By Barbara Ann Briggs
Only when we forgive, can we free ourselves from the hurts of yesterday and freely receive the gifts of today, says Barbara Ann Briggs
It was the day before Maun Amavasya. I was at the Maha Kumbha Mela in Allahabad. The swami in whose camp I was staying was delivering the evening pravachan. At the end of his discourse, he said: “Tomorrow we will all go to bathe in the sangam together. When you take your bath, I want you to completely forgive all those who have ever hurt you in your life. When you take your dip, forgive them and let go of the pain caused by that experience. Tomorrow is a very auspicious day. Make this resolution now and remember this when you go to take your bath.”
I listened intently to his words. Episodes from my life passed through my mind and I thought of people who had hurt my feelings. Yes, this was the right moment to let all those memories go. The next morning we followed Swamiji to the shore of the river and together we entered the cooling waters and dipped, once, twice, thrice as many times as we could, and afterwards I felt freer, lighter as if an unknown weight had been lifted from my shoulders.
Hobbled by the past
To forgive is to move on, whereas not to forgive is to remain in a rut forged by unresolved memories of the past. Forgiving is an act of generosity. We give those who hurt us another chance by allowing our hearts to remain open to them, by understanding that any wrong committed by them was not intentional. There is a proverb which says: As we sow, so shall we reap. Whatever happens to us, good or bad, is the result of seeds which we have sown in the past. When the seeds of our actions ripen, we harvest the fruit. Reaction follows action, and action gives rise to reaction. The universe is governed by the inexorable law of cause and effect. The universe can be compared to a cosmic postman who delivers letters to the people to whom the letters are addressed.
In the words of Papa Ramdas of Anandashram: “Whatever is done is done by God Himself through that person, for your purification. Have absolutely no ill-will towards anybody.”
Anandamayi Ma says the same thing in different words: “Whatever happens, happens as the Divine Will.” God is the unseen controller of every detail in the universe. If we do not forgive anyone, in essence we are as if, not forgiving the Creator since everything happens in accordance with the Divine Will. There is a line in the Lord’s Prayer which is recited regularly in the Christian tradition. It says: “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Just as we forgive those who have hurt us, the prayer asks God to forgive us for our mistakes, the violations against natural law we may commit in our day-to-day dealings with our fellow men. If we cannot forgive our fellow men, can we hope to be forgiven by God? The heart which harbours the thoughts of the wrongs of others cannot flow freely in the river of life or enjoy the bountiful grace of the Divine.
In the words of the great poet Rumi:
“It’s good to leave each day behind,
Like flowing water, free of sadness.
Yesterday is gone and its tale told.
Today, new seeds are growing.”
The present is ever-new, ever-fresh and to remain caught in the snares of a painful past is to miss the new beginnings that life offers each of us with the dawning of each new day. There is a story in a book called: Steps to Inner Peace by Peace Pilgrim. There was a man Peace Pilgrim met on her travels through America. He was 65 years old and manifested symptoms of a chronic physical illness. When Peace Pilgrim talked to him, she realised that he was harbouring bitterness against his deceased father who had paid for the education of his brother, and not him. As soon as the man was able to relinquish this bitterness, the symptoms of his illness diminished and finally disappeared. Peace Pilgrim emphasises purification of thought as a prerequisite to the attainment of inner peace. By forgiving those who have hurt us, we are paving the way for more happiness and harmony in our own lives. In the words of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi: “When you forgive, all nature enjoys your brilliance and returns joy to you. Forgiveness, tolerance, purity of heart, sincerity, love, kindness are the bases from which to enjoy and make full use of the surroundings.”
From darkness to light
The human mind is like a palette that is constantly coloured by us, in shades of light and dark. When we forgive and forget, we shift from darkness to light, from bondage to freedom. Says Mata Amritanandamayi, “The reason why we practise spirituality is to learn to forgive others for their mistakes, and to love them – not reject them. Only through love can we lead others from wrong to right. If we disown someone for his mistakes, he will only continue to commit them.”
Love is the greatest healer. It heals our hearts through forgiveness and it heals the heart of others by radiating peace into the surroundings. Our only duty is to love. When we love, we are fulfilling the purpose of life.
About the author: Barbara Briggs is a teacher of Transcendental Meditation. Her book, The Contribution of Maharishi’s Vedic Science to Complete Fulfillment in Life is available on Amazon.co.UK
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