If wrath and love are two of the most powerful emotions, or states of being (to be more accurate), where does the act of forgiving fit? In the middle of love and hate? Probably not. Then one must wonder, what is the use of forgiving? Or, why would there be a need to forgive?
Forgiving helps balance the soul. One shall wash the filth caused by resentment, for the soul functions best when it is not buried beneath filth. What is the use of a pure, functional soul? The answer is fairly simple: in order to be in harmony with the universe, one must possess a pure soul. No man attends his own wedding with a suit that carries the eye-burning scent of rotten meat. Acting in the world is, in a sense, similar to a wedding. The goal of a wedding could be seen as the celebration of a union of two spirits, or the survival of two sets of genes for millions of years. Therefore, it is no ordinary event, and it must be done ritualistically. A unique form of harmony exists in all rituals. The mere existence of an individual in the world is a matter of acting in harmony according to a ritual: the ritual of living.
Ritual of living requires the possession of a clean soul, otherwise it could be possible to state that the damned individual deserves no soul at all. In order to have the soul purified, one must pursue the truth. Though difficult it could be for the foolish man, truth he must speak. Truth he must write. Truthful he must think. Truthful he must act.
One must speak the truth, and observe the reality reshaping around him. Does speaking the truth change the perception of man towards reality? Or is it the case that truth reveals the true nature of reality to man? One should raise, and speak the truth loudly in order to see the waves of the changing reality. The structure of everything changes with the moving waves. If the waves are powerful enough, they travel to the infinity to whisper loving words to the gods, and then the gods will blow the waves of truth back to man to bless him with the gods’ lips-touched reality.
Reality, as once perceived, can always be subject to change, or rather our perception is subject to completion. Will there ever be an individual who has completed the task of perceiving the reality fully? What will he be? God? Maybe that is what Spinoza meant by God: a being capable of understanding everything about the nature of the universe and everything within it.
Acting good truthfully within the structure of reality reshapes the future of man, for if he’s doing good today, he’s more likely to do good tomorrow, also. However, it shall become a continuous act of doing good, in that man will be trapped in a feedback loop for the good, and he feeds on the good for eternity. One should suspect it is a matter of changing the future state of the universe. To elaborate this, we shall assume that man is doing good today not only because he has the capacity, but also because he is in the right state of the universe for that. Being in the right state of the universe probably demands a pure initialisation in which truth is the fundamental element of the initialisation of the action. Therefore, one could be in the proper state of the universe if one’s mode of being is based on truth. That is, one must speak the truth, think the truth, act the truth, and seek but the truth. Only then one can be among gods with a shining soul purer than diamond.
Let us now imagine one is among gods. How do his actions change the state of the universe? To put it simply, one’s own feelings and/or thoughts could form one’s actions. For instance, longing a cup of tea demands the whole underlying structure of oneself to fetch a cup of tea. One then fetches a cup of tea, and drinks it. By thinking that, state of the universe changed to demanding the man to an action towards a particular desire. Acting towards it results a another change in the universe in a way that thought has transformed into desires, desires into decisions, and decisions into actions. Having the cup of tea, in this example, is the result of an action. Now there is a man in the universe who drank a cup of tea which is an absolutely unique phenomenon considering the whole state of the universe.
Let us have a more practical example. Assume some words are in need of utterance. Or a conversation demands to be initiated. Or one would think of some comments to make. One has to think the words to utter, and make a decision to do so. Then he speaks, and his words might be heard. What happens is that his thoughts are now turned into speech, which is a very complex process in itself. His utterance alone has already changed the state of the universe, because now there exists noises floating in the air that did not exist before. On other side of the speech, someone might have heard the spoken words. That is one more change in the state of the universe: now there exists at least one individual who has a particular set of words in her thoughts. Depending on the impact of the words, she might be influenced by them. The influence he made (with the aid of words) on her could motivate her towards taking an action of any sort, and maybe the information could propagate to other people as well. Therefore, what one has once thought, could be transformed into words, and his words could transform other people’s mode of being. For that reason, one must be very careful what to utter, for it must be truthful and good.
Is it relevant with regards to forgiveness? To a great degree. Because in order to forgive, one must be truthful about the thing that is in need of forgiveness. One must be clear about the matter from different perspectives. It could be a good practice to ask oneself, why the bitterness? The act of asking such a question should be truthful, also. Being courageous is a necessity in asking that. Pain might lie under the surface of the ugly face of bitterness. Thus, one must be willing to endure the pain in order to discover the truth. Courage is given to he who is truthful about it. Only then one can prepare the soul for the hard work of forgiving.
Having the necessary wishes for forgiving is not enough to execute the wish. Practices should be applied. Truth must be discovered. Maybe words shall be uttered, even. What words? Truthful words regarding the matter with which one’s mode of being is troubled. The words should be carefully selected, so they should not be words of hatred. Rather, they should aim at offering peace for the speaker of them. Words of hatred only enhances the resentment. One shall not in any way aim at destructing one’s own soul with reflecting the anger on to others, for the source of the anger could be one’s own mistakes.
