“Life can be found only in the present moment.
The past is gone, the future is not yet here,
and if we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment,
we cannot be in touch with life.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
“The greatest discovery of any generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering the attitudes of their minds.”
~ Albert Schweitzer
Ordinary human consciousness is conditioned consciousness;
it is pure Awareness conditioned by conceptions.
And our conceptual conditioning determines our condition.
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
“If the doors of perception were cleansed
everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.”
~ William Blake
Forgiving the Past to Live in the Present
Mystics and some scientists say that our thoughts or beliefs about our ‘reality’ and self-identity determine our earth-life experience; that those thoughts or beliefs originate unconsciously with very subtle mental impressions (sometimes called in Sanskrit vasanas or samskaras) which through reincarnation are carried by the soul from lifetime to lifetime; that we can radically change our lives and behaviors by changing our thoughts about who or what we are; and that we can become “enlightened” only by transcending all mental conditioning.
Thus, according to twentieth century Indian sage J. Krishnamurti,
“Our problem is how to be free from all conditioning . . When the mind is completely unconditioned then only can [we] experience or discover if there is something real or not. . [A] mind . . filled with beliefs, . . dogmas . . assertions ..is really an uncreative mind; it is merely a repetitive mind.”
Our mental conditioning operates our physical body, like computer software systems operate computer hardware platforms. And, like computer software systems, all mental conditioning comes from the past – from this or prior lifetimes.
But, habitually abiding or operating with beliefs or tendencies from past experience, or projecting them into the future as fear or worry, prevents us from living spontaneously and authentically in the present moment – from fully being here NOW.
Past is history and future’s mystery, while Life is never then – it is only NOW.
“Life can be found only in the present moment. The past is gone, the future is not yet here, and if we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment, we cannot be in touch with life.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Thus, Buddha taught that:
“There is only one time when it is essential to awaken. That time is now.” . . . . .
“That which is timeless is found now.”
Only by wiping the slate clean from past conditioning and resulting thoughts or concerns, are we are fully freed to live in the present – in the eternal NOW. Thus our spiritual evolution is furthered by any activity or practice which helps us live moment by moment in the precious present, spontaneously and authentically without mental pre-conditioning.
My life experience following a dramatic midlife spiritual awakening confirms these teachings. As gradually I have recognized and eliminated or changed beliefs and paradigms which no longer seemed valid or useful, quieted my mind, and more and more self-identified as spirit, my life has become more spontaneous and magical, and I’ve experienced ever more happiness, peace of mind, and gratitude for this precious life-time.
For me, it has been a process of mindfully witnessing inappropriate or obsolete behavioral patterns with intention of changing or eliminating them through grateful remembrance that I am not merely a separate mortal entity but universal spirit experiencing a blessed human life.
The more that I have gratefully and mindfully self-identified as spirit – as Universal Awareness – the more I have experienced fulfillment, insight, empathy, and creativity and the less I have manifested unhelpful habits and reflexive behaviors.
I have found that this transformative process of mindful spiritual self-identification has been accelerated through meditation and other universal practices of perennial wisdom traditions which help clear mental conditioning. So I’ve dedicated SillySutras.com to exploring and sharing universal wisdom principles and practices which can help us all live happier lives, as they have helped me.
During Jewish High Holy days, I am reminded of certain practices other than meditation, which may help free us from past conditioning:
1. Non-judgmental forgiveness or atonement of supposed transgressions or ‘sins’ by or against us. [see “Forgiveness And Atonement Of ‘Sins.’”] ; and,
2. Annulment and rescission of obsolete and unhelpful personal intentions, resolutions, or vows.
The Jewish High Holy Days are ten days of religious introspection and repentance, concluding with Yom Kippur [“day of atonement”]. During services, congregants communally repent past “sins” while repeatedly acknowledging that
“Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins,” [ Ecclesiastes 7:20 ]
The Yom Kippur observance begins with “Kol Nidre” (“All Vows”), a powerful prayer with a hauntingly beautiful melody which is chanted and recited in ancient Aramaic, and which for many Jews is the religious highpoint of their year.
