Meaning of freedom and forgiveness
SJ: One particular definition of freedom that has stayed with me through the years is a very beautiful one that was shared by Dadi Janki – the Head of the Brahma Kumaris – she had said that freedom means that I should be able to do the things that I know I need to do without anything infringing that but also I should never be forced into doing things that I know I should not be doing it. When I first heard her say this, it took me a couple of moments just to digest it and understand what it was that she was actually saying, but the more I reflected on it through the years the more I realised that it is referring both to the inner as well as the outer things, because sometimes I know there are things that I would like to do but I don’t have the courage, maybe, or I lack the faith or the determination to actually make it happen and so not be restricted by my own limitations, but also sometimes we find ourselves in a situation where I say: I know I really should do this – but I don’t think ‘so and so’ would be very happy with me. So it is either my inner weaknesses or the external pressures I am exposed to that inhibit me and I can’t do that which I know should be done. And so I am in a state of bondage at that moment and to be free from that is freedom.
But the other thing where I say ‘I didn’t really want to do this but because of this thing and the other thing I have to’; or ‘I really didn’t want to do it but my emotions were so strong that I still did it’; or ‘my habit was so strong that I did it’. You can see, how when we create these states of bondages that put us in the wrong situation and they are inside and also outside. Freedom means to be able to deal with all of that.
A very beautiful definition of forgiveness
I have heard many years ago and I have been working towards “not only that I should be able to forget and forgive a mistake of another but it should be so wiped out from my awareness that when that individual comes in front of me, they don’t remember their mistake either.” My awareness is so powerful that I am able to help them to go beyond that. Because otherwise we know what happens I have made a mistake and I come in front of you and my own guilt or my burden both inhibit me in my relationships with you. But if your heart is so big and generous that you have forgotten and forgiven and you are able to help me forget also, then we can begin a relationship with each other in a very different way. True forgiveness is when you don’t remember but also you don’t allow the one who has made the mistake to remember either.
Benefit to the individual who forgives
SJ: when you keep bitter feelings in your heart then they actually make the mind very unhealthy; there is a lack of clarity in whatever it is that you are doing and your discernment capacity or decision making capacity becomes affected to a certain extent and so the inner being, the soul becomes unhealthy. There has been a lot of research available about psychosomatic illness, and how the psyche – the mind – impacts the body so much. When there are feelings of bitterness held in our hearts and our minds then that is going to poison my physical system also. If I want to be free then I have to be able to move on I can’t get stuck.
Lack of forgiveness is holding on to things that are of the past and I am getting stuck there and then that stagnation is going to prevent me from doing what I need to do at the next moment.
Large group of people & communities perspective.
In the aftermath of the recent riots, it is the compassion that came out showing that the natural state of the human spirit is actually of kindness, goodness and of compassion and not aggression and violence.
When you start respecting them then their own self-esteem begins to grow and they then respond to that. It takes time but you have to nurture that. When we are talking about communities then I think respect and dignity is such an important aspect that has been missing from our lives very often.
From the spiritual perspective when you forget about the inner being and you just focus on the external materialistic/physical identity then there will always be differences and divisions and factors of comparison: you are better – bigger – richer or more educated – there will always be things like this.
But when you look at your spiritual identity and go inside then you discover the inner values of the self and then it is no more a question of comparison with another or competition with another and I am really able to value myself. And by valuing myself, I am able to respect myself and then I am able to respect you too.
The programme also included an example of the two iconic figures of the 20th century, Nelson Mandela – here is a man just simply with the ability to forgive was able to change the course of history and the other example is of Mahatma Gandhi, who when asked: what do you do when you face your .enemies? And his answer was: I don’t see anyone as my enemy. I see them as my friends.
Question from the audience: Thoughts on forgiveness, on the issue of freedom and issue of liberation from the financial pressures and austerity which has arrived throughout the world and of attaining that inner peace from the current pressure.
SJ: it is a situation that one constantly keeps hearing about and the instability of the banks and the financial institutions also and even the corruption that has risen within all these institutions. My understanding within all of this is we have got into a situation which is a very gross state of consumerism and materialism and people have thought it is possible to have infinite growth and the planet just doesn't have infinite resources to be able to allow possibility of infinite growth. Our vision has become very materialistic one in which we just want to consume and take and take. The problem with that is the more you consume, the more you take, and the more you want. And there is never going to come a time in which there is contentment.
It is only through spirituality and meditation that you are going to be able to find the contentment and the joy that is there within. When I connect with that then my lifestyle can become very simple and I discover the origins of the spirit within, without feeling any sort of depravation as I find something more precious and beautiful than I had before.
Village Hall Pinner – 22 September 2011