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Talking to the person I used to be

Talking to the person I used to be

Silhouette and transparent image of a man.
Look and see others as ones who hurt, suffer, and feel as you do. (Photo by Peter Tandlund)

Many of the incarcerated people with whom Venerable Thubten Chodron corresponds suffer from guilt, remorse, and confusion over their past deeds. She often asks them to remember that we are not the same person as we were when we did those actions. We now can look back at the past with less reactivity: we’ve learned from our mistakes and have more wisdom to use in the future. She asked L. B. what advice he would give to the person he used to be.

What would I say to that person I was three years ago from the point of view of the person I am now? I would say, “Continue to forgive yourself. Continue to open your heart and love yourself. And above all, continue to look and see others as ones who hurt, suffer, and feel as you do when bad things happen to them (especially things you’ve done to them).”

I would also say, “You are going to continue to suffer. But if you look at yourself in the midst of that suffering to see why you are suffering instead of lashing out at others because you are suffering, you will overcome your suffering and ease others as well.”

I would add, “Don’t think that you have overcome all your problems and obscurations of mind when you start having more good days than bad ones. Be moderate and balanced in all you do. And like H. H. the Dalai Lama says, ‘Don’t be fickle!’”

Now that I have given myself all of this good advice, maybe I should start using it!

Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.

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