Is forgiveness possible before we are cleansed?
In this age of Kali, the golden avatar of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu encourages us to practice kirtana in a humble state of mind, showing the qualities of patience and forgiveness that are characteristic of a tree. This instruction is not intended for self-realized souls, as they are already humble, patient, and forgiving. This instruction is for those who want to become a realized soul. If we think that only the saints are capable of forgiveness, then it is worth considering whether this can be an excuse for holding grudges. We may think, “Because I’m not pure, I can’t fully forgive, so it’s natural to be offended.” Since resentment can serve as a convenient way to blame someone or something for our personal problems, it is an excellent scapegoat. It seems to us that resentment holds us, and therefore we feel it as something natural. In fact, it is not resentment that keeps us, but we hold on to resentment and feed it. If we stop feeding her, she will die. Along with spiritual advancement, good qualities develop, and our advancement is due to the fact that we practice good qualities until they are fully manifested. In other words, the path to forgiveness is paved with the practice of forgiveness.
Practicing forgiveness means not speaking ill of the people who have hurt us and telling others over and over again how much we have been hurt. Forgiveness provides an opportunity to practice righteous behavior by showing kindness to those who offend us. In the evolution of our spiritual development, we need to come to the point where we do not wish harm to other people, even those who hurt us.
Srila Prabhupada asked all of his disciples, even those new to Krsna consciousness, to cultivate the quality of forgiveness. If it were impossible to practice forgiveness already at the initial stages of bhakti, he would not ask us about it. Prabhupada knew that through the practice of forgiveness, we will gain the true ability to forgive because it is usually easier to start acting in a new way than to start thinking in a new way. So if you ever ask yourself, “How can I forgive?” the answer is, “Just start practicing forgiveness.”
Also, forgiveness means taking responsibility for how we feel. If we feel resentment, this does not give us the right to act, speak and think with resentment.
Vedic literature contains many stories of forgiveness, compassion, patience, and humility. Instead of viewing them as stories of exceptional souls whose behavior is difficult to match, we can draw inspiration from these stories to develop the same qualities and life beliefs that great souls have. With this inspiration in our hearts, we can attract the grace we need to truly learn to forgive.
If we fail to forgive, then most likely, this means that we support the fire of resentment and do not want to extinguish the flame. The problem is, that if we wait until we feel ready to forgive, we may have to wait a lifetime. It is better to start practicing forgiveness today. How? First, put out the flames under your cauldron of resentment.