What is Repentance?
Repentance is not – feeling guilty, sad, sorry for oneself, or wallowing in self-pity – that would be just the opposite of it. It is not an emotion that we experience but a resolve not to repeat the mistakes. As the existential saying goes – “we can not make mistakes but we must learn how to make them perfectly”. Making mistakes perfectly is – not to lose equanimity but learn lessons from our past wrongs and move on, in that light the definition of repentance would be not to repeat.
And how can we not repeat them, is it up to us to be in full control of emotions?. We can only control the conscious mind but not our unconscious. And conditioned emotions and thoughts spring up from the unconscious mind all the time, and if predestined things are also happening then we can’t even blame our unconscious as the superconsciousness forces are also interfering with our lives, and making us slaves/instruments for their own ends.
The next logical step to not repeat our mistakes would be -to clear our unconscious mind of all the negative (pain and pleasure) elements – so that there is nothing in there to get stirred up. But that would be an impossible task.
So the only solution is that we keep our conscious mind/awareness watchful, mindful, equanimous, detached from every content of the mind, as all responses even those that spring from the unconscious are also filtered through the conscious mind. The conscious mind should remain non-reacting (not non-acting) in the face of a reacting unconscious mind.
This leads us to the final conclusion – we should learn, maybe for short periods of time initially, how to not create new negative (pain/suffering) and positive (pleasure) experiences, and the old ones will automatically get neutralised. If we don’t create any new suffering the old will automatically get eradicated, we don’t have to worry about the old one.
Now the next question is how to train the mind to stay equanimous – by saying to oneself – what is happening right now is going to become a dream soon, nobody is dying here, even if someone is dying – their soul will live on and they may be going to heaven who knows, heavens will not fall down, this is normal stress of normal life, my suffering is just a drama being played out in my mind and not in my soul which is full of bliss at all times, what seems to be bad news might turn out to be a good one and vice versa, etc.
However, there is another understanding of repentance – when Saint Peter repented for betraying Jesus, and Saul and Cornelius repented for slaughtering the followers of Jesus, they went into solitude, relived the experiences, wept, sought forgiveness, and understood their past deeds differently. This point of view suggests – one has to relive a past suppressed experience or several experiences in one part of the mind. The subconscious opens up like a heralding of a storm and one goes through the dark night of the soul, and the other part is either connected with divine consciousness or equanimous consciousness. The soul is purged and one feels awakening. It involved a lot of pain, crying as veils and denials are lifted. Meditation enables this to happen in a stepwise, systematic fashion on a daily basis. There are specific techniques that guide you into the methods of surrendering your past emotions and thoughts into the Fire of knowledge for burning.
© Kishore Chandiramani, Consultant Psychiatrist
Emotions Clinic, Education and Training Centre Cic, Staffordshire, England