The only way to change the past is in the present.
The only way to shape the future is in the present.
A participant at one of our meditation retreats was an American who fought in the Vietnam War. This former soldier suffered a lot. One day during the war, he found out that many of his friends had been killed by guerillas. He was overcome by tremendous anger and wanted to avenge his friends, so he put explosives in some sandwiches and left them at the entrance to a village. Some children found these tasty-looking sandwiches, and they ate them. These children writhed and screamed in pain, and finally died, right before their parents’ eyes. The young man went back to America, but that day continued to haunt him. He was unable to find peace, and he could not stand being in a room with children. This went on for years.
When I met this man during the retreat, I told him that transformation was possible. ‘You killed five children, that’s a reality.’ I said to him. ‘Each of these children is ‘crying’ right now in every cell of your body. I know that. That’s why you have no peace. So you must continue to look more deeply. Children are dying right now, as we speak, because of war. They are dying for lack of food and medicine at this very moment, and you can do something to help these children. Why do you remain immobilized, dwelling on your guilt and pain? You are intelligent. You know that every day forty thousand children die of malnutrition. You can do something. You can save a child, two children, five children, every day. You must find the will to live a new way. You have to make a fresh start.’
He made the decision to devote his life to helping children, and the moment he decided to live a new way, the wound in him began to heal. Beginning anew is a wonderful practice. We can practice beginning anew. We can always start over. With the help of deep looking, we can illuminate the present and gain a better understanding of the past. The past is within our reach, and we can transform it through meditation [and action].