When I attended Jewish services, during adolescence and later irregularly as an adult (before I became a “born-again Hindu”), the Kol Nidre ritual was for me emotionally memorable, even though I don’t recall knowing the meaning of the prayer until much later receiving a translation in an email message.
So, on ultimately learning the translated meaning, I was quite surprised and puzzled to learn that Kol Nidre enigmatically purports to disavow and annul until the next day of atonement all past and/or future communal or individual oaths or vows, viz.
”Let all our vows and oaths, all the promises we make and the obligations we incur to You, 0 God, between this Yom Kippur and the next, be null and void should we, after honest effort, find ourselves unable to fulfill them. Then may we be absolved of them.”
Since Judaism emphasizes the honoring of promises and obligations to others, I wondered:
“Why does the holiest of Jewish high holy days begin with a communal disavowal of all oaths or vows, which in Jewish tradition are regarded as ethically important?”
Also I began wondering why the Kol Nidre prayer has been so emotionally powerful, even when its meaning is largely unknown. After reflection and research I concluded that:
Kol Nidre applies only to personal vows to oneself or God, not affecting promises or obligations to others; it is not an unconditional request for Divine absolution from guilt for dishonored vows or obligations to others.
Many people – not just Jews – make resolutions or vows concerning their intended future behavior which are unfulfilled or become inappropriate or unhelpful as times change. And often they feel consequent frustration or guilt.
Rather than harboring guilt or frustration for this, Jewish tradition recognizes that it is best to wipe the mental slate clean. Thus, observant Jews can be spiritually uplifted and mentally cleared by communal participation in High Holy Day rituals of forgiveness or atonement of “sins”, and rescission of unhelpful personal resolutions.
And I believe that Kol Nidre has been especially powerful for even those unaware of its meaning, because subtly or subconsciously it invokes Humankind’s universal – yet paradoxically impossible – aspiration to be in this world beyond inevitable human frailty and suffering, beyond “sin” or ‘missing the mark’.
So, perhaps Kol Nidre and its haunting melody, invoke an Eternal inner voice which reminds us of our true nature – ever immanent Divine LOVE – with which we are ultimately destined to merge.
On holy days and every day, may everyone everywhere be blessed to remember their affinity and identity with Divinity; and, may we thus wipe clean the slate of past behaviors or attitudes which impede living in the precious present.
And so, may everyone everywhere be eternally happy –
Ron’s Commentary on Forgiving the Past to Live in the Present
In lunar equinox seasons of major theistic religious ‘holy days’ – Jewish (days of awe); Moslem (Eid Al-Adha); Christian (Feast of St. Francis); Hindu (Navaratri) – we are often reminded that central to all major theistic religions is the goal of psychologically returning to “godliness”. Moreover, all major religions – Buddhist-Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish – teach a common message of Love as the supreme “unifying principle of Life. . . . the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate Reality.” [Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.]
Yet, often in the name of religion, our world remains rife with discrimination, violence and killing which must be transcended for survival of Human life as we have known it.
Whether or not we are ‘religious’, we are all experiencing a mythological perennial process of returning to a psychological state of self-identity and “at-one-ment” with Universal Awareness, our ultimate Essence and destiny – an evolutionary process of gradually living more and more in and as the timeless NOW.
The above essay, Forgiving the Past to Live in the Present, encourages our harmony with this crucially important perennial process.
As gradually we mindfully observe and change behaviors, beliefs, and paradigms which no longer seem valid or useful, and as more and more we commonly self-identify as ONE Eternal spirit, which is LOVE – not just as separate mortals – our lives become more spontaneous and magical, enabling us to synchronistically experience ever more happiness, peace of mind, and gratitude for this precious human lifetime.
And so may it be!
“To understand everything is to forgive everything”
“It is in pardoning, that we are pardoned.”
~ Saint Francis of Assisi, peace prayer
“To err is human; to forgive, Divine.”
~ Alexander Pope
“Forgiveness is the demonstration that you are the light of the world. Through your forgiveness does the truth about your Self return to your memory. Therefore, in your forgiveness lies your salvation.”
~ A Course in Miracles
If you are harboring the slightest bitterness toward anyone, or any unkind thoughts of any sort whatever, you must get rid of them quickly. They are not hurting anyone but you. It isn’t enough just to do right things and say right things – you must also think right things before your life can come into harmony.”
