Forgiveness Empowering Yourself

January, 2023 by Ruchika Chitrabhanu
All living beings strive to be happy. But human relationships can be complex. We face distress situations which can consume us mentally and physically, especially if the incident involves being hurt by someone we love or trust. The incident that offended you may be short lived but gets etched in the memory forever. Emotions like anger, jealousy, and hatred are experienced every time you see the person who wronged you. And in the myriad network of relationships, we too are hurting people through our speech or action. Somewhere we are building grudges against the ones who have offended us.

A grudge is a story of hurt and resentment that we believe to be true and justify over and over in our thoughts. The core of the story usually involves blaming someone else for what happened, which turns us into a victim and leaves us feeling powerless, bitter, and sad. Most times, these emotions of hatred can do no harm to others, while it keeps us emotionally and mentally engaged in the past.

I too have experienced these negative emotions and their effects. A couple years ago, I held a grudge and anger towards a loved one who had hurt me. I started losing sleep, being constantly stressed, and developed acid reflux. My health started taking a toll and this was my first realization of the damage I was doing to myself. I had to accept that while I was perpetually overthinking and felt distressed and frustrated, it made no difference to others. To get a grip of myself I had to let go of the emotional venom that was lodging within me. I had to do something that was difficult – forgive. But for the first time I experienced that by forgiving someone who has hurt me, I was forgiving myself. I was being more compassionate towards myself by not dragging the unhappy past into my present. To clarify, by practicing forgiveness, one doesn’t give consent to the wrongdoer, rather it’s a conscious choice to not give them the headspace and your precious time.

Forgiveness is advocated in science and religious faiths for overall wellbeing. Psychologists generally define “forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness”. By being unforgiving, the bitterness also harbours ill-wishes toward the other person who has caused harm. Jain Dharma further reiterates how this trap causes Hinsa (violence) to oneself by initiating a vicious cycle of Karma and its consequent outcome. By practicing forgiveness, we are not attracting the influx of new karmas.

The journey through forgiveness can be vague and overwhelming. We cannot change the behaviour of others, but we have the power to choose our reactions. Between the action and reaction there is a space within which we can choose wisely and overcome the negative emotions by consciously not participating in those feelings. A conscious effort to shift the perspective and practice the following virtues can help. The song “Maitri Bhavnu Pavitra Jharnu” beautifully encapsulates the four virtues preached by Lord Mahavir.

Universal Friendship:

When one expresses hatred in thought, speech or action, their happiness is destroyed. To enhance our own happiness, we must develop the virtue of Maitri, “universal friendship” towards all forms of life. When we consider everyone a friend, hostility fades, and even a negative force like bitterness would gradually dissipate. This internal process of universal friendship would turn the negative impulses into positive ones, and we would be more at peace. Integrating this virtue in our everyday life will avoid future conflicts.

Compassion:

According to Anekantvada, the truth is multi-faceted. Sometimes applying the principles of relativity of thinking can help resolve conflicts and improve relations. Ask yourself about the circumstances that may have led the other person to behave in such a way. Forgiveness paves the way for empathy and patience towards the other person and stops us from constantly interpreting past incidents.

Appreciation:

Human nature is to react to every situation. Then Lord Mahavir says that if you must react, then react with the ability to appreciate the virtues of another person. This virtue will liberate you from the grip of unpleasant memories and propel you to move forward. Appreciation channels the mind towards positive qualities.

Neutrality:

There will be encounters where despite asking for forgiveness and expressing all efforts to reconcile, the other person may not respond. Or the people who hurt us do not apologize, take accountability, or change their behaviour. At times like this, composure and a neutral attitude will restrain us from passions like disappointment, anger, ego, deceit, resentment, jealousy, etc. Think that I have done my best to resolve the situation, and now bringing change is up to the other person. This attitude will prevent turmoil in the mind and not attract new Karmas.

Working on forgiveness instils a sense of strength that overpowers bitterness. It empowers you to avoid external and internal conflicts that consume you. We cannot change the past nor control the behaviour of others, it is sensible to let go and move on. It is neither easy to forgive nor ask for forgiveness if we have wronged someone. But forgiveness is a process till it becomes a natural way of life. Forgiveness is a commitment of compassion towards yourself for not attracting new Karmas.

These words by Gurudev Chitrabhanu stayed with me:

No one can insult you unless you believe in what they say.

No one can take away your happiness unless you give them that power.

Reflecting on the song “Maitri Bhavnu Pavitra Jharnu” every night, consciously and subconsciously has helped me experience the power of the four virtues.

About Author

Ruchika Chitrabhanu

Ruchika Chitrabhanu

ruchikachitrabhanu@hotmail.com

Born and raised in a Jain family, she has always had a deep interest in the philosophy of Jainism.She pursued her master’s in philosophy, majoring in Jainism. Inspired by Gurudev Chitrabhanu and Smt.Pramoda Chitrabhanu, Ruchika has been a vegan for over sixteen years. She is founder of The Earthen One that raises awareness about animal compassion and the benefits of following a plant-based diet through events and festivals.

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Sejal zaveri
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Well written 👏

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