I get emails with queries along the lines of – “how do I learn to forgive”, “I did xyz in the past, how can forgive myself”, “he/she did xyz to me in the past, I am not able to forgive this person, but I want to, how do I do it?”, “I feel a strong need for revenge, how can I let go of this hatred and forgive this person”, basically the question is about how can I practice forgiveness, towards myself and others. Also, most of the people, who ask this question, have been trying to forgive for a long time, they are sensitive and aware people who don’t want to hold hatred/hurt in their heart, and want to sincerely forgive, it’s just that they are having hard time doing so, which makes them feel worse. If you notice, in all these cases, the deal is that they are “trying” to forgive, and therein lies the reason why they are not able to do so – forgiveness cannot be practiced as a technique, it cannot be held as a mental attitude, without it creating some form of an imbalance. True forgiveness is very different from the practice of forgiveness; true forgiveness is only possible from a place of inner freedom where you naturally lose the capacity to hold on to the energy of imbalanced hatred or hurt.
There are two ways in which you can react, unconsciously, when you feel “wronged” in some way
- You harbor feelings of hatred (in the form of spite/resentment) towards the instigator
- You harbor feelings of hurt rooted in a sense of powerlessness
The first form of reaction comes from an imbalance towards dark nature, the second form of reaction happens in people who are imbalanced towards light nature. From a place of hatred, a person who is imbalanced towards the dark nature, would get rooted in an attitude of seeking vengeance, either through direct action or through indulging in thoughts of causing harm to the instigator, wishing for their downfall. From a place of being hurt, a person who is imbalanced in light nature, would get rooted in the attitude of feeling powerless, feeling weak/inferior, indulging in self-pity and self-loathing – thoughts of vengeance may cross this person’s mind but he/she would either feel guilty about it or suppress it from a place of powerlessness. Of course, in most cases, people tend to have a mix of both these reactions, in varying degrees depending on their state of imbalance.
The karmic cycle of un-forgiveness
Thoughts, and feelings, get accumulated in the form of energy, when one is unconsciously identified with them, this is what creates mind momentum (accumulated thought energy), and emotional momentum (accumulated “feelings” energy) – this accumulated momentum can also be called “imbalanced karmic energy”, which basically just keeps you in a cyclic loop of living the same experience in different forms (through different lifetimes, different incarnations, different life situations). The fact that you are holding a feeling of hurt, or a feeling of hatred, causes you to be focused on this aspect, and thus causes you to keep attracting a similar experience because you are seeing life from this “lens” created by your pre-occupation with that feeling/thought.
Also, just as the energy of love can attach you to someone, the same way the energy of hatred, or hurt, can attach you to someone, thus creating a “negative” relationship. In an unconscious way, from the energy of hurt (imbalance of light nature), you can keep re-creating similar experiences, through the same person, in different life-times, owing to your negative attachment towards this person – a relationship of victim-exploiter gets created, which can go on through several incarnations until one can consciously let go of this “attachment”. Similarly, the energy of hatred can bind you in an “eye for an eye” relationship, and this attachment can continue unconsciously, possibly for several incarnations, until its energy is dissolved – for example, you feel wronged by someone, and you inflict suffering on that person, who now feels wronged by you and inflicts suffering on you, and thus the cycle continues. Even if you don’t believe in incarnations, or past lives, this deal of “negative attachment” holds true for your current life-time where your life experience is corrupted by this imbalanced pre-occupation.
The teacher Gautam Siddartha, popularly known as the Buddha, talked about this karmic cycle of suffering and he sometimes preached the practice of “righteous action/thinking” as the solution to break out of this cycle, where you drop the need to inflict suffering on your perpetrator (in thought or action). Being free of an imbalanced karmic cycle works for your own advantage and hence this understanding can be a natural motivation for your mind to drop the need to inflict (or wish for) a negative condition on the “wrong doer”. However, there is a tendency to “practice” righteous thinking, and righteous action, from a place of fear, where you fear the karmic reaction, and hence you force yourself to suppress your hatred/hurt towards the instigator. This form of suppression can create a sense of powerlessness and thus lead to a state of imbalance. In this sense, the preaching of the practice of righteous thinking/action is, in essence, a half-baked solution at best, and does not truly release the energy of imbalance – this is the case with any teaching that’s taken as a technique to be practiced.
