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Shame in Buddhism?

zenguitarzenguitar Bad BuddhistNew England Veteran

Hi Sangha, until recently I was of the mind that "shame" had no place in Buddhism. But as I was perusing the list of "51 Mental Formations" found on the Plum Village website, I found that 2 of the "Wholesome" formations are: "inner shame" and "shame before others." And 2 of the "unwholesome" ones are the "lack of inner shame" and "lack of shame before others."

http://plumvillage.org/transcriptions/51-mental-formation/

Anyone know if this "shame" is what we ordinarily understand it to be? Namely, "a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior."

By the way, I have no idea where this list of 51 Mental Formations comes from originally, it just appears on the website without any real explanation. Hmm :confounded:

Comments

  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran

    "Shame" is comparable, I think, to "loss of face", which is very common in many Asian Buddhist cultures. My command of Thai was not good enough to understand if "shame" per se was addressed in Thai Buddhism, but it is certainly there in Thai culture.

    Rowan1980zenguitar
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited February 2015

    I - and many like me - baulk at the word 'shame'.

    I prefer 'remorse'.
    Remorse doesn't hang around your neck like a mill-stone.

    Much as I think TNH is a wunnerful guy' and all that, I find his thoughtful meanderings a little... 'hard to swallow'... I think he's been exposed, or more accurately, subjected himself to a high degree of Theism/Christianity. He's well known for straddling two paths, and all the good that goes with that...Kudos to him... but I can't help feeling his edges are a little blurred....

    lobstermfranzdorf
  • Rowan1980Rowan1980 Keeper of the Zoo Asheville, NC Veteran
    I also prefer "remorse," though it is true that many cultures in Asia (and parts of Europe historically) tend to be "shame cultures." I've heard of cultures rooted in Judeo-Chrisianity as being "guilt cultures," though I cannot for the life of me remember where.
    Hamsaka
  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran
    edited February 2015

    @Rowan1980 said:
    I also prefer "remorse," though it is true that many cultures in Asia (and parts of Europe historically) tend to be "shame cultures." I've heard of cultures rooted in Judeo-Chrisianity as being "guilt cultures," though I cannot for the life of me remember where.

    Well yeah, especially Catholicism...soo many jokes about nuns with rulers and finger-wagging when not smackin' em. Seems to me they're the ones with the most taboo goings' on. ;) I was raised in the Episcopal church, baptized n confirmed, my best friend was Catholic and I occasionally went to church with her. Latin - about as exciting as the father in my church, especially when his sermons turned decidedly ... um, what's that word that means talking the nuts n bolts about religious stuff? theo-something? Theology.

    zenguitar
  • zenguitarzenguitar Bad Buddhist New England Veteran

    @federica said:
    Much as I think TNH is a wunnerful guy' and all that, I find his thoughtful meanderings a little... 'hard to swallow'... I think he's been exposed, or more accurately, subjected himself to a high degree of Theism/Christianity. He's well known for straddling two paths, and all the good that goes with that...Kudos to him... but I can't help feeling his edges are a little blurred....

    Yeah, I believe TNH once took communion at a Mass, much to the shock of some conservative Catholic clergy. But this list of 51 formations supposedly comes straight from Buddhist tradition, it's not something invented by TNH (I don't think).

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited February 2015

    Just wait until you see the lojong slogans.

    Sometimes it's concepts to uproot concepts. And if the tool doesn't work for you try and see what it is meant for and a better way to take YOU to the same place spiritually.

    zenguitar
  • @Jason said:
    In the Pali Canon, hiri is often translated as shame or conscience, and it refers to a sense of shame over unskillful actions that arises out of self-respect. These feelings of guilt and remorse are actually guardians and quite skillful when properly approached from the Buddhist point of view.

    Exactly so. People without shame, conscience, guilt, remorse etc are dangerous as @Hamsaka mentions. Sometimes they are bankers or sociopaths. I do feel some of our most powerful people in society have no guardians in place and need monitoring rather than empowered by their victims, which is often . . . us . . .

    I would also suggest that many Buddhists and spiritual types have too much shame/guilt/remorse and unhealthy self deprecation (not to be confused with humility).

