Forgiveness has always been helpful in building strong, stable and good relationships. According to great saints of all traditions, a definition of love is the capacity to endlessly forgive. The love of parents is that they forgive their child no matter what he has done. Forgiveness does not necessarily mean that a person should not pay a particular price to learn the lesson. Forgiveness means to be the well-wisher of even our persecutors and to think in terms of their welfare. Inner peace, the Bhagwad Gita teaches, is to change oneself. Inner peace will never come by changing the peace of those who have cheated or hurt us. We cannot succeed unless we change our own attitudes and perceptions.
A great thinker has said, “If we do not forgive, we are breaking the bridge that we must cross in order to be forgiven for improper things that we have done.” We see in the West that the divorce rate is 71% within three years of marriage. We see fighting between brothers, friends, people of the same spiritual mission and among races. The inability to choose to forgive creates pain, suffering, and chaos. It can last for generations; even centuries.
People cannot forgive what someone has done to their forefathers a thousand years ago—they still hate and want revenge. That is the world we live in.
Without forgiveness, no relationship can survive. This is a foundational universal principle of all spiritual teachers in all spiritual paths.
The Supreme is all-forgiving. He has the power to forgive anyone of sins, abuses, and blasphemy. Krishna says in the Gita, “Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.”
The Supreme Absolute Truth is all-forgiving and we have been given the power to forgive because we are part of the Supreme.
In the New Testament Jesus Christ taught his devotees how to pray: “My Lord, please forgive me as I forgive others who have trespassed me.” In forgiving, we are forgiven. In forgiving is the bridge that we must cross to be forgiven. We should not burn down that bridge.
When Jesus was on the crucifix after being beaten, tortured, and blasphemed, just before he entered into samadhi his last prayer was, “My dear father, please forgive them. They do not know what they do.” That is a spiritual principle. It is said, “Forgiveness is the fragrance that a sweet smelling flower like a rose or violet leaves on the heel that has just crushed it.”
The Mahabharata describes how the pandavas were exiled to the forest by the envious Duryodhana who tried to kill and defame them. He cheated them of all their rightful property and their service to humanity. He took everything away. They were meant to be living in the palace as kings and queens, but they were struggling in the forest.
One day Draupadi said to Yudhisthira in a distressed voice, “You are meant to be king. I can’t tolerate that you have to eat wild fruits and are sleeping on grass. You should be on the throne. This is unbearable. We should go and do something to Duryodhana.” Yudhisthira Maharaja replied, “If we become envious, then we have caught the contagious disease of Duryodhana. To be forgiving is real victory.”