You could say Enlightened people make mistakes, but you could also say Enlightened people don’t make mistakes. What is a mistake? I looked it up and saw “an action or judgment that is wrong.” But what is wrong? How is wrongness determined?
For example, when we learned how to walk, we fell many times. Falling could be considered the effect of a mistake (some might even call falling itself the mistake). Falling however is a part of the process of learning a new skill and so is it really a mistake or could it really be considered wrong? We might have fallen a hundred times before mastering the skill of walking. Would you count that as a hundred failures…a hundred mistakes?
An Enlightened person would not see any of the hundred falls as mistakes or failures. They were necessary in learning how to walk. But as adults, we like critiquing and judging…and we have some deluded ideas that missteps should never happen. There are many that would beat themselves up for each failing (or falling) while learning how to do most anything. They have forgotten what is was like when they learned to walk.
If you have ever tried to learn to do something or if you have ever taken a risk, then you have experienced “failure”. But is it really failure? We want to label those missteps as failures or mistakes, but they are simply missteps on the way to mastering walking.
Many millionaires have experience bankruptcy many times and multiple failed businesses. Often the most successful people are the ones who committed the most mistakes…they failed more. They kept trying and eventually got it. Just like walking, riding a bike, or anything else. You have to be willing to fail…repeatedly…to gain mastery. If you don’t fail, you are not trying.
But why even label or judge each misstep as a failure or mistake at all? Why not just take it in stride as part of the learning process? Why beat yourself up for missteps? Why not just recognize the misstep and try again with course correction?
In this way, be like a child learning how to walk. You take a couple of shaky steps and fall on your butt, but laugh and smile at the achievement. Each time you get up and try again, and you will see over time that you walk farther and farther.
With this view, how could you feel regret? Feeling sad and disappointed and perhaps beating yourself up over every misstep…what good will this do? Will this self-inflicted suffering help you in any way? Will self-flagellation help you learn faster? Of course not. The unnecessary pressure destroys the joy of learning (and the accomplishments along the way) and in fact could make learning take more time.
Everyone acts according to their current understanding.
If at some point in the future, a greater understanding dawns…would regretting the previous decision change anything? You now have a different understanding and given the same situation, you would choose differently. So you are learning to navigate this situation. There is no reason to beat yourself up over a prior misstep.
If a greater understanding has not dawned, then you still think you did the right thing and would have no reason to regret. We only regret past actions after greater understanding/wisdom dawns (after we have learned)…but why regret the past decision/action at all and instead accept it as part of the learning process?
Even Enlightenment does not end the learning process. There is always the possibility for a deepening of understanding/realization. Enlightenment does not make you all knowing and a master of everything. If you don’t know how to ride a bicycle before Enlightenment, you will still not know how to ride a bicycle after Enlightenment.
What will be different though, is that while learning how to ride a bicycle…Enlightened people would not beat themselves up over every fall and regret their inability to keep their balance. There is no point. Instead, they would be more likely to be smiling with glee every time they are able to make it a few feet on their own. Eventually, bike riding would be mastered.
Regret is an unnecessary suffering that we inflict on ourselves. Regret is about the past. Actually, regret is not only about accepting the past, but also accepting the present state of the moment. Regret is the denial of the learning process…and the belief that no missteps should ever happen. Regret is a kind of “I should have known better”…but the fact is you did not know better and that is why you decided or acted as you did. If you had known better, you would have decided or acted differently.
I have no regrets. If I could live my life over, I would not change anything. I realize that all my prior experiences (that could be labeled good or bad) have created my present situation. The things that I have mastered (or at least adept with) today are based on the missteps of yesterday while learning those things. I totally accept it. I am content with my present situation. I am at peace. I have not mastered everything, nor do I have to be a master already. There will be further missteps. Any missteps in areas of life that are not yet mastered are taken in stride…as part of the process to mastery.