~ “Peace Pilgrim – Her Life and Work in Her Own Words” Pg. 16
Forgiveness And Atonement Of “Sins.”
Most religions teach the importance of forgiving or atoning for transgressions committed by or against us – our “sins”. Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism teach forgiveness.
Forgiveness in Christianity.
Forgiveness is especially emphasized in Christianity. Thus, in his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus repeatedly taught forgiveness. Eg.
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
~ Luke 6:37
“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you”
~ Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27
And even while in excruciating pain as he was dying on a cross, Jesus beseeched God’s forgiveness of those who crucified him:
“And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'”
~ Luke 23: 34
In emphasizing “they know not what they do” Jesus invoked Divine forgiveness in response to apparent unwitting (rather than malevolent) sins of the Roman soldiers who crucified him.
What are Sins?
“Sins” are often considered acts or omissions violating moral or ethical codes, with emphasis on what is wrong. But the original meaning of “sin” in Greek is to miss the mark – like an archer missing the target.
“According to Christian teachings, the normal collective state of humanity is one of “original sin.” Sin is a word that has been greatly misunderstood and misinterpreted. Literally translated from the ancient Greek in which the New Testament was written, to sin means to miss the mark, as an archer who misses the target, so to sin means to miss the point of human existence. It means to live unskillfully, blindly, and thus to suffer and cause suffering. Again, the term, stripped of its cultural baggage and misinterpretations, points to the dysfunction inherent in the human condition.”
~ Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth
When sins are appropriately considered ‘missing the mark’ from ignorance rather than malevolence, expiation requires that we focus on what is right, and on how to get back ‘on target’, rather than on what was wrong with mistaken acts or omissions.
Recognition and transcendence of “sins”.
Thus to transcend the negative, we realize the positive.
“There is only one perpetrator of evil on the planet: human unconsciousness. That realization is true forgiveness. With forgiveness, your victim identity dissolves, and your true power emerges – the power of Presence. Instead of blaming the darkness, you bring in the light.”
~ Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth
“Jesus’ teaching to “Forgive your enemies” is essentially about the undoing of one of the main egoic structures in the human mind. The past has no power to stop you from being present now. Only your grievance about the past can do that. And what is a grievance? The baggage of old thought and emotion.”
~ Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth
“It requires honesty to see whether you still harbor grievances, whether there is someone in your life you have not completely forgiven, an “enemy.” If you do, become aware of the grievance both on the level of thought as well as emotion, that is to say, be aware of the thoughts that keep it alive, and feel the emotion that is the body’s response to those thoughts. Don’t try to let go of the grievance. Trying to let go, to forgive, does not work. Forgiveness happens naturally when you see that it has no purpose other than to strengthen a false sense of self, to keep the ego in place. The seeing is freeing.”
~ Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth
Jewish Day of Atonement for “Sins”.
In the Jewish tradition, the highest of High Holy Days is Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement and forgiveness. While fasting on that day, observant Jews communally confess their wrongs and ask Divine forgiveness, humbly acknowledging that there are none amongst them so righteous that they have not sinned.
“Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins,” [ Ecclesiastes 7:20 ]
Recognizing the inevitability of ‘sin”, the Torah enjoins Jews to return to a righteous path with a process of societal repentance and reparation called teshuvah. “Teshuvah means returning to God and godliness.”; and returning to God is the essence of Judaism. ~ Rabbi Rami M. Shapiro,“Open Secrets”, pp.12-13
The process of returning to “godliness” which is the essence of Judaism is also central to all other major theistic religions.
Eastern religions emphasize “freedom” as an ultimate spiritual Reality and goal beyond thought or ego – beyond human comprehension, imagination, description or belief – which can only be known experientially, not rationally or mentally. (See https://sillysutras.com/what-is-freedom-question-and-quotes/)
All enduring religious and spiritual wisdom traditions recognize need for human transcendence of ego’s optical illusion of our imagined separation from each other and Nature; of our returning psychologically to a state of “At-one-ment” and self-identity with Universal Awareness – which is our ultimate Essence, and our ultimate destiny.
And so may it be!
