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Buddhism The Value of Mistakes in Buddhism

Discussion in 'Interfaith Dialogues' started by Admin Singh, Oct 9, 2010.

  1. Admin Singh

    Admin Singh
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    Many people look to Siddhartha Gautama as an example of someone who attained nirvana, a Buddha. Every other week in this column we look at what it might be like if Siddhartha were on his spiritual journey today. How would he combine Buddhism and dating? How would he handle stress in the workplace? "What Would Sid Do?" is devoted to taking an honest look at what we as meditators face in the modern world.

    Every other week I'll take on a new question and give some advice based on what I think Sid, a fictional Siddhartha, would do. Here Sid is not yet a Buddha; he's just someone struggling to maintain an open heart on a spiritual path while facing numerous distractions along the way. Because let's face it: you and I are Sid.

    This week's question comes from A.L.: "How would Sid deal with lack of skillfulness when he blunders or makes a mistake? I often experience chagrin and shame, disappointment. I must have a harsh inner critic that is tenacious or something. Thanks."

    We all make mistakes. Even the historical Buddha had a period when he made the mistake of over-compensating for his luxurious upbringing by becoming an ascetic and starving himself. He tortured himself under the name of spirituality. That's a big mistake. However, he would not have been able to find the middle way between the extremes of luxury and asceticism if he had not experienced both as something other than his cup of tea. In other words, mistakes are not a bad thing; they are the fodder for our spiritual journey.

    We each have our go-to emotion when we make a mistake. It could be yours, that of shame or disappointment. Other people may get defensive. Other people try to place blame on anyone but themselves.

    I imagine the first thing Sid would recommend is to take a long, honest look at your mistake. What factors brought you to the point where you made it? Were you speedy? Arrogant? What emotional and mental path took you to the point where you made such a blunder? Once you have figured that out, you can resolve to not make such an error again. Making the same mistake after resolving not to would be like walking backward down the spiritual path. It is also a sign that your regret was likely not genuine.

    Sometimes when you make a mistake, you might feel like there are many other people to blame. For example, someone from work sees you acting the fool over the weekend with some friends, blows the whole story out of proportion, spreads it around, and the next thing you know, the boss is looking at you funny come Monday morning. You could blame your co-worker (and heck, that's easy to do) but you also have to realize that if you weren't acting foolish in the first place, then there would be no story.

    The 11th-century meditation master and teacher Atisha is known for composing a series of pithy lojong, or mind-training, slogans. One of these slogans is "Drive all blames into one." Quite simply put, this slogan refers to the fact that instead of looking to external factors as the source of our mistakes, we need to own up to our experience. As Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche wrote in Training the Mind and Cultivating Loving-Kindness:

    We could blame the organization; we could blame the government; we could blame the police force; we could blame the weather; we could blame the food; we could blame the highways; we could blame our own motorcars, our own clothes; we could blame an infinite variety of things. But it is we who are not letting go, not developing enough warmth and sympathy -- which makes us problematic. So we cannot blame anybody.

    When we make mistakes, we often develop a sense of rigidity about ourselves. We either come down hard on ourselves or hard on others. We start blaming an amorphous "they" who ruin everything all the time. This is not helpful.

    Instead, if you can look to your role in your mistakes, you can honestly see how to avoid them in the future. You can apply a gentle attitude to your exploration, suspending judgment about what a jerk you are. You can develop warmth and have some sympathy for yourself. Then you can acknowledge what you did and resolve not to do it again.

    Furthermore, you can offset the negative actions you have done in the past by producing positive ones now. It may not be a one-to-one equation where you take your office out for pizza so that they think you're a swell gal. In fact, it may not be related to your mistake at all. However, you can use the knowledge that you have caused some form of harm as fuel for trying to cause some good in this world.

    Over time, mistakes fade and people mature. Because we all have made mistakes, we all know that at some point we must forgive those of others. If you genuinely acknowledge your errors and work to produce positive actions, people will pick up on that. No one remembers the historical Buddha as someone who made mistakes; they only remember his incredible kindness and wisdom. Even though we make mistakes today, if we endeavor to learn from them, then we, too, will be remembered in the same light.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lodro-rinzler/mistakes-are-part-of-our-_b_751706.html
     

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  3. findingmyway

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    The blame culture in Britain and Australia is definitely very strong-people love to complain and no-one is willing to accept that they might have been wrong too. My perception of America is that they take it further with the suing culture?

