Archive for September, 2014

Lynne’s input on Yom Kippur is so welcome! There is a misconception about Yom Kippur, she wrote, in response to the differences cited in the September 23 blog post Universal Fall Cleanse: Forgiveness, Samvatsari, Yom Kippur:

My Jewish friends and I have sometimes talked about the similarities (the most important religious time, fasting, intense prayers, time spent at the temple) as well as differences (Jews asking forgiveness from God versus Jains asking forgiveness from all living beings, from life with one sense to five senses, and ending with personally asking forgiveness from all relatives and those who have been hurt).

Lynne writes:

YES we ask forgiveness from G-s for sins and broken promises to HIM/HER alone……there is NO absolution or forgiveness for sins, gossip, broken promises or faults against another person! For that we MUST ask that person forgiveness directly…….There are many phone calls and grave visiting’s during this period expressing asking for forgiveness for intentional and unintentional hurt.

The forgiveness process and observances are remarkably similar in both traditions. As Jains (like Buddhists) do not have the concept of “God”, God is not part of it. There are no exceptions (as far as I know!) to forgiveness from all living beings. Asking for heartfelt forgiveness from another person is to release the person asking so he/she has a new chance to live in the present moment, regardless of the response by the other person. In Jainism, there are still consequences (karma) for our actions and behaviors, in this life or subsequent cycles of birth, depending on the degree of hurt or harm caused.

Any more thoughts?

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As I prepare for tomorrow’s meditation, here is a link to a very human and fresh meaning of forgiveness which is different from the article in the last post. I recommend that everyone coming to our meditations read this as it applies to all of us.

In “What is Forgiveness?“, also from the Greater Good blog at Berkeley, Fred Luskin (Director, Stanford University Forgiveness Projects) makes the case that before you can forgive, you have to grieve. Forgiveness is the resolution of grief. He explains the connection, grief, and its three stages.

Luskin’s definition of forgiveness “is the ability to make peace with the word ‘no'”.

He explains what he means:

It is so important to be able to understand the universal experience of this–of objecting to the way life is and trying to substitute the way you want it to be, then getting upset when your substitution doesn’t take. The science of forgiveness is being resilient when things don’t go the way you want to–to be at peace with “no”, be at peace with what is, be at peace with the vulnerability inherent in human life. Then you have to move forward without prejudice.

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To answer this question, a good resource is the article “The New Science of Forgiveness” on University of California at Berkeley’s Greater Good blog. It may naturally be followed by, What is unforgiveness? As we continue to go deeper into this emotional state in our meditation practice, it can be very helpful to have some understanding and begin to think about it at a personal level. Fortunately, scientists and the research world take these areas now much more seriously than they did it in the past. This gives us multiple perspectives. Is the scientific understanding different from our personal, cultural, national, and religious understanding of forgiveness?

We may have some intuitive idea of what is forgiveness, but as scientists need to define and measure, it appears that there are some differences on what forgiveness means even to the academic world.

The author of the article Everett L. Worthington, Jr., and his colleagues Michael McCullough and Kenneth Rachal have this to say about forgiveness in close relationships:

The forgiving person becomes less motivated to retaliate against someone who offended him or her and less motivated to remain estranged from that person. Instead, he or she becomes motivated by feelings of goodwill, despite the offender’s hurtful actions.

In a close relationship, we hope, forgiveness will not only move us past negative emotions, but move us toward a net positive feeling. It does not mean forgetting or pardoning an offense.

Not surprisingly, the three researchers say that “Unforgiveness, by contrast, seems to be a negative emotional state where an offended person maintains feelings of resentment, hostility, anger, and hatred toward the person who offended him.”

The research done suggests unforgiveness can take its toll on physical, mental. relational, and even spiritual health. By contrast, forgiveness can benefit people’s health.


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When the contemporary Christian musician and Grammy Award winner Matthew West’s song Forgiveness is passed around Jain homes during the holiest week of Paryushan ending in Samvatsari (the most important day of universal forgiveness), we may be moved by this essential human commonality. Many thanks to Malini for sharing the link to the song.

We now come to the holiest day of the Jewish faith–Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when Jews ask for forgiveness for sins against God as well as fellow humans. My Jewish friends and I have sometimes talked about the similarities (the most important religious time, fasting, intense prayers, time spent at the temple) as well as differences (Jews asking forgiveness from God versus Jains asking forgiveness from all living beings, from life with one sense to five senses, and ending with personally asking forgiveness from all relatives and those who have been hurt).

No human life is possible without inflicting or receiving hurt (as we discussed in our special session Insight into Problems in July), whether it be done knowingly or unknowingly. We ask for forgiveness for our sake, to release the pain and sorrow that keep us from moving ahead. It is  often difficult for all of us to appreciate that we forgive wholeheartedly to be free. Nothing is altruistic (or very little is!) and so this can be a rational act, not sentimental emotion, in our self-interest. Sometimes we are not able do it when the hurt is too deep. But those who have strong religious faith may be able to forgive through the love of God, or a higher entity. And so we have the Grace of God, the Mercy of Allah, the compassion of Buddha, the micchami dukkadam of the Jains, the forgiveness embedded in all faiths and cultures.

Our Fall Mindful Meditation session this year begins with understanding and meditating on forgiveness. It is the most potent mental and emotional cleanse, an essential release in meditation. A mental cleanse as part of our mental well-being may be even more essential than the intense preoccupation with the body. There is some research to back the benefits of forgiveness.

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The Science of Happiness is an eight-week, free, online course that starts September 9. Readers can register through the University of California at Berkeley blog Greater Good : The Science of a Meaningful Life at http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/news_events/event/the_science_of_happiness. The course will be taught by two professors and participants may be able to get 16 Continuing Education credits.

The course “explores the roots of a happy and meaningful life. Students will engage with some of the most provocative and practical lessons from this science, discovering how cutting-edge research can be applied to their own lives.

Created by UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, the course zeroes in on a fundamental finding from positive psychology: that happiness is inextricably linked to having strong social ties and contributing to something bigger than yourself—the greater good. Students will learn about the cross-disciplinary research supporting this view, spanning the fields of psychology, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, and beyond.

What’s more, “The Science of Happiness” will offer students practical strategies for nurturing their own happiness. Research suggests that up to 40 percent of happiness depends on our habits and activities. So each week, students will learn a new research-tested practice that fosters social and emotional well-being—and the course will help them track their progress along the way.”

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