Starting over with a clean slate

Hi everyone,

‘Slate’ is a board (usually made of porcelain enamel), the surface of which is used for chalk-writing. Wiping the board to write new stuff on it is “starting over with a clean slate”. This expression is often used to refer to circumstances when someone starts his life all over again, such as when an ex-convict who has just been released starts his life over.

More significant than to our material life, ‘Starting over with a clean slate’ is essential to our spiritual and psychological life.

Psychologically, to some extent we all have experienced the “obsession of guilt”. From time to time we may commit a misdeed, and that mistake may haunt us many years to come, and may governs our thoughts and actions in many life circumstances. People with a very strong obsession of guilt may have a psychological disorder called OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder — an obsession of guilt so strong that it compels the patient to do certain things).

Our sin or, to be more precise, our sense of guilt, oftentimes haunts and burdens us emotionally. It suffocates us, takes away our freedom, and stunts our growth. This is probably why children are in general more confident than adults. Children have a ‘clean slate’, while the adults’ plates are filled with faults, wrongdoings and defeats. For that reason, grown-ups are obsessed with their failures, which in turn strip them of confidence. The more mistakes they make, the more self-doubt they inflict upon themselves. The longer they live, the longer is the list of failures, the greater is the loss of confidence. Thus, many people become less confident as they grow older.

A solution to this problem of “the longer you live, the more failures you have, the more self-doubting you are” is to start over with a clean slate, to erase all past defeats written on the board. This means we have to know how to let all the dead leaves of this year fall, and next year all we have are new spring leaves.

Christian theology brings “the cleaning of the slate” to the pinnacle of the human thinking. Jesus Christ made atonement for the humankind by going down into the world and sacrificing his own life to be killed on the cross, and thereby exonerating all humans from their sins no matter how great a sin one has committed. ‘A clean slate’ is a present from Jesus to every of us. It is up to us to accept or reject the gift. And we accept Jesus’ gift by our faith in Jesus. (Note: Faith in Jesus doesn’t necessarily equate with “following Christianity, Protestant, Orthodox, etc.”, which is a common misconception among Christians).

When we receive the ‘clean slate’ gift from Jesus Christ, we can start over with a clean slate. This positive trait explains why it is Protestant culture the most positive culture the world over (in terms of spirituality, politics, economics, etc.), because the Protestants place great emphasis on the notion of being ‘born again in Christ’ – starting over with a clean slate.

For our psychological life, we need to know how to start over again with a clean slate like that. Everyday we might do a couple of foolish things, so you can count how many stupid things we will have done after a year! By the next 20, 30 years, we will have already an uncountable number of wrongdoings and mistakes. If we don’t know how to ‘clean the slate’, we will be put into despair by our list of foolish deeds.

How can we have a clean slate at the start of each day?

If you are a Christian, you can sincerely apologize to God every night, and you can start fresh the next morning with a clean slate.

But what if you are not a Christian? What can erase the slate for us every night then?

Ladies and Gentlemen, we can practice to the highest degree the Buddhist teaching of non-attachment. If you unwittingly said something wrong, and if you need to apologize and rectify your wrongdoing, then do it! However, regardless of whether you’ve got a chance to say sorry, what was said was said, and it has vanished into thin air, and has become a puff of cloud of the past; there is no reason to ‘be attached’ to it, so that it keeps on bothering you. Take a minute to repent, and then move on to live here and now, without attachment to the past. That’s the way the Zen masters clean their slate. Non-attchment! Don’t be attached to your own mistakes.

All the actions of yesterday are but memories. Let memories fly into the sky of souvenirs. No need to harbor them.

Each day we do a couple of things stupid. They are the dead leaves. Let them fall freely, and don’t hang on to them, so that we can start a new day with a pure and new slate.
Don’t carry on your shoulder the baggage of mistakes made in the past.

A new day, a new sun, a new pure heart.

Wish you a pure day!



(Translated by Hồ Kính Đạt)

Original article: Bắt đầu lại với tấm bảng sạch

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