It’s a gentle practice – sitting together in the quiet, in the semi-dark. Yet by stripping us of our illusions about ourselves, it invests us with power – with a quiet, great power that is not our own.
The things we seek in spiritual practice are not sense-objects. They are not things we can perceive with the senses. “If you try to seek the Tathagata through sights and sounds you are on a false path,” says the Diamond Sutra.
Therefore it is no help to seek them as if they were objects. That is still to be caught in a state of desire, predicated on subject and object. Instead, we can become aware of desire for the Buddha-dharma, and transmute it into something else: surrender, aspiration, humility, compassion for ourselves, and for others. In other words, letting go of the self.
If we really find the Dharma, we know that there is nothing that is not intrinsically forgiven. The worst atrocities – the Dharma forgives them all. It can’t not do so.
This is not to say that all kinds of cruelty, unwholesomeness and harming, and needless suffering is of no concern. Not at all. All the precepts, the whole emphasis on ethical conduct, and refraining from harm, are the basis of life in the Dharma. And yet the deepest reality of the precepts is just this: that all is already forgiven. And in the end this is the very fact that inspires our deepest encouragement to act more kindly and gratefully. Not to insist that others do so, but to do so ourselves, to whatever extent we are inspired to.