The concept of forgiveness is spoken of in many spiritual traditions. In Biblical terms, it is said that we should turn the other cheek, have gentle behavior and practice nonviolence. To be able to do this, you must be able to forgive the one who has affronted you or who has harmed you.

How do you practice forgiveness? Does it mean that if somebody does an ill act to you, that you merely accept it? This is not exactly the meaning of forgiveness. To forgive someone is to understand his or her suffering not to take it into you. Deepen your insight so that you can see the pain of another and how out of his or her suffering and pain, harsh acts toward you arose. Seeing this, you may realize that perhaps the ill action is even a cry for help.

You see how different this is? Perhaps the person is crying for help like a little child screaming and throwing things because he or she doesn’t know how to deal with the pain. The person needs help so has attacked you out of ignorance and pain. If your mind goes deep enough, your empathy strong enough, you will see the very cause of the suffering.

Rather than take somebody’s actions personally, you might apply an attitude of compassion. Perhaps you even contemplate how you can help. Having compassion for living beings, their pain and the harsh actions that come from their pain, is the root of forgiveness. When you move into a place of completeness governed by love, compassion and knowledge, then no ill act of another will harm you, for you will not take it into yourself.

This ability comes from maturity of mind. The idea of forgiveness is a little glimpse, the beginning of a state of mind where compassion dominates you. This is a state where you are complete in your Self, complete in your divine nature, where nothing and no one can harm you. You see only the need and you act accordingly.

If you or those you love have been badly harmed by the actions of another, forgiveness may be difficult to achieve. You may struggle with desires for revenge, for justice, for the situation to be made right somehow. Yet this does not always happen and injustices do occur in the world. When all is said and done and the dust settles, we are left with how we can best cope with the hurt, the pain and the sense of injustice that remains when harm has been done. Feelings of helplessness, despair, anger and rage can occur.

The problem then is not the aggressor or oppressor, but how to heal ourselves and find our peace and happiness again. This is where forgiveness comes into play. It is a kind of letting go, making ourselves large enough to embrace even that which is so intolerable and find our joy and the brightness of love again. To do this we need to let go of our enmeshment with the perpetrator of the harm.

Forgiveness is giving space through acceptance of what
we cannot change.

Forgiveness is the way we loosen his or her hold on us. Forgiveness is giving space through acceptance of what we cannot change and compassion for even the darker aspects of human experience until again the light of the inner Self shines bright in the mind and love returns. Then slowly, slowly light fills the darkness and we let go of our mental entanglement with the one who has done the harm. Seeing the pain of the perpetrator, having compassion and letting go, we begin to rebuild. We find love, awaken spirit and begin to realize how strong the human heart really is. This process starts with forgiveness, letting go and being with what is. This practice of compassion for all those who have hurt us so deeply allows us to heal.

If someone is offering an affront or doing harm to you, when you do not take the individual’s actions personally and practice forgiveness, then you tend not to hold on to the experience. However, when the hurtful action or the affront is taken personally, you will react with anger, you will react with hurt. You will be wounded. If you take it to heart, it will harm you. If instead, you do not take it to heart, it will roll off like water off a duck’s back. Forgiveness comes when you are able not to take to heart the affronts or wrongdoings of others toward you. When you begin to see that they are in reaction to their own pain and suffering and that their affront or actions against you were not meant personally toward you, it becomes easier to have a little distance. You become able to be unreactive, untouched by the behavior of others and thus maintain your equanimity of mind.

You can let go because you are untouched by the ill action. However, the question then comes, what if the person continues to do the affront or the harm to you? What if his or her actions are even harming other people? Then what to do? If someone continues to do ill actions toward you or toward others, then action may be needed to stop him or her, not out of anger, not out of reaction, but in practical steps to contain the damage that will be done or is being done by the individual’s actions. Forgiveness is not simply to accept and allow all type of negative behaviors but is the ability to let go of your own reactivity, your own tendency to take the actions of others personally.

Samskaras, your subconscious reactions to different experiences you have had, form when the reactive mind is activated. When you stay in balance and you do not take the hurts and ill actions of others toward you to heart, then the reactions of mind become minimal. The impact on you is not there. You maintain yourself in loving kindness and compassion. This, like all of the ethical understandings of spiritual life, leads to a certain equanimity of mind, a peacefulness of mind that allows for knowledge of the Divine.

Forgiveness comes when you are able not to take to heart the affronts or wrongdoings of others toward you.Practicing forgiveness helps you clear away distress. This enables you to have the calm needed to focus your mind and sink into your meditation practice without difficulty. Having forgiveness and compassion, selfless acts of kindness arise. When you are seeing the Divine everywhere, detachment emerges. These bring you the ability to maneuver the weals and woes of the world with minimal distress and find your way to love.

Author's Bio: 

Besides being an author, Maetreyii Ma is the former director of the Spiritual Emergence Network, a founding member of the Kundalinili Research Network, founder and past president of Ananda Seva Mission, and former co-director of the Ananda Seva Yoga Teacher Trainings and Yoga Therapy Trainings.

Dr. Nolan is currently the president of Ananda Guru Kula, a non-profit dedicated to spreading the wisdom teachings of Yoga and a transpersonal psychologist in private practice. She spends her time giving 'Baba Talks', teaching and making books of these beautiful discourses. She is a wife and mother and currently lives with her husband in their ashram community in the Northern San Francisco Bay area