Guilt

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Guilt

Postby mint » Fri Nov 11, 2011 3:59 am

As a Buddhist, I'm having a difficult time understanding guilt. As a Catholic, guilt was a symptom of the theistic impulse, looking beyond one's self, measuring one's self, comparing one's self, engaging in dualistic thinking of "I" and "God," self and other. As a Catholic, guilt was a good thing because it signaled that I was human and had a conscience. I, as an individual, though, never thought of guilt as particularly useful since it crippled me emotionally and psychically, causing me to become a religious perfectionist and have an identity crisis. When a priest said that my crippling guilt was a good thing, that was the beginning of the end of my life as a Catholic.

Guilt does seem like a wasted emotion, though. Who is it that feels this guilt? Who is it that places this guilt?

I feel guilty at the moment, though, because I was lazy and didn't do any sitting practice today. Not the first time this has happened, but I feel particularly guilty because I am wanting to take my practice more serious. I think a combination of restlessness, fatigue, and unnecessary self-comparison caused me to keep putting it off until it is now time for bed and much too late. I now have the option of reading some. I still think like a Catholic because I imagine that reading will be like some penance for not sitting.

I read today, though, about the Buddha who, in a former life, offered his body to a starving tigress and her cubs as food as a supreme act of compassion. It's the first time I have ever read that tale. I couldn't help but notice the absolute crazy wisdom in that action. But then I also realized how far there is to go as I would never think so crazily or so wisely. Challenges like this sometimes deflate me rather than spur me onwards - at least initially. Once I get over the initial shock and disappointment, I resume. So, while the challenge of the Buddha's act of compassion should have motivated me to strive all the harder towards liberation and enlightenment, I, instead, looked at the hopeless of my situation and decided to download music and watch dumb ol' Family Guy re-runs.

So, there are many unwholesome emotions going on right now. Guilt is primary, though. And, like I said, there's some sense that I should perform penance for missing a sitting practice. It's like I've intentionally skipped Mass or never prayed my rosary for the day or some other rote act. I'm not really sure how to relate to the emotion. Chogyam Trungpa might say that I simply let the emotion be in its fullest energy, relate to it as what it is, and remain completely open to all that is happening. I think he might say that, at least.
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Re: Guilt

Postby Dechen Norbu » Fri Nov 11, 2011 4:11 am

Just be sure guilt doesn't become paralyzing. It's a feeling, no more. Learn from it and move on. :smile:
Although discipline is needed, don't beat yourself to death because you failed a session. Sometimes it's good if we skip one if we really don't feel like it instead of doing it completely forced. Next time it may go even better. As long as we don't procrastinate for too long, this isn't a problem. Take it easy and don't push yourself too hard, but also don't cut too much slack. Keep in mind that every practice is a good practice. Learn to live with that and it will become easier. Sometimes you sit and your mind seems like monkey on meths. That's excellent for us to see how much we have ahead. It's good learning. If you are doing shamatha, I suggest starting with lots of very small sessions instead of going formal (more than 20 min). Then if you have time, sit for a little longer (try the 20 min, with pauses if needed). But it's better to start with lots of 5 min sessions (cold turkey style, without fancy incenses and all that) instead of longer sitting periods. When the time to sit comes, it will go smoothly (usually). The more you practice, the better it will go to the point of very little effort being needed. Motivation will arise easily too.

Best wishes.
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Re: Guilt

Postby wisdom » Fri Nov 11, 2011 4:25 am

I've found that especially in cases of guilt where I feel guilty over not having done something like a practice I said I would do, its because I broke my word to my self. I basically lied to myself. Though I agree with Dechen not to beat yourself up over it. Use that negative feeling and turn it into resolve to make an effort next time. Effort accumulates. Each day it gets easier. After one day of doing your practice, you will see that the next day you will feel good about having done it. Just don't let the good feeling be misconstrued as "accomplishment" as accomplishing something denotes an end to a thing so you don't have to do it again. The good feeling comes from having kept your word to yourself and from doing what it is your will to do, not the force of your habits/desires/ego such as watching television (as much as I do find South Park and Family Guy hilarious). Do your practice then watch Family Guy :)