In order to lift the burdens from the heart it is necessary to relinquish the weaknesses, or learn about and from the things that hide beneath the surface. That is better than trying to swallow the anger. Anger must stay if weakness is its company. Weakness shall go, and so will anger along with it. One must realise that the source of all the resentment could be one’s own naïvety. Growth is therefore essential to strengthen the soul against one’s own foolishness. Once the foolishness is at its weakness, wisdom can manifest itself. By then, one could be blessed to have grown grey hair. That is the reason grey hair is so uniquely beautiful. It is not solely the greyness that is astonishing but the ages one has gone through to be rewarded by the appearance of greyness. It is an indication of maturity, because one must have aged enough, and therefore one would have tasted the bitterness and the sweetness. It is so beautiful that one can go through all that, and yet survive. Grey hair is the mark of that; it is the gift of the endurance.
The root of all resentment could be but one’s own foolishness. Assume one is hurt with her partner’s misbehaviour. She is ill-treated. Who is at fault? She is, partly. Why? Because she was ignorant to select a partner of such characteristics. Or she was not foolish about her choice, but she is aiming at destruction – possibly of her soul. Of course her foolishness does not make her partner any less guilty. Nonetheless, it is quite useless to blame. One must take all the blame in the world, for one must blame one’s own foolishness rather than evil in the world. Evil exists everywhere. So does hell. Hell is one step away from where man is standing peacefully in the heavens. A simple mistake could make all the heavens into hell. Reality would shift again. Who is to blame? Only he whose reality shifted, for he is responsible for everything, including all the sins mankind have ever committed. Why him, one might ask? If not him, who then?
The need to forgive in the traditional sense could be to take all on to oneself; see it as one’s own fault, or imperfection. All the blame, all the evil, and all the hurt. A deadly warrior is not only good at fighting but also at taking the blows. The warrior must stand again, get hurt again, and fight again. He will not be defeated if he never surrenders.
One must take the strokes of evil, taste it carefully, and transform it into lessons for improvement of oneself and maybe others. But how? To forgive there exists the absolute necessity of proper self-awareness: being aware of one’s faults and foolishness. A common fault is not foreseeing the future events that are potentially evil. Therefore, one way to forgive the unexpected evil is to understand the nature of it. It is quite appropriate to assume one way to forgive is to become wiser. That is, leave one’s foolishness behind in order to be protected from the foolishness of oneself and others. Chances of being exposed to evil decreases as ignorance becomes less in one’s mode of being. That is getting stronger in a sense, and so evil can barely have influences. To stop evil from influencing one’s soul one must avoid taking monstrous actions of any sort that can be regarded as evil. That could purify the soul. No soul of perfect purification can be influenced by evil forces.
What are other practices of the sacred objective of purifying the soul? They are fairly traditional: to see yet be blind, hear and be deaf, speak but the truth, and do good without expectations. I once saw in a documentary a Zen master saying that Zazen is good for nothing, one must not expect anything from it. He continued, “If that is truly understood and practised, then one could be blessed.” Good should be exercised in the same manner: free from expectations.
The purpose of forgiveness could be to sacrifice the dear darkness for which one might have developed a deep liking. In order to forgive one must purify the soul. That is indeed very ironic, for they both depend on each other: forgiveness on a pure soul, and a pure soul on forgiveness. That is because it is not easy to forgive. It cannot be done with the mere contemplation of it, although that could be the beginning of it. He who wants to forgive must be prepared to sit in silence, and picture the brutal abuse he endured. Can he reason for them? He probably can, though he has to leave his foolishness behind. He has to see from the eyes of an abused, bitter man who seeks vengeance. He soon can realise that he too is capable of all the evil that he bore. He has to understand it; to picture the horrible thoughts of torturing the living for the mere joy of it. He then should gaze into the eyes of evil. He can then unite with evil for the purpose of understanding it, so that he can avoid its temptations. Its temptations corrupt the soul but not any more than closing the eyes to it. That is the beginning of mastering seeing, and yet being blind.
To forgive, one must, such as King Priam, bring lips to the hands of he who killed one’s son. One must learn to be able to take evil, and be kind and forgiving in return. What does it mean to be forgiving precisely? It means to see one’s own faults before others’. Above all, it should be noted that one is capable of evil, and should unite with it for the good. Otherwise, one would be a mere victim. It is not a proper approach towards forgiving – to victimise oneself for the sake of saying farewell to the darkness! That damages the soul, and perhaps the ego as well. Ego is not to be seen as a strange creature creeping on to the surface to protect the man from victim-hood. It is influenced by the actions of the self. One shall not in any way attempt to influence the ego for self-sabotage by becoming a victim. One must not become a victim of evil but only the taster of its venom. It should also be noted that being a target of evil is not necessarily being a victim. What separates them from one another is one’s response to evil.
Evil in no way should be permitted to influence one’s mode of being except for the good if one’s true intention is forgiveness which is no different than coming to peace with the self and the universe.
