Forgiveness doesn’t come easy to most. I count myself amongst the ‘most.’ Not that I keep a lot of grudges locked tight in deep dark dungeons of my heart and mind! But, yes, there are some incidents, some events that are hard to forget, difficult to come to terms with. And your mind continuously plays the same record of ‘if only,’ ‘why did he/she,’ ‘I shall never forget how he/she hurt me’ and the like. So, it was no wonder that I went to my neighborhood library and picked up a book on forgiveness. Actually, there was another reason too. This specific book was about His Holiness The Dalai Lama about whom I had heard but not enough.  So, I thought reading this book would help me acquire two benefits; one – I would get to know a wee bit about a living saint I had wanted to know more about but never took the initiative and two, I would gather some insights into the art of forgiveness, something that I needed to learn.

So, here I was with book in hand, ‘The Wisdom of Forgiveness’ HH The Dalai Lama. The most intriguing thing about the book was that it was written by Victor Chan, a man of Chinese origin. That made the book more interesting to read as we all know that the Chinese are still keeping peace for the Tibetan community at ransom in spite of all the suffering and the universal appeal of The Dalai Lama and the people of Tibet. In fact, one of the very first questions that Victor Chan asks of The Dalai Lama is whether he hated the Chinese?!

To advance on the spiritual path not just to know about God but also for ordinary human souls like us he says, that we must develop forgiveness. He says, “I make visualizations: send my positive emotions like happiness, affections to others. Then another visualization. I visualize receiving their sufferings, their negative emotions….I pay special attention to the Chinese-especially those doing terrible things to the Tibetans. So, as I meditate, I breathe in all their poisons – hatred, fear, cruelty. Then, I breathe out. And, I let all the good things come out, things like compassion, forgiveness. I take inside my body all these bad things. Then, I replace poisons with fresh air. Giving and taking. I take care not to blame….This meditation is very effective, useful to reduce hatred, useful to cultivate forgiveness.

I was impressed. And understood about the visualization part. It works I know since I have tried it. But, breathing in negative emotions, no, that didn’t seem practical to me for the moment. What if I breathed in all that poison and was not able to breathe it out? Maybe, for ordinary souls like me, some more effort was needed.

There is something else that The Dalai Lama says about forgiveness which really felt great and also very very practical. It is the issue of ‘interdependence.’ It is so simple that one wonders how so many of us do not seem to use it in our lives and fritter our emotions and energy away on things not really worth the trouble.

The Dalai Lama says, “The theory of interdependence allows us to develop a wider perspective.. ..In today’s world every nation heavily interdependent, interconnected. Under these circumstances, destroying your enemy – your neighbor –means destroying yourself in the long run.”

For those interested in spiritual development he says, “Spiritual progress takes time. It’s not like switching on a light. More like kindling a fire: start from small spark, then, becomes bigger and bigger…. All mental transformations like that.. At beginning, not noticeable. Spiritual development – we cannot see results within weeks or months. Even years. … My own case also like that.”

By comparing himself when he gives spiritual advice HH The Dalai Lama comes down to the level of the spiritual aspirant and makes it appear like, “Hey Man! If I could do it so can You!” and you wonder at the utter simplicity and grace of this world famous saint representing Buddhism today in the entire world.  One particular episode in the book really stands out which I still remember with great clarity and that is The Dalai Lama’s take on Saddam Hussein.  He says that from ex President of US, George Bush’s view, Saddam Hussein was bad, ‘hundred per cent negative’ and the only way out was ‘elimination.’  “But, reality not like that” he says. He goes on to say that Saddam Hussein was not one hundred per cent wicked from birth – “not something unchangingly bad. The wickedness comes from many other factors, not only from him.” He even says that during the Gulf War when everybody blamed Saddam Hussein, he felt that it was all very ‘unfair’ and that his ‘heart went out to him.

The Dalai Lama’s heart went out to Saddam Hussein? To someone who brought suffering to so many people? Yes, says The Dalai Lama.  “Without his army, without his weapons, he cannot be that kind of aggressor. These weapons not produced by Iraqis themselves, but come from the West. Western companies helped to produce this aggressor. They did it, but afterword, they blame on that person. Unfair.”

