Every child has quarrels with his or her siblings. So did I.
However, every time I’d complain to my mother stating how badly my brother behaved with me, she’d say, “You must learn to forgive and forget.” These words irritated me. They made me feel I lacked self respect and the spirit to fight.
As I came in touch with the Krishna conscious philosophy, I began to hear this phrase more often.“Forgive and forget” It seemed so hard. Still, I was told, it is crucial.
Let me narrate an enlightening encounter I had the other day.
AN ENLIGHTENING EXPERIENCE
The traffic at seven that evening was surprisingly scanty. I was on my way homewith. The breeze was refreshing, and I was absorbed in thought. Suddenly, a blare of horns jolted me out of my daydream. I turned around in the backseat of my car. A biker, a young man, was trying to overtake us. He was tailgating our car. But we couldn’t move out of his way; in front of us a truck that couldn’t go faster was preventing others from speeding. But the biker wouldn’t stop honking. His relentlessness reminded me of the phrase hallabol, “pounce with full force.” So out of desperation to make him stop, we changed lanes and allowed him to pass. While overtaking us, though, he slowed his bike and looked in at us with such wrath. It was as if we had blocked his oxygen supply rather than just the road. My driver refused to acknowledge his angry face, which only made him linger for a few more seconds trying to get a reaction. His concentration onto us he didn’t notice the road ahead of him. Suddenly, the truck in front of us slowed.
“Krishna!” I shouted, as my driver hit the brakes. The young man raced ahead, straight to the truck. He veered to the right, the bike skidded, and he almost lost his balance. “Oh my God,” I prayed on his behalf. As we ourselves passed the truck only a second later, we looked back through the rear view mirror and saw that the motorcyclist had recovered himself. He was now driving soberly, utilizing his second chance with focus and wisdom.
ROAD BLOCKS IN LIFE
Our spiritual path often brings us to a circumstance where we stand face to face with the one thing or person whom we hold responsible for pulling us back. Even after we’ve crossed the hurdle, we often wait to humiliate the “culprit.”
When we’re offended in even the smallest of ways, we may find our peers encouraging us to seek revenge or at least not forgive until we see the guilty suffering repentance. Little do we realize that these obstacles (or persons) come by the arrangement of the Almighty with explicit lessons for us. Like the rider in the story, we can manage to find our way across most hurdles, but just as we’re about to pass through the problem, we step back to abuse its cause.
This may be pleasing to the evil minded ego, but Krishna is pained to see it, especially when this fight occurs between two or more of His devotees.
The person who sets out on his journey to Krishna can never do justice to it by holding odious feelings in his or her heart against anybody. One bad thought has the power to make us lose focus on our goal and channel all our energy into ridicule. This abuse, whether physical, verbal, or mental, is detrimental to spiritual life. And we do not always get a second chance.
A few moments of ill feeling toward somebody made the motorcyclist lose his balance.
His Holiness Radhanatha Swami said in one lecture, “When we forgive someone for the injustices against us, we liberate ourselves of the poison of that negativity that is within our own heart.”
FORGIVE AND FORGET: NOT A SIGN OF WEAKNESS
Any such circumstance may remind one of Maharaja Prithu. He was about to begin the sacrifice of the hundredth horse, the end of which would mark the end of a successful ashvamedha yajna. But Indra, faced with this most powerful fruitive action, couldn’t tolerate Prithu’s sacrifice. In a fit of envy and unseen by anyone, he stole the sacrificial animal when the son of Vena was performing the last horse sacrifice meant to please the Lord of all sacrifice. King Indra confused religion with irreligion. (Srimad Bhagavatam, Canto 4, Chapter 20) says, “The most intelligent of favor to others in this world, of God orman, belongs to the best human beings; they never resort to malice in relation to other living beings, as they never forget the soul within this vehicle of time.” But Maharaja Prithu, out of his great compassion, decided to withdraw, and ended the ceremony before he could complete it. By doing this, he immensely pleased Lord Visnu. The Lord said, “My dear King, I am very captivated by your elevated qualities and excellent behavior, and thus I am very favorably inclined toward you. You may therefore ask from Me any benediction you like. One who does not possess elevated qualities and behavior cannot possibly achieve My favor simply by performance of sacrifices, severe austerities or mystic yoga. But I always remain equipoised in the heart of one who is also equipoised in all circumstances.” (Bhagavatam 4.20.16)
Maharaja Prithu apparently lost a lot. How many of us have the heart to reject the prestigious post of Indra? “It is easy to reject something when it’s not offered to us,” His Holiness Radhanatha Swami said once. But would we really be losing something when we are able to please the Lord as part of our sacrifice? Indra had to complete one hundred horse sacrifices to earn his position, but Maharaja Prithu, in his performance of only ninety nine, not only won the heart of the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna but was offered any benediction he desired. What was it that pleased the Lord so much that He was willing to appear to Prithu? He was willing to forgive Indra his envy in stealing the sacrificial horse. Such is the greatness of forgiveness.
Forgive and forget always seemed like something losers did out of weakness. Then I realized that forgive and forget is precisely what losers don’t do. That’s what makes them losers.
Rashi Parikh is a freelance graphic designer and lives in Mumbai.