We live in a complex world. Many times, things are not as simple and as straightforward as they seem. Here we all ask questions about the ideal of forgiveness. I think the notion of forgiveness has many sides. Let us explore what happens when we are involved in a conflict. If someone in the family says something to you which is hurtful and presented in a distorted manner, how would you react? If someone insults you or if someone ignores and side-lines you, what would you do?
In a book called Radical Forgiveness, author Colin Tipping tries to explain what happens when we suffer due to someone’s anger or jealousy. We harbour the bad feelings towards the person who causes such harm.
But the author of the book explains this phenomenon in a philosophical way. He asks us to go within and ask ourselves: “Could there be a divine purpose behind everything that happens? If you’re willing to embrace this possibility, every aspect of your life can change.” This is the theory behind Radical Forgiveness by Colin Tipping. He argues that “Radical Forgiveness is much more than the mere letting go of the past, it is the key to creating the life that we want and the world that we want.”
Scientists now explain that when we are angry or when we harbour the feelings of jealousy and revenge, we only harm us. Our anger changes the chemical balance in our body. It produces harmful toxins which cause headache, stomach upset and sleeplessness. This way our anger damages us before we try or prepare to damage others. The book I mentioned above even mentions how, by applying the principle of forgiveness, one can help in the treatment of cancer. After all, as Mahavir Swami demonstrated when he dealt with the deadly cobra Chandkaushik, that colour of peace and forgiveness is white. The blood pouring out from Mahavir’s toes when Chandkaushik bit him was white. This is symbolic. White colour of forgiveness won, and the cobra was pacified. Likewise, when we are at peace with ourselves and towards others our chemical balance would change.
Jain religion advocates the idea of forgiveness. We are asked to beg forgiveness from all living beings for the harm we might have caused, and we are also taught to forgive all those who might have hurt us knowingly or unknowingly. Here indeed forgiveness is like a God-given gift and heavenly attribute.
But we Jains forget one thing. It is OK to forgive the person who has wronged you but let us see a scenario about begging forgiveness from other living beings. Whilst observing the Samayik or Pratikramana ritual we recite Iriyavahiya Sootra which states:
“I wish to retract from sins. Which I might have committed whilst going to and fro. Whatever types of living beings I might have destroyed while walking and while doing other activities; Whatever types of lives I might have destroyed on dews, in ant-holes, in air, in water, in clay, in cobwebs. Whatever types of lives I might have destroyed: – those with one sense, those with two senses, those with three senses, those with four senses and those with five senses. I might have kicked them, rolled them, covered them, assembled them, touched them, separated them from their own kinds, or killed them. May my sins or faults be forgiven (destroyed).”
In the above Sootra, we ask for forgiveness from the tiniest creatures. But here we must ask ourselves some questions to ourselves. We have described all sorts of possibilities as to how we harm other life in the nature around us. But the above words seem just hollow and dry if you think about the material progress and industrial pursuit by mankind. We ask forgiveness from the living beings in water, in air, in soil and in space. We discard toxic substances and harmful chemicals in the water – in our rivers. Industries emit poisonous gases in the air and pollute the environment. Toxic chemicals and fertilisers have killed the soil in many places. Thoughtless mining has disturbed the natural balance. Dairy industry inflicts cruelty on animals. Do we really ask for forgiveness? If so, why do we carry on in search of material advantages only? And why are we saying that our progress is phenomenal? And what is the use of begging forgiveness if we are not going to change?
Just ask that little fish in the river Ganga or just ask that little child who is trying to breathe fresh air in those slums, or a chained animal being prepared for slaughter. Are you happy sacrificing yourself for my greed and profit?
The three scenarios above take us through the different modes of our thought process. There are instances where mere forgiveness may result in more atrocities as history has shown us. Here we must see the greater good. And there are instances where forgiveness is a real panacea in one’s life. And the last scenario shows a warning light on our hypocrisy of forgiveness. May the Lord’s guiding light lead us to the right path and right destination.