Free Press Journal

Why it is important to learn the art of forgiveness

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In order to lead a warm, happy and healthy life individual should embark upon the path of forgiveness and compassion, writes Ravi Valluri

Recall the iconic lines of one of the most celebrated troupers of India- Amitabh Bachchan. In his baritone voice, body punctured with bullets and bleeding profusely, Vijay- as he was addressed in the outstanding movie Deewar – looks intently at the idol of Lord Shiva and says, “Bahut khush hoge tum!” Bachchan, in the movie essayed the role of a contrabandist, who is an atheist. However, eventually in the final stages of his life, he surrenders to the supreme power and asks for absolution for the sins of omission and commission committed.

His mind transfigures and the ossified self-melts when the quintessential truth dawns that holding on to anger only singes the concerned individual. “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned,” were the immortal words of Buddha.


True enlightenment is the art of living in a compassionate manner. The human mind and heart reach a point of inflexion where an act of pardon remains an inescapable reality. The sagacious, blessed with a brawny mind attempts to discover something charitable in all individuals as he/she perceives the image of divinity in them. Such emotionally evolved souls embrace saintly characteristics and traits say even in a terrorist or a brigand.

The mind of a prosaic individual is unable to separate the chaff from the grain. It is so full of antipathetic thoughts that he cannot transcend the barrier and is unable to exonerate anyone who has inflicted pain or hardship on him, no matter how insignificant. The mind, full of gloom ridden and obstructive thoughts cannot perceive the divinity in others. Consequently, it remains perpetually in a state of conflict. Such an emotionally distraught person would castigate even angelic and divine figures out of nescience and callowness.

It is ironical that the Mahatma, who was a staunch opponent of capital punishment, was felled by the bullets of an assassin. His last words were ‘Hey Ram’. Similarly, Jesus the son of God was to famously implore the Lord to pardon the ones who crucified him as he was convinced that the perpetrators of the act were not conscious of the gravity of their actions.

Several organised and structured religions lay prominence on the art of forgiveness. If an individual does not rise to the sublime spheres of compassion and forgiveness, then he gets trapped in the whirlpool of cause and effect. The unabated Karmic cycle continues without any resolution. The pivot is to fortify and protect the human mind to make it robust and compassionate.

It attempts to extricate the self from the cause and effect of actions and even non-actions. Action and non-actions of humans indeed leave an indelible impression on the human mind. It would be a perspicacious to pose as to how non-actions are also a kind of Karmic activity and in what manner it impacts the human mind and consciousness. Non-action in a way represents not taking up the gauntlet.

The cardinal principle of Christianity is compassion though it is not based on the cause and effect theory. The Church impinges on the faithful is to purge negativity from their minds; solicitude and benevolence being the Holy Grail.

It is interesting to point out that Christians seek forgiveness of the Almighty while in the oriental religion of Jainism, savants ask for lenience from people at large. During the festival of Kshamavani, followers of the religion can seek quarter from society for mistakes committed consciously or unconsciously.

Sage Ashtavakra who authored the treatise Ashtavakra Gita posits a theory that an individual should break the bondage of guilt and anger in order to invoke the grace of remission.

It is noteworthy to mention; the singular gift mankind can give to itself and society at large is to train minds to be forgiving and compassionate. This will end the senseless circle of detestation, despondency, anger and violence. We need to be compassionate and calm from within to construct a divine society that eschews violence.

There is poignant Zen story which explains the exemplary tenets of compassion and forgiveness.

Aeons ago a Zen Master summoned his tutees in a Temple of Knowledge and asked them if they harboured the antipathetic emotion of hatred in their minds. “Yes!” exclaimed the disciples. The Master directed his disciples to place a potato each in their bag and always travel with it as a reminder that despite the practice of meditation and breathing exercises their prana level was not high enough to exterminate and expatriate hatred and inculcate compassion.

The number of potatoes was to increase depending on the quantum of anger and would be directly proportional to the antipathy in their minds. Some young monks ended up carrying a bagful of potatoes, which over a period of time became malodorous. In sheer exasperation, the harried disciples sought refuge in the grace of the master to dispense away with the bag. The Zen Master guffawed and chided his students to abandon the negative trait of abhorrence from their minds, lest the malodour of these traits become a burden all through their lives.

In order to lead a warm, happy and healthy life individual should embark upon the path of forgiveness and compassion. This suffuses the mind with immense strength and courage of conviction. There is a marked jump in the emotional and intelligence quotient. It would be insightful for any individual to make positive affirmations, reinforcing love for every animate and inanimate object to build a divine society.

Such affirmations would train the mind to remain unruffled and spread the quintessential gospel of forgiveness. Thereby humans would truly embrace fellow beings. If we construe the human mind to be the hardware, compassionate thoughts and forgiveness are part of non-negotiable software.