Lent, the Art of Forgiveness and the Road Not Taken
All the qualities that the great masters found, we can attain as well. It all depends on our own efforts, our diligence, our deeper knowing, and our correct motivation. – Ogyen Trinley Dorje.
How do we learn to listen to, speak and write from our inner voice? How do we learn to act on our highest calling or endeavor? We do so innately, by and through discretion, insight and wisdom.
Modeling our thoughts and behavior from what we have learned and observed, and from this we know how to proceed. How do we inspire others to do the same?
How do we learn not to be fixed in our thoughts going this way or that, when we ourselves don’t know, or are not aware of what the final outcome of where a particular path may lead? When a basic law of the universe is that all things must change. Nothing ever remains the same and as we continue to grow neither do we. That the first step to change is learning forgiveness. Forgiving ourselves, as well as those around us, for not meeting expectations that were not all that important to begin with. That it is when we become fixed in a certain way, we too begin to die. It is nature’s way of replenishing itself.
As most of those following me here know, I recently posted something about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. In addition to several hundred “likes”, I received four or five comments from people who had terrible things to say about Gandhi. I could not understand such vitriol for a man who changed the world and the lives of millions of people for the better.
Mahatma Gandhi during the Salt March protesting against the government monopoly on salt production. (Image: Getty Images)
Even for myself, I have quoted him in my books and writing. His line attributed to him “We must be the change we want to see in the world”, is one of the most transformative statement’s one could make or say. Were either of them perfect – no. And then we look to our own frailties and have to ask… are we, and then acknowledge that perhaps it was their struggles and greatness that may have contributed to our own awakening. To maybe take the higher path, or road, that ultimately defines us as well. History ultimately always tells the story. Gandhi’s influence lives beyond him and he will be considered immortal because of it. Who and what is it that tells the memories of times gone by as we help others to remember what they too may have forgotten?
In ancient China, as with every civilization, we learned that our actions lead to consequences. If we start a fire… things will burn. If uncontrolled then the fire will burn everything in its path.
When the flood comes, there is no safely until or unless you reach higher ground. Nature re-constructs from what is left behind just as we do from those we follow. We build on the strengths and weakness of ourselves and others and gain wisdom, insight, and discretion along the way. Our words and actions express this every day. They serve to define us and have consequences as well. That it is what inspires us that guides our way. It’s like following directions will get us there so we take them.
It is as Robert Frost said, that it is the road not taken that leads us to a different reality that could have been our best way to go. Ultimately it is what we “take away” from the experience that guides us.
His poem “The Road Not Taken” begins with a dilemma, i.e., coming to a fork in the road and we have to decide which path to follow: One forest has replaced another, just as—in the poem—one choice will supplant another. The yellow leaves also evoke a sense of transience; one season will soon give way to another, just as with our lives. Wishing both paths could be taken, a choice must however be made. In the end Frost said, ‘Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—/ I took the one less traveled by / And that has made all the difference.’ Wow… now that’s inspiring. The point being, that we can be influenced or guided by his writing, but it doesn’t not necessitate our reflecting, or being judgmental on Frost’s character. Kind of like the line in the song by George Harrison “If you don’t know where you’re going any road will take you there”. As if it’s where the attributes they emulate take us.
Another great writer was Jack London, who wrote “Call of the Wild” and his ability to portray the wild, untamed Yukon. What he did in his life might cause some to disparage him, just do we judge him and not his contribution to the world through his writing? The list goes on and on. The point being we accept others through forgiveness and acknowledge their humanity. We seem to want to mold others into who we think they should be, instead of accepting their awesomeness as to who they really are… warts and all.
I give Desmond Tutu the final word below. I think a part of developing forgiveness in this time of lent before Easter, is understanding that we believe what we are taught to believe. It seems as though it is through our own acts of forgiveness we are asked now to take, that we are given an opportunity for spiritual transformation. To find and then follow a transcendent life as we learn to reverberate the energy that encompasses us and to see beyond ourselves. As if we are to be reawakened. With this we see the resentments we have grown accustomed to and remove them. It is through forgiveness we begin to see beyond personal attributes of those we look to that would demean their legacy. As if we want those we look up to be perfect, without modifying our own behavior that matches them. Since we fail to nourish the greatness in ourselves, we seem not to want to see it in others as well. Just as it is very common to have historical figures to have their personas amplified to match the cause they represent.
