Atonement

Still looking at Master Dogen’s Vow — the last post was on the third paragraph, and now I want to go back to the second —

Past negative actions accumulate and cause the arising of many obstacles to the practice of the Way.
May all Buddhas and Ancestors who have realized the Way extend their compassion and free us from these karmic effects, allowing us to practice without hindrance. May they share with us their boundless compassion, and fill the universe with the virtue of their enlightened teaching.

The last post reflected on Dogen‘s understanding of past, present and future, and of Buddhas and Ancestors. The important point is that these things are not really separate from us and from our present moment. So when we call upon the Buddhas and Ancestors for help, we are not trying to dredge some Holy Other Beings out of a deep abyss of time. They are already here.

I want to say something about “past negative actions.” This is a big sticking spot for a lot of us, I’m sure. We may bounce from blaming others, or blaming “bad luck,” to beating ourselves up over boneheaded things we’ve done.  Neither extreme is helpful.

While fully acknowledging past negative actions, we can do so with compassion and forgiveness toward ourselves. We are imperfect; we have limitations. In this way, the old, negative stuff can drop away.

Just a quick note about atonement — which seems fitting, since we’ve just passed Yom Kippur — the word atonement in general usage means “reparation,” but at etymology dictionary tells me it originally meant “the condition of being at one with others.”  Literally, at-one-ment. So, as we reflect, take time to consider how both denial and guilt separate us from others. Seek at-one-ment.

Read more about the spiritual quest in Rethinking Religion: Finding a Place for Religion in a Modern, Tolerant, Progressive, Peaceful and Science-affirming World.

[A version of this post was published on About.com Buddhism September 18, 2013.]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.