Inner freedom leads to natural forgiveness
To break out of this cycle of imbalance, created from a place of “feeling wronged”, one is given the teaching of learning to forgive – the logic is that if you can forgive the wrong-doer you will dissolve your feelings of hatred, or feelings of hurt, and thus become free of being driven by these energies of imbalance. However, in real life, it doesn’t really work this way; you will notice that it’s not easy (if not impossible) to forgive unconditionally, and if you keep forcing yourself to do so it could mean that you are quite imbalanced towards light nature where you are suppressing your dark nature aspects. When you “try” to forgive, you’ve already enter an unnatural state of trying to force your mind into doing something that it doesn’t naturally feel like doing – this is the reason why the whole deal of “practicing” compassion can feel unnatural, forced and fake.
To “try” to forgive is a forced technique, and it leads to other forms of imbalance, it’s just a form of forced discipline (coming from a place of “this is the right thing to do” or “I should do this to be a good person”). Contrary to this, when you get rooted in the foundation of inner freedom, you don’t have to try to forgive, you simply become grounded in an openness that doesn’t cling to aspects of imbalanced hatred or imbalanced sensitivity (in the form of hurt). This openness allows you to let go of any past accumulated energy of imbalance – in this state of openness you are no longer trying to sort out the imbalance (which is futile, because you can’t resolve an imbalance when you are already rooted in that imbalance), rather you simply allow the release of the imbalanced energy. The pointer is that instead of working on specific “techniques” like practicing an attitude of forgiveness, if one works towards finding inner freedom, through the state of allowing, there is a natural release of past accumulation and a grounding in the space of openness that allows for a seamless integration towards a balance of energy (light & dark) in you. Finding inner freedom is the pre-requisite towards connecting with a balanced way of living, which includes operating from a place wisdom rather than being motivated by imbalances towards your dark nature or light nature.
When you find inner freedom you will notice that you are not over-whelmed by “anything” while also retaining the sensitivity towards everything – this is why inner freedom is the foundation that allows you to integrate power with sensitivity. This power is needed in order to live from a place of wisdom. There are many people who are highly sensitive, but lack the power of inner freedom, and hence their sensitivity just becomes a source of suffering for them. Sensitivity is simply the capacity to observe, to feel, to understand, to empathize, and the more aware you are the more sensitive you become, but how you are “affected” by your sensitivity depends on your state of inner freedom, or lack of it. If your sensitivity affects you to the point of being driven by its impulsive pull, then you can’t really be rooted in wisdom. Love cannot bring balance by itself, it needs the backing of “power” in order to be truly effective – love integrated with power is what it means to balance the light and the dark nature in us, and this is possible only from a place of inner freedom, it can’t be done as a technique.
Mental techniques oppose the state of inner freedom
The deal is that once you get established in the space of inner freedom, nothing really clings to you, while also allowing you to be aware/sensitive to wisdom required to handle situations – it’s not like a cop out of being “detached”, it’s like an openness that nothing can affect/influence while retaining the natural capacity for being a sensitive being. True forgiveness is when the energy of imbalance is dissolved in this state of openness, naturally, without you “trying” to forgive or “trying” to let go – true forgiveness does not feel like forgiveness, it just feels like an “absence” of even the need to forgive, where you just sense that the energy of imbalanced hurt/hatred is no longer there, there is no longer the mind momentum to hold on to thoughts of being “wronged”, there is no longer the emotional investment to “cling” to the feelings of hurt, or hatred – it’s not a state of forced compassion, it’s just a natural state of openness which doesn’t bother clinging to anything, it’s just fresh to the wisdom required for the moment.