Ron’s Commentary on Forgiving and Atoning for “Sins”:
Dear Friends and Fellow ‘Sinners’,
We are all here to evolve human consciousness by gradually realizing and actualizing – beyond our perceived separation from each other – our common Oneness with all Life. Yet, despite our common spiritual essence, each of us is unique, with unique propensities, abilities and fallibilities, which provide unique evolutionary opportunities and challenges. So ‘clearing our karma’ involves mindful identification, observation and purification of our unique mental tendencies and obscurations which impede realization of Oneness.
The foregoing essay and quotes about Forgiveness And Atonement Of “Sins” address a spiritually important subject for all of us. For most of my adult life, forgiveness been a great challenge. So I don’t claim to be an accomplished “expert” on this subject, but now share with you as one who has long reflected on judgmentally perceived moral failings of other fallible humans.
Whether or not we are spiritual ‘seekers’, we are all spiritual ‘sinners’ who inevitably ‘miss the mark’ and make mistakes. Otherwise we wouldn’t be exploring and learning in ‘space/time soul suits’ on the ‘Earth branch of the great Cosmic university’. Except for rare Avatars, Buddhas or Bodhisattvas, all humans are fallible; even Pontiffs and Prelates aren’t infallible.
Before hereafter discussing the spiritual importance of nonjudgmental forgiveness of ‘sins’, I will summarize my long history of judging others, to help you understand, and perhaps appreciate, my present perspectives on non-judgmental forgiveness.
Ron’s history of judging others.
After a midlife awakening, I began identifying my particular spiritual evolutionary challenges and opportunities. And gradually I realized that – as a litigation lawyer and long-time ardent social justice advocate – I had long established tendencies of often being outspokenly and acerbically judgmental, and of sometimes being unforgiving and angry about perceived injustices. Also I realized that these habits were not helpful to others or me; that they were impediments to my spiritual evolution, and inconsistent with mystical insights of Oneness with all Life, beyond our perceived separation from one another.
However, since first identifying these unhelpful habits decades ago, it hasn’t been easy to transcend them. Thus, on retiring from legal practice in 1992, by deactivating my law license it was easy for me to stop lawyering. But it was hard to stop gratuitously judging or blaming others – especially if they seemed to act immorally, hypocritically or harmfully.
Only gradually have I discerned significant – but often subtle – distinctions between being unduly judgmental and unforgiving of others, and my life-long ardent and conscientious advocacy for social justice. This often has required difficult discernments and decisions about conscientious truth telling and nonviolently resisting those who unjustly harm others, without vindictively, condemning, blaming and judging them.
The most challenging behaviors for me have been instances of apparently harmful betrayal of public or private trust. Apart from numerous flagrant betrayals of public trust by politicians and corporations which I have resisted, there have been a few unforgettable and psychologically traumatic events which I personally experienced as betrayals, but now see with forgiveness as disguised blessings which furthered my spiritual evolution.
Slowly my pain and suffering from harboring anger or bitterness, have helped awaken me to the futility and harm of blame. I have realized that blame, rancor or vengeance do not change others, and are always incompatible with a loving peaceful mind. But that love and forgiveness, do not preclude – and often require – conscientious advocacy for social justice, and nonviolent resistance to harmfully immoral acts.
As inspiringly demonstrated by Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., love and forgiveness, are integral to such nonviolent resistance. He explained that:
“At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love.” . . . “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.” . . .”The time is always right to do what is right.”. . . “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Ultimately I have realized how hating hurts the hater; that all unforgiving behavior is ego trying to preserve its falsely imagined separate identity. Thus, that human unconsciousness and ignorance of our true self-identity is the root cause of all perceived evil, and that any bitterness we harbor against perceived “others” separates us from our divine Oneness with everyone and everything everywhere, and beyond.
As I have slowly understood that human unconsciousness and ignorance of our true identity is the root cause of all perceived evil, I have learned to forgive it, and thereby to live an ever happier life. And thus, I have concluded that our purpose on Earth is not to judge, condemn or criticize apparent evil but to transcend it with LOVE.
