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The Quest for the Royal Road: The Great Can Forgive

Published: 23.02.2016

Life is lived at two levels-at the individual level and the collective or social level. Individualism is the result of an unrelated life. In collective life, relativism is the main factor. An individual can remain unrelated when he feels proximity to the soul. When he is close to the body, he feels the need to being related. An individual's independent existence gives him an absolute value. But when he becomes committed to any group, his universal existence is transgressed to the community. People with individualistic temperament give great importance to the individual even while living in society. Whereas, those who believe in life of society, try to demolish that importance. This conflict, the individual, even if he takes a constructive stand, breaks down.

Four ways have been indicated to man to save himself from breaking down like this: forgiveness, lack of avarice, simplicity and tenderness. The direction to follow these ways are not different. No matter from what point they begin, their centre is one. Because they revolve around one centre, they are related to one another. In the full development of one of them-there is also the development of the remaining three. The person who gives importance to forgiveness in his life, cannot ignore lack of avarice, simplicity and tenderness, because they are related to forgiveness. There cannot be any bitterness and tension in their mutual relation. Their extremely close relation is the strongest evidence of their oneness. Those who live under the protection of this oneness can attain unprecedented happiness and joy.

Giving the formula of happy life Bertrand Russel has said, "Only that person is happy who does not suddenly snap his relation with others, nor allows them to become embittered. In whose individual self-there is room for others, and who can feel the joy of establishing oneness with the whole human society.

Such an attitude of mind can be acquired on the basis of tolerance. A person who can bear adversities, can attain the great ideal of forgiveness. Tolerance is the great secret of the success and ease of collective life. In the 17th century, the family of the then minister Ochisar in Japan had become renowned in the whole of Japan, because of his goodwill. It was an enlightened family of one hundred members, which had followed the tradition of the joint family over the years.. There was no occasion for any rancour over any matter. The Emperor of Japan, Yama-to, came to know about that family. He was absolutely flabbergasted. He visited that minister's house to see how that family lived. The atmosphere in that minister's house was really amazing. The Emperor wanted to know how that family had lived in such amity. The eldest member of the family was far advanced in age. He was unable to talk. He signalled someone to bring a pen and a sheet of paper and wrote on it with trembling hand, "Tolerance."

Tolerance comes from forgiveness. There is no question of big or small about it. The old bear with the young and the young bear with the old. And in thus bearing with each other, there is no feeling of obliging anyone. There is only the inspiration of doing one's own duty. When one is forced to put up and he puts up someone else for his own selfish motive, there is a sense of helplessness. Forgiveness is natural to man. When that natural tendency is overpowered by some kind of excitement, then it seems that anger is natural to him, and one has to make an effort, then it seems that anger is natural to him, and one has to make an effort to cultivate forgiveness. But my experience is that anger is the intruder. When its power is subdued, forgiveness becomes the basis of all good qualities in man.

Forgiveness is the adornment of the brave. When a weak and helpless person talks in terms of forgiveness, it cannot become a strong expression of that feeling. The great poet Kalidasa has dealt with the topic of forgiveness. He writes, "silence is meaningful when it emanates from knowledge. Forgiveness is meaningful when it comes from a powerful person. Absence of boasting is meaningful when there is a feeling of abnegation behind it.[1] Forgiveness accepted in the absence of power, may be able to protect a person against some undesirable situations, but thereby, the lustre of forgiveness gets dimmed. The person who can calmly get over the probable feeling of anger in the face of an adverse situation can bring lustre to his forgiveness.

There can be no fixed rule about the form of forgiveness and its bringing into practice. There are many roles of those who indulge in crimes and those who continue to be forgiving. If a sage does not forgive a criminal, his being a sage becomes a matter of doubt. During Bhagwan Mahavira's sadhana period, troublesome situations were created innumerable times. Out of ignorance, Shoolpani Yaksha, Chandkaushik serpent, Sangam Dev, etc. harassed him to no end, but from Bhagwan Mahavira's heart, only pure love poured out for them. Mahavira's supreme strength grew only through his forgiveness.

The state, in pursuance of its duty, does not give an exclusive importance to forgiveness. According to it, punishing the guilty is valid. When the guilty are not punished, it is considered dereliction of duty on the part of the state. It clears the ground for anarchy, the criminal elements become unruly. All laws under the criminal code are meant for fighting against crime. The growth of crimes with the zooming up of society and the system of punishment with the growth of crime are regarded as a natural development. But this is the principle concerning the social system of the policy. The role of spirituality is altogether different. It gives the chance to the guilty to expiate in order to cleanse himself of his criminal act. It is not possible while talking in terms of forgiveness to use force to punish the guilty or show anger against him.

For those who are pursuing the path of sadhana, there is no other way except forgiveness. Getting angry at somebody's mistake is like taking his evil traits upon one's ownself. The effect of forgiveness is always unhampered. But the sadhana of forgiveness is extremely difficult. Those who get entangled in petty things, cannot even have the faintest idea of impact of forgiveness which is like the unfathomable depth of the sea. Forgiveness also implies tolerance. However, tolerance ' leading to forgiveness does not mean that one should continue bearing with series of crimes, either ignoring them or closing his eyes to them. Ignoring crime is in itself a crime. By forgiveness it is meant that one does not get excited while making the guilty person aware of his crime. It means keeping clam even when the situation may be provoking.

Forgiveness is also suggestive of a two-way process of forgiving and being forgiven. It would not result in any estrangement by creating feelings of inferiority and irrelevance. If forgiveness tends to be one-sided, it would give rise to egotistic feeling and the person who is being forgiven would be overcome with a feeling of inferiority. A forgiving person is always courteous. He has a certain kind of resilience in him. His strength never leaves him. A person with strong ego would break but never agree to bend. Forgiveness alone can save the collective consciousness from disintegrating. The power of the arhata grows stronger only because of their quality of forgiveness. Only the large-hearted person can forgive. Only the person who is straightforward and spontaneous and who has in him the tenderness which can overwhelm life is capable of forgiving. Those who have small minds cannot adorn themselves with the grace and dignity of forgiveness. In this connection, I am constantly reminded Rahim's words which are still ringing in my ears:

"Forgiveness is for the great beings, for the small there is
only agitation."


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Title: The Quest for the Royal Road
Acharya Tulsi
Publisher: Adarsh Sahitya Sangh
Edition: 2013
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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Anger
  2. Body
  3. Consciousness
  4. Kshama
  5. Sadhana
  6. Soul
  7. Tolerance
  8. Yaksha
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