Overcoming the Past

Interactive Vedanta Discourse followed by a vegan potluck dinner


How do the effects of our past actions express in the present?
Can we undo existing negative effects with positive actions in the present?
Can we mitigate future negative effects with positive actions in the present?
When we recognize that we have harmed another, what is our responsibility to make amends, or ‘pay back’?
What is the role of spiritual practice in overcoming negativities accrued from past actions?


Join Glen and Nathalie from Vedanta Institute LA for a discussion on how our past actions effect our present and future. Be prepared to question! The discussion will be followed by a vegan potluck.

Date: Sunday June 12th

Time: 4:00pm

Location: Studio City

For more info: Info@vedantala.org · 310-612-5464

4:15  Discourse
5:30  Breakout: Question formulation
6:30  Big Group Discussion
7:00  Dinner (Bring a dish...)

Question & Answer Session

Q: At what point in spiritual development is one selfless enough that receiving amends is no longer necessary?

Spiritual development is marked by the reduction of ego and egocentric attachments.  To be attached to various aspects of life is to be dependent upon them for our sense of identity or well-being.  When the attachment relationship is threatened or impinged upon, we become affected and need others to make amends with us because we cannot rise above their actions on our own. The more strongly attached we are, the more easily and severely we are offended or hurt.  When we mature beyond egocentric attachments we develop self-sufficiency, the ability to accommodate life's changes and challenges on our own, without the need for external help.

For example: if I am attached to my political views or affiliation, I feel harmed or diminished in some way when another criticizes them.  I can only forgive and move on when the other offers a sincere apology.  If I am unattached, I recognize each one's freedom to hold and express their own views, remaining unaffected by even the most vitriolic attack on the values I cherish.  I may choose to engage with the other's views or remain silent, but in either case I am unaffected and without animosity towards the other person.  See a related topic discussion here.

Q: If a person has evolved to a state where she no longer need others to make amends with her, what are her responsibilities towards someone who is attempting to make amends?

If we need nothing from the other person, then we are free to act in the best interests of the person and the relationship.  Our duty is to investigate what the situation demands in order to promote harmony within the relationship, and to support the other to mature beyond the immaturity or weakness that led to their actions in the first place.  With genuine humility & compassion we adopt the other's perspective and ask, What can I offer this person to support their growth and well-being?  How can I help to re-establish and maintain harmony between us?

Q: "Making amends only has value if it is part of the larger project of self-development."  Explain this larger project.

If we are making amends to others, it is because we recognize an earlier wrongdoing on our part.  However, it is possible that we seek to make amends solely to assuage the unpleasant sense of guilt or grief we are feeling.  A genuine apology encompasses not only the (healthy) desire to rid ourselves of negative emotions, but the desire and conviction to remove the cause of wrongdoing in the first place.  It is our intellectual and moral immaturity that leads us to make poor choices, choices that we later regret.  Self-development is a life-long project that we embark upon to gradually overcome the limitations and weaknesses that influence against our own best interests and well-being.  See a related topic discussion here.

Q: When two people engage in shared experiences and actions, does each one experience the effects of only their own causes, or the effects of both people's causes?

One will only experience the effects of their own causes. A mango seed can never produce a coconut tree, even if both trees are planted next to one another in exactly the same soil. One will only experience the effects of the causes that they put in. Two people could engage in the same action, but with completely different intentions, and thus will experience two different consequent effects. Due to the fact that every person has a different causal body, different vasanas, no two people can experience the world in the same way.

Q: Why would we feel guilty after performing an action that we believed was the right thing to do at the time?

If one feel’s guilty or a sense of regret after an action, it would be a symptom that the intellect was not available at the time of action. Therefore, the belief that the action was right was merely the influence of the minds desire. At the time of acting, the mind wanted to perform the action, and the intellect was not strong enough to analyze and govern the mind’s desire.  In this situation, the minds desire for the action could have been so strong that the emotion of the mind actually held the mind hostage. Yielding to pressure of the emotion, the intellect reasoned in a circle. Though it may have seemed at the time that you came to a rational conclusion that the action was the right thing to do, the sense of righteousness in action was just the minds justification. Once the intellect became available after some time, that is when the sense of guilt would arise.