How should asking forgiveness be addressed? And how different is that compared to being asked? Asking forgiveness or being asked could be seen as a matter wishing for mercy. Why would one beg for mercy? Because one might be aware of one’s mistakes and sins. What then, is the consequence of becoming aware of one’s own sins? Depending on one’s mode of being with regards to good or evil objective, one is then capable of assessing one’s actions in light of good or evil. Therefore, it is possible that as a result, one learns not to sin, or not exercise the same sin again. But that is not easy in any way, for the sinner is ignorant, weak, or destructive. Being aware of one’s sin is indeed far better than being ignorant of it.
Truthful asking for mercy would demand a solid state of awareness for that which one wishes mercy. That could of course result an enlightenment in the soul if one is truly aiming at the good. So, wishing for mercy could be a means of wishing to learn the proper way to act, and acquiring the necessary forces within oneself to bring the capacity to act in that proper manner. Thus, asking forgiveness is a means of becoming aware of one’s own sins – admitting that they were not appropriate within the structure of the universe, and wishing for wisdom and capability of acting properly within the structure of the universe.
Why should one ask forgiveness except for being terrified of the hell that could manifest itself anywhere in an instant? One’s motivation could be to heal a relationship one has with someone whom one asks forgiveness. In both models, asking forgiveness could be seen as an oath that indicates what once was done is promised not to happen again in the future.
The sinner breaks the oath, and makes an oath again, for he might want to lick the sweetness of shame for the beast he has hidden inside. Who is the sinner precisely? The man or the beast within him? Who does operate the man? and what forces in him urge him to break an oath? Or could it be the case that some forces break the oath on his behalf? What are those forces? and who or what force does wish for mercy just to make a fresh oath not to commit the same sin he or something in him has committed?
Considering that one has a firm judgement regarding an action that one views as a sin, one attends to commit it nevertheless, it is then quite reasonable to assume that something operates him. Otherwise, why should he, who is wise, take an action that he himself views as a mistake? It is probable that he does no possess the necessary control over his urges, and thus temptations of any sort influence his actions. Therefore, he is the victim of his own urges. Or rather, he might be the victim of the evil within him with which he has probably yet to unite.
The internal forces are equipped with language. A dialogue could be formed with them, though detachment from the self is mandatory in that process, for one should be able to notice the forces first. In order to notice them, one should observe oneself so carefully in a way that warrior would observe his opponent. Thoughts, sudden words that come to utterance, bodily reactions – they are all elements that must be observed. Forces manifest themselves through those elements. If a change is noticed in any of those elements, then one should examine the state of one’s emotions. For example, let us assume one is in a psychological and physiological state of confusion, and reflections of certain forces manifest themselves on the eyebrows in the form of frowning. One then must ask oneself, “Why am I frowning?” That initiates an investigation into what lies beneath the surface of the facial expression one has encountered involuntarily. One should then be open for answers, and also open for a dialogue with the thing that reveals itself in the form of frowning.
Returning to the original question: what is the purpose of forgiving? It could be a means of coming to peace with the things that once were hurtful. That is to say, to heal the wounds, and yet keep the marks, for they are inevitable, and they should be, otherwise no wisdom could be gained. It is only with the aid of suffering and remembrance of the causes of the marks through the ages that wisdom could be achieved. Or maybe wisdom is given to those who exercise the remembrance of sorrow so vividly that the suffering never ceases to die in one’s lifetime as though one has lived the suffering a thousand lifetimes.
It is only through the lens of pain that man can dream. So, he shall not be reluctant to feel the pain when necessary. In solitude he should freely speak loudly of the pain he feels or felt before, and even tears may be in need of shedding. He should see the pain, live the pain, and try to understand the pain. Only then he can detach, from that which had hurt, and from he who was once hurt. He should write the pain, even, without covering the wounds. Truthfully he must write – rich in details. Why? To gaze at the evil. That is how one should learn to forgive, for forgiveness takes courage and practice.
The other side of the question is, why should one not forgive? Shortest answer could be, because it is not desirable to be exposed vulnerably to the same fang. That is the best motivation. On the contrary, though, the motivation could be to keep the heart filled with hatred. A monster will then be born. It will feed on the hatred and the resentment. It will grow massive that it will be able to devour the soul. Wishing for destruction, and aiming at it could then become one’s primary motivation for existence – it could become one’s primary mode of being.
However, the need to forgive might be rooted deeply in an attachment to matter or the self. Otherwise, there would be no need to forgive, for there would exist nothing to forgive. The core problem is that there might exist a resentment with which one needs to come to peace. The solution is not to wipe evil from the face of the world. It is rather impossible, and may not even be for the good. Instead, as we already investigated, one must gaze into the devil’s eyes. One must be prepared not to allow the flaming eyes of demons mark the heart or the soul. How should one be safe from such flames? By freeing oneself from the chains of the self.
One has learnt to see from the heart – to see and feel things from a deep personal, emotional perspective. It is not strange that man had to learn such way of seeing and feeling, for he needs to survive, and therefore anything could be a threat. Thus, it requires practice to develop the necessary skills to see and yet not see. Even more profound it would be to see from the eyes one does not own. How then, would there exist anything in need of forgiving?