धारणात् खनकस्यापि धरण्या इव नि:समा ।
स्वापराधिषु या क्षान्ति: स धर्म: परमो नृणाम् ॥
To bear with those who revile us, just as the earth bears up those who dig it, is the greatest of virtues.
विरोधिष्वपकर्तृणां तिष्ठेदेकदिनं सुखम् ।
परद्रोहसहिष्णूनं यावज्जीवं भवद्यश: ॥
The joy of the vengeful lasts only for a day, but the glory of the forbearing lasts until the end of time.
Forgiveness is an odd word. The word sounds like “forever give”, or give forever, something that goes against our basic tendency of selfishness. The very reason why we get hurt, or angry, is because someone pricks our sense of self, our ego, our ahankara. Retaliation is a natural reflex, since it helps us get over the hurt – you hurt me so I will hurt you back. It gives us a sense of satisfaction, that the act didn’t go unpunished. Further, it appeals to our basis sense of fairness – we do not like to be treated unfairly.
So, when retaliating has so many ‘benefits’, why forgive?
We humans are complex characters. We hurt each other, and we get hurt too. Sometimes, inadvertently, sometimes, on purpose.
Forgiveness doesn’t come naturally to us, since it boils down to ‘us vs them’.
Spiritual practitioners however, are different. The deeper they go, the more they realise that the sense of self is an illusion – maya – and that at a spiritual level, we are all the same. Forgiveness becomes easier for them, since it is no more about someone external, rather, it is about forgiving an aspect of themselves.
But we are not there yet, so it is difficult for us.
The wise say that committing a sin is inherent in life – you cannot escape it. When you perform an action, there are bound to be consequences, good and bad. When you eat food, you kill a plant. When you walk on grass, you squash the insects that hide within. Even the noblest of intentions can have unintended consequences.
So how do we go about it? It is not a sudden process – you cannot become all-forgiving just after reading this article, or any scripture or holy book. It is a state of mind – cultivated through practice, through inner transformation. Start small – the small bits of anger, the smaller hurts that you encounter – forgive immediately. It will feel hard to let go, but when you do, you will genuinely feel lighter.
Progress slowly on this path – but make a conscious effort every time. Ask forgiveness on a regular basis, during your prayers. Not just by speaking it, but by feeling it.
Distance yourself from your negative emotion – when you feel anger rising in you, don’t let it seize you – instead, try to observe the stimuli – your hands may start to sweat, you will feel warmer, your pulse will rise, your ability to think clearly will be replaced with a burst of testosterone to face the ‘danger’ in front of you….recognise these symptoms and slowly count from 1 to 10 – breathe in deeply when doing so. You will see your anger beginning to subside.
This is one part of it. The second part of it is to think again of the situation, from a third person’s perspective. Would that third person find you at fault? If yes, then you are in the wrong and need to seek forgiveness. If not, then you have to learn to let go. Either way, you win.
As the Bhagavad Gita says – practice nishkama -karma – selfless action, svadhyaya – introspection and cultivate humility, detachment and dispassion. These will help you let go of the selfishness and the ego that gets hurt…As you practice forgiveness, you will realise that you are progressing towards something much better than the momentary feeling of false victory that you felt when you hit back…that feeling was fleeting, this feeling is long-lasting. It helps you become a better person, and in time, helps you lead a calmer, more composed and more fulfilling life.