The act and the actor

The Goddess Durga in her battle with the demons is relentless. She shows no mercy. She smashes their heads, tramples all over them, threatens to drink their blood and mangles them.

She, her lion and her weapons make fearsome sounds which leave the three worlds shaken.

The demons make her honourable offers. They are smitten by her beauty and fury. They want to lay down the rarest of jewels at her feet. She scoffs and remains unmoved. As they roar in anger, she contemptuously gulps wine from her divine cup. The demons are indeed strong and powerful but at the end of the battle there is no doubt about who is stronger.

Even the Devas, the ones tormented by the demons, wonder why she goes through such horrific battles. Why does she waste her catastrophic weapons? Especially when just one look from her would suffice to reduce the demons to ashes?

The answer became clear at a recent talk by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He was addressing a packed hall at an academic institute. He made it clear he was talking to the younger generation. He spoke about peace, tolerance and forgiveness. As he stressed the need to forgive the young people were getting a bit restless. Finally a young lady gathered enough courage and burst out.

“It is not fair,” she said. “People who do wrong will keep doing wrong and if the good people are to keep forgiving them how does it help anyone?” she asked. There was a slightly nervous but relieved laughter in the hall followed by silence.

His Holiness smiled. His eyes twinkled and he said gently, “You must not forgive an act which is wrong. You must understand that the action is not the same as the actor. You are not forgiving the action. You are forgiving the actor.”

The Devi Durga does just that. Her relentless fury and unsuppressed anger puts a complete end to the acts of the demons.

In a way her fury acts as a catharsis to those tormented by the demons. The demons however are forgiven. They are more than forgiven. Touched by the Goddess and purified by her weapons they are redeemed, liberated and set free.

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