Also this-

"In order to develop a fully qualified desire to take advantage of a life of leisure, you must reflect on its four elements, as follows:
1) The need to practice the teachings, because all living beings only want happiness and do not want suffering and because achieving happiness and alleviating suffering depend only on practicing the teachings;
2) the ability to practice, because you are endowed with the external condition, a teacher, and the internal conditions, leisure and opportunity;
3) the need to practice in this lifetime, because if you do not practice, it will be very difficult to obtain leisure and opportunity again for many lifetimes; and
4) the need to practice right now, because there is no certainty when you will die.

Among these, the third stops the laziness of giving up, which thinks, "I will practice the teaching in future lives." The fourth stops the laziness of disengagement, which thinks, "Although I should practice in this lifetime, it is enough to practice later on and not to practice in my early years, months, and days."

-His Holiness the Dalai Lama
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Re: Guilt

Postby KevinSolway » Fri Nov 11, 2011 4:32 am

mint wrote:Who is it that feels this guilt?


If there is guilt then you are guilt. Fill your mind with truth and you are truth.
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Re: Guilt

Postby ground » Fri Nov 11, 2011 4:48 am

mint wrote:Who is it that feels this guilt?

There is none. There are just perceptions, feelings, habitual impulses leading to fabricating thoughts which are the source of still more perceptions, feelings, habitual impulses.

Kind regards
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Re: Guilt

Postby KeithBC » Fri Nov 11, 2011 6:44 am

This of us who were raised to feel inappropriate guilt have trouble with it because it is so hard to judge when it is appropriate and when it is not. TBH, it's probably a life-long struggle, just some more of our karma showing up.

Guilt has its uses. If you recognize that you have screwed up, guilt is an entirely appropriate reaction that motivates you to (a) fix the damage and (b) amend your ways. At that point, its job is done. Appropriate guilt will vanish at that point. If it doesn't, it is inappropriate and is emotional baggage.

Om mani padme hum
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Re: Guilt

Postby LastLegend » Fri Nov 11, 2011 7:38 am

Find the source of your guilt, and my guess is it is linked to the teaching of your previous religion and also consider other factors that might have affected you in such way.

And if you recognize your problems, there must be a source of those problems. So diagnose it.
NAMO AMITABHA
NAM MO A DI DA PHAT (VIETNAMESE)
NAMO AMITUOFO (CHINESE)
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Re: Guilt

Postby Sherab Dorje » Fri Nov 11, 2011 10:22 am

Guilt is pretty useless. Regret is much better, especially if you use it as a springboard to amending your behaviour.

Guilt just weighs you down (mentally) , regret can impel you into remedying wrongs.

Dechens practice advice is good. Also practicing together with others can really help.

Sometimes you don't feel like formal practice? Do informal practice. Go help a neighbour, buy some pet food and feed some strays, phone up an old friend that you haven't seen for a while and tell them how much you appreciate them, go and watch the sunset, etc... anything that will freshen your mind.

Remember that wisdom is only one of the two accumulations. Gotta get the merit happening as well!
:namaste:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Guilt

Postby muni » Fri Nov 11, 2011 11:00 am

Mind 'from distance' looking to the feelings/thoughts can help not to be swallowed in their passing cloud. Then they are teaching.

(Opposite is mind grasping to them and so losing itself in them).

Then they smoothly evapor...how is that word... from themselves.
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Re: Guilt

Postby zangskar » Fri Nov 11, 2011 2:17 pm

Chogyam Trungpa might say that I simply let the emotion be in its fullest energy, relate to it as what it is, and remain completely open to all that is happening. I think he might say that, at least.

:meditate:
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Re: Guilt

Postby mint » Fri Nov 11, 2011 2:56 pm

Dechen Norbu wrote:If you are doing shamatha, I suggest starting with lots of very small sessions instead of going formal (more than 20 min). Then if you have time, sit for a little longer (try the 20 min, with pauses if needed). But it's better to start with lots of 5 min sessions (cold turkey style, without fancy incenses and all that) instead of longer sitting periods. When the time to sit comes, it will go smoothly (usually). The more you practice, the better it will go to the point of very little effort being needed. Motivation will arise easily too.


