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Monday, March 4, 2013

Forgiveness in Krsna consciousness

What is forgiveness and letting go in Krishna Consciousness? Is it that you have someone who has hurt you, but you forgive them in your mind and let go since you need to move forward? Or forgive them and continue talking to them as normal? How do you define forgiveness?

Forgiveness is a very critical part of character development. Forgiveness has a significant impact upon who we are *within*, i.e. how we conduct our internal lives. Forgiveness or the lack of it also very often defines the nature of our relationships with those who are close to us.

To forgive means to give up resentment, anger or bitterness towards another person. Even though an offense will often involve another person or persons, forgiveness involves just one person - us. It means that we, unilaterally and unconditionally, cease to be resentful. It does not require apriori that the offense has been rectified, or the offender has apologized. It simply means that we individually and unconditionally decide to move on.

Please note that forgiveness does not mean condoning the offense, nor does it mean that we are obliged to continue exposing ourselves to the offender. We may very well condemn the offense, while asking for its rectification; or we may distance ourselves from the offender, while forgiving at the same time. "Forgive the sinner, not the sin" is a Biblical teaching that applies nicely here. Essential is to clearly separate the good soul from the aberrant behavior. Lesson #1 in spiritual life is to see ourselves, as well as others, as spirit soul -- *not* merely a set of behaviors.

The "how-to" part of the forgiveness depends on how we are spiritually situated in our Krishna consciousness.

At a very basic level, forgiveness comes from the need for self preservation. Not forgiving is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. We rarely take offense at what strangers do to us. So the issue of forgiveness comes typically with those who are close and important to us. Not forgiving causes these relationships to become bitter. When a person realizes this, then he or she forgives simply because it is difficult to survive the other way. A contemporary example of this is Andy and Kate Grosmaire who publicly forgave Conor McBride, the killer of their daughter. "We’re not offering a pardon to him,’’ Andy Grosmaire said. “The forgiveness frees us. It keeps us from going to prison with Conor." While this may seem to be a self motivated and material platform, it is in fact a very exalted platform in the mode of goodness, one that most of us are rarely able to even comprehend.

A person who is more spiritually advanced will forgive understanding that every thing is happening to him because of his own destiny only, or the law of karma. There is one and only one person who is responsible for the good and bad things - and that is he himself. In such a situation, a person forgives understanding that the other person is simply a tool to make this happen, "an instrument of one's own karma" Srila Prabhupada once described. A contemporary example of this is the forgiveness the Amish community at Nickel Mines in South Lancaster County gave to Charles Roberts who had shot ten of their school girls and killed five of them. The killer was an outsider to the community, who subsequently killed himself. What was remarkable about this forgiveness was that it was instantaneous and went beyond letting go of the resentment. Parents of the girls who were killed by Charles attended his funeral, comforted his widow and raised funds to provide financial aid for his family. When asked what was the driving force for this forgiveness they shared the following prayer to the Lord from the Bible, “Forgive us our transgressions as we forgive those who transgressed against us.” Even though there is no explicit acknowledgement of the law of karma, this comes very close to it. One who forgives is forgiven, and visa versa.

A person who is more spiritually advanced will forgive, understanding that everything is happening because of the mercy of Lord Krishna. Since he sees Krishna's hand everywhere, he understands that offenses which persons commit are for his own purification and thus does not hold the other person responsible. We see this described nicely in SB 11 Canto 23, sometimes called the Bhikhsu Gita sung by the Avanti brahman. This individual at one time was very prosperous but greedy. A series of events left him destitute and all his friends and family deserted him, insulted and derided him. Initially he resents them all. But, after going through some introspection, he forgives them with the following understanding (SB 11.23.28) . "The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Hari, who contains within Himself all the demigods, must be satisfied with me. Indeed, He has brought me to this suffering condition and forced me to experience detachment, which is the boat to carry me over this ocean of material life." Such an exalted platform can only be achieved by one firmly practicing Krishna consciousness.

Finally, at the most exalted platform of Krishna consciousness, there is no question of forgiveness, since such devotees are incapable of taking offense. When one forgives, there is a tacit understanding that I am right and you are wrong. Exalted devotees are so steeped in humility, so firmly anchored in their relationship to Krishna, that they are incapable of even seeing the offense of others. An example of this is the great devotee king, Ambarisa Maharaja, in SB 9, Cantos 4-5. Even though he was insulted, berated and even attacked by Durvasa Muni, he could not see any offense. Later, when out of the desire for self preservation Durvasa Muni begs for his forgiveness, Ambarisa Maharaja instead of feeling vindicated actually becomes ashamed. "When Durvasa touched his lotus feet Maharaja Ambarisa was very much ashamed, and when he saw Durvasa attempting to offer prayers, because of mercy he was aggrieved even more." SB 9.5.2, This is a symptom of genuine humility and the fact that a maha-bhagavat always sees every one and everything in relationship to the Lord.

In order to practice forgiveness, one must first understand the need for it; practice it according to one's adhikar or advancement in Krishna consciousness while aspiring to make spiritual advancement through careful practice of the process of devotional service to Krishna.

Answer by H.H.Romapada Swami

Hare Krishna

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