Powerful words and such practical philosophy. So many of our worries and problems we create ourselves and later when we suffer we blame everyone else but ourselves.   “If circumstances changed,” he says, “that person can become very nice person, “he finally says.

Forgiveness for The Dalai Lama exists in two levels. “One level: forgiveness means you shouldn’t develop feelings of revenge. Because revenge harms the other person, therefore it is a form of violence. With violence, there is usually counter violence… and the problem never goes away. …Another level: forgiveness means you should try not to develop feelings of anger towards your enemy. Anger doesn’t solve the problem. Anger only brings uncomfortable feelings to yourself. Anger destroys your own peace of mind. Your happy mood never comes, not while anger remains. I think that’s why we should forgive. With calm mind, more peaceful mind, more healthy body. An agitated mind spoils our health, very harmful for the body.”

I am sure for those seeking to cultivate the art of forgiveness, this book will come as a godsend. I have not transformed into an all forgiving person after reading this book. I would be lying if I said that. But this much is sure. I was greatly influenced by the simple principles of forgiveness that HH The Dalai Lama preached so simply during the course of his interactions with the author. And I hope to practice them in my life.

P.S. How could I leave this out? When Oprah asked The Dalai Lama whether he had ever to forgive himself for anything he replied, “My attitude towards mosquitoes is not very favorable, not very peaceful….”


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44 responses »

  1. Smita Luthra says:

    Forgiveness has always been the hardest challenge. There is something so vulnerable in the human spirit that when gripped with a pain that feels unfair/undeserved, it loses all sense of logic. Sometimes forgiving feels difficult because it requires going against the natural response to stimulus that a human mind is accustomed to. Every action produces some reaction and to try and forgive may mean to not react the natural way. It is then hard to alienate forgiveness from inaction – which in some weird sense may seem like cowardice to people who have a strong sense of justice and righteousness.
    Someone once told me a saying in Kashmiri that roughly translates to “Only a tree that is full of fruit, can bend it’s branches.” That may put to ease the discomfort of likening forgiveness to inaction/cowardice. However, many schools of thought (and perhaps including this book) seem to be suggesting that it is in one’s own self-interest to forgive and that forgiving others brings more peace to one’s own self. That is definitely true. No arguments about it. And of course, the angle of interdependence is a very practical one too.
    But would it be right if I were to forgive someone only because there was more damage in store for me if I did not? Would it bring about a change inside the person (who wronged me) if the motivation behind my forgiveness were a self-interest of some kind? Would my forgiveness then in any way reduce the wrong that was done and help the world in any way?

    (Shail, I am just playing the devil’s advocate here. 🙂 Your lovely writeup has stirred a lot of nagging questions in my mind and that is a truly remarkable thing for any piece of writing. 🙂 So please accept my congratulations on picking up a very interesting topic and doing a fabulous job with it.)

  2. Sherry Blue Sky says:

    This is wonderful, Shail. Thanks for posting it. I especially love the part about the mosquitoes!!!!

  3. J S Broca says:

    Dear Shail,a really good review-literally,’saagar in a gaagar'(ocean in a pot).Forgive and forget is a common idiom/phrase/advice but we all have our own ideas and versions of it.I remember listening to a sermon by a priest in a temple.He said (may be jokingly, like Dalai Lama on mosquitoes) :“When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realised that the Lord doesn’t work that way so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me.” What I feel is that most of us can forgive and forget, but we just don’t want the other person to forget that we forgave ! Let us all make a sincere effort to inculcate the habit of forgiveness and see its results.You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well. On a lighter note :”Men forget but never forgive. Women forgive but never forget !” Each to his/her own !!
    J S BROCA
    Retired Chief Manager
    Bank of India
    New Delhi.

    • Dear Jatinder,

      Trust you to come up with a comment that not only highlights what is necessary but also has that little pinch or should I say punch of humour.

      Forget and forgive – easy to preach but difficult to follow. But definitely not impossible.

  4. D.selvaraj says:

    Dear Mam
    Thank u so much for your guidance on forgiveness to me at a very apt time .Actually I was so pressurized by the surroundings and even in my family.After a sleepless night today morning I read this wonderful article.Great.I relaxed.As a librarian I felt bad that this book is not there in our Library. Really Excellent and the way u enlightened.Enjoyed a lot.
    Thanks
    Selvaraj

    • Hello Mr. Selvaraj,

      I am glad that this post came to you at a time when you really needed it.

