Do you know the most difficult of all human emotions to experience? Even though this emotion involves an action, it’s very difficult to embrace because we are so blocked up by our feelings that this action becomes buried deep within ourselves.
The emotion we’re talking about isn’t anger, hatred, jealousy, envy or sadness. By embracing techniques and practices of mindfulness you can rise above these emotions.
At the other side of these feelings is an emotion that is the basis of eternal peace. When you continue to practice it, after a while it becomes a state of your being. It become part of your nature.
Before we share this emotion with you and offer some practical advice for how to embrace it, we want to share a story with you.
A beautiful story from the life of Buddha
Once Buddha decided to go away for a little while. He asked his chief disciples like Ananda, Shariputra and others to stay back at the monastery while he ventured out on his own. It was most unusual because generally wherever Buddha went, he was accompanied by his devotees and disciples who doted on him and revered him more than their own lives. They always wanted to be around to behold his beautiful form, to listen to his tranquil words, and above all just to serve him. But, this time, Buddha instructed them to not follow him until he said otherwise.
Exploring new places, as he walked from one village to another, many people did not recognize him. They didn’t think he was Gautama Buddha because there was no entourage, there was no crowd. He was wandering like any other monk, discreet and alone. On the way, Buddha approached a man for alms. The man, however, was distraught and livid for his only cow had just died a few minutes ago. In a fit of rage, he began shouting at Buddha and hurled abuses at him. The sage kept quiet and walked away. But, a villager close by felt the unmistakable presence of Buddha and recognized him.
He pacified the abuser and said, “Do you know who he was?”
“What do I care?” the man said.
“No, you should. He was Tathagata, the Buddha himself.”
“What are you saying?” the man exclaimed. “It’s not possible because he always has a large crowd following him. Where are his disciples?”
“That I don’t know but I can tell you that he was Buddha. I’ve heard he’s traveling on his own for the next little while.”
The man was guilt-ridden and decided to find the sage so he could beg his pardon. The next day, he traced him and fell at his feet.
“Forgive me, O Sage!” he said. “I’m really ashamed for calling you names. Please punish me so I may be purified.”
“Punish you for what?” Buddha spoke calmly.
“For swearing at you, my lord.”
“When did you do that?”
“Yesterday,” he said.
“I don’t know yesterday,” Buddha said. “I know only today.”
Source: Om Swami
The hardest of all human emotions is forgiveness
The most difficult human emotion to experience and act upon is forgiveness. It is the pinnacle of spiritual attainment, next to compassion.
There’s a profound message in this story of Buddha. Often we hold onto grudges in our lives. When we do this, we are giving strength to our emotions of anger, grief, jealousy and sadness. We create a story around why we are experiencing these emotions.
Instead, we want to understand that the self is constantly changing. We make it harder by blocking our emotions and letting them get stuck. By practicing forgiveness, we’re allowing these emotions to move through us.
The key to forgiveness is to show compassion and understanding for the other person. Single actions are never isolated from that person’s whole life history leading up to that point. Just like you, they have blocked emotions and patterns of behavior that resulted in them taking a particular action or adopting a particular perspective.
Understand that if you were them with their life experience and genetics, you would be doing the same thing. Find the part of yourself that you can recognize in the other person.
At the end of the day, just let go.
Forgiving yourself is just as important. Don’t hold onto those emotions and stories you have about yourself and why you’ve acted in certain ways. Understand that you also have a life’s history leading you up to that point, and having self-awareness is the first step to letting go.
Originally published on The Power of Ideas.