Forgiveness is fundamental for spiritual growth. Without it there could be no progress and no attainable goal. Through the teachings of the saints we know that we have been incarcerated in this creation, reincarnating life after life into different forms and that all these forms are on the road to death as soon as they are born.
We are currently trapped in the human form, which will last for a short while until we die and the soul moves on. In this continuous process, because we act and then react to the situations we find ourselves in, we create a mass of karma, which is the balance sheet of our debts and credits at any time. Life after life we engineer our future through the actions we take in the present, and in this way are wholly responsible for our destiny – no one else is to blame. Unfortunately, our balance sheets hold a large mass of creditors and we will have to give account to them all in some way. Alone, we are destitute and in irredeemable debt, and it is here that forgiveness plays its part. Maharaj Sawan Singh used to say that the law of karma is universally applicable, while forgiveness is the speciality of the saints.
That statement sheds the most revealing light on God’s plan for human redemption. If there were no forgiveness, or in other words, no divine intervention capable of releasing us from our debts, then there would be no possibility of the soul finding its way back to the Creator from whom it came so long ago. The well-known saying “To err is human, to forgive is divine”, also reveals the unique link between the soul erring or turning away from the Creator and the Creator providing a way to redemption through divine forgiveness. When we talk about the love of the Master or the love of the Lord, the very fact that we can do so and are now in contact with our home is a prime demonstration of that forgiveness.
So forgiveness is the essence of our relationship with the Lord and our Master, and whilst we are unable to experience the immensity of true divine love at this stage, we can see loving compassion at work in the living Master – in everything he says and does. The Master accepts us as his responsibility, complete with all our karmas and wayward characteristics. In essence, we were forgiven when the Master accepted us in the first place. We should now follow the example of his love and express our gratitude to him through our daily actions.
If we wish to experience the full effect of the love and forgiveness of the Creator, we must invoke that forgiveness, when initiated, by attending to our meditation – two and a half hours every day, without fail. The reason for the meditation is first to keep the mind from wandering out into the creation by use of the repetition of the five holy names, or simran. By this means, we focus our whole attention at the eye centre and collect it there. In time, this will allow the concentrated mind to catch the sound current, the Shabd within. The second part of the meditation period is listening for that sound.
When discussing prayer, the Masters say that meditation is automatically a prayer for forgiveness and is wholly acceptable to the Lord. Our meditation has the practical effect of making us receptive to the forgiveness of the Lord and is the way that he himself has established for us to seek forgiveness, as opposed to the mere repetition of words. Meditation is the daily active proof that we are serious about achieving our goal and that we wish to please the Master. It demonstrates our true feeling in a much better way than chasing after the physical Master and all the other outward things that can so easily become rituals. There is no need to heap praise on the Master and beseech him to save us. Why not demonstrate to him that we are sincere by attending to our meditation in private as he asks us to do?
The physical Master is the signpost to the true Master within, the Shabd. If we do not digest this fact and act accordingly, then we are not helping the Master in his work. His work is to see us home, and for that to happen, the soul’s load of karmas must be eradicated through contact, at a higher level, with the Shabd. No wonder the Master urges us to attend to meditation – we must reach that point where the Shabd can wash us clean. We must allow ourselves to be fully forgiven.
As we continue on the path, year after year, attending to all our duties, so our conduct in the world should change to reflect our progress. We will become more genuinely loving, more contented, more placid, more responsible, more forgiving to others. We can accelerate this process by understanding and practising some of these attributes so that they start to become part of our nature.
Practising forgiveness by attending to small issues with compassion and understanding will encourage this characteristic to grow in us to the level where we feel compassion for the condition of all souls caught in this trap of illusion. All are struggling souls like us, all seeking happiness and peace – most looking in the wrong direction and seeking it in the creation, when all the time it is within. What greater tragedy, what greater cause of sorrow and misunderstanding can there be? Knowing this, we can hardly criticize others – but we still do, and are diminished by doing so. Why are we so lacking in compassion for others and why do we fail in our duty to render loving help when we have received so much kindness from the Master? He has accepted us and loves us even though we are besmirched with all our negative features. This should prompt us to find just an iota of the love we have received and dispense it to others by way of understanding, compassion and practical help.
So forgiveness and compassion go hand in hand and are a divine blessing to all. As these characteristics develop in us so we will become more detached and merciful.
“The person of a forgiving nature is calm, humble, patient and forbearing,” explains Maharaj Sawan Singh in Philosophy of the Masters Vol. III. These characteristics are beloved of the Master, so we can quietly try to practise them. There, within the inner sanctum of our hearts, the Master will see our sincere efforts and the desire to change, and he will be pleased.
This is the highest knowledge and the most useful lesson – to have true understanding and small opinion of oneself. To hold no high opinion of oneself, and always to judge well and highly of others, is great wisdom and high perfection. If you should see another openly do wrong, or commit some grievous sins, you should not reckon yourself better than he, because you do not know how long you may be able to continue in integrity. We are all frail, but you must not count anyone more frail than yourself.
Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