Inner freedom is not a fantasy state, it’s very real, and it’s attainable in a practical manner when you understand the logic of the state of allowing. It’s just that we keep fighting this natural state of inner freedom through a pre-occupation towards mental techniques, and escapist mechanisms. “Trying” to forgive is eventually a mental technique, it doesn’t matter how good/altruistic/spiritual it sounds, it’s still a mental technique. You will notice that people who seem to be rooted in the mindset of forgiveness are also people who seem to keep attracting hardships (mostly in the form of exploitation or abuse), even though they continue to “practice” forgiveness with due commitment, this is because they are operating from a certain mental stance, and all “stances” eventually are forms of rigid thinking (including the mental stance of being unconditionally forgiving), and rigid thinking always leads to imbalance – in this case, the person becomes imbalanced towards light nature and hence keeps attracting imbalanced expressions of dark nature in his/her life. Of course, people who practice the mindset of forgiveness are perceived as “nice people”, however it does not exempt the fact that they are rooted in an imbalance of light nature and thus privy to attracting imbalanced realities. This is also the reason you hear the common complaint about – “I am such a nice person and yet I seem to keep attracting jerks in my life”. It’s important to understand that being imbalanced towards light-nature is as dysfunctional as being imbalanced towards dark nature.
(Some of the posts which discuss the process of finding inner freedom, in detail, are – The foundation of openness, Reaching a state of total allowing, the attitude required for inner freedom and the phase of release)
The imbalance in the mindset of repentance
As we become more aware it’s likely that we become sensitive to our past mis-deeds, and then enter into a mindset of repentance stemming from a sense of guilt and empathy. The mindset of repentance, though it seems highly virtuous, is actually rooted in an imbalance because it stems from the energy of guilt rather than the energy of wisdom. An identification with suffering is what is at the root of the mindset of repentance and all it can do is attract more suffering. Your awareness needs to be an invitation towards a release of past momentum and thus a “fresh start” towards balanced living. It’s important to understand that your past behavior was driven by your state of low-awareness, or your unconsciousness, and thus to repent for your past, by putting yourself through suffering, in your current awareness, makes no real sense. It’s natural to feel bad about any wrong-doing that you may have indulged in, when you were operating from a state of low-awareness, however, your pre-occupation with feeling bad about your past does nothing to create inner balance and thus does nothing to bring forth any contribution towards balance in this world.
The very fact that you feel bad about your wrong-doing is an indication that your awareness has grown, and that you are no longer in the same level of awareness in which you perpetrated that action. The legal system, in many countries, does take the present conduct of the prisoner into consideration towards reducing his/her prison term, or severity of the punishment, which is a wise thing to do. Of course, being punished through external means is a form of “forced repentance” which can be useful, as a wake-up call, for someone who is rooted in low-awareness, and hence one cannot do away with the requirement for such external regulations/discipline/law as long as there are low-awareness elements existing in this world. Also, just because you feel bad about something you did in the past doesn’t mean that you won’t do it again – just because you are “aware” of your negativity doesn’t mean that you have the freedom from it. Awareness requires the support of inner freedom in order for it to truly be effective. People who feel helpless towards the pull of “wrong doing”, inspite of knowing that they are doing the wrong thing, are basically rooted in the state of powerlessness (lack of conscious inner freedom).
Eventually, the path towards finding inner freedom is to start letting go of your past momentum, not through “trying” to forgive yourself, not through repentance, but simply by letting go of identification with your past, knowing that it was a different state of awareness (a low state of awareness) that you were inhabiting back then, and your current awareness makes you a different person than who you were, same body but different person. The only way you can sync up with your current awareness is by realizing the past momentum of imbalanced energy in you (created by your past state of low-awareness) by going through a phase of release – this is where the state of allowing comes in. To allow for a true release you need to let go of clinging to your past, be it your hurt, your hatred or your guilt. Every time you “try” to forgive, you also reinforce the identification and hence you don’t allow for a true release of the past momentum.
The state of allowing/openness is simply the conscious choice to let go of being identified with the mind’s pull, or the emotional pull, without trying to fight it (or suppress it) – to just let be. Your inner space will clear out of all the imbalance accumulation of energy in this state of allowing, and as this accumulation keeps dissolving so does the momentum of your mind/emotions, and this is how you connect with the space of inner freedom – it starts with the “attitude” of openness, and with time you start sensing the space of inner freedom in you, which gradually becomes permanent and unwavering. Sometimes the only way to be ready for this “openness” is when everything else has failed, when you are tired of working with techniques, tired of “trying” to sort it out.