      All problems come with solutions. It is we humans who fail to find the solution and then grumble that God is unkind.

      Nice Day.

  5. Bhargavi says:

    A very nice review of the book by HH Dalai Lama.
    I always admire his forgiveness attitude and how he explains it so simple to us to follow..
    One small step from our side, in learning good things..and the next step is to follow, isn’t it!
    All the best..

    About mosquitoes..haha..everyone loses their patience, isn’t it!

    • Dear Bhargavi,

      Nice you enjoyed reading the review. If you get the time, do try and read the book. It takes time to read it but it is worth the effort.

      Yes, I too have been inspired and attracted by the simple philosophy of HH and his persona too.

  6. shewriting says:

    thanks for sharing this, shail. I absolutely love and agree with the quotes. resentments poison the soul…

    the visualization works for me, too. Don’t be afraid of not being able to exhale the negative back out…I do my best to trust that God will not let that happen…and if I don’t trust then I pray for the willingness to trust…it is a beautiful thing. Again, thank you for an inspiring post 🙂

    • Hi Sheila,

      Glad you liked the review. The book moved me to a great extent. Yes, I try to send out positive vibrations at least, so that others are not affected by any negativity of mine.

  7. Forgiveness is one one of options, which should be appropriately used for social uplift.

  8. Lovita morang polo says:

    this is really inspiring shail…

  9. Kristen Haskell says:

    The idea of breathing in poison and breathing out good is fantastic and could be world changing. Peace be with you and thank you so much.
    That book needs to find its way onto my bookshelf.

    • Dear Kristen,

      Yes, the concept of breathing in poison and breathing out good is great but needs to be done only by people advanced in their levels of spirituality. For mere mortals like us, it could fire back and instead of becoming good we could become more negative. Yes, we could spend our time, thoughts and energy in the company of books, videos, people, etc who breathe out positivity. This would really help.

      Thanks for sharing.

  10. Sonal Shree says:

    Wow Shail, really enlightening. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Dear Sonal,

      Glad you liked the review. It took me a while to read the book, slowly and steadily till I understood the concepts and when I did it felt really great.
      Now, to implement them……

  11. vimala ramu says:

    An excellent write, Shail. Though we are not able to follow Dalai lama 100%, it is good to bear his thoughts in mind and avoid extremes in our behaviour. Thanks for giving us an insight into a great mind

    • Dear Vimala,

      Thanks for the nice words. Yes, although we may not be able to be like HH, we can atleast understand the workings of such a beautiful and spiritual mind. And at least attempt to get inspired….

  12. hope says:

    dear Shail,
    you have touched on two topics that I cannot get enough of
    The Dalai Lama and learning to forgive

    I’ve read quite a few books that he has written and there are so many more to read including this one.

    you did a fantastic review and I thank you

    I chuckled at the Dalai Lama’s statement about the mosquito. a common ground that most of us can relate to.

    forgiveness is indeed a necessity if we wish to achieve a higher spiritual level and accomplish a much more peaceful life. I’m working on it. 🙂

    have a wonderful day!

    • Dear Hope,

      Thanks for your lovely comments and words of appreciation. I too am trying to catch up on more of HH The Dalai Lama’s works as and when time permits.

      Wonderful Day to you too:)

  13. Kumarendra Mallick says:

    Breathing in negative thoughts, and to breathe out good ones remind me of Lord Shiva, keeping poison to himself in order to save lives! Any good thing is difficult to practice, though not impossible. HH Dalai Lama thinks at a higher level and acts too at the same level. Common people think at a higher level, but act at a different level, thereby negating their efforts. Forgiveness is a sweet thing. Shaili, you have done a good job.

    • Dear Mallickji,

      It is always a pleasure to have you commenting on my write-ups. Yes, for mere mortals like us, breathing in poison is not advisable because we don’t react like HH The Dalai Lama does.
      Yes, forgiveness is indeed sweet. When one does not feel any thing bad against the one who has hurt us, it really is a joyous feeling…
      Thank you.
      Warm Regards.

