It is only with the heart that one can see
Right; what is essential is invisible to the eye.
-Antone De Saint-Exupery
By Joanna Loftus
In her book, The Places That Scare You, Pema Chodron says that: “forgiveness is an essential ingredient of bodhichitta practice. It allows us to let go of the past and make a fresh start”. I’ve heard this words so many times but I never really understood what they mean until I travel through Cambodia. During my time in this country, one so horribly affected by violence and seeped in trauma, I realized the true meaning of forgiveness.
Cambodia is mesmerizing in its beauty. Without my previous knowledge of history I would not guess that this is a place of a recent genocide. The people are kind and playful; they are inviting to foreigners and are always delighted to offer their hospitality. Children run through the streets giggling, playing in roadside pools or with the local wildlife. On the surface, the people seem so carefree.
However, Cambodia is still recovering from the atrocity perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot. During my time spent there, I would often wonder, how could something like this happen? How did the entire world stand by, while quarter of the Cambodian population was executed? Where was their compassion? How could the leaders of the world sleep at night knowing that they did nothing? I struggled with these questions until I visited the coastal town of Kep.
I met a young man at the retreat center I was staying; we were sitting together on a balcony, looking out over the hills of Vietnam behind the bay when he said: “You are too angry”. He was right, I was. I was angry that something like this could happen, that the people responsible for this tragedy had not been brought to justice. I was angry, because I did not know what kind of justice I would want. Finally, I was angry with myself for being so angry and I was angry with him for not being angry at all.
But then he said something else: “You know, we choose forgiveness over justice”. Suddenly something happened, my heart broke open and I allowed for the tenderness of Bodhichitta to awaken in me. I finally understood, there is no a proper punishment; punishment just leads to more pain and suffering, the only way of true healing is through forgiveness.
Please note that while individual members have varying views on topics discussed in our blog, NCAS-I as a whole honors multiple perspectives, within respectful reason, and does not aim to censor material shared in our blog writings. So please keep this in mind while reading our blogs. And please feel free to add your perspective too.