The four forces

The four forces (from AFB04 00:16:42.70 - 00:27:40.10)

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Student: I wasn't going to share something but I think I will. The point that I would like to make...during a battle in World War II a friend of mine took my place and was shot to death, and bled to death in my arms. And then I cried uncontrollably. He bled all over me. And then I went with three other guys to destroy a machine gun nest at [unclear] and I climbed into the mouth of a cave and there were three Japanese soldiers there. And I killed them in a murderous rage. And at the time I didn't think much of it. I went on with my murderous rage for several days after that. But trouble loomed, and yet I went to Japan after the war and I met Japanese and realised how wrong what I'd done was. Suffice to say that I drank for 17 years until I drank myself to near to death. I stopped drinking and at some point subsequently I turned my life over to trying to work against war and to alleviate poverty. And so for many, many years I worked to try to make amends. And I haven't understood that until very recently, until just in the last 24 hours, that the murder subject, it's all really enough for me, and I find it's very upsetting also that my life has been so shaped. 
So my question about the compassionate way is probably based the fact that I know...I believe, "Thou shalt not kill" is a true teaching. For me it's an absolute teaching and not a [unclear]. To me it is. And I've paid dearly for my belief that I've violated it in the worst possible way. And all I can do is make amends. But I guess I'm sharing this currently because I want to be open, but also partly because I want to know how I can be a compassionate person without acting out of a deep sense of guilt and shame. [Unclear]...

Ken: Well thank you very much for your openness. I think it adds or brings a sense of concreteness to this discussion. You've done three quarters of the job. You still hold on to an identity. That's the last quarter. I say three quarters because your question brings to mind a teaching in the Tibetan tradition which is called the four forces. You may already know them, I don't know. The four forces are how you stop the karmic process of evolution in your being. We can not go back and undo what has happened. And when you make amends it isn't really to undo or to set it back in order because--in a few situations that might be possible, but in most situations it isn't, and your example is very clear. Your buddy died in your arms, there's no undoing that and you killed a number of people, and there's no undoing that. 
The four forces are first, repudiation or regret, and that is, by doing the kind of reflection that you clearly have done, and that we're doing here, we come to repudiate those actions or that particular action. In this case it is killing you've repudiated. It's wrong. Period. 
The second is remedy, and we do this not with the idea of undoing what we've done, but with the idea that we add to the karmic process something that takes us in a good direction. And then there's resolve, and that's where you say, "I will not do this again." 
Okay, and the fourth one is reliance. Because whenever we act unwholesomely--which, for our purposes is intentionally causing harm to others--to do so, we actually have to check out of awareness, and one of the original meanings of the word sin is, that which separates you from God. So there's a similarity in that perspective. So we have to come back into awareness, and we do that ceremonially or ritually, by taking refuge, renewing our vows of bodhicitta and so forth, awakening mind. And you'll notice in this discussion there's no talk of forgiveness.
And what I'm suggesting is that you're holding on to an identity of a person who's no longer here. You follow? And to come to know through your own experience that you are no longer that person is how you let go of that identity. That person isn't here anymore. Now I can say that; that's my sense, but only you can know that. 


Working with meanness

Working with meanness (from ATPII05: A Trackless Path II (retreat) 00:29:22.40 - 00:36:11.30)

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Christy: What do you do about meanness in yourself?

Ken: It's very interesting you should ask this Christy, because there's a wonderful quote from Rumi right on this. Perfect.  I've actually put it in an article that I've just submitted to Tricycle. But I haven't memorized the quote so I have to look it up. Okay. [Ken searches on his computer] Here you are.

This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all.
Do you want me to read it again?

This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all.
Now, from the tone of your question I'm implying that you regard meanness as an enemy.

Christy: Well, in that it can certainly harm others, yes.

Ken: Okay. So when's the last time you can recall being mean, or feeling mean?

Christy: Today.

Ken: Good, so just recall that right now. And there's probably a hardening and tightening in the body a little bit?

Christy: I go more through grief recalling it.

Ken: Because it's an unpleasant memory or?

Christy: Yeah.

Ken: I want you to do it anyway. And I want you to imagine welcoming the meanness with open arms and tell me what happens.

Yes, what's happened?  It's very fast. Everybody can try this.  Take anger or meanness, you can take greed and just open your heart to it.  What happens? Christy?  I'm inviting you all to do it but this is Christy's.
Christy: It feels like a child. And what do you do with that child?

Christy: Embrace it.

Ken: And then what happens?

Christy: [pitch of voice rises considerably] Well.

Ken: You get my point. Now like the hope and fear that we were discussing with Joan, this is a very, very demanding instruction. It's a very, very profound one. It's exactly what Rumi's talking about. You receive this. And it can't hold the way that it usually does.  It holds when we resist it. When we regard it as, "No, this is not me, this is something other." But when you open your heart to it, then as you described, it's like a child, it's something young that's very, very upset. And this is that the heart of Thich Nhat Hanh's technique, which I've named Seeing from the Inside, where you're holding just those feelings tenderly in attention. 


The violin case

Violin Case (from AFB02: Awakening From Belief 00:48:54.80-00:50:02.90

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Well, for instance, a lot of people think of karma as a balancing mechanism in the universe. It's what makes the universe just. Well, that's just a projection of the human value of justice on the world. It's nonsense. It's totally unjust. When you really appreciate how karma operates, how this process operates, you realize you have about as much room to move as a violin in a violin case. Fortunately, it's enough. So the choice points, to go to your point that you're raising, are few and fleeting. That’s why mindfulness is so very very important. Because through the practice of attention, through the cultivation of attention in the practice of mindfulness, you actually create more and more choice points.