Forgiveness Works Both Ways
Forgiveness works in two directions. In our lifetime there will be occasions which call on us to forgive others for wrongs committed against us. Equally, there is a need for us to ask forgiveness of others and from the Lord for wrongs that we have perpetrated. In Message Divine we read, “One who cheerfully forgives the mistakes of others can also hope for the forgiveness of his own faults from the Lord.” Let’s take both these conditions – being forgiving and asking forgiveness – to see what we can learn.
I forgive you
“I forgive you” can be a hard thing to say – and is even harder to genuinely put into practice. Maharaj Sawan Singh says in Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. III: “Kshama or forgiveness means to forgive the faults of others, and to have no thought of it in the mind thereafter.” So to forgive means to let go of the memory of the hurt – not to hold on to any part of it but to be as if the hurt had never happened. Maharaj Charan Singh, writing in Divine Light, advises us, “Many things do happen in this world and we are naturally perturbed over the wrongs done to us. The best remedy to shake off brooding over them is to forgive and forget.”
This is easier to practise if our attitude to life is stoical rather than based on desire and expectation. Epictetus, the Greek philosopher who is known for his advice on cultivating a serene attitude towards things that are beyond our control, said:
Seek not that the things which happen should happen as you wish;
but wish the things which happen to be as they are,
and you will have a tranquil flow of life.
It is ultimately we who are the losers if we are unable to take this advice. “Forgive others” says Maxwell Maltz, the American writer of a celebrated self-help manual. “Do it not only for their sake, but for your own. If you don’t, you will feel within you a nauseating resentment, destroying you from within.” And Maharaj Charan Singh says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III: “If you’re angry with somebody, if you have a spirit of revenge against somebody, you can’t live with yourself at all. You’re unhappy with yourself. You don’t actually hurt the other person, you hurt yourself more.”
How can we best follow the advice to forgive and forget when we may have been badly hurt? Robert Muller, a twentieth-century peace activist, suggests a positive, proactive approach: “Be the first to forgive, to smile and take the first step, and you will see happiness bloom.… Do not wait for others to forgive, for by forgiving, you become the master of fate, the fashioner of life, the doer of miracles. To forgive is the highest, most beautiful form of love.” And Maharaj Charan Singh advises a two-pronged approach, starting with controlling our thoughts and emotions through reason. He writes in Light on Sant Mat: “Self-control is emphasized in all paths, in all spiritual disciplines and in all religions. This should first be practised by exercising your will and firmness of mind, and realizing the evils and disadvantages of getting angry.”
If we could take our understanding of Sant Mat to a logical conclu-sion we would realize the truth of what Maharaj Sawan Singh says in The Dawn of Light, difficult though that may be:
Whatever good or bad happens to you, through whatever person or object, directly proceeds from our loving Father. All persons and objects are but tools in his hand. If an evil befalls you, think it as his greatest mercy.
Achieving this level of faith, a faith which will make it possible to forgive and forget the worst of hurts, may be well nigh impossible if we rely solely on reason. As satsangis we have a much more powerful tool. Maharaj Charan Singh says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III:
You see, if you keep your mind in simran and try to attach yourself to the spirit within, you will rise above these little things which unnecessarily perturb you and make you angry.
Please forgive me
In the book Living Meditation, the writer points out that we have got things back to front: “We forgive ourselves for our lack of effort [in meditation] yet we put no bridles on our anger towards the world. It should be just the opposite. If we need to be angry, we should be angry towards our mind.” Similarly, we are very conscious of those people in need of our forgiveness but perhaps blind to the things we have done for which we should be truly sorry. Maharaj Charan Singh advises in Quest for Light that we be alert to others’ feelings and that if we have done wrong, we should be prompt in seeking forgiveness: “If anyone feels that he has hurt someone’s feelings, he should immediately make amends by admitting his fault and asking for forgiveness from the injured person. In this way the clouds of guilt and uneasiness are lifted and love comes in.”
Sometimes there is more at stake than simply feelings. Our unwise actions can wreak material damage and there is no doubt that when we do things that harm others, we harm ourselves by adding to the already heavy burden of karma that we bear. We need not imagine that we can avoid the repercussions. Maharaj Charan Singh tells us:
Forgiveness we should not expect merely for the asking. If that were all so simple, we would go on committing all the sins and go on asking for forgiveness side by side. No, we cannot deceive the Lord like that. If a man commits murder and then asks for forgiveness when he is going to be hanged, nobody is going to forgive him then. He must reap what he has sown and pay for what he has done. This is the law of this world. There is only one way to clear all our sins and that is to attach our mind and soul to the Shabd which is ringing within us. It alone has the power and the quality of clearing off all sins and karmas. Therein lies the real forgiveness.
Quest for Light
So we have to be prepared to face the consequences whatever they be, and then make our peace with God. Just as, in trying to forgive, it is meditation or simran that will help us, so Maharaj Ji tells us: “Bhajan is the real repentance and this alone will obtain forgiveness.” He further says, “When an action has been performed, a deed committed, the only way to clear the burden is through bhajan and simran. It is the voice of the Lord within which purifies us and forgives us for what we have done.”
Though we should recognize where we have gone wrong, there is no need to indulge in guilt: “The Master does not necessarily punish our every wrong”, says Maharaj Charan Singh in Divine Light. “If our repentance is genuine and sincere, and we take to meditation heartily and eagerly, then he pardons us.”
He describes for us a loving heavenly Father who welcomes the return of the prodigal soul with open arms: “The Lord’s gate is always open. He is love and grace itself. Start anew with love, earnestness and a strong resolve. The Master … is all forgiveness.”
Getting a glimpse of the nature of his all-encompassing love and compassion should help to make us, in our small way, more tolerant and forgiving to our peers. Forgiveness works both ways.
Two friends, Bold and Faithful, walking by the riverside, started a quarrel in which Faithful eventually lost his temper and struck out at Bold. They soon made it up again but Bold felt hurt and, as they sat resting, he wrote in the sand, “Today my good friend struck me.”
Eventually the pair reached the bathing spot they had been looking for and went in for a dip. Unlucky Bold got into difficulties in the drifting water weed and could have drowned but for the resourceful Faithful who pulled him out. As he recovered from the near drowning, Bold scratched on a stone, “Today my good friend saved my life.”
Faithful asked, “After I hurt you, you wrote in sand and now you write on a stone. Why is that?” Bold replied, “Because when someone hurts us it should be written in sand where the wind will blow all memory of that hurt away. Writing in sand does not last. But when someone does something good for us we should engrave it on stone and remember it forever.”
Learn to write your hurts in the sand and to carve your blessings in stone.
Story by satsangi