Forgiveness is a complex human quality. The saints have preached its necessity, especially for those who are seeking spiritual liberation. In the book Mirdad it says:
Life is a fever of varying intensity and kinds, depending on each man’s obsession; and men are ever in delirium. Blessed are they who are delirious of Holy Freedom which is the fruit of Holy Understanding forgiveness.
Why do the saints put such importance on the trait of forgiveness? Because, our inability to forgive gives rise to intolerance, discord, resentment, criticism of others – all manifestations of anger and pride. These are all traits that we want to shed; we know they are not conducive to our meditation.
There will always be those who want to hurt us or whom we dislike, but the Master advises us to counter these feelings and mental habits with patience, understanding, kindness and forgiveness.
Often when we think of forgiveness, we are focused only on one aspect of it. We want to be forgiven. We want forgiveness for our karmas so that the coverings on our soul can be removed. Intuitively we understand that we have a great weight on our shoulders that prevents us from experiencing the Lord. So we ask him for forgiveness, perhaps even beg for it. Maharaj Charan Singh in a letter in Divine Light says:
I am glad that you have realized your mistake and have decided never to commit such a blunder again in the future. Genuine repentance and the sincere determination never to repeat the mistake is real forgiveness. Please forget totally what has happened.
So in asking the Lord for forgiveness, Hazur is suggesting that we not commit the “blunder” again, but that we also release the memory of that blunder, to “forget” it. Genuine repentance and forgiveness are two sides of the same coin. Not repeating the mistake is a basis for obtaining the forgiveness we seek. The replay of the “blunder” in our mind creates another mental attachment, which in turn keeps our mind from focusing on our bhajan and simran – the real road to repentance and forgiveness.
Not only should we beg the Lord for forgiveness of our sins, but we should also beg forgiveness from others whom we have harmed. And we should never hesitate to forgive those who have harmed us, even without their asking us for forgiveness. Why? Because ill will toward others can close our heart. If our heart is closed, our mental baggage keeps getting heavier. Instead of being able to sit for our spiritual practice with a peaceful mind, we may be assailed with the disturbances and upsets caused by our anger towards those who have harmed us; or we may fill our minds with justifications for why we hurt others.
The Gospel of Jesus acknowledges the contradiction, perhaps the impossibility, of becoming spiritually attuned while holding grudges against anyone:
First be reconciled to thy brother,
And then come and offer thy gift [meditation].
This verse doesn’t imply that we shouldn’t meditate if we haven’t sought forgiveness but rather, if we notice that the grudges we are holding against another come up when we meditate, it is a clue that we need to mend that grudge. In Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I, Hazur says, “As long as you have malice in your heart, or hatred against anybody, or ill-feelings, your prayer will never be accepted by the Lord.”
Forgiveness should be so complete that we forget that we have forgiven or that we were hurt in the first place.
We should even forget that we have forgiven…. Forget the incident, absolutely. We do forgive people, but we don’t forget that we have forgiven them. So a scar is always there. The wound is gone, but the scar is always there. We shouldn’t be conscious of even the scar.
Another suggestion of Hazur’s is to not react to other people in the first place. If we cannot forgive others, we may have to come back to forgive them. It is an attachment. We should just forgive those who have hurt us and call it quits, so to speak. Forgiveness is a process of letting go.
Maharaj Charan Singh says in Light on St. Matthew:
So in order to be receptive to his grace, if anybody asks for forgiveness, we should always readily forgive. And if somebody expects us to ask for forgiveness, we should never hesitate.
The saints have all described God as merciful, compassionate and forgiving. As we attempt to live a spiritual life dedicated to our meditation, we can seek forgiveness from those whom we have harmed, practise forgiveness for those who have harmed us, and ask forgiveness for what stands between the Master and us. True love of the Lord can then begin to emerge in us and we can become receptive to his grace and compassion. As Maharaj Sawan Singh says in Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. III:
The highest embellishment of forgiveness is the divine glory of the saints and they preach its practice…. The spirit of non- forgiveness is the chief cause of unrest in the world. Forgiveness is most sacred. By practising it, unrest disappears and man is saved from being burnt in the fire of anger. A man should, therefore, always practise forgiveness.
Great Master understands our condition here, that we may not automatically be able to forgive. That is why he says we should “practise” forgiveness. We must forgive over and over and over again.
If we cannot forgive, how can we expect to be forgiven? Without forgiveness we cannot escape from this world and its distractions. We are on a journey to our true home, and we must do what we can to drop our vice-like grip on those things that hold our attention here in the world. As Maharaj Charan Singh says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I, “So we seek his forgiveness, we seek his grace, that he should give us admission into his court and save us from all this misery.” Meditation will help us attain this.
Hazur has emphasized that real forgiveness is only attained by meditation. This is a basic “bottom line” of the path. Meditation is nothing but seeking his forgiveness.
Real forgiveness can only come from the Father by meditation. Clearing our karmic account is forgiveness. Eliminating the karmas that stand between us and the Father is all his forgiveness. When he wants to forgive us, he puts us on the path. He brings us into the company of the mystics. He gives us that environment where we can meditate. That is how he forgives us.
Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III
So ultimately, it is to our advantage to seek forgiveness, forgive others and to meditate. Hazur says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III, “The happiness you get by forgiving, you don’t get otherwise at all.” We are not only repenting for our own sins but we are opening our hearts and minds to the attributes of compassion and forgiveness that we can extend to others. We are letting go. Forgiveness is always best.
The soul cannot help but love its own origin. So we have to lift the weight of the senses, of the mind, of karmas or sins, before we can experience that love. And we feel real love when we go beyond the realm of mind and maya, when there are no coverings on the soul, when the soul shines, when it knows itself.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III