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.
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.