This is the final part of a series of three posts starting with “Time: past, present, and future“. The previous articles looked at God being within us all, and God not needing to forgive, as he always shows mercy and love.
The picture to the right is from a news story about a dog, Lola, who chewed a rare vintage Batman toy which was worth £1,000. Lola’s owner is a collectable toy dealer, who was valuing the toy for a client.
The story starts with the words “She is out of the doghouse and already forgiven“. Nobody would be surprised if the Lola’s owner was initially cross, but quickly forgave her. The anger would be a typical emotional response, but forgiveness would come easily, because everyone knows that the dog did not understand what she was doing. She was left on her own with something chewable and interesting, and followed her nature. Even if she knew that she was not supposed to chew the toys, she would have had no idea of the value of them, or that she had picked the most valuable toy in the collection.
Its possible that if her owner is someone in control of his emotions and of a generous disposition that he never got angry, and that understanding the situation would see that there was nothing to forgive.
However, forgiveness is not always that easy. People may have done something deliberate to take advantage of us, or hurt us. Some people even delight in causing pain to others.
Because Hindus believe that we are all divine at heart, we believe that every transgression is ultimately caused by our ignorance of our true nature. The Tirumurai says:
Without virtue and penitence, devoid of love and learning, as a leather puppet I went around and fell. He showed me the love and the path and the way to reach the world wherefrom there is no return.
The ignorant will not see that harming others is in a very real way harming ourselves, for we are all divine. They don’t know that karma will be accrued, veiling them in more ignorance and bringing them further from God. This means that a Hindu should ideally not be angry or hold a grudge, but should forgive if he or she does. Forgiving is necessary for us to move on spiritually. Because of this, forgiveness is embodied in the scriptures and constraints of Hinduism. One of the Hindu yamas (constraints for dharmic living) is daya or compassion. Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami wrote:
Compassion tempers all decisions, gives clemency, absolution, forgiveness as a boon even for the most heinous misdeeds. This is a quality built on steadfastness. Daya comes from deep sadhana, prolonged santosha, contentment, scriptural study and listening to the wise. It is the outgrowth of the unfolded soul, the maturing of higher consciousness. A compassionate person transcends even forgiveness by caring for the suffering of the person he has forgiven.
Similarly, the Tirukural, the Saiva book of ethics states:
Just as the Earth bears those who dig into her,
it is best to bear with those who despise us.
It is always good to endure injuries done to you,
but to forget them is even better.
It is impoverished poverty to be inhospitable to guests.
It is stalwart strength to be patient with fools.
Desiring that greatness should never cease,
let one’s conduct foster forbearance.
Forgiveness is a universal virtue and part of dharmic living for all Hindus. The above quote was from a Saiva text, but the Vishnava’s holy book, the Bhagavad Gita also extols the virtues of forgiveness:
The Blessed Lord said: Fearlessness, purification of one’s existence, cultivation of spiritual knowledge, charity, self-control, performance of sacrifice, study of the Vedas, austerity and simplicity; nonviolence, truthfulness, freedom from anger; renunciation, tranquility, aversion to faultfinding, compassion and freedom from covetousness; gentleness, modesty and steady determination; vigor, forgiveness, fortitude, cleanliness, freedom from envy and the passion for honor–these transcendental qualities, O son of Bharata, belong to godly men endowed with divine nature.
It is interesting that both passages extol forbearance as the first call. If we can avoid losing our temper and forgetting compassion, all the better. If we cannot then the remedy is forgiveness.
So, ideally we should remain full of compassion, and not lose our temper or hold a grudge, acting in accordance with the divine within. Since all but the most perfect of us do become angry or resentful, Hinduism teaches us that to uphold dharma we should forgive. Forgiveness is human, a way of keeping on the path to the divine.