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Forgiveness and Compassion
Merry: I am wondering if the Vedanta teachings say anything about forgiveness.
My main spiritual study to date has been A Course in Miracles, and I expected that it would appeal and it still does because I am used to Christian terminology, having been raised an Irish Roman Catholic.
I think a word like “compassion” possibly comes closest to forgiveness.
Daniel: Nice to hear from you, Merry.
Forgiveness is compassion, and compassion is forgiveness. Actually, compassion is your nature as the limitless self, the recognition that everything and everyone is you. But this understanding is from the view point of awareness, your true nature, not from Merry’s angle. We can explore this in another conversation, if you wish.
The field of existence has certain rules, or dharmas, that operate the same way for everyone. How each individual interprets these dharmas depends on several things: the nature they are born with (their conditioning, or vasana load), their karma, or life situation, and their level of self-knowledge. To live a happy life and to have peace of mind, one needs to do what is right, or dharmic, for you. Non-injury is the highest dharmic value, to yourself primarily, and to others. Non-forgiveness harms Merry.
Forgiveness is not about saying that what someone does is right – or wrong. It is about freeing Merry from the burden of carrying the unforgiveness which will bind her to suffering. Her forgiveness or unforgiveness does not change the nature of whatever happened; whether you forgive or not does not affect the other person. It affects Merry.
Do you want Merry to be free – or to suffer more? If you want to be free then forgive because you love Merry. Remember that people are the way they are for reasons they do not understand or know how to change. When ignorance rules the mind, people do awful things to themselves and others that cause untold suffering. If people under the spell of ignorance could be different, they would be. But they are trapped by their conditioning, by ignorance, and can only operate from their level of understanding and self-ignorance, or lack of self-awareness.
It is up to you. Forgiveness is freedom, it is self-love.
In addition to the above, I would also add that being firm (“tough love”) should not be seen as a weakness or a hindrance to one’s quality of forgiveness/compassion.
It’s common, especially in the spiritual marketplace, to want to live up to some saintly ideal or to think that one should not upset the feelings of others. This is nonsense. Direct speech and firm boundaries are core practices for an inquirer because they’re the solution to a peaceful mind, and only in a peaceful mind can self-knowledge be reflected, self-knowledge being liberation.
I hope this helps.