The four forces

From: A Trackless Path 3
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Okay. So, things happen. And parts of us feel shame. We've violated something, or that's the feeling. Question now is, "How do we live with that?" Right? Okay. Now, we're not the first people to consider this question. Milarepa murdered 37 people. Milarepa murdered 37 people, and that was his impetus for embarking on a life of practice, was how to live with that. And some form of shame or regret has been the impetus for many many people over the centuries.
In the Tibetan tradition, there are a series of teachings called the Four Forces or the Four Powers, whichever way you want to translate it, which are usually described in terms of clearing away unwholesome actions, which is closely related to our topic. But I'd like to look at them this evening in terms of coming to terms with what we carry in us.
Now whenever we feel shame, some part of us feels that we've done something wrong. It may be in our own eyes. It may be in the eyes of someone else. A lot of people spend a lot of time in analyzing, "Well, did I actually do anything wrong here?" and go through, let's say, a rational process of trying to sort it out. "Well, no it's justifiable from this point of view. Well, no it's not justifiable from that point of view"etc. And you get lots of essays written on morals and ethics and so forth.
Personally, I think it's much better to go straight into the feeling. Straight into the experience, and open to it. And in doing so, when we're able to rest in the experience without resisting it, quite frequently a knowing arises. That knowing can take a lot of different forms. One form it can take is, "Oh, this isn't as big a deal as I thought it was." That's one form it can take. Another form it can take is, "Oh, I couldn't see any alternative at that point." There are probably other forms the knowing can take. It may be, "It had to be done, and I'll live with the consequences." But in each of these cases, by experiencing it completely, you change your relationship with whatever's inciting the shame.
And when the knowing takes the form, "I couldn't see any alternative," or "I didn't know better" or whatever, there is implicit in that--and this is important--a sense of regret. And we all make mistakes in life. My view, the big thing is not whether we make mistakes--'cause we all make mistakes--but whether we learn from them. 
Now we can't possibly learn from our actions, our past actions, unless we're willing to open to the experience and all the discomfort associated with them. For in all of these cases, when there's a sense of shame, there's also a sense of separation. And it's that sense of separation, which I think we can say is the cause of the pain, or the genesis of the pain. Apparently the original etymology of the word sin is connected with separation. So, one can look at the four forces, which are regret, reliance, remedy, and resolve. I carefully translated them so they all started with "R". So you can call them the Four Rs if you wish. All of these are ways to address the sense of separation. I talked about regret a little bit already.
 Reliance is the sense of separating from our own personal values and ideals. Traditional language, these are embodied as, say, the three jewels or what have you. There's a sense of disconnection. And so reliance means to actively or intentionally renew that connection.
Story is told of Atisha, that's why he came to Tibet. He was probably the highest ranking Buddhist master in India. He held the title, Holder of the Vajra Seat, which was the name of Bodhgaya. So, we don't know much of the hierarchy, but he was at least a cardinal if not a pope...something like that. And as such, he had a big pavilion at the annual festivals there. And a sadhu by the name of Maitripa entered into this tent, this pavilion, where all of the monks were seated all in order of rank etc., and very formal setting. And he and his mistress proceeded to make love, which totally outraged all of the monks, and Atisha's senior attendants looked at him and said, "Should we get rid of them?" And Atisha said nothing. Which was taken as a yes. So they grabbed Maitripa, and Maitripa shook them off and said, "If I'm going to be forced out of here, I will leave in my own way." And he walked straight through the wall of the pavilion. 
Afterwards, Atisha wasn't too happy. And Atisha had a very close relationship with Green Tara, and had since he was a young man. And whenever he prayed to Green Tara, she instantly appeared, and he'd have a conversation with her. So he prayed to Green Tara and she didn't show up. Now he was definitely worried. So he prayed more earnestly. And she appeared, but her back was turned. You can see how this is all about this sense of separation. So he said, "Did I goof up today?" And she said, "Yup." He said, "So, what's the karmic consequence?"
"You'll be born as a worm that surrounds Mt. Meru, and every day a flock of birds will pick your flesh to the bones. And this will go on for X hundred years."
"Is there an alternative?"
"What is it?" 
"Go to Tibet and teach the dharma there." 
It's recorded that Atisha said, "I'll take the worm."
Well, it takes us a bit beyond the point that I wanted to make, but it's an example of reliance--that you have to renew that connection. And you can only renew that connection by coming to terms with whatever action is causing you shame. You can't really renew the connection unless you come to terms with that. You can think of Hamlet. Claudius at one point prays to God for forgiveness for murdering his brother. But he recognizes that he's not sincere, he's quite happy that he got the kingdom and the girl. And he says, you know, "Prayers which are not sincere will never be heard by God." It's pointing to the same thing. So it's another way of coming into a complete experience that we've been trying to avoid.
Third one is remedy. Actions always have consequences. They initiate in us a process of evolution. We can't stop that process, but we may be able to influence it. So if we say something to somebody that's hurtful, there's nothing we can do to undo those words. There are many adages in English to that effect. But we can influence how that propensity develops in us, perhaps by apologizing. And again, the only way that apology can be meaningful is if we really have come to terms with it, so that becomes the right thing--the appropriate thing for us to do. Follow? It can't be just going through the motions. It's not always possible to remedy something directly like that, and one of the traditional instructions is--when you feel like you're regretting something or dealing with this kind of shame or whatever--is to go out and do some kind of virtue for the express purpose of moving things in a new direction, even if it has no relationship to the actual action.
And the fourth one is resolve. And when you move into that deep knowing which comes when you open to the experience completely, that knowing may take the form of, "I will never do this again." Doesn't matter what. And that's what's meant by resolve.
Now, these are, as I said, usually described in terms of clearing away the effects of unwholesome actions. And that's part of a much larger system. But I think we can approach them much more simply, much more directly as: when shame and regret arise in our experience, these are four possible ways of coming to terms with it. And all of them, inevitably lead you into being completely in that experience, which is usually quite uncomfortable, I've found.

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