Revenge versus forgiveness – a spiritual view

by Swami Prasad Sharma
(Dona Paula, Goa, India)

Revenge versus forgiveness – a spiritual view

While searching for ‘forgiveness’ on a particular website I found several cases in which the victims found it difficult to forgive their tormentors. I don’t think anybody on Earth could teach them a lesson of forgiveness, unless they themselves resort to it.

It is customary to ask for the last wish of a person to be hanged. It is fulfilled if it is genuine and possible. Similarly, we may consider that a dying person, according to his Karma (actions), knowledge and attachments, or according to his unfulfilled desires, takes a vow to get another chance to seek revenge. Revenge is one of the major causes of rebirth.

Forgiveness is one of the important qualities to be adopted by a spiritual aspirant. But the question is, why?

Feelings of revenge may cause rebirth if not given up in this life. It means, if one doesn’t forgive, one may have to be reborn, halting one’s spiritual progress. Jesus Christ showed an example of his mercy by expressing his forgiveness to all those concerned with his crucifixion before his spirit flew away.
In spirituality, anyone concentrating on making life successful has to adopt forgiveness, otherwise it would interfere with one’s salvation. In the process one has to become an observer without any other reactions but compassion, i.e., devoid of ego. Becoming an observer means to become a judge, listening to the parties of both sides to know the truth. However, here he is not giving his judgment, just observing the truth.

The world is composed of opposites. Dealing with matter in the universe we feel the presence of anti-matter somewhere. Even God is claimed to be formless, and also with form! There are people whose hearts are compassionate towards others while somebody else’s heart may be aching to take revenge. There are wise people who consider forgiveness as an effective tool to bring enmity to an amicable and mutually beneficial end, and there are people who may be unable to forgive and continue cursing throughout their lives if they do not get revenge. There have been instances where enmity between two families was continued for two or more generations. Each side remained determined to annihilate the other side.

In India, the Jain community (a sect) celebrates a festival of self-discipline through fasting and other ascetic practices for 10 days annually. On the last day, members of the community greet each other and ask forgiveness for any pain that might have been caused, knowingly or unknowingly, by any of their actions during the past year.

In fact, forgiveness is for the peace of our own self. It so happens that a child behaves in his normal way but elders feel offended and sometimes a parent punishes the child. Later the parent repents harming his own physical system and in the process peace of mind is lost. Time and again the parent may think of advising the child rather than scolding it, and that seems a better proposition, of course.

Forgiveness should not be practiced out of incapacity to take revenge, but out of understanding the erring nature of a human being. Sometimes it is too late to realize the necessity of forgiveness.

There have been instances in the lives of saints when they pardoned the culprit, and in turn the culprit became their follower and achieved spirituality.

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