Rediscovering Forgiveness

Forgiveness

This year, I have been taking baby steps in exploring forgiveness as a spiritual path. A chance encounter with the intriguing phrase ‘advanced forgiveness’ led me to Gary Renard’s ‘A Disappearance of The Universe’. Encouraged by my mentor GD, I revisited my hardbound ‘A Course In Miracles’ copy. Many epiphanies later, I found my longtime Buddhist practice being steered into unexplored waters. And during a turbulent work-year, the guiding star I tried to steadfastly hold onto was forgiveness, forgiveness, forgiveness. From it, I learnt two things: one, forgiveness can indeed change your life; and two, most of what we have been taught about it is wrong.

Forgiveness, I was taught in school, is when someone does something awful, but you, taking in a deep breath of pure compassion, decide to forgive him. Because you are good, he is an ass. Plus, doing it makes you a favorite of old man God who smiles in his frosty beard and jots your name on His Special List of Favorite Children.

As I grew up, I occasionally practiced forgiveness, using the same line of thinking, just with complicated multi-syllable words. Then, three decades after my Jesuit education, I was guided to ‘A Course In Miracles’ (ACIM), which makes forgiveness the cornerstone of its entire teaching system. According to ACIM, forgiveness not only heals, it single-handledly undoes the ego’s delusional worldview; forgiveness is not just an occasional step – it is an entire path towards the peace that passeth understanding.

According to ACIM, the commonly practiced form of forgiveness is actually ‘the ego’s forgiveness’. Notice the ego subtly making itself higher than the other by allowing what is considers a perfectly obvious act of evilness to pass. The victim sees himself innocent while the other is guilty. Attempting this kind of forgiveness is valuable because it may be motivated by a noble intention, but seems at best superficial and at worst arrogant.

To appreciate a more advanced vision of forgiveness we need to first understand how the mind projects its own unacceptable emotions on others. A man who furiously blames others at office for incompetence, looking honestly within, realizes it is his secret guilt about his own incompetence in some area, which he is constantly projecting outside. Or a woman who strongly condemns her husband for being unreliable will find it was coming from her secret shame about being unreliable. When this is seen, there is a natural forgiveness that happens, because now the other is not guilty. He was simply the screen on which we were projecting our movie. This is a more genuine forgiveness than the first because there is real freedom in seeing it was all a projection, hence a misunderstanding.

This is not the grudging forgiveness of the ego, this is a laughing forgiveness that wonders how it could believe that the fault was really outside. As American teacher Byron Katie says, “Forgiveness is realizing that what you thought happened, didn’t.”

Perfect forgiveness, ACIM says, occurs when we begin to glimpse the dreamlike nature of the world itself. So not only is the other not guilty because it was your projection onto him, you are not guilty either: the victim and abuser are equally dream characters. The highest level of forgiveness thus rises far beyond the plains of Puritan morality into the high peaks of Non-Duality. As ‘The Course In Miracles’ says:

“Forgiveness is the only thing that stands for truth in the illusions of the world.  It sees their nothingness, and looks straight through the thousand forms in which they may appear.  It looks on lies, but it is not deceived.  It does not heed the self-accusing shrieks of sinners mad with guilt. It looks on them with quiet eyes, and merely says to them, “My brother, what you think is not the truth.”

In its purest form, forgiveness is not a doing, it a seeing: a seeing that the illusion of separate individuals is simply an erroneous mind-construct.

In its purest form, forgiveness is not a thought, it is a meditation: a sinking into the silence beyond form to see that without thought, this never happened.

In its purest form, forgiveness is a gift of love to yourself as much as to the other: because it reaffirms the truth of our oneness once again.

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If it interests you to explore this form of forgiveness further, I highly recommend Gary Renard’s ‘The Disappearance Of The Universe’ before you dive into ‘A Course In Miracles’.
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Picture Courtesy Heather Katsoulis

BLESS YOU!

blessings

A few days ago, I was unexpectedly invited to a high-profile party. In general, I find almost everything unpleasant about parties – the ear-damaging thump-thump of music, the smoke-and-alcohol fog, the stilted conversations and the late-late hours. But this time, as my wife Aditi and I dressed, it struck me: “You know why we are going? Our job is to bless everyone there.

The idea came with force and clarity and resonated for both of us. So as we drove, we sent blessings ahead to the party. When we reached, we silently, sincerely wished real joy on all those we could see. It wasn’t difficult because we  genuinely adored the host, and were fond of many of the guests. Bathed in an aura of blessing, we found ourselves easy and open, generous and unselfconscious. We saw God in many different forms and ended up having a smooth, beautiful time.

The next day, as we reflected on how unexpectedly perfect the night had been, I connected the dots. And I realized that for the last few years, the joy of blessing has grown almost unnoticed.

Today, I do it as often as I remember. On flights, I bless everyone on the plane as we take off. Before meetings, I bless those who are going to be there. After meditation, I play a little audio track which reminds me to dedicate the positive potential of this meditation. I even bless my blog posts before I publish so that they may reach those who need to read them.

This gradual love for blessing was triggered a few years ago after a conversation with my brother and mentor GD. When I was going through a dark spell of frustration at how life was not working out for me, he suggested as a solution: “Why don’t you try wishing for others what you want most in life?”

In those days, grappling with mental advaita gymnastics, I thought his suggestion was sentimental, feel-good foo-foo. But I instantly experienced its joy. Over time, as I heard more about it from GD, I saw the deep insight behind it.

For example, it is impossible for the mind to bless and judge others at the same time. To bless someone, you cannot vibrate with the lower frequencies of scarcity, fear or anger – you have to hold the energy of love and abundance.

The state of blessing is also close to our true nature. So, as you clean your inner load, the bedrock of quiet blessing begins to shine naturally (A sage, without saying a word, is a blessing to the planet). Not surprisingly, every ancient religion prescribes some form of blessing or prayer – it is the simplest way to connect with your true nature!

Initially, blessing seemed wiser use of intention than manipulating the universe into manifesting what I had to admit were conditioned egoic desires. Over time, the sheer joy of doing it caused it to spread to other parts of my life.

A few months later, GD recommended a little book, ‘The Gentle Art of Blessing’ by Pierre Pradervand (which I would also endorse unequivocally). “By blessing,” Pradervand says, “I mean wishing from the bottom of the heart, in total sincerity, the very best for those people – their complete fulfillment and complete happiness.” In his book, Pradervand suggests:

On awakening, bless this day…
On passing people in the street, on the bus, in places of work and play, bless them…
On meeting people and talking to them, bless them…
As you walk, bless the city…
P. S. And of course, above all, do not forget to bless the utterly beautiful person
you are.

Do try this if you feel inspired. Take a few minutes to bless others in whatever words work for you – the sincerity matters more than the phrasing. Picture them joyful and forgive them for any real or imagined wrongdoing; forgive yourself for the same. If the other is not ready to receive the blessing, Pradervand says, it stays in their aura until they are – but for you, the result is always instant and liberating.