    If you are doing the best you can that is sufficient

    No need to self flagellate - that is just self indulgence.

    silverHamsakazenguitarmmo
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @karasti said:> That story going around where the little boy born with Down's Syndrome was abandoned by his mother. The dad wanted to keep him, ,she said "if you keep him, we are done." and he kept the baby. Wife divorced him a week later. Mostly due to the culture of shame in her country (Armenia) associated with having a disabled child. She'd rather give up her husband and her baby than be shamed by her culture and family. Shame is, to me it seems, something we put on others.

    (On a side-note, it would appear that this is fast emerging as a scam. What better way to garner sympathy on a global scale than to put forward a story of this kind? It seems the parents are reuniting. Many are now questioning whether in fact, they actually ever really parted in the first place....)

    Rowan1980boobysattva
  • BuddhadragonBuddhadragon Ehipassiko & Carpe Diem Samsara Veteran

    Thubten Chodron explains that the feeling of "shame" as we know it in the West is not quite what is meant by the Sanskrit word that is used to describe the positive mental formation it represents in Buddhism:

    "The Sanskrit term (hiri) refers to a mental factor which helps us refrain from harmful actions due to the sense that we are worthy people. Because we respect ourselves, we refrain from acting destructively. Thus I think the word is better translated into English as 'sense of integrity.' Due to our sense of integrity and self-respect, we won’t violate our ethical values."

    lobsterBunksRowan1980
  • zenguitarzenguitar Bad Buddhist New England Veteran

    Thanks everyone, I wanted to clear this up. Because if feeling shame in the usual humiliating sense of the word is "good," then it seems it would also be good to make others feel shame. Which seems (to me) totally wrong and un-Buddhist. :smile:

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    I don't think it's our job to tell others how to follow their path in that way. We might apply remorse or guilt on ourselves, but I don't think that makes it equally ok to apply it to someone else. We don't know their history, their causes and conditions,their state of mind to be able to make that call. It's just not our place.

    @federica I will have to catch up on the story. Wouldn't surprise me either if the mom had a change of heart because now the dad has half a million dollars (or more at this point) and perhaps he jumped at the chance to take her back because the idea of raising the little boy alone might be pretty daunting at this point. Who knows. Hopefully, in any case, the money actually is put in some sort of a fund that will help the boy and not support his parents.

    zenguitar
  • BuddhadragonBuddhadragon Ehipassiko & Carpe Diem Samsara Veteran

    @zenguitar said:
    Thanks everyone, I wanted to clear this up. Because if feeling shame in the usual humiliating sense of the word is "good," then it seems it would also be good to make others feel shame. Which seems (to me) totally wrong and un-Buddhist.

    In Buddhism, no teaching is used to apply it on one's neighbour, except for loving-kindness, compassion and sympathetic joy.

    It is a path of self-development, and I have every right to measure my own progress but not judge and condemn what my neighbour chooses to do.

    "Fix not your gaze upon the ill words and deeds of others, upon what others do or leave undone.
    Look rather at what by yourself is done or left undone."

    (Dhammapada, v. 50)

    lobsterrobotzenguitarboobysattva
  • I have read that rejoicing at doing good things increases the good karma and regretting bad things mitigates the negative karma.

    lobsterRowan1980zenguitarboobysattva
  • zenguitarzenguitar Bad Buddhist New England Veteran

    @DhammaDragon said:
    It is a path of self-development, and I have every right to measure my own progress but not judge and condemn what my neighbour chooses to do.

    Yep, of course, that's what Jesus said too ("Judge not lest ye be judged" and so forth). But many Christians ignore this. :unamused:

  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran

    @zenguitar said:
    By the way, I have no idea where this list of 51 Mental Formations comes from originally, it just appears on the website without any real explanation. Hmm :confounded:

    It's from the "Abhidharma". :)

  • zenguitarzenguitar Bad Buddhist New England Veteran

    Thanks @seeker242 !

  • @DhammaDragon i tried to both awesome and insightful your post but the system allows only one or the other. Take your pick :)
    Buddhadragon
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