals, we need to be trained in morality to lead an engaged life. To communities, we need to help in maintaining peace and harmony.
Due to understanding the law of Dependent Origination, ones support healing of traumatized individuals and communities by placing oneselves in the same case with others in order to sympathize deeply. Monks/ nuns teach them to nourish the truth, forgiveness, reconciliation and relationships. For these interrelations, individuals/ communities are included in the noble discipline, are within the framework of the way of life. In both cases of secular and religious, the obligation cast regards as learning together is very important and respectful in deed, word as well as thought. In addition, security and confidence are the attitudes of everyone. The interpersonal relations so-promoted generate a wholesome atmosphere for study and search for mutual understanding.
Everyone has the same desire to be happy and free from suffering, but he does again an opposite action in order to receive a disliked result. In daily life, conflict is an unavoidable event which one has to face with. To realize the valuable in this very life, the Sangha often organizes to preach in conflict resolution, foster a mindful peace and guide to a spiritual liberation for citizens and leaders by means of awareness, concentration and friendliness to see the reality as it is.
IV. Post-Conflict Justice:
Leading to the life of the Buddhists, there are two ways: (i) discipline (ii) mental development. By this way, equanimity and right mindfulness are the way to treat former enemies in the aftermath of violent conflict. Men can see and understand the suffering of human beings as well as other living beings to foster compassion, care and learning but not worry, because they realize the marks of supreme and fearless Truth.
Man is owner, heir of his actions. The law of kamma is a natural law, because each volitional action bears its effects. However, purity and impurity depend on himself, no one purifies another. It is the central theory of kamma.
So great is the Justice/ responsibility attaching to individuals/ communities relations, so fine is the forgiveness/ opportunity for exercising compassion, tender care, and protection. Truly speaking, nobody’s perfect. Thus, justice and forgiveness can be complimented on a consistent basis with peaceful mind, acknowledgement and the truth. A community where morality prevails individuals are conscious of their roles, there will certainly
be general security, mutual trust, and close co-operation. Therefore, purification/ noble nature/ man-quality/ Buddha-seed… is the right path to realize the ultimate Truth: Reconciliation and Forgiveness. Purification, which is the result of conduct and not because of birth/ caste/ gender/ religion… These rules in turn leading to greater progress and prosperity.
In brief, Buddhism, a religion centered on wisdom and compassion, is based on the belief in the inter-relation and inter-dependence of all. The Buddha aims at creating a community where life in peace and harmony in a world of material contentment, is directed towards the highest and noblest aim. The Buddhist realizes to be born as human beings is a great privilege, so let service and perfection become his noble ideal. Man would try to make use of his life to the highest pure happiness by developing the perfect virtues during a long period of time. When the Buddhist correctly understands and puts these virtues into practice, the Buddha’s teachings would definitely bring much solace to those who need the attention of others.
 Singapore, 15-16 March, 2011