    It's a natural process to blame others as it's the easy way out but it leads to a vicious circle of anger that is neverending. Here are some gems from Gurbani on the subject of mistakes in sriraag:

    Page 70

    ਕਾਮਿ ਕਰੋਧਿ ਮੋਹਿ ਵਸਿ ਕੀਆ ਕਿਰਪਨ ਲੋਭਿ ਪਿਆਰੁ ਚਾਰੇ ਕਿਲਵਿਖ ਉਨਿ ਅਘ ਕੀਏ ਹੋਆ ਅਸੁਰ ਸੰਘਾਰੁ ਪੋਥੀ ਗੀਤ ਕਵਿਤ ਕਿਛੁ ਕਦੇ ਕਰਨਿ ਧਰਿਆ ਚਿਤਿ ਆਵੈ ਓਸੁ ਪਾਰਬ੍ਰਹਮੁ ਤਾ ਨਿਮਖ ਸਿਮਰਤ ਤਰਿਆ ॥੪॥
    Kām karoḏẖ mohi vas kī▫ā kirpan lobẖ pi▫ār. Cẖāre kilvikẖ un agẖ kī▫e ho▫ā asur sangẖār. Pothī gīṯ kaviṯ kicẖẖ kaḏe na karan ḏẖari▫ā. Cẖiṯ āvai os pārbarahm ṯā nimakẖ simraṯ ṯari▫ā. ||4||

    When you are under the power of sexual desire, anger and worldly attachment, or a greedy miser in love with your wealth;if you have committed these four great sins and made other mistakes; even if you have never taken the time to listen to sacred books, hymns and poetry BUTif you then come to remember the Supreme Lord God and contemplate Him and submit to his hukam, you shall be saved for that time.

    Page 61

    ਭੁਲਣ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਸਭੁ ਕੋ ਅਭੁਲੁ ਗੁਰੂ ਕਰਤਾਰੁ ਗੁਰਮਤਿ ਮਨੁ ਸਮਝਾਇਆ ਲਾਗਾ ਤਿਸੈ ਪਿਆਰੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਸਾਚੁ ਵੀਸਰੈ ਮੇਲੇ ਸਬਦੁ ਅਪਾਰੁ ॥੮॥੧੨॥
    Bẖulaṇ anḏar sabẖ ko abẖul gurū karṯār. Gurmaṯ man samjẖā▫i▫ā lāgā ṯisai pi▫ār. Nānak sācẖ na vīsrai mele sabaḏ apār. ||8||12||

    Everyone makes mistakes under the influence of maya; only the Guru and the Creator don't come under wordly corrupting influences and don't make mistakes.Whoever walks along the Guru's path and instructs his mind with the Guru's Teachings comes to embrace love for Ik Oankar.Whoever joins with the Shabad does not forget the Truth, does not forget Waheguru.

    Page 51

    ਸਿਰੀਰਾਗੁ ਮਹਲਾ ਘਰੁ ਤੇਰੈ ਭਰੋਸੈ ਪਿਆਰੇ ਮੈ ਲਾਡ ਲਡਾਇਆ ਭੂਲਹਿ ਚੂਕਹਿ ਬਾਰਿਕ ਤੂੰ ਹਰਿ ਪਿਤਾ ਮਾਇਆ ॥੧॥ ਸੁਹੇਲਾ ਕਹਨੁ ਕਹਾਵਨੁ ਤੇਰਾ ਬਿਖਮੁ ਭਾਵਨੁ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ
    Sirīrāg mėhlā 5 gẖar 7. Ŧerai bẖarosai pi▫āre mai lād ladā▫i▫ā. Bẖūlėh cẖūkėh bārik ṯūʼn har piṯā mā▫i▫ā. ||1|| Suhelā kahan kahāvan. Ŧerā bikẖam bẖāvan. ||1|| rahā▫o.

    I am like a spoilt child with your love Waheguru.I know you are my father and mother; every child sometimes forgets and makes mistakes.||1||
    It is very easy to say we follow your path but it is difficult to accept Your Will and walk along your path. ||1||Pause||

    Mistakes are ok. It is how we deal with them that counts :thinkingmunda:
    Jasleen Kaur
     
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    #2 findingmyway, Oct 9, 2010
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2010
  4. Archived_member14

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    Aman ji,

    Sorry to again have to express criticism of an article by this author.
    His intention no doubt is to help and show the Buddha’s virtues, but because he does not really appreciate the depth of the Buddha’s wisdom, he goes on to imo, mischaracterize everything.

