What is Forgiveness?
To forgive is “to cease to feel resentment against” an offender (according to the Merriam Webster dictionary).
That would imply that if we do not forgive someone who may have offended or hurt us in some way, we are choosing to continue to hold onto the resentment we feel in that matter. And what happens if we repeat this pattern of not forgiving? We carry more and more resentment in us, don’t we? And how does that feel, to carry all that resentment in us? Very heavy and unpleasant isn’t it!
A friend who practices the religion of Jainism, a Jain as one would say, recently wrote this to me:
Micchami dukkadam – If I have knowingly or unknowingly hurt you or anyone in your family, in any way, I ask for your forgiveness please.
I didn’t know what “Micchami Dukkadam” was, so I looked it up (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micchami_Dukkadam).
It is part of a Jain practice, with a prayer that goes as follows:
khāmemi savva jīve I forgive all living beings.
savve jīvā khamaṃtu me May all souls forgive me,
mittī me savva-bhūesu I am on friendly terms with all,
veraṃ majjha na keṇa:i I have no animosity toward any soul.
micchāmi dukkaḍaṃ please forgive my bad deeds done knowingly or unknowingly
Practicing Jains would seek forgiveness from relatives, friends and others through a note similar to the one I received from my friend (above).
When I got this note, I have to admit that I was shaken up a bit. This is because I’ve had baggage with this person. i.e. I’ve carried the baggage of resentments, non-forgiveness. How should I process this? How should I forgive? How can I forgive?
“To Err is Human, To Forgive, Divine”
~ Alexander Pope.
Its implication is that fallibility and making mistakes is inherent in being human, but forgiving such mistakes is transcendent.
One who considers that they may have made mistakes, and one who is truly aware of the impact their thoughts, words and deeds on others, and one who seeks consequent forgiveness in a timely and consistent manner, such a person is a better person for having done so.
On the other hand, looking at the act of forgiving … I noticed that the attempt to forgive this friend carried with it the stench of the “I”, almost as if “I” am “bestowing” the “gift of forgiveness” on this friend. The same kind of stench that would exist when I gave something to someone while feeling that I “did something” for their benefit, the stench that ruins the fragrance of real generosity.
So what is the secret of real forgiveness?
In digging deeper, I found that the Sanskrit version of the phrase “micchami dukkadam” is “mithyā me duṣkṛitām”, meaning “may the evil of it be in vain”. The source of so-called “evil” is really “separation” from the Divine. i.e. Real forgiveness can occur only if separation falls.
The implication … The one who is asked for forgiveness, for them to really let go of the baggage associated with the events in question, and really release the resentments they’ve been holding onto, requires an act of true surrender. It is that act of true surrender that releases the forgiving person from the burdensome role of being the judge, jury and executioner about the person seeking forgiveness. For without true surrender, the release that comes from real forgiveness will not be gifted to them. And if they do truly surrender their grudge, resentment, anger, frustration, or other judgments, then such forgiveness is indeed Divine!
When we forgive in this true surrender, the baggage we are lifting drops, the weight of the judgments and resentments we were holding disappears, the real release occurs, the real freedom is experienced, separation falls and intimacy reigns, and the real fragrance of Emptiness shines as a Reiju!
Did Mikao Usui point to the importance of forgiveness? Yes! Resentment is a cousin of anger. Usui sensei’s precepts ask us not to bear anger, for anger is illusion. The illusion cited here is at it’s core the illusion of being a separate self. In effect Usui sensei has indeed pointed at the need to let go of the illusion, i.e. surrender, so that judgments can fall and a natural forgiveness can flow. This is further reinforced by the precept of being compassionate to others. The very same fragrance of Emptiness, the real Reiju, shines thus in the precepts, pointing us to real forgiveness!