Seventy Times Seven
When we were children, it was common to have petty quarrels with our siblings and friends. We would get angry, maybe even call each other names, and at times our teachers or parents would intervene. It was easy in those days to say, “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you”. Our squabbles were soon forgotten and we became good friends once again. Things, however, have become more complicated now that we are adults. Arguments and disagreements leave us heavy hearted, angry and resentful, sometimes severing relationships completely.
Often, when hurtful words are exchanged, the ego is offended and we feel the need to retaliate or take revenge. But, in the midst of a heated argument, an inner voice urges us to keep calm, and our conscience reminds us: “If there is one fool under a roof, then there is no necessity for two.” Yet, we ignore it. We allow ourselves to react, determined to have the last word. And at what cost? Not only do we disturb our peace of mind by engaging in one of the negative passions – anger – we also incur heavy karma by hurting another child of God. And when it is all over, where do we stand? Burdened with regret.
It takes great effort to try and remedy such conflicts; it is easier to hold a grudge. But we all know what the Master would want us to do – apologize and ask for forgiveness. Hazur Maharaj Ji says it very clearly:
If ego is in your way, you don’t want to bend before him, you don’t want to apologize, then you won’t be able to clear it by meditation.
Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III
Christ very beautifully explains in the Bible that we should ask for forgiveness “seventy times seven” times. In other words, there is no limit to the number of times we should ask for forgiveness. We need to keep knocking on the Lord’s door for forgiveness, until we are forgiven, not allowing the ego to stand in our way. The Great Master once explained that only a brave man knows how to forgive; it is beyond the power of a weak person.
Every day when we sit for meditation, we are asking the Lord for forgiveness for the sins we have committed over innumerable lifetimes. Saints and mystics point out that if we want the Lord to forgive us, then we should imbibe humility in our hearts by asking for forgiveness for our mistakes and also by learning to forgive others for their mistakes. For the love of the Lord to manifest in our lives, we need to develop the qualities of love, humility and mercy. By doing so, we prepare a place in our hearts where we can experience his presence. The Lord is always forgiving and drawing us towards himself, but if we have anger and negative feelings for others, when we sit for meditation those disturbing thoughts haunt us.
We need only to look at the Masters as perfect examples of compassion and forgiveness. Once a sevadar who had a dispute with another approached Sardar Bahadur Ji to ask for justice. Sardar Bahadur Ji smiled and said: “This commodity is not available here.” The sevadar once again insisted and asked for things to be set right. Sardar Bahadur Ji responded: “Justice is not available here. In Hazur Maharaj Ji’s court nothing is available except mercy and grace.”
If our Master can forgive us for all the failures that we bring to him, then our forgiveness and tolerance for others should be boundless. As disciples of a perfect Master, our conduct and behaviour towards others should be such that the Lord always smiles upon us. The heavy burden of karma we have accumulated over innumerable lifetimes stands between the Lord and us. Through our spiritual practice and by following the teachings, we avoid creating additional negative karmas.
As we attend to our meditation, through the cleansing power of the Shabd, the negative passions of ego and anger are gradually replaced with humility and forgiveness. And when our hearts are filled with love, harsh words and conflicts do not affect us. We learn to respond to every situation with calmness and compassion seventy times seven.
O beloved Lord, redeemer of the fallen,
While under your shelter I have committed many sins.
Eating, drinking, talking or walking – At all times I commit bad deeds.
Only your mercy can liberate me.
Sahjobai, Voice of the Heart