Synopsis: We all experience in our lives the wrongs that have been done to us at some time that is like a festering wound that seldom heals. Buddha taught us that it is the bliss of forgiveness that extricates us from the hurt feelings and gives us peace.
Bliss of forgiveness
Source : Google photo
I admired the late Pope John Paul II who was shot by a Turkish gunman who mistakenly took him for a radical Pope against the Moslems. Luckily the Pope was saved by the quick thinking doctors who had excellent facilities and surgical skills. What surprised the whole world was the way the Pope took it calmly and after recovery went to the jail to meet with his assassin and blessed him and forgave him. I believe the convict wept for this show of genuine empathy for him by a Pope whom he had tried to kill due to a mistaken belief.
I think this empathy for the adversary and the willingness to forgive anyone of wrong doings sets a person apart from all others who depend on retribution more than anything else. Jesus used to say that if a person slaps you on one cheek, give him the other cheek showing compassion and forgiveness. The remorse and the self-realization of a misdeed has a very strong effect on a person who has some conscience.
But in the real world, often we find people doing horrible things in the name of misguided beliefs and have absolutely no conscience that can guide them in the right direction. Just ask the assassin of Malala Yousafzai why he shot such a beautiful innocent girl who only wanted to go to school. Just ask the Talibans why they kill children and blow up their schools in the name of a mistaken belief that girls should not be educated. Who gives them the right to take away the freedom of others?
I admire those who have a compassionate heart and readily forgive and show mercy to those who have done wrong to them. Mercy and forgiveness should not be construed as condoning wrongdoings of others .Jesus did not condone the usury of loan sharks in the temple and fought against it. He fought against the injustice everywhere and stood up to the brutality of oppression of the Romans but he also had a compassionate heart and forgave Judas for betraying him that led to his crucifixion.
This world is full of bad people who will try to harm you, cheat you, take advantage of you, malign you without reason, rob you or even kill you just for a few coins. One policeman shot dead a man over a dispute about a toothpick recently here in the Philippines and a man shot dead a pregnant woman over a parking spot dispute.
I have personally been taken advantage of by unknown people who had absolutely no qualms about doing so putting me in grave danger but luckily I survived. Once I was at the Frankfurt airport where an airport security woman became very nervous when she asked me if I had anything that did not belong to me. I said yes I did have a package given to me by someone to carry to the Philippines. She then asked me to open the package to see what was inside. We were very surprised to find some garlic and lemons etc. of very poor quality that I threw away. Why would anyone send such poor quality things to the Philippines where they have excellent garlic and lemons? I guess I was foolish enough to accept the package in the first place because I am innocent and often grant favors to others without much thinking but that experience taught me a few lessons so now I refuse.
One has to learn through such experiences to say no very firmly and avoid such people in the future but often you will meet people whom you cannot avoid no matter how hard you try. They may be your classmates; they may be your office workers or your neighbors. They may be even your relatives who are the hardest to get rid of.
I have written about toxic people in one blog that may be worth reading here.
But today I write about forgiveness exemplified by the Pope whom the whole world respected and who may be declared a saint but we are not the Pope. We are ordinary people who have no such ability to forgive people who do us wrong in life. Courts are full of cases where someone is always suing someone over some silly things thus tying up precious court time that could be spent solving more serious cases.
We are intolerant of others, their beliefs and their religion. We are intolerant of other’s cultures, other’s race, other’s ethnicity and other’s food, clothes and even language. This intolerance breeds contempt for others who are not like us and results often in mass shootings like in Las Vegas recently. It is a manifestation of anger that leads some people to take such drastic steps.
The question to ask is why we are often so angry and angry about what? What makes us feel superior to others and superior in what way? I have often seen and felt this self-righteous sense of superiority among some people who start condescending towards others.
When we helped a woman who was injured in a car accident and brought her home to give her better care than what she was getting at a dirty hospital in Haiti, we were asked by the American missionaries why we helped an unknown person that was very surprising to us. I thought that the missionaries were supposed to follow the example Jesus set for them but I was deceived by their apparent religiosity that lacked compassion and empathy.
Over the years I have come to realize that the human life is very short so it is not worth carrying the heavy load of ill feelings generated by people who did us wrong in some way so found a way to dump all our bad experiences and forgive them. It is a good feeling to be free of this nagging and continuous sense of hurt especially when you are innocent and have been victimized by bad people.
There is a Hindi song I like where the singer says that one should always keep the company of saintly people and get rid of all those people who are bad because the saintly people help you become a better person through their examples while the bad people drag you down in life.
Life of equanimity:
Buddha preached 2500 years ago that one should try to live the life of equanimity to attain peace and freedom from want, greed, avarice and all the ills of mankind. What he meant was that nothing really matters in life except good values and good deeds. When a man can free himself of desire, then and only then he becomes free and attains peace in this life. Money, cars, jewelries, big house, comfort, excellent food and fancy clothes etc. are the result of desire that never ends. Desiring but not getting it then creates unhappiness so people try to fill their lives with material things thinking that it will bring them happiness but they are wrong.
Whitney Houston was rich, famous and lived in a palatial home but had no friends and died pitifully overdosing on drugs alone. You can be surrounded with material things but still feel lonely because it does not bring you friends. Those who claim to be your friends are only attracted by the wealth that they want to exploit so rich people have lots of such “friends” who drop them the moment they become poor due to bankruptcy.
Swami Vivekananda also said the same thing and said that we come to this world naked and leave with only our shirt on so what we acquire all our lifetime is left behind. He was given a nice bed to sleep on one day but he also slept under a tree and went hungry often. It was all the same to him. That is the true meaning of the life of equanimity.
It is easy to say but very hard to follow in real life as we are all full of desires and want to fulfill those desires at any cost. The material culture we live in teaches us this greed for material things that are advertised all the time in the TV and media. There was a TV ad in India that showed a green devil making a person jealous just because he does not have this brand of TV.
Can you imagine yourself living a life of equanimity someday? Can you imagine saying nothing really matters in life and one can live without the material things and be happy? Can you say that good food and ordinary food are all the same because they serve the same purpose of quenching the hunger? Can you say that fancy designer clothes or ordinary second-hand cotton clothes are all the same because they only cover your nakedness?
I know that it is very hard for the ordinary people to live the life of equanimity because we all are the product of our upbringing, environment and culture so the desire is hard-wired into our brain from childhood that cannot be easily unwired later on in life.
But I also think that Buddha and Vivekananda were right in saying that we should all try to attain the state of equanimity and live a simple life that will bring us closer to the peace that we so desire. One way to get there is first to get rid of the heavy burden we carry on our frail shoulders. This is the burden of hurt feelings that the bad people have caused by their deeds and words. It is not easy to forgive such people but the result is a relief that cannot be described by words. This relief alone can bring in peace and tranquility that is so essential in life.
I feel sorry for people who say that they cannot get rid of their things due to sentimental reasons. You should not be attached to some furniture or a house even if it is beautiful. The attachment should be for people who bring in joy to your life. They are the saintly people the singer sings about in his song. They are hard to find but they are there. You just have to learn to find them and stick to them once found. They will teach you that there is tremendous joy in living the life of equanimity. It will free your soul like a butterfly and you will begin to soar like it.
Note : My blogs are also available in French, Spanish, German and Japanese languages at the following links as well as my biography: