Sometimes learning how different religions view our everyday problems can help open up our minds. If you have never explored Buddhism please keep on open mind while reading this blog today. You might learn or expand your view a little. I begin this article begging your indulgence. I’m not a formally trained Buddhist; I’m not a teacher. I am here as a person who shares information in a way I interpret it.
Buddhism definition of guilt is: The use of guilt here is not referring to the mere fact of being guilty of something, but it refers to seeing or projecting one’s mistakes, while not knowing what to do about them or refusing to correct them.
In this definition, guilt is a negative, paralysing emotion, based on non-acceptance of oneself or the situation, and it leads to depression and frustration rather than change or improvement.
Thus being guilt is a negative focus on oneself leading to negative self talk such as I am worthless, I am evil. This can even lead to one’s own self-hatred, and certainly contributes to lack of self-confidence. Instead of recognising that ones actions are incorrect, one gets the feeling as if one is unworthy, as if “I” is intrinsically bad. Emotions often lie to us to propel us further into feeling worse or just the opposite too.
In Buddhism such type of guilt is categorised as a disturbing attitude: one doesn’t see the situation clearly and may well be a tricky form of self-centredness.
Therefore asking for repentance is the next step. It is seen as very important factor to improve our ways of thinking and behaving. The positive/transforming aspect of guilt can be that we admit our mistakes, ponder over them and motivate ourselves to not repeat negative actions. After asking for forgiveness one learns from the mistakes he/she has made. You then make resolutions to be as mindful as you can, so as to never repeat them under any circumstances. In this sense, repentance is about forgiving oneself through expressing regret and turning over a new leaf, absolving oneself of unhealthy guilt while renewing determination to further avoid evil, do good and purify the mind with greater diligence. Sounds like what one does in church doesn’t it? Or through prayers at the end of the day before going to sleep at night. Asking for forgiveness for all the small/big things that were done during each day.
For me I am gently reminded by a good friend that practices Buddhism about guilt it is this. When you carry around guilt in our minds is like hiking up a mountain and picking up every rock we stub our toe upon and throwing it in our backpack. That is unskillful. It is unnecessary suffering and it stems from a belief in a separate self. That somehow we are so important that we should suffer more than anyone else. It is also the belief that we are so powerful that we can actually revisit these past unskillful actions and somehow in reliving them change the result. How heavy is your backpack? For me lately I have a very heavy backpack. I have been working very hard to live in the moment and release guilt and shame.
Fun story to make you think this morning
Finding a Piece of the Truth
One day Mara, the Evil One, was travelling through the villages of India with his attendants. he saw a man doing walking meditation whose face was lit up on wonder. The man had just discovered something on the ground in front of him.
Mara’s attendant asked what that was and Mara replied, “A piece of truth.” “Doesn’t this bother you when someone finds a piece of truth, O Evil One?” his attendant asked. “No,” Mara replied. “Right after this, they usually make a belief out of it.”
From 108 Treasures for the Heart: A Guide for Daily Living by Benny Liow