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How has Buddhism transformed the experience of guilt/shame? - Dhamma Wheel

How has Buddhism transformed the experience of guilt/shame?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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zavk
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How has Buddhism transformed the experience of guilt/shame?

Postby zavk » Fri Jun 03, 2011 12:45 pm

Hi friends

I'd like to invite discussion on this question.

Regardless of whether we come from a Christian background or not, in these globalised times I'd say that the moral framework of Christianity influences our way of thinking and behaviour. A key tenet of Christianity is the notion of original sin, and in its history Christian morality has been articulated in such a way that it often generates, if not actively encourages, a way of experiencing guilt/shame which is linked to desire. This linking of desire with shame/guilt can be unhelpful. It can and has been used in unskilful ways to reinforce certain ideologies and to secure power. Desire-shame/guilt also permeates contemporary consumerist culture. The entertainment/advertising industry for instance capitalise on desire-shame/guilt in many ways: e.g. ice-cream or chocolate ads, lifestyle magazines targeted at women/girls, pornography--all these are typically couched in terms of 'guilty desires/pleasures'.

Buddhism takes a different approach and offers different ways of relating to desire and guilt/shame. I understand that Buddhism does talk about the importance of remorse, but to my understanding it is careful to distinguish remorse from guilt/shame. I'm reminded of Goenka who said in the book The Art of Living that if and when we slip up and commit an unskilful act, we ought to relate to the feelings that arise with equanimity, seeking neither to justify or hide what we have done/felt. This is quite different from the Christian confessional attitude which, although it can be helpful, has been used to reinforce unwholesome experiences of desire-guilt/shame.

Given the influence of Christian morality and the extend to which an unskilful conceptualisation of desire-guilt/shame permeates contemporary culture, I thought it'd be interesting to reflect together on how the Dhamma has transformed our experiences of desire-guilt/shame. I know for instance that some of the more experienced and mature practitioners here come from a Christian background, so I'd really like to read about your experiences or whatever advice you may have. But this question is of course open to everyone.

To keep the discussion focussed, and to make things easier for the mods, could I please ask that you refrain from lengthy criticisms of Christian doctrines/morality per se? Thanks.

:anjali: :group: :smile:
With metta,
zavk

Jhana4
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Re: How has Buddhism transformed the experience of guilt/shame?

Postby Jhana4 » Fri Jun 03, 2011 12:57 pm

This question raises a lot of interesting related issues.

How do people in traditionally Buddhist countries react to guilt/shame issues? Is it cultural? Is it reflected in the texts?

Do western Buddhists drag the emotional reflexes from their western religions into Buddhism with them? ( I think so ). The mileage probably varies by the individual.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.

chownah
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Re: How has Buddhism transformed the experience of guilt/shame?

Postby chownah » Fri Jun 03, 2011 1:20 pm

Zavk,
I think that original sin and making a big deal out of guilt and shame is more or a Roman Catholic thing than it is a Christian think generally speaking. I was raised by a Christian family in a mainstream protestant church (family went every sunday, mother very active in church affairs) and did not get much of a message about these things....they were very occasionally mentioned but not particularly emphasized.

I think your comment about "guilty pleasures" is really not the same thing as a sense of "shame and guilt". The idea of "guilty pleasures" is the mostly humorous idea that anything that is alot of fun must be sinful and therefore cause guilt....but the idea is seen as being only humorous and not actual so this is a way for ads to just say that our product is alot of fun or decadent.....if an ad actually instilled the idea of guilt then people wouldn't buy the product.....so it really has little to do with guilt/shame.

chownah

PeterB
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Re: How has Buddhism transformed the experience of guilt/shame?

Postby PeterB » Fri Jun 03, 2011 1:40 pm

I think guilt and shame have their place. And in that place they are a sign of health.

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daverupa
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Re: How has Buddhism transformed the experience of guilt/shame?

Postby daverupa » Fri Jun 03, 2011 1:50 pm


PeterB
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Re: How has Buddhism transformed the experience of guilt/shame?

Postby PeterB » Fri Jun 03, 2011 1:53 pm


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Alexei
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Re: How has Buddhism transformed the experience of guilt/shame?

