Saturday, January 9, 2010

Tiger Woods, Buddhism and Forgiveness!

Britt Hume has urged Tiger Woods to move toward the Christian Church in order to find forgiveness for himself and to move on!
by Charlie Leck

Your know, there was a time when I mildly admired Britt Hume. It was back when he was with one of the major television networks. Was it ABC? I don’t remember any more. That aside, it was clear back then that Hume had some talent. It started with that perfect voice for newscasters. He’s still got the voice but he’s gone very much to the weird side of the news, taking on a very opinionated stance and casting fairness and balance to the wind.

His recent comments, that Tiger Woods ought to turn away from Buddhism to Christianity in order to secure forgiveness, offended me just a little.

“The extent to which he can recover, seems to me, depends on his faith. He’s said to be a Buddhist. I don’t think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith, so my message to Tiger would be: Tiger turn your faith, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world.”

[If you do not see a video image link above, please click here!]

Oh boy! Let me started with a disclaimer. I’m a Christian and I understand that forgiveness lies at the very heart of our faith. A Christian who cannot forgive doesn’t quite get the meaning of our faith and of the man who died on the cross for us. That being said, I also have some great sympathies toward Buddhism and find it a very reassuring manner of living joyously and also of coming to terms with crisis when necessary.

I think Hume is dead wrong about the concept of forgiveness and the Buddhist faith. To Hume’s credit, he did use the qualifier, “I don’t think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith.” So, Hume is correct as far as he goes, but his statement clearly implies Tiger cannot receive the quality level of forgiveness, or the depth of forgiveness, that he could find within the Christian Church. Not so!

Stay where you are Tiger, but take advantage of the marvelous counsel of your faith and you will be able to triumph over the weaknesses you showed in being so disloyal and dishonest to your wife. Forgiveness is possible in both the Christian and Buddhist faiths. It will take some courage on your part, however, to face up to your life and humbly ask for that forgiveness.

Forgiveness for the Buddhist is an act of letting go! One lets go of the past and makes a turn toward goodness and wholeness. That past is not erased – never erased – but forgiveness can eliminate the pain of one’s past. The important thing is that our past, when we are forgiven, no longer drives or determines our future.

Too many Christians think that forgiveness is an automatic thing – that one just confesses and then is awarded forgiveness and redemption. That’s not true, of course. A true sense of sorrow for one’s acts must be felt in the heart and mind (contrition). It is that sense of sorrowfulness that allows Christians to turn toward the path of righteousness and to abandon the path of sinfulness.

To the Buddhist, the turn is a wide and graceful one, like the turning of a massive, modern tanker ship upon the ocean. The arc is large and the movement is slow, providing plenty of opportunity for contemplation about both where we’ve been and where we are going. To me, that concept seems ideal for Tiger Woods.

The Buddhist also believes that there needs to be real human forgiveness as part of the process of spiritual forgiveness. Tiger must feel a sense of repentance and a desire to make amends to those he has so injured.

To the Buddhist, Tiger, in turning away from his past and letting go, becomes a new person. He will no longer be the man he was yesterday. It is similar to the Christian concept of being born again, but to the Buddhist it is much more worldly and real. It is like the flowing of a great river. One cannot ever put one’s foot into the river in the same place.

One thing Hume is correct about is that Tiger needs to find some sense of the spiritual right now. That is not to say that a pure atheist could not solve this problem of feeling forgiven and making amends. Such a thought is foolish. However, for this man Tiger, this huge man of power and transcendence, I think he needs to feel the inner belief that something is much more powerful and important in the universe than he. I would call that power “God.” Others might call it something else.

Tiger can recover from this and, indeed, become a whole and good person. I just happen to think he must become more humble and submissive to a higher power. He needs to turn toward the very center and core of being and admit that he is but small and insignificant in the whole picture of the universe. Then, the wide, slow turn toward healing begins.

Frankly, I think this is more possible and realizable within the Buddhist faith than it is within Christianity, though, for heaven’s sake, I admit is it possible within both. What none of us really knows, in fact, is whether Tiger is a person of faith. Has he even any faith to fall back on now? I hope his current discomfort and search includes the possibility of turning to his faith for forgiveness. It is there just as certainly as it is within the Christian faith.

If you are curious (and I will understand if you are not), I urge you to read this tale of the Buddha:

The Buddha was sitting under a tree talking to his disciples when a man came and spit on his face. He wiped it off, and he asked the man, “What next? What do you want to say next?” The man was a little puzzled because he himself never expected that when you spit on somebody’s face, he will ask, “What next?” He had no such experience in his past. He had insulted people and they had become angry and they had reacted. Or if they were cowards and weaklings, they had smiled, trying to bribe the man. But Buddha was like neither, he was not angry nor in any way offended, nor in any way cowardly. But just matter-of-factly he said, “What next?” There was no reaction on his part.

Buddha’s disciples became angry, they reacted. His closest disciple, Ananda, said, “This is too much, and we cannot tolerate it. He has to be punished for it. Otherwise everybody will start doing things like this.”

Buddha said, “You keep silent. He has not offended me, but you are offending me. He is new, a stranger. He must have heard from people something about me, that this man is an atheist, a dangerous man who is throwing people off their track, a revolutionary, a corrupter. And he may have formed some idea, a notion of me. He has not spit on me, he has spit on his notion. He has spit on his idea of me because he does not know me at all, so how can he spit on me?

“If you think on it deeply,” Buddha said, “he has spit on his own mind. I am not part of it, and I can see that this poor man must have something else to say because this is a way of saying something. Spitting is a way of saying something. There are moments when you feel that language is impotent: in deep love, in intense anger, in hate, in prayer. There are intense moments when language is impotent. Then you have to do something. When you are angry, intensely angry, you hit the person, you spit on him, you are saying something. I can understand him. He must have something more to say, that’s why I’m asking, “What next?”

The man was even more puzzled! And Buddha said to his disciples, “I am more offended by you because you know me, and you have lived for years with me, and still you react.”

Puzzled, confused, the man returned home. He could not sleep the whole night. When you see a Buddha, it is difficult, impossible to sleep again the way you used to sleep before. Again and again he was haunted by the experience. He could not explain it to himself, what had happened. He was trembling all over and perspiring. He had never come across such a man; he shattered his whole mind and his whole pattern, his whole past.

The next morning he was back there. He threw himself at Buddha’s feet. Buddha asked him again, “What next? This, too, is a way of saying something that cannot be said in language.

When you come and touch my feet, you are saying something that cannot be said ordinarily, for which all words are a little narrow; it cannot be contained in them.” Buddha said, “Look, Ananda, this man is again here, he is saying something. This man is a man of deep emotions.”
The man looked at Buddha and said, “Forgive me for what I did yesterday.”

Buddha said, “Forgive? But I am not the same man to whom you did it. The Ganges goes on flowing, it is never the same Ganges again. Every man is a river. The man you spit upon is no longer here. I look just like him, but I am not the same, much has happened in these twenty-four hours! The river has flowed so much. So I cannot forgive you because I have no grudge against you.”

“And you also are new. I can see you are not the same man who came yesterday because that man was angry and he spit, whereas you are bowing at my feet, touching my feet. How can you be the same man? You are not the same man, so let us forget about it. Those two people, the man who spit and the man on whom he spit, both are no more. Come closer. Let us talk of something else.”

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