I especially like the words in a book by Desmond Tutu in The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World.
“Forgiveness does not relieve someone of responsibility for what they have done. Forgiveness does not erase accountability. It is not about turning a blind eye or even turning the other cheek. It is not about letting someone off the hook or saying it is okay to do something monstrous. Forgiveness is simply about understanding that every one of us is both inherently good and inherently flawed. Within every hopeless situation and every seemingly hopeless person lies the possibility of transformation.”
A Desmond Tutu second quote I liked was “Transformation begins in you, wherever you are, whatever has happened, however you are suffering. Transformation is always possible. We do not heal in isolation. When we reach out and connect with one another—when we tell the story, name the hurt, grant forgiveness, and renew or release the relationship—our suffering begins to transform.”
I would add that ultimately, it is in knowing who we are, that we can only desire the best for them. That we don’t contribute to spiritual degradation. That we become an expression of light with compassion and connectedness with all things.
That it is what we take away from our experiences with MLK, Gandhi, Desmond Tutu, and others that helps us to remember what we have forgotten as to who we are for eternity’s sake. The reverberations of energy that serve to help us to be willing to show up as who we are meant to be. To become as the ancient Chinese have said through the millennia. That we are one with the ten thousand things. With this we find the blossoming of our soul. To as Charles Fillmore, founder of Unity said, “We are to forgive and ask forgiveness. Seeing others as pure spirit is our own road to freedom. That with forgiveness everything becomes new again.” As though the open road awaits us.
The basis of Confucius teachings was thoughts of benevolence towards all. By definition, benevolence meant to forgive and move all to higher ground through our own actions.
The Buddha awoke by recognizing that all of creation, from distraught ants to dying human beings, are unified by suffering. Recognizing this, the Buddha discovered how to best approach suffering. First, one shouldn’t bathe in luxury, nor abstain from food and comforts altogether. Instead, one ought to live in moderation (the Buddha called this “the middle way”). This allows for maximal concentration on cultivating compassion for others and seeking enlightenment. Next, the Buddha described a path to transcending suffering called “the four noble truths.”
The first noble truth is the realization that first prompted the Buddha’s journey: that there is suffering and constant dissatisfaction in the world: “Life is difficult and brief and bound up with suffering.”
The second is that this suffering is caused by our desires, and thus “attachment is the root of all suffering.” The third truth is that we can transcend suffering by removing or managing these desires. The Buddha thus made the remarkable claim that we must change our outlook, not our circumstances. We are unhappy not because we have become greedy, vain, and insecure, but that we see the world through eyes looking outward, not inward. By re-orienting our mind and actions, we can grow to be content.The fourth and final noble truth the Buddha uncovered is that we can learn to move beyond suffering through what he termed “the eightfold path.” The eightfold path involves a series of aspects of behaving “right” and wisely: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. That wisdom is a habit, not merely an intellectual realization. One must exercise one’s nobler impulses. Understanding is only part of becoming a better person.
Seeking these correct modes of behavior and awareness, the Buddha taught that people could transcend much of their negative individualism—their pride, their anxiety, and the desires that made them so unhappy—and in turn they would gain compassion for all other living beings who suffered as they did. With the correct behavior and what we now term a mindful attitude, people can invert negative emotions and states of mind, turning ignorance into wisdom, anger into compassion, and greed into generosity.
The ancient Taoist Li Jung says, “The Great Image has no form. What has no form is the great and empty Way. To ‘hold’ means to focus or keep. Those who can keep their body in the realm of Dark Virtue and focus their mind on the gate of Hidden Serenity possess the Way. All things come to them. Clouds appear, and all creatures are refreshed. Rain pours down, and all plants are refreshed. And all these blessings come from such a subtle thing.”
The road always seemingly coming back full circle to Lao Tzu, and thoughts of Taoism. As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching. Verses 34 and 35 appear below. Verses 1 through 33 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance will be seen here over the coming months.
