All faiths worldwide recommend it. There’s universal agreement among religious leaders about its benefits.
Every avatar of the Supreme Being and all His prophets have preached it. It’s a prayer often recited by devotees in places of worship. And non-believers, too, are convinced of its great value. Doctors tell patients about its health benefits. Old and New Age gurus will break bread to celebrate its virtues. Pranic healers and reiki masters consider it a powerful healing tool.
Forgiveness is not as sublime as love, but it’s a divine virtue, without necessarily being godly. The Oxford English Dictionary defines forgiveness thus: “To grant free pardon and to give up all claim on account of an offence or debt”. But forgiveness is much more than that. Cynics see the act of forgiving as being one of weakness, resorted to by the meek and the cowardly. The more enlightened say only the strong are capable of it, as did M K Gandhi: “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
Pure happiness is achieved because when you forgive a person who has done you harm, you detoxify yourself of all negative energy, free your mind, and purify your soul and body. Perhaps that’s why Martin Luther said: “Forgiveness is pure happiness.”
Studies at the University of Wisconsin found the more forgiving people were, the less they suffered from a wide range of illnesses. The benefits included improved functioning of their cardiovascular and nervous systems. Anger and resentment towards our so-called oppressors will bring us nothing but trouble and unhappiness.
“If you do not forgive, you will continue to think of the offender and the unpleasant event,” said pranic healing master, Choa Koi Sui. “By forgiving and blessing, you achieve inner peace and freedom.” Those who follow Vedantic tradition pray to God to grant happiness even to their enemies. They pray to Providence not only for their well-being, but also for the prosperity of their adversaries. Vedantic wisdom believes in a pre-natal harmony, a link and celestial communion among all souls. Hence, when you hate another person, you only hate yourself, as all souls are linked.
“How often do you forgive one person? Up to seven times?” Jesus Christ was asked by his disciple Peter. Jesus replied: “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” Jesus even asked God to forgive those who had crucified him: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” In The Lord’s Prayer, Christians pray: “And forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”
The message is clear: Only when you forgive others will you, too, be forgiven. Allah is ‘Most Forgiving’. Prophet Mohammed forgave people for their ignorance and was ever ready to forgive his enemies.
By being unforgiving, we keep creating an identity around our pain, and that is what is reborn, Buddhists believe. In Jainism, forgiveness is propounded as one of the main virtues to be cultivated by the faithful. Supreme forgiveness forms part of one of the 10 characteristics of dharma in Jainism.
“Always forgive your enemies — nothing annoys them as much,” said Oscar Wilde. It’s an interesting thing to say, but taking the tongue-in-cheek remark seriously might dilute the impact and power of forgiveness.
Forgiveness has great power. It is a glorious and selfless act that could radically transform the lives of both the forgiver and the forgiven – for the better.