On resentment and forgiveness
Posted April 30, 2005
(April 23, 2005) This is probably the penultimate special message of wisdom from "the groundhog", also known as "the beggar", a.k.a. "the spiritual warrior." So let this prepare you for the ultimate message (smile). You can see that this kind of communication that I am doing must actually come to a stop. Firstly because it is natural, for I definitely have to get out of this body sometime in the near future, but also because, if I am not careful, this sort of communication could become my biggest failure. Just consider how every time I send out some of these messages, so many nice devotees all around the world write and call and offer me kindness and praise. Yes, this is wonderful, but can you see all the danger in this? One of Maya's most special tricks is to get the devotee who has acquired some little achievement to start thinking, "Just see: I am an advanced devotee."
For instance, if I'm not careful and if I let myself start thinking in this way, then when the helpers come to take me out of the body they'll take me straight to Brahmaloka or some place of this nature. They'll say: "This was your final test and you accepted certain adoration and glorification as your own. Therefore, go ahead and enjoy now for 311 trillion years managing your own planet or universe." Isn't Maya just so tricky? (Smile)
When Vasudeva the leper was healed by Krishna he prayed very intensely: "Please do not let me become proud." When the great devotee Madhavendra Puri was called out by the pujari and the deity Ksira-Cora Gopinatha he was so eager to avoid praise. We've never heard of devotees like Narottama Dasa Thakur, Bhaktivinoda Thakur or our Srila Prabhupada (we can go on and on and on), being in a mood of arrogance. They were constantly writing and praying, addressing how they do not have love of God and how they are unqualified in so many areas, etc. Anyway, what I'm writing now is for my own edification and purification and maybe for yours as well. Devotees like me, in one sense have no qualification in practically any area, but have received blessings by causeless mercy. However, pride manifesting as pratistha (a desire for fame) is a serious enemy.
When I had my amputation I offered up a sacrifice. I asked that a substantial quantity of pain that some of the women, children, elders, brahmins, and cows, etc. in our movement had suffered, could be absorbed in my extremely deteriorated leg and when the leg was amputated, as it was thrown away from my own body, that there would also be some elimination of this unhealthy karma from the body of our institution. Today in a similar spirit I want to offer in sacrifice all the rest of what remains with this body. In other words, I fully want to present myself to the Lord in the mood of Saranagati: full surrender. "Thy will be done, so please use me in this last way to make an ultimate sacrifice for those devotees, saints and sadhus who are having seemingly insurmountable obstacles in their own spiritual journey." I would like to also make it specific, particularly focusing on forgiveness.
The duty of a brahmana is to culture the quality of forgiveness, which is illuminating like the sun. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Hari, is pleased with those who are forgiving. (Bhag. 9.15.40)
All of us have so many people whom we've interacted with who have hurt us in different ways. Just to exist, or to be engaged in any type of relationship means we're going to be hurt by someone and we're going to hurt someone. We all have people whom we need to forgive and there are so many people who need to forgive us. Sometimes we have the greatest difficulty forgiving ourselves.
Forgiveness and resentment is a very serious issue. I am especially sending this message out to those children who've been abused. In the USA, for example, statistics show that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys have been sexually abused, and most of the abuse is by the people who are actually supposed to be their protectors or overseers, etc. This is a global problem of people being abused and hurt by their fathers, uncles, brothers, mothers, sisters, doctors, counsellors and all other types of mentors. This is so unfortunate and is never to be justified, but it has gone on everywhere on this planet. Surely each institution, community and family must find more ways to minimise so much of the suffering that people are experiencing through these abuses and traumas. Some may say what right do I have to ask others to forgive, but I can assure you that by being born in a minority body (without the active presence of my father) and going through all the ranks of ISKCON, I surely have my history of all kinds of abuses. Let's get right to the point.
A) Forgiveness does not mean:
- that what happened to you was your fault;
- that you allow those who hurt you or any others to continue the abuse;
- that what happened, as horrible as it was, really wasn't so bad after all; or even
- that you have to forget, as sometimes we have to remember the past so that it doesn't repeat itself, and often we have to learn from the past while we look and plan for the future.
B) Forgiveness does mean:
- that you stop allowing whoever hurt you so much to continue to daily hurt you by carrying this around in your mind and therefore being attacked, disappointed and hurt every day again and again;
- that you're ready to stop giving up, denying your power every day and being faithless, for Krishna can use us and help us in so many ways if we do not keep shutting ourselves down with resentment;
- that in spite of whatever else may be happening, you are ready to keep looking for and accepting Krishna's mercy, which cannot happen without accessing a deeper level of compassion and sensitivity ourselves; the greatest achievers have had to deal with the greatest obstacles, and in some cases turned their obstacles into opportunities;
- that you now live for the present and the future and you stop bringing a wounded you into all of your present encounters. It is not right for you to hurt yourself or those who come around you, to whom you really want to give your greatest love, attention and full presence; when you do not forgive, you keep dropping a wounded you on others day after day.
C) When we do not forgive, it is like carrying around in your hand a bunch of hot coals and waiting for a chance to throw them at the person who hurt you. Look how you burnt you own hand waiting for the opportunity. In essence, forgiveness actually does more for your own well-being than for another. We have to ask ourselves how much suffering do those who hurt us the most have to undergo before we can release them. Must they be run over by ten trains, chopped into a hundred pieces or eaten up by a pack of lions?
Let's just be honest, if we look at the lives of all the great personalities in our sastra we will see the amazing ways in which they forgave. I gave a course in Mayapur in 2003 on forgiving those who hurt you the most and we talked about over 40 great personalities in our Vaisnava history and examined what we learnt from the amazing ways they forgave.
The "groundhog," a.k.a. "the beggar", a.k.a. "the spiritual warrior" is praying that the ultimate sacrifice he makes in having to walk away from his body will act somewhat as a catalyst for helping us all to look closer at resentment and forgiveness. The sad thing is that most of the time we're prone to think that we have already forgiven others. It can be a gradual process which has many levels. For example, think of the person who has hurt you the most, and now think of all the most wonderful things you can imagine happening to this person. If you are very uncomfortable with this, or if you feel too angry or uneasy hearing or seeing them, then more than likely you haven't released this person from your consciousness. Remember that to see a Vaisnava and not be happy is an offence (Skanda Purana).
So that this beggar does not engender pride thinking that he has some
special sacrifice to make or some very special wisdom to offer, he will
try particularly to use some of these points to look deeper at the
subtleties in his own consciousness. I hope, if you listen to the seminar on forgiveness, the wonderful
pastimes about our great acaryas and how they forgave and the amazing,
honest sharing amongst the seminar participants, it will help you to
help yourself to help others.