Why forgiveness should not be a conscious act

Updated: Oct 09, 2014, 09:05 AM IST

Rama Sreekant explores the secrets of the act of forgiveness

From times immemorial, rishis, sages, seers and life coaches have been trying to demystify the concept of forgiveness for humankind, in the hope of attaining spiritual growth.

Today's world is grappled with various lifestyle-related health and relationship issues, and unending desires—be it hoping to be promoted at the workplace, getting married to the love of your life, aspiring to be a CEO, expecting your child to be a top ranker...the list is endless—and in the midst of which, we tend to forget that as human beings we are bound to hurt those around us (at three levels—conscious, sub-conscious and unconscious), while trying to accomplish these very desires and goals. A simple 'I am sorry' and the story is forgotten.

Do not carry the baggage

In my opinion, the heaviest thing you carry in life is not your July Sale shopping bag or 10 kg dumb bells, but grudge. Grudge against your co-worker, your parents, your spouse, your teacher, your boss...and the weight of which can tremendously weigh you down. In Mahatma Gandhi's words, “Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong”. It's true. It requires a strong heart, strong spirit and a strong soul to truly forgive and let go—it's like setting a bird free from the cage.

In my understanding, forgiveness, is first and foremost important to keep your mind and soul, both healthy. Hate, resentment and revenge are not going to relieve your suffering or that of the person seeking forgiveness.  Anger and grudge are not only going to take away your peace of mind, energy and happiness but of the other person also; it is going to drive you to act in hurtful ways. It's a vicious circle. The only way to break it, is showing compassion and choosing forgiveness.

If you've paid attention in your history class, in school, you'd remember that Buddhist teachings emphasised a great deal on forgiveness and compassion. I recently read an article which offered Buddha's take on forgiveness in a whole new light. Buddha explains that everything in life is impermanent –every second of every minute, everything is new. It is very important to stay in the present, because if you are dwelling in the things that upset you in the past, you'll only find yourself filled with rancour and bitterness. But if everything is impermanent and always changing, then there is no need for forgiveness. You are not the same person that you were when you were ‘wronged’ by another, and they are no longer that same person who wronged you. Every minute you are learning and changing, and so are those around you. There are therefore no grudges that need to be held, and no regrets to hold either.

Being Aware

According to Aparna Shriram, an ardent devotee of Shri Kalki Bhagwan of Oneness University, “It is impossible to forgive a person, as an act of forgiveness. All that I have learned, understood and experienced is, when I go through a hurtful situation, all that I do at that moment is experience the hurt fully. It is akin to someone pricking you with a pin, all that is there is the pain from the prick. 

As human beings, we go through mixed emotions of anger, irritation, frustration when emotionally hurt. I experience it and go through it. Sometimes, it is so intense that it becomes physical pain. At Oneness, we have been taught to be aware of the hurt, be aware of extreme emotion of pain that we go through and stay there. If the mind throws up stories, be aware of the stories. And when we remain there, from that hurt arises forgiveness.

She adds, “Forgiveness is not a conscious act, but it happens when I experience the emotional pain, it happens as an outcome. Initially, this process used to take me an hour—to consciously sit down and go through the pain. But now it takes just a few seconds. I know am out of it because the charge is diffused and I do not hold the grudge. Sometimes, even the event is erased from the memory—that is the power of awareness.

In Aparna's words, “most of the hurts happen in intimate relations because there are expectations in these relationships”.

Giving an instance of a mother-daughter relationship, she shares, “If my mother feels she is the perfect mother and I am not as perfect as she expects me to be, so if she questions my ability and I get hurt, I would experience anger, which would result in anger, physical pain. If I focus on the pain, it would diffuse the charge.

Instead, if I weave stories, 'how dare she judge me, I can throw 100 instances when she has not been a perfect mother', it is not going to change anything. At Oneness, we are taught to stay in this pain. It doesn't happen overnight, it requires practise and contemplation.

I have done processes where I have been taken to past hurts. I saw a hurt when I was in 2nd standard and that hurt stayed with me, it became a part of my identity. So I went through the hurt and it helped me release myself from all judgements”.

It was not easy for Nelson Mandela to spend twenty-seven years in prison. It took twenty-seven years for him to be transformed from an angry, unforgiving young radical into an icon of reconciliation, forgiveness, and honor who could go on to lead a country back from the brink of civil war and self-destruction. Our suffering, our pain, and our losses have the power to transform us.


Pic courtesy: Thinkstock

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