I've been sitting for anywhere between 30 to 40 minutes. I've worked myself up to being able to sit this long comfortably. I like your idea of spontaneous 5 minute sessions.

Last night, I just got so tired! I thought, 'Maybe if I take a quick rest, I will start at so-and-so time,' but then, naturally, one thing led to another. By the time I was sort of ready to do sitting practice I got a phone call, etc., etc. Then I thought, 'Oh no, I've lost a valuable opportunity for training the mind which I so desperately need.'

Sometimes I think that if I were responsible for doing something karmically sensitive like guruyoga then I'd not slack off. I'm sure the temptation would still be there, but there also might be more motivation. Of course, knowing my habitual tendencies, mandatory practices of that sort always tend to lead me to rebellious behavior and ultimately abandoning the practice altogether (cf., my practice of dogmatism).
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Re: Guilt

Postby edearl » Fri Nov 11, 2011 6:46 pm

Guilt is manufactured in your mind for doing something you think you should not have done, or for not doing something you think you should have done. If you set an unrealistic goal, you may feel guilty for failing to achieve the goal. On the other hand, if you only set goals you know you can achieve, you may feel guilty for not doing enough. But goals can always be amended. Set a difficult, but achievable goal and finish it, if you feel you could have done more, amend the goal to another more difficult achievable goal. Thus, you can continue to achieve more and more without feeling guilty.

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Re: Guilt

Postby Thug4lyfe » Sat Nov 12, 2011 8:44 am

Repentance is also practiced in Buddhism, so having a little bit of guilt is all good. So you will at least know to repent and reform! :) :)
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Re: Guilt

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sat Nov 12, 2011 9:10 am

Food_Eatah wrote:Repentance is also practiced in Buddhism, so having a little bit of guilt is all good. So you will at least know to repent and reform! :) :)
Unfortunately guilt is heavily based in a notion of sin. Sin is DEFINTELY NOT a Buddhist concept.
A sin (also called peccancy) is an act that violates a known moral rule in a religion. The term sin may also refer to the state of having committed such a violation. Christians believe the moral code of conduct is decreed by God (cf Epistle to the Romans chapter 7: 'the law code itself is God's good and common sense' (verse 8 The Message (Bible)). Sin may also refer to refraining from action or simply desiring to act in violation of a moral norm. Fundamentally, sin is rebellion against, or resistance to, the direction of supreme authority, and enmity toward, avoidance of, or hatred of the good.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sin
Guilt is based around a notion of transgression against a higher authority (and on a fear of Gods retribution), regret is based around being aware of ones actions (an understanding of the negative qualities of ones action) and their negative consequences. One may fell guilty about killing because they feel it violates the commandment on killing (a moral and ethical dilemna) whereas in Buddhism killing (or any other wrong action) is defined as "negative" due to the suffering it produces. Guilt can lead to regret. But when it does not lead to regret and a change in attitude, then it seems to becomes a weight on ones mind.
Guilt in the Christian Bible is not merely an emotional state but is a legal state of deserving punishment. The Hebrew Bible does not have a unique word for guilt, but uses a single word to signify: "sin, the guilt of it, the punishment due unto it, and a sacrifice for it". The Greek New Testament uses a word for guilt that means "standing exposed to judgment for sin" (e.g. Romans 3:19). In the Old Testament the Bible says that through sacrifice one's sins can be forgiven. The New Testament says that sin will be forgiven by the acceptance of Jesus Christ as one's Lord and Saviour (John 3:16). Accordingly, the old and new testaments have differing opinions on the expiation of guilt. It is also theoretically possible to fulfill conditions of both biblical guilt escape methods (A: pay a sacrifice for one's sins, and B: accept Jesus Christ as one's Lord and Saviour), yet still to be unable to let go of guilt, arguably because of failure at self-forgiveness.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guilt
This definition highlights an important point: punishment is imposed on the individual by an authority (God in this instance) and the failure to forgive oneslef is again based on this feeling of incapacity for the self to forgive since the transgression is not against an "equal" (the being that was harmed) but against an absolute authority. None of this xxxx exists in Buddhism. Guilt is USELESS for Buddhist practice. It seems that many here are just hanging on to the remnants of their previous spiritual practices. Let go of those habits people, they are EXACTLY what will drag you into your hell.
:namaste:

editted by CM, the xxxx is the change
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Guilt