    Firstly as I said previously, the Buddha to be, was no ordinary man. Aeons upon aeons ago, he was ripe to become an ‘arahat’ or a fully enlightened person, but out of compassion for all beings, found himself becoming instead a ‘bodhisatta’, a future Buddha. The need to perfect the qualities required to become one, resulted in his having to meet more than 20 other Buddha’s down the road.

    The author in his attempt to inspire his readers, who are likely seeking quick fixes, ends up trying to fit everything as occurring in this one lifetime alone, including comparing us all to Siddhartha, the bodhisatta at his ripest. This obviously feeds into his own ignorance as he does not have a clue as to the depth of the Buddha’s wisdom and ends up invariably moving further and further away from the required understanding.

    The correct development leading to enlightenment comes with it an increased appreciation and hence respect for the Triple Gem, namely, the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha. In other words no one in his correct mind would compare himself to Siddhartha, let alone characterizing him as ‘Sid’. Besides one who is to become a Buddha in that particular lifetime, would not be born in a world like the one we have today, where the percentage is almost zero, those who can understand the depth of his teachings.

    But now let me go on to try and substantiate my claim.

    ======
    Quote:
    >>>Many people look to Siddhartha Gautama as an example of someone who attained nirvana, a Buddha. Every other week in this column we look at what it might be like if Siddhartha were on his spiritual journey today. How would he combine Buddhism and dating? How would he handle stress in the workplace? "What Would Sid Do?" is devoted to taking an honest look at what we as meditators face in the modern world.<<<<end quote>

    “We as meditators facing the modern world” is itself result of a perversion of perception and recipe for further delusion. There is never a need to identify oneself as this or that nor the world as modern or otherwise. Indeed when it comes down to it, the world in truth is just that fleeting instance of one experience at a time through one of the five senses and the mind. The rest is just our imagination.

    You learn from what the Buddha taught, and the result is*understanding who you are*! Therefore in taking Siddhartha as example, what would one learn? Nothing! Chances are, one ends up imitating and projecting and therefore perpetuating one’s own ignorance.

    What the Buddha-to-be experienced, manifested as the different incidents in his life was unique to who he was. After enlightenment he taught about Universal Truths that are needed to be understood as they are. To take the situations in our own lives and imagine how Siddhartha would have reacted with no due consideration to what the Buddha taught is therefore just another game that we play with ourselves.

    =======
    Quote:
    >>>Every other week I'll take on a new question and give some advice based on what I think Sid, a fictional Siddhartha, would do. Here Sid is not yet a Buddha; he's just someone struggling to maintain an open heart on a spiritual path while facing numerous distractions along the way. Because let's face it: you and I are Sid.<<< <end quote>

    He acknowledges that Sid is a fictional character, but it is still misleading since after all he does refer to this as someone who is on his way to become a Buddha. Even if we were to acknowledge the difference between the bodhisatta on one hand and the disciple on the other, when it comes to walking along the Path, it would be more true to the reality of the situation to talk in terms of a gradual ‘development of understanding’ rather than as moving towards ‘enlightenment’. After all, not only we have no clue as to what enlightenment really means, in truth what we really seek is just more happiness.

    =======
    Quote:
    >>>We all make mistakes. Even the historical Buddha had a period when he made the mistake of over-compensating for his luxurious upbringing by becoming an ascetic and starving himself. He tortured himself under the name of spirituality. That's a big mistake. However, he would not have been able to find the middle way between the extremes of luxury and asceticism if he had not experienced both as something other than his cup of tea. In other words, mistakes are not a bad thing; they are the fodder for our spiritual journey.<<< <end quote>

    This is just the author’s own perception. In reality the Buddha to be did not make any mistakes.
    Only with enlightenment could the bodhisatta come upon the correct Path, which is the 4th of the Four Noble Truths. Up until then it would not be that he was mistaken, but that he would necessarily follow by conditions, what was inevitable and best choice. The last of the perfections namely ‘Determination’, needed to come to fruition and this required that the bodhisatta come to face certain situations in order that this happen. A ‘mistake’ implies that there exists a better alternative, but the bodhisatta was himself to come to discover that alternative!

    The author is talking now from having learnt about the Middle Way which the Buddha taught and judging as a “big mistake” what the bodhisatta did. This is ridiculous indeed.

