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Fear of Wrongdoing

Posted: Sun Dec 02, 2012 4:14 am
by convivium
Problematic or essential? Both?

Re: Fear of Wrongdoing

Posted: Sun Dec 02, 2012 5:07 am
by Ben
Its merely an artefact of practice, when practice is going well.
Hiri and Otapa manifest naturally - without effort.

Traditionally, the way one can tell an ariya is through his or her conduct.
When one becomes a sotapanna, sila is from then on pure.

Re: Fear of Wrongdoing

Posted: Sun Dec 02, 2012 5:31 am
by convivium
The Buddha points to two mental qualities as the underlying safeguards of morality, thus as the protectors of both the individual and society as a whole. These two qualities are called in Pali hiri and ottappa. Hiri is an innate sense of shame over moral transgression; ottappa is moral dread, fear of the results of wrongdoing. The Buddha calls these two states the bright guardians of the world (sukka lokapala). He gives them this designation because as long as these two states prevail in people's hearts the moral standards of the world remain intact, while when their influence wanes the human world falls into unabashed promiscuity and violence, becoming almost indistinguishable from the animal realm (Itiv. 42) ( ... ay_23.html" onclick=";return false;).

Re: Fear of Wrongdoing

Posted: Sun Dec 02, 2012 5:32 am
by Digity
convivium wrote:Problematic or essential? Both?
Essential. How is fear of wrongdoing problematic?

Re: Fear of Wrongdoing

Posted: Sun Dec 02, 2012 6:02 am
by danieLion
Reverend Thanissaro wrote:You have to make a distinction between feeling ashamed about yourself and ashamed about particular actions. Remember Rahula was a member of the noble warrior caste. If anybody had a sense of pride it would be that caste. And they also had the strongest sense of shame, that certain acts were not up to their standards. And so you're not dumping on yourself because you're a bad person but saying "I made a mistake. That is not up to my standards." So it that case the shame is not debilitating. It actually helps you to reflect on what you did wrong.
From: Iddhipada: The Bases For Success (Part 2)

See also:

Re: Fear of Wrongdoing

Posted: Sun Dec 02, 2012 7:23 am
Ben :goodpost: :anjali:

Is SN Buddha said that fear of wrong doing, or shame is good sign. But it's just a sign. The one have to use his wisdom and practice to heal it.

In medecine, often, the problem is not to heal the illness, but find exactly what to heal. One member of my family died, because the illness was identifyed wrongly.

Actualy, this consciosness of wrong doing is good.
Because is the sign that you and wrong doing are different, there is difference between you and wrong doing, separation. Due to this separation - consciosness arise.
It seems to me that every practitioner, was be afraid of wrong doing.

Best wishes. :anjali:

Re: Fear of Wrongdoing

Posted: Sun Dec 02, 2012 7:27 am
by Ben
DAWN wrote:Ben :goodpost: :anjali:
Thanks! and :goodpost: :anjali: - to you too!
with metta,


Re: Fear of Wrongdoing

Posted: Sun Dec 02, 2012 8:27 am
by convivium
Consider the following example of how these things might be more then just "signposts" or manifestations of "practice": If I am about to do something impulsively that I've done 10,000 times before, I could bring to mind the results of the action (whether intuitively or contemplatively) and cultivate a sense of fear that they happen again. This would cut that impulsion short. In this context, fear becomes a catalyst for Wisdom and concentration by way of strengthening one's Sila. Fear is a base emotion that operates at the same frequency (to use a metaphor) of base passions. I'm not a psychologist but it seems like an intuitive principle of conditioning. If you give me a cookie (the products of sila), then i'll do something. Or, if you make me terrified of the tazor (hiri and ottapa), then I won't do something. That Thanissaro talk is useful, as most of his talks are. thanks everyone

Re: Fear of Wrongdoing

Posted: Sun Dec 02, 2012 8:50 am
by Ben
Thanks for raising that issue, convivium.
Some words don't translate well. 'Moral Shame', 'Fear of Wrongdoing', 'Revulsion of Nutriment', 'Knowledge of Terror' seem to be at odds with calm, insight and equanimity one normally associates with Buddhist practice. However, the affective experience is not rooted in aversion or some other gross mind state, but equanimity and insight.
kind regards,


Re: Fear of Wrongdoing

Posted: Sun Dec 02, 2012 8:53 am
by convivium
However, the affective experience is not rooted in aversion or some other gross mind state, but equanimity and insight.
Could you explain this sentence further? Thanks for your consideration!

