In his poem “Call me by my true name,” Vietnam Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh speaks of his forgiveness practice. In the middle stanza (excerpted below) he speaks of boat people in the China Sea being robbed by pirates and an eleven-year old girl, after being raped, drowning herself in humiliation. To practice true forgiveness, the poet casts himself as the sea, the boat, the sea birds, the girl and the perpetrator—not condoning the action but forgiving the actor.
Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.
Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.
I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope.
I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate,
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.
My joy is like spring,
so warm it makes flowers bloom in all walks of life.
My pain if like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.
Please call me by my true names, so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.
Click here for the full poem.