A partial preview can be seen on the Lao Tzu and Taoism tab here on my website. Ultimately, it is what the sage has learned and then in turn taught others along the way that guides us. The commentaries below are meant to be read as a discussion between Lao Tzu and those interested who have thought deeply about the text itself. The quotes below and references to their authors are from Red Pine’s, Lao Tzu’s Taoteching.
Verse 34 – Knowing no borders you learn to lead the Way
Living each moment in virtue through grace, while remaining unrestrained in every thought, action and deed.
Coming across to others as neither weak nor strong or right or wrong, so that you may respond to all things and move them in any direction.
Knowing no borders and remaining neutral. In control but letting everything find its own course just the same. Simply doing what you do best as if you are drifting through time. With no predetermined destination you go everywhere, see everything using the Tao as your compass and oar. Continuing by grace so that you go without bringing attention to yourself, never speaking of your power or mentioning your achievements as you endeavor to remain small.
Never acting great but doing great things. Everything eventually coming before you as you let each go by seemingly out of your control. Recalling Chuang Tzu and his refrain that the Tao has no borders. As you sit back watching as the world comes to your doorstep. ##
Hsuan-Tsung says, “To drift means to be unrestrained. The Tao is not yin or yang, weak or strong. Unrestrained, it can respond to all things and in any direction. It is not one-sided. As Chuang Tzu says, “The Tao has no borders (2.5).”
Wang Pi says, “The Tao drifts everywhere. It can go left or right. It can go up or down. Wherever we turn to use it, it’s there.”
Sung Ch’ang-Hsing says, “Outside of the Tao there are no things. Outside of things there is no Tao. The Tao gives birth to things just as wind creates movement or water creates waves.”
Wang P’ang says, “When the Tao becomes small, it doesn’t stop being great. When it becomes great, it doesn’t stop being small. But all we see are its traces. In reality, it isn’t small and it isn’t great. It can’t be described, t can only be known.”
Lu Hui-Ch’ing says, “The Tao hides in what has no name, and the sage embodies it through what has no name. He doesn’t consider himself great, and yet no one is greater. For he can go left or right. Hence, he is neither small or great. And because he is neither small or great, he can do great things.”
Ch’eng Hsung-Ying says, “The Tao produces all things, and all things turn to it. It’s like the sea. All streams empty into it, and yet it doesn’t control them.
Verse 35 – Remaining Humble Yet Inexhaustible
Holding onto the true image of myself with humility, comity and grace I remain humbled by what the Tao places before me. As I recommit my entire essence to only promoting that which comes forth as the greater image or vision that I am here to complete. All the while knowing that my highest aspiration can succeed only with the success of all around me.
As the world comes forth to greet me each day, I remain protected, as I have no form thereby beyond whatever harm may come my way. I remain safe, serene and as one with the Tao.
Eventually everything coming before me as an equal, I walk guided by selflessness as all things come to me. As I remain one with all things. While forgetting myself in others, others forget themselves in me. Therefore, everyone finds his or her place and no one is not at one with me.
Keep only to the plain and simple drawing people closer as you entertain with images of the Tao. Remaining at the point of inquiry, with no one quite sure how to love or hate, with no shape, taste or sound with which to please others. Remaining enmeshed in the Tao your role can never be exhausted. ##
Lu Tung-Pin says, “Unharmed our spirit is safe. Unharmed, our breath is serene.
Unharmed, our nature is at one”. Te-Ch’ing says, “The sage rules the world through selflessness. All things come to him because he is one with all things. And while he forgets himself in others, others forget themselves in him. Thus, all things find their place, and there are none that are not at one.”
Chuang Tzu says, “A great man’s words are plain like water. A small man’s words are sweet like wine. The plainness of a great man brings people closer, while the sweetness of a small man drives them apart. Those who would come together for no reason, separate for no reason” (20-5).
Ho-Shang Kung says, “If someone uses the Tao to govern the country, the country would be rich, and the people prosperous. If someone used it to cultivate himself, there would be no limit to the length of his life.”