The Art of Forgiveness

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

There is no such thing as the power of forgiveness. Forgiveness is a quality and a state of mind just as happiness or depression or nervousness is a state of mind. You are forgiving, but only where your interests lie. You are forgiving to your near and dear ones if they make a mistake, yet if the same mistake is committed by a distant person, you won’t be forgiving. You will treat it as an attack by the other person on your ego and arrogance.

Although you have the ability to forgive, it is limited, self-oriented and interest-oriented. That same quality, which now is only momentary, has to extend over minutes, hours, half days, full days, one week, two weeks, one month. The, period of the state of mind should extend. It should not be fluctuating like it fluctuates now.

If you can maintain that state of mind, you make your mind free from the negative effects and barbs that surround you in society, and the world will recognize you as forgiving, not you. If you think, “Oh! I am forgiving,” you are just creating another ego identity of yourself that you are a forgiving person.

Therefore, a person who forgives does not know that he or she is forgiving. It is a natural state of mind. If you think, “Today I forgave and I am happy,” it means that you have not forgotten the incident. You are still latching on to that incident and feeling that you were able to release something off yourself. However, you have not forgiven. Forgiveness is a state of mind just as happiness, depression, sleep, dream and wakefulness are states of mind.

There is no power of forgiveness. When you are happy, that is forgiveness. When you are happy, then kshama, forgiveness, is natural and spontaneous. If you are not happy and do not fulfil the first yama, how can you ever pass on to the second yama of forgiveness? You think you are bright enough to bypass all the classes – first, second, third, fourth – and go straight away to the tenth class? No wonder, society is a failure until today.

Only a few people in society have made the effort to move class by class and they have become the teachers of human civilization. They do not make the same mistake, yet nobody listens to them. Everybody keeps on making the same mistake, generation after generation. Yet the spiritual teachings have been clear.

Towards happiness

People want to be empowered. They feel connected with strength, position and power and not with simplicity and humility. A person who lives simply and is humble will be seen by others as totally powerless, positionless and easily manipulated. It is only a folly of human understanding, for in reality, it is a peaceful and blissful state of mind where one has overcome the effects of ego.

Other people due to their own motivation and desire for power and position will try to manipulate the simple people who are innocent and don’t bother about things. That is human nature. People always look for somebody who will obey them, yet it is a material attitude. Why do people not look at the state of mind which a person is living: a state of simplicity, happiness and humility?

There is no humility and no forgiveness in the life of an individual when it comes to other people. That is the first lesson in yoga from the yamas which begins with manah prasad, happiness. Make the mind content and happy. Change your ideas, thoughts, beliefs and philosophy. Chant God’s name and live according to His will. With this attitude the actions, attitudes and behaviours in your life do not affect you like sharks and arrows. Instead you smile at people when they try to impose their will on you. Just see how agitated, tense and angry their features look and thank yourself for being happy.

2 August 2015, Ganga Darshan, Munger