Kripa, divine mercy, and why forgiveness is not divine

This is the second in a series of posts, which follows on from the post “Time: past, present, and future“. In the first post I described how God is inseparable from us.

Lord Shiva bestows blessings on a devotee

Lord Shiva bestows blessings on a devotee

Since God is within us all, he cannot help but show us mercy. When we are devoted to God we are rewarded by kripa (IAST: kṛpā), which can be translated as grace, or kindness. This amounts to removing karma that we have accrued, so that we do not have to face the consequences.

The interplay between karma and kripa can be looked at as a river.  The flow of the river is caused by our adharma (wrong actions). This flow takes us further from the source, God. When we worship God, his kripa will bring us back to the source, but if we are still living adharmically we will quickly washed away again. How many times have we felt the presence of God during worship or at the temple, but an hour later we feel distant again!

Karma, the world (maya) and anava (our ignorance) are also a gift from God, the environment where we can grow spiritually. This may seem strange at first, as many of our experiences don’t feel like gifts at the time, but ultimately they are. In Saiva Siddhanta we use the analogy of Pati-pashu-pasha, which is Tamil for master, cow, and tether, representing God, the soul, and the world. God guides the soul, using the world (karma, maya, and anava) to do so.

Is this divine grace and guidance a form of divine forgiveness for our transgressions? I have been contemplating this and I believe the answer is no, there is no divine forgiveness in Hinduism.

Forgiveness implies taking offence or being angry. God in Hinduism is all knowing and perfect. Since he never takes offence there is never a need to forgive, unless you look at it as everything being immediately forgiven. This may seem strange, as at times Hindus certainly ask for forgiveness, but I believe that it is really asking for help to move on from where we are and to learn. I see God as a parent, allowing a child to learn by their mistakes – having been told that if they don’t eat tea they will be hungry the parents may let them go hungry for an evening, but they don’t do this through anger or hatred but as part of guiding the child and helping them grow.

Several fellow Hindus have pointed out that this “asking for forgiveness” is part of forgiving ourselves. It is also a way to show remorse for wrong deeds, which is an essential part of hri, one of the essential rules of Hindu dharma. Knowing that God never holds a grudge, judges and is always with us is a great comfort to devotees. One convert to Hinduism writes:

This is the thing that keeps me affixed to this path. I had dealt with a lot of guilt and shame before finding sanatana dharma, and now I think I have a much healthier way to look at and deal with the “mistakes” I make in my life. It’s a wonderfully freeing feeling, to leave a tradition that tells me I’m inherently bad, and go to one that tells me that I’m inherently good, and that missteps are just the ways in which we learn.

In short, God is above forgiveness, and is constantly with us and supporting us. Not just by our side but at the centre of our souls, he bestows gifts on us all. Being loved by God means never having to say you’re sorry, but loving God means that you want to anyway.

I would appreciate any feedback on the above. I am personally convinced that it is right. I am also sure it is in line with the teachings of Saiva Siddhanta, theshiva.net says:

Lord shiva is the God of all. Like the mother He showers the grace for all the children, but the misusing children get punished. This Supreme Lord better than a mother does not withhold the grace, He is our beloved pashupati.

Is this also common to other branches of Hinduism? In the final post in this series I look at a Hindu’s obligations and attitudes to forgiveness.


Image “Lord Shiva bestows blessings on a devotee” is in the public domain, available from many sites but downloaded from shirdisaibaba100.blogspot.com.

11 responses to “Kripa, divine mercy, and why forgiveness is not divine

  1. Upon this wonderful thread of thought you bring today…i think also this is very much true that sometimes the very one we need to seek forgiveness from, is our very Self. As so many times, we are hardest upon this One.

    Just today i was praying and asking for forgiveness for all the things which brought me here to this lifetime…and even in that moment…I do know that it is mySelf who is the hardest upon that past.

    Perhaps when asking for forgiveness…it is often, actually this One inside we are speaking to…without even considering that Truth.

    Hari Om<3

  2. “Since he never takes offence there is never a need to forgive, unless you look at it as everything being immediately forgiven. This may seem strange, as at times Hindus certainly ask for forgiveness, but I believe that it is really asking for help to move on from where we are and to learn.”

    This is the thing that keeps me affixed to this path. I had dealt with a lot of guilt and shame before finding sanatana dharma, and now I think I have a much healthier way to look at and deal with the “mistakes” I make in my life. It’s a wonderfully freeing feeling, to leave a tradition that tells me I’m inherently bad, and go to one that tells me that I’m inherently good, and that missteps are just the ways in which we learn.

    • Thank you HappyGoth,
      I know what you mean. It is very reassuring to know that you cannot be cut of from God, or be unforgiven. Also, when you think about the ultimate glory, knowledge, and power of God it seems ridiculous that it could be any other way.
      Om

  3. Namaste and Thank you Tandava, for this well-presented explanation of the idea of asking for forgiveness.

  4. Hello Tandava,
    I was away for a short break. Read your post. Am I right to summarise that our theme is “Forgiveness”. Excuse me for a little longcut.

    By implication, we automatically presume that we are sinners. But on the contrary, we are the loving children of God. Because the very word God = Love and vice versa. Hence It is our own coccoon of guilt that we build around us due to mere ignorance. Thus the vedas proclaim, “Lead me from darkness to Light”. This light is significant of knowledge.

    Lastly in Srimad Bhagwad Geeta in the 18:66 verse asserts to Arjun,
    “Sarva dharmaanparityajya maamekam sharnam brajah
    Aham tvaam savrpaapebhyo mokshiyaasyami maa shuchah”
    Lord exhorts Arjun clearly that you just forget everything. Don’t worry and leaving all your worries behind, come to my shelter, I shall protect and liberate from erery sins and sorrows. What better assurance the Lord can give us? But it is our own doubts that hold us back. I finish it here and God bless.

    • Thank you,
      You are right about the main theme of the topic, I can see that this closeness to God without need for forgiveness is part of the Vasihnava tradition too.
      Om

  5. Another interesting comment that I would like to make is on “Time”. We are accustomed to say ‘past, present and future’. How often do we it a serious thought that there is nothing called “present” in strict sense. We have been merely led to believe in these three forms but thoughtlessly. If we know that the earth is constantly moving. It is not static. Same way, the time is never static and constantly on the move. If we agree on it, then the “present” is just a myth, not a reality. The moment we have spoken. the future became already past without standing into present. Just a food for thought, we never apply our minds to. God bless

  6. Pingback: Time: past, present, and future | Western Hindu

  7. Very well spoken on the Non – Dual in forgiving others we forgive ourselves; everything exists in the mind; good and evil.

  8. True.. Forgiveness is the most difficult thing and to forgive others for their misdeeds is pretty difficult.But we are humans and we have to die one day so I believe why should we carry such a burden,it better to forgive…..
    Ganesha

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