To err is human and to forgive divine

‘“To err is human and to forgive, divine”, goes an old English saying, from a poem, An Essay on Criticism, by Alexander Pope (1688–1744), a famous English writer.  Two more famous quotes are also from his poems: (a) A little learning is a dang’rous thing; and (b) Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

The first of the above three quotes could be useful in freeing oneself from the karmic cycle and, thereby, save oneself from a perpetual cycle of constant suffering, caused due to a natural human tendency to react, via a tit for tat policy. Reactionary acts of giving and taking – punishment, grief, pain and revenge – plunge one into an eternal cycle of suffering. The one and the only way to come out of the cycle is to FORGIVE. Otherwise, if one believes in taking revenge or punishing the other person, one must also be prepared to receive a reaction in the future, possibly harsher. A policy of revenge brings nothing but eternal doom; it never ends and the cycle continues.

Those people, who believe in the Hindu philosophy of reincarnation, must accept that anything that happens to them now, or would have happened to them in the past, could have happened as a result of their own karma, either during this life or their past lives, which they don’t remember. Forgiveness is the best medicine to rid oneself of the effects of the karmic cycle. There is no other better way than that.

One of the most important messages from the Bhagwad Gita is: Surrender the fruit of your action to Me (Lord Krishna). This advice also helps one to attain freedom from the karmic cycle and the expectations arising from one’s good deed. A wise old saying goes: Do good and forget. In north India, this saying goes like this: Kar balla aur dariya mein ddaal (Do good and offer it to the river). Expectations are recipe to discord and suffering.

In the Mahabharata, Lord Krishna did not fight for either of the two parties; He was solely on the side of dharma (righteousness, justice). As for His love, there is no evidence that he loved Daryodhana less than Arjuna. He offered Daryodhana the first pick but, unwisely, Daryodhana chose Lord Krishna’s army instead of Him. Lord Krishna’s army, therefore, fought on the side of the Kaurvas. He became the charioteer of Arjuna, and that is how the Bhagwad Gita took birth. At the end of the war, no one effectively won, as nothing was left to be ruled after such mass destruction on all sides. Violence brings nothing but destruction.

The Pandavas lost their kingdom and were exiled only because they unwisely gambled away everything. They paid a heavy price for their own karma. The wise Pandava king, Yudhishthara, was aware they were being tricked (by Shakuni, the Gandhar king) during the gambling session. Lord Krishna also knew everything but the gambling session continued. At no stage, did He intervene and stop the session. His only intervention came at the time of Draupudhi’s vastraharan. As a wise king, Yudhishthara ought to have known that one, especially a king, must not gamble away one’s kingdom, brothers, wife and himself. A king carries no such freedom or luxuries.

In the Ramayana, Lord Ram freed his consort, Mother Sita after His victory over mighty King Ravana. Whilst carrying Himself with such dignity and grace, Lord Ram never insulted King Ravana. He knew Ravana’s calibre and had respect for his knowledge. Lord Ram bestowed all due respect to King Ravana even after the latter’s defeat, despite the latter’s crime. Before embarking on their return journey to Ayodhaya, as the 14-year period of His exile had come to an end, two things happened:

  • Mother Sita was asked to take the agni-pariksha (fire-test) to prove what she was asked to prove, which could be disputed and argued even now; and
  • Lord Ram requested His father, King Dashrath (who had appeared from His heavenly abode to bless Him on his victory) to forgive his (step) mother, Queen Kaikaiye. Why? Because, He and Queen Kaikaiyee knew the truth. She is believed to have been the main brain behind the plot to get rid of King Ravana from the earth, for his colossal arrogance and trespasses.

Queen Kaikaiye loved Lord Ram. And she was not alone; everyone loved Lord Ram, for His virtues. He exampled the prefect man – the Pushottam. Those who love Him intertwine their every breath with his beautiful name. Every cell of theirs carries His name. Such people don’t try to prove anything to anyone. Their noble deeds, without arrogance, reflect Lord Ram’s Grace and Dignity.

On his Crucifixion, Lord Jesus Chris asked for forgiveness of his executioners. “When they came to the place called The Skull, they crucified Him there, along with the criminals, one on His right and the other on His left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up His garments by casting lots. The people stood watching, and the rulers sneered at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.” … Luke 23:34

Forgiveness sets some humans apart from others. None of us is perfect; we make numerous trespasses in the course of a day. Empathy and care define human love. The following wise sayings are timeless and immortal:

  • Do unto others what you wish to be done by.
  • Those who dig a pit for others themselves fall into it.
  • What goes around comes around.
  • As you sow, so shall you reap.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated by them.

The author’s late mother, Jai Kishore Koul, instilled in him a number of virtues. Amongst her teachings are the following:

  • Never wish bad for anyone, not even your worst enemies, as it may come back and haunt you one day. You never know the whole story – the bigger picture. You don’t know what wrongs you may have done in your past lives.
  • If you can’t do any good to anyone, don’t try to do any bad also.
  • If your right hand is helping anyone, your left hand must not know about it.

To conclude, the only mantra for breaking free from the karmic cycle and bringing peace is: Forgive (anyone who has troubled you) and forget (your personal good deeds).’ … Bill K Koul (6 June 2019)

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