Postby Alexei » Fri Jun 03, 2011 2:32 pm

Last edited by Alexei on Fri Jun 03, 2011 2:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

chownah
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Re: How has Buddhism transformed the experience of guilt/shame?

Postby chownah » Fri Jun 03, 2011 2:39 pm

Shame and fear is where its at:

from: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .irel.html

"Bhikkhus, these two bright principles protect the world. What are the two? Shame and fear of wrongdoing. If, bhikkhus, these two bright principles did not protect the world, there would not be discerned respect for mother or maternal aunt or maternal uncle's wife or a teacher's wife or the wives of other honored persons, and the world would have fallen into promiscuity, as with goats, sheep, chickens, pigs, dogs, and jackals. But as these two bright principles protect the world, there is discerned respect for mother... and the wives of other honored persons."

Those in whom shame and fear of wrong
Are not consistently found
Have deviated from the bright root
And are led back to birth and death.

But those in whom shame and fear of wrong
Are consistently ever present,
Peaceful, mature in the holy life,
They put an end to renewal of being.

Jhana4
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Re: How has Buddhism transformed the experience of guilt/shame?

Postby Jhana4 » Fri Jun 03, 2011 2:42 pm

In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.

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Alexei
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Re: How has Buddhism transformed the experience of guilt/shame?

Postby Alexei » Fri Jun 03, 2011 2:46 pm

Last edited by Alexei on Fri Jun 03, 2011 2:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

PeterB
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Re: How has Buddhism transformed the experience of guilt/shame?

Postby PeterB » Fri Jun 03, 2011 2:49 pm


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daverupa
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Re: How has Buddhism transformed the experience of guilt/shame?

Postby daverupa » Fri Jun 03, 2011 3:17 pm


PeterB
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Re: How has Buddhism transformed the experience of guilt/shame?

Postby PeterB » Fri Jun 03, 2011 3:20 pm

I think you are guilty of splitting semantic hairs.

"Shame " a nice whiff of Japanese wisteria..." guilt " overtones of Moses.

Reality...we all do stuff we should feel bad about. Bad enough to stop doing it.

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daverupa
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Re: How has Buddhism transformed the experience of guilt/shame?

Postby daverupa » Fri Jun 03, 2011 3:26 pm

It's a connotative difference that seems lost in conveyance; best to nevermind.

:heart:

Jhana4
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Re: How has Buddhism transformed the experience of guilt/shame?

Postby Jhana4 » Fri Jun 03, 2011 3:30 pm

In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.

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Alexei
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Re: How has Buddhism transformed the experience of guilt/shame?

Postby Alexei » Fri Jun 03, 2011 3:37 pm


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daverupa
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Re: How has Buddhism transformed the experience of guilt/shame?

Postby daverupa » Fri Jun 03, 2011 3:55 pm


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ancientbuddhism
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Re: How has Buddhism transformed the experience of guilt/shame?

Postby ancientbuddhism » Fri Jun 03, 2011 4:11 pm

Shame, as with the pāḷi hiri, would seem to indicate the presence of the transgression and ottappa the fear of hiri as warning. Our hair splitting over the usage of guilt is perhaps because it is more equivalent to culpability, which is more like shame left-over, akin to standing in the wake of consequences atoned for or not I suppose.

A component to moving onward from a transgression in Christian thought is forgiveness, a rarity in the suttas although below is one example from the Susima Sutta. If anyone has other sources from suttanta please include them in the discussion.

“But because you see your transgression as such and make amends in accordance with the Dhamma, we accept your confession. For, Susima, it is a cause of growth in the Dhamma & Discipline of the noble ones when, seeing a transgression as such, one makes amends in accordance with the Dhamma and exercises restraint in the future.”
I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)


PeterB
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Re: How has Buddhism transformed the experience of guilt/shame?

Postby PeterB » Fri Jun 03, 2011 4:35 pm

When i commit adhammic acts in action word or deed I AM culpable. How does denying that help anything ?

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zavk
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Re: How has Buddhism transformed the experience of guilt/shame?

Postby zavk » Fri Jun 03, 2011 5:03 pm

With metta,
zavk


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