The art of forgiving

Knowledge is that which realises the doer of all actions to be One. The first step towards this knowledge is to realise that we are just a witness in this creation. Wisdom is knowing that everybody is an instrument in the hands of the Divine. When we are just an instrument, then the question of a good or bad action or the question of praise or criticism does not arise. The wise do not criticise the one who does a bad action, nor is he overwhelmed by praise.

Forgiveness is a balm to soothe the mind which is full of hatred and aversion. Normally when somebody has done a bad action, its doership brings guilt. Asking for forgiveness frees one of this guilt. Similarly forgiving others frees one from anger and hatred.

Ashtavakra (the great sage who is the author of the famous treatise Ashtavakra Gita) uses forgiveness as a tool to free one from bondage.

Once Buddha was in an assembly when a man walked in, looking furious. He thought Buddha was doing something wrong. He was a restless businessman and he had found that his children were spending hours with Buddha when they could have engaged themselves in business at that time, making money. So, with furiousness he walked straight up to Buddha looked him the eye and spat on his face. He was so angry that he could not find the words to express himself, so he spat at Buddha. Buddha simply smiled.

He showed no anger, though the disciples around him were angry. They would have liked to react but could not because Buddha was there. When the businessman realised his action was not drawing a reaction, he simply walked away in a huff. That man could not sleep all night and his whole body underwent such a transformation. He felt as if the whole world had turned upside down. The next day he went and fell at Buddha’s feet and said, “Please forgive me. I did not know what I did.” To which Buddha replied, “I cannot excuse you!”

Everyone including the man and Buddha’s disciples were flabbergasted. Buddha then explained the reason for his statement. He said, “Why should I forgive you when you have done nothing wrong”.

The businessman looked a little more surprised and told Buddha that it was he who had wronged him by spitting on him. Buddha simply said, “Oh! That person is not here now. If I ever meet that person whom you spat on, I will tell him to excuse you. You have done no wrong to this person who is here. That is real compassion.


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