Thereby, and only after many years of unsuccessfully addressing my negative judgmental tendencies, I may have now transcended them, by realizing that they arose from ego trying to preserve its falsely imagined separate identity. So I’ve finally granted my irrevocable general power of attorney to The Lone Arranger to judge all “sinners” – even Donald Trump, for whom I now feel sorry, as countless humans worldwide conscientiously and nonviolently resist his administration’s patently insane ecologically suicidal behaviors which threaten to catastrophically destroy all human life on Earth as we have known it.
And while so deferring to the unerring law of cause and effect, with absolute faith in the Divine, I have enjoyed unprecedented peace of mind.
We are here to learn and to demonstrate divine LOVE. But if we behave fearfully or selfishly instead of lovingly and compassionately, we inevitably ‘miss the divine target mark’, and thereby ‘sin’. And if we miss our mark and ‘sin’, we’ll probably suffer karmically from the law of causality. So how do we avoid ‘sinning’ and atone for past ‘sins’?
First, we must become aware of how ‘sins’ happen.
On investigating, we learn that human “sins” and sufferings are karmically inevitable and unavoidable while we unknowingly perceive “through a glass darkly” with conditioned ego-minds. We realize that all our perceptions are illusory projections of past conceptions, which obscure our experience of the timeless NOW. Thus, we learn that our space/time causality reality is like a persistent illusion – a mental mirage; and we discover that
“space and time are not conditions in which we live, [but] modes in which we think.”, that “the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion”, and that “our separation of each other is an optical illusion of consciousness.” [Albert Einstein]
Such new-found awareness can reveal simple solutions to previously persistent behavioral problems, from levels of consciousness beyond those which unknowingly caused our mistaken ‘sins’. For example, the Buddha taught that:
“to understand everything is to forgive everything”.
So we may discover that a significant solution to our ‘sinning’ problems is to forgive NOW (in the precious present), all unknowing mental mistakes made by ourselves and others. That
“to err is human; to forgive, Divine.”
Then, with ‘amazing grace’ we can finally see that our non-judgmental forgiveness of mental mistakes is Divine, since ‘sins’ of the conditioned ego-mind have arisen from ignorance, not malevolence – from belief, not awareness; from fear, not LOVE.
As a rare exemplar of Divine LOVE, Jesus Christ has inspired millions with his words and deeds of non-judgmental and merciful forgiveness, of even enemies and persecutors, for their spiritually ignorant behaviors. So even while suffering excruciating pain on a crucifixion cross He beseeched:
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Yet, without judging ignorant beings but criticizing their disharmonious behaviors, Jesus was a passionate social reformer and redeemer who frequently decried hypocritical conduct and ethics by people who did not ‘walk their talk’ but practiced the very behaviors they decried – like those whose piety was on their tongue but not in their heart; those who claimed to love God but hated others. [John 4:20; Matthew 15:7-9] And without judging the beings but their behaviors he cast out those changing money and conducting commerce in the sacred temple courtyard, thereby demonstrating that we cannot serve both God and greed. [Matthew 6:24 and 21:12]
Perhaps, from Jesus’s supremely divine perspective, ‘mortal sin’ can be seen (with insight, not eyesight) as ignorantly believing oneself a “mortal”, rather than immortal; and, “original sin” can be seen as ego’s mistaken belief of itself as separate from ONE Eternal Spirit or Universal Awareness.
During a long lifetime of often morally judging those who betray or hurt others, I finally learned that it is infinitely easier to forgive and atone for, our ‘sins’, by mindfully recognizing how they egotistically happen, than to exist Christ-like or Buddha-like as divine LOVE. And that on becoming mindfully aware of our unwitting sins we inevitably spur our spiritual evolution process.
May these teachings on “Forgiveness And Atonement Of “Sins” help all of us to forgive and transcend ’sins’ with love. But with quiet minds and open hearts may we continue to non-judgmentally, nonviolently, and conscientiously resist social injustice, while honoring the spiritual essence and universal equality of everyone everywhere.
And may this posting thereby help spur our spiritual evolution process, so that we may all open our hearts to forgive and give up what we mistakenly think we are –
and BE, eternally, what we truly are:
The unseen Source of the world we see – ONE spirit eternally encompassing all life as LOVE!
And so shall it be!