  14. prerna says:

    Thanks a ton for sharing the essence of the book…Hoping to practice it…

  15. beyniaz says:

    Negative emotions can harm the person harbouring them, but even knowing this, overcoming negativity can be a difficult task. Dalai Lama (and you) have done a good job of showing us the way.Thanks Shail.

    • Dear Beyni,

      Thanks for your nice words of appreciation. Like I mentioned earlier, we all tend to feel like martyrs, soldiers of war carrying scars of a great battle as we carry our negative emotions within.

      We really need to work on this. Of course, we need to breathe in positive emotions, not negative like HH The Dalai Lama. Because we are ordinary people, not saints like Him.

  16. Shernaz says:

    Shail, forgiveness is said to be the virtue of saints and very difficult for us mere mortals to ahieve. Not impossible though. Perhaps if we first become compassionate towards all, try and understand where the other person comes from, forgiving would come more easily. But I often wonder, would I be able to forgive someone for the rape or murder of a loved one? Or for torture, the kind we hear pow’s have to undergo? Would I be able to forgive as Staines’ wife did? I don’t even want to find the answer to such questions.

    One of my favorite quotes from school days has been
    “Forgiveness is the perfume the violet leaves on the hand that crushes it”.

    • Dear Shernaz,

      I agree with you hundred per cent. Forgiveness is indeed the virtue of saints. Mortals like us find it hard or can I say, have little inclination to forgive and forget. We prefer to carry an emotional baggage of grudges on our backs throughout our lives. It tends to give us an illusionary feeling that we are great martyrs!
      No, I don’t know whether I could have forgotten and forgiven if I was in Mrs. Staines’ position. Like you, I don’t even want to think about it. Also because I believe, “let’s cross the bridge when we come to it.”

      • Shernaz says:

        Well Shail, I wouldn’t want either you or me or for that matter, anyone else to ever reach such a bridge and have to cross it. May God be merciful to us all.

      • Dear Shernaz,

        Very true. We wish and pray the best for all. Even imagining a probable negative situation if wrong.

        So, here’s to a more positive outlook!

  17. Irene says:

    Like Nadi, I learnt a lot too. Loved the end note!

  18. Geetashree Chatterjee says:

    A good review is the one which kindles an interest in the reader’s mind towards the reviewed subject. Yours does.

    Forgiving is a very difficult and hard-to-attain-very-noble emotion. I have not been able to practice the same as yet but hope to do so some day. This book may help in that direction.

    You are lucky that you still have a library near home. We lack that facility. I hope somebody thought of that!!!

    • Dear Geeta,

      Thanks. Nice you liked the review. Yes, forgiveness is not easy. Very difficult in fact, especially for people who who have suffered a lot in life or who are plain cynical. Both these categories caters to people like us…

      I too hope to do this. Am doing it but not so easy.

      About the library near home – I discovered it just two months back. I joined it basically because it has lovely books for children too.

  19. Dear Shail,

    Book condensations often miss out on key issues. You haven’t. Thanks for sharing.

    The Dalai Lama is one of the most PRACTICAL and SIMPLE spiritual personages the world has ever seen.

    Dalai Lama’s take on mosquitoes reminded me of this :- Once, when Sri Paramahansa Yogananda (the author of Autobiography of a Yogi) met Mahatma Gandhi at Wardha, Gandhiji gave him neem oil to spread over his arms and legs, and quipped, “Swamiji, the Wardha mosquitoes don’t know anything about Ahimsa!”

    • Dear Om,

      Thanks for the appreciation. Although, I do need to add that breathing in poisons is not something advisable for ordinary mortals like us. That path is best reserved for saints like HH The Dalai Lama who are capable of transforming negative into positive. If we were to even attempt doing that, it could fireback!!

  20. A.Hari says:

    Thanks Shail for giving the gist of book in one post. Several things in life are good to read or listen, but difficult to practice. Let me try his principles.

    Hari

    • Hello Hari,

      Thanks. I know. Forgiving is something we all humans need to learn. It is not easy at all. Especially when society leaves no opportunity to remind you about the wrongs done…

  21. nadi says:

    learned so much

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