    =======
    Quote:
    >>> I imagine the first thing Sid would recommend is to take a long, honest look at your mistake. What factors brought you to the point where you made it? Were you speedy? Arrogant? What emotional and mental path took you to the point where you made such a blunder? Once you have figured that out, you can resolve to not make such an error again. Making the same mistake after resolving not to would be like walking backward down the spiritual path. It is also a sign that your regret was likely not genuine.<<< <end quote>

    The Fourth Noble Truth is about the development of understanding the *present moment* and not about introspection. That we think about our past actions is inevitable and although this can sometimes be wholesome, much of the time however, we do so with attachment. To mistake introspection for the Path invariably makes it an object not only of attachment, but also wrong understanding of the way things are. The Buddha gave this teaching to one of his disciples:

    A Single Excellent Night
    “Let not a person revive the past
    Or on the future build his hopes;
    For the past has been left behind
    And the future has not been reached.
    Instead with insight let him see
    Each presently arisen state;
    Let him know that and be sure of it,
    Invincibly, unshakably.
    Today the effort must be made;
    Tomorrow Death may come. who knows?
    No bargain with Mortality
    Can keep him and his hordes away,
    But one who dwells thus ardently,
    Relentlessly, by day, by night --
    It is he, the Peaceful Sage has said,
    Who has had a single excellent night.”

    ========
    Quote:
    >>> The 11th-century meditation master and teacher Atisha is known for composing a series of pithy lojong, or mind-training, slogans. One of these slogans is "Drive all blames into one." Quite simply put, this slogan refers to the fact that instead of looking to external factors as the source of our mistakes, we need to own up to our experience. As Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche wrote in Training the Mind and Cultivating Loving-Kindness:<<< <end quote>

    There may be a sincere wish not to engage in evil and other unprofitable courses of action. The solution however is not the use of some kind of ‘psychological technique’. In the absence of right understanding of the present moment, ‘techniques’ serve only the commands of ignorance and craving. Indeed, wisdom will not even conceive of techniques such as suggested above, after all, it knows that this present moment is what needs to be known. In other words, it is precisely this lack of understanding that sees the present moment as the only valid object of study, that ‘methods’ and ‘techniques’ are conceived of.

    ============
    Quote:
    >>> When we make mistakes, we often develop a sense of rigidity about ourselves. We either come down hard on ourselves or hard on others. We start blaming an amorphous "they" who ruin everything all the time. This is not helpful.

    Instead, if you can look to your role in your mistakes, you can honestly see how to avoid them in the future. You can apply a gentle attitude to your exploration, suspending judgment about what a jerk you are. You can develop warmth and have some sympathy for yourself. Then you can acknowledge what you did and resolve not to do it again.

    Furthermore, you can offset the negative actions you have done in the past by producing positive ones now. It may not be a one-to-one equation where you take your office out for pizza so that they think you're a swell gal. In fact, it may not be related to your mistake at all. However, you can use the knowledge that you have caused some form of harm as fuel for trying to cause some good in this world.<<< <end quote>

    The Path is really very simple but we create unnecessary complications and make a mess of everything.
    Solutions sought and carried out driven by ignorance and craving is often an even bigger problem as it comes with it a mistaking of the Path that which is not. The idea to “offset the negative actions done in the past by producing positive ones” works within the conventional world where all involved are equally deluded. The law of cause and effect dictates that evil deeds done will bring about appropriate results no matter what. Good deeds should be encouraged *because they are good* and not because they will result in good experiences, let alone offsetting a past bad deed and changing another’s perception of oneself.

    =========
    Quote:
    >>>Over time, mistakes fade and people mature. Because we all have made mistakes, we all know that at some point we must forgive those of others. If you genuinely acknowledge your errors and work to produce positive actions, people will pick up on that. No one remembers the historical Buddha as someone who made mistakes; they only remember his incredible kindness and wisdom. Even though we make mistakes today, if we endeavor to learn from them, then we, too, will be remembered in the same light.<<<<end quote>

    Often ‘maturity’ happens not as a result of any wisdom, but in fact a self serving means of adaptation. One of the most misleading attitudes is the ‘intention to do good or be a good person’. Failure to understand that which motivates our thoughts and actions but hidden under the cover of ‘good intentions’, brings about much mischief of its own. Of course it is always good to acknowledge one’s errors, however this can easily be as it usually is, out of attachment to ‘self’ the result of which is never good.

    Better with right understanding know not to revive the past or on the future build hope. An evil done is gone as is any good deed, no use dwelling over either. Better that such an understanding be developed even if the object of this is the former and almost never the latter, than be driven by attachment to self and results, be involved in practices which in the end increases not only attachment but also conceit and wrong understanding. These are two other ways in which ‘self’ manifests, however of the three, “wrong understanding” is the most dangerous.
     
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