Postby padma norbu » Sun Nov 13, 2011 4:26 am

went out last night and accidentally got hammered basically because we went out to dinner and THEN a second location. Second location always screws me up because I responsibly drank at the first location within my limits so as not to get drunk. Then, a second location is just always a bar, where there is nothing to do but drink, anyway. So, combine this with the poor judgement that comes along with the previous drinking at the first location, and 1 more turns into 2 and suddenly you are past your limit. I felt guilty when I woke up, like I broke a promise to Tara. I really do feel more guilty toward the Buddhas and my human teachers than feeling like I let myself down. I know that the Buddhas will never give up on you and none of the lamas I've received teachings from would, either, but for some reason when I feel guilty it feels like they are all drawing away from me. I guess in reality that is a projection of my mind based on the fact that my actions are drawing me away from them. But, it's funny how guilt is always a projection based on concepts.

I remember one of the first things I learned from a fellow dzogchen student was when I was new to dzogchen and asked about drinking alcohol, because I was a bigtime drinker at the time and it was one of the reasons I had not taken refuge anywhere. I guess I always took it seriously enough that I didn't want to make a commitment and then break it, so I meditated and studied Buddhism for years and then would go out and get drunk regularly. So, when I discovered dzogchen, I actually thought, "hey, this is great! This might be for me because I get still get wasted!" Haha, yes I realized soon enough that this was incorrect! But, when I asked this fellow dzogchen student if we weren't supposed to drink, he said "there is nothing you can or can't do, I mean obviously you shouldn't go out and get wasted, but..." and I said something like "but if I do is it bad?" and I remember he kind of interrupted me and he said something like, "there is not really anything like guilt in dzogchen."

I have since realized that of course getting drunk is counterproductive and generates bad karma, so I feel guilty in a very abstract way when I feel like I got drunk. A slight buzz comes from even 1 drink of alcohol, but I don't feel guilty about drinking unless my mind becomes stupid and my judgement is impaired. It is hard to really come down on myself if I didn't set out with the intention to get bombed because it's really just the difference of 1 or 2 drinks sometimes. Last night, for example, at the first location, my last drink was a brand of whiskey because me and one of the other guys are whiskey fans, so he said to try this one whiskey and I did. That was plenty and I was still good to go. If I went home and went to sleep, I probably would have been drunk in my sleep after the whiskey fully processed, which really isn't any worse than just being asleep, imo. No dream yoga, of course... but, we went to that second location and I got a beer which, while not strong, still added more fuel to the fire.

:cheers: :crazy:
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Re: Guilt

Postby wisdom » Sun Nov 13, 2011 4:31 am

Perhaps a word that also conveys the same meaning but without the same connotations is 'remorse'. Its healthy to feel, but doesn't indicate a religiously enforced complex rooted in fear.
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Re: Guilt

Postby Thug4lyfe » Sun Nov 13, 2011 6:06 am

It's much simplier for the brain to feel guilty you've done somethin your not suppose and thus you strive to work on not commiting the same action anymore.

Not taking the precept will generate the same bad karma from committing the same actions, at least after taking the precepts your more aware and worried about breaking, thus more chance for you to reform.
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Re: Guilt

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sun Nov 13, 2011 9:36 am

That's just your latent Catholicism at work.
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"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Guilt

Postby Thug4lyfe » Sun Nov 13, 2011 9:46 pm

I was never a Catholic dude, went straight from athieism to Buddhism. You da one who is attached to Christianity homeboy!!!
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Re: Guilt

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sun Nov 13, 2011 11:31 pm

You were brought up by atheist parents in an atheist society?

I did say latent.
:namaste:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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