Re: Fear of Wrongdoing

Posted: Sun Dec 02, 2012 9:15 am
by Ben
I'm not sure whether there is anything I can add - I'm speaking partly from my own experience.
Moral Shame and Fear of Wrongdoing are not just intellectual exercises in linking cause and probable effect.
They are, like samvega, wholesome artefacts that arise when you begin to penetrate the nature of nama and rupa.
They also protect as one continues to practice.
kind regards,


Re: Fear of Wrongdoing

Posted: Tue Dec 04, 2012 5:20 pm
M. Walshe.DN16 Mahaparinibbana sutta

I will tel you another seven things conducive to wellfare... As long as monks continue with faith, with modesty, with fear of doing wrong, with learning, with aroused vigour, with established mindfulness, with wisdom...

Re: Fear of Wrongdoing

Posted: Mon Sep 16, 2013 9:37 am
by SomaW
I can give a real-life example of this process: first some background: I am a 66 year old woman, married for 35 years to my best friend who is also a practitioner. We live near to two Theravadin monasteries and make our spiritual community with them, especially the female one (because it is my heart's preference).

The problem, or 'incident':

Four years ago, I made a painful error of insulting my stepdaughter in front of her husband and three small children (ages 5,7,9).

The reason: I had felt insulted because they had just arrived at our door for thanksgiving dinner, and I was standing in the entrance, to greet and be greeted; the Dad was hanging up each child's coat.
My stepdaughter, instead of greeting me in any way, began to pull out of her bag two electronic games toys to give her two older children. As she brought them out, the boy immediately turned his on and began to play. He wanted to engage his mother in the play, and she, instead of saying: "later....let's say hello to grandma now" immersed in the game with him; then her older daughter came and wanted to play with her mother too. The three of them were totally engrossed in playing games for several long minutes, then moved past me into the body of the house, to continue playing.

I was so insulted at what seemed to be almost an aggressive act on their part (an act of ignoring me), that I blurted out: "Chris (Dad's name) you sometimes feel like you have 4 children instead of 3?"

He chuckled and mumbled an agreement.

Well my stepdaughter, being a very sensitive person who never speaks out, not to defend herself nor express an opinion, grew silent. Throughout the day, she retreated from me as far as physically (and mentally) possible, occupied herself solely with the children.

Three weeks later, my husband phoned his daughter to ask when we might visit their house for Christmas. She in no uncertain terms told him that I was not welcome in her home, not for "awhile" anyway.

Thus began form me a 2-year exile from them, as the "awhile" kept stretching out. My dear husband so wanted to spend time with his daughter and grandchildren, but felt he could not go there without me, perpetuating this anger/retaliation syndrome.

I took my pain/anger/shame to my teacher, who told me about heri-otapa, describing it as "becoming aware of a wrongdoing on my part, and the promise and effort to not ever do this again".

Somehow, I misunderstood the teaching and became entangled in a ball of self-hatred. Another student who came in February to take her turn cooking at this hermitage, as I was leaving my one-week stay, noticed my pain and mentioned it aloud, saying I seemed to be caught in an attitude of "self-loathing". I agreed, but was unable to escape it.

My mind tortured over this for a long, long time. It is now almost 4 years since that incident, and things have healed considerably. I am no longer 'in exile'. But I must admit that I gave a lot of thought to historical figures like Napoleon in his exile on an island, and also to a religious custom among Mennonites? Quakers?.... who punish an offending member of a community by "shunning".

I felt initially that this was going to kill me.

...and it almost did. A year and a half later, my own dear mother died from a stroke she had sustained 6 years earlier. Stepdaughter did come with her husband and children to the funeral, and even gave me a rather bit of a hug (although I felt no warmth in it).

A year and a half after that, I suffered a heart attack (minor, didn't damage the heart) followed by excellent surgery, from which I am now recovering nicely.

I really need to understand and practice this 'heri otapa'.

Today, I needed, here, to make a confession of it. When I was a Catholic child, I found the confessional box to bring great relief and wished today that Buddhism would have something similar.

Perhaps this forum is my confessional box at this moment.

Thank you for listening, and may everyone practice hard, and be blessed in dhamma wisdom and understanding.