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Forgiving Those Who Wrong You

This morning, I remembered the story of Jagai and Madai. To give you a quick summary, Jagai and Madai were two brothers who possessed qualities that were not admirable – drinking alcohol, disrespectful, thieves, etc. On one occasion, they physically assaulted Nityananda, which angered Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Chaitanya was ready to end their lives as he was very angered by this. Jagai and Madai repented and sought his forgiveness, and Chaitanya said he would spare their lives if his devotee Nityananda forgave them.

So what do we learn from this?

We learn two things:

1. The importance of forgiveness

Many of us often hold things in our hearts against those who have wronged us. I am guilty of it as well. I forgive people and I don’t hold a grudge against them, but at the same time, I begin to avoid spending time with them. If I care about the person deeply, I will try to mend the relationship, otherwise I let it fade. But by not forgiving others, we fill our hearts with unnecessary feelings that just occupy space and cause us grief. By being forgiving, we exhibit the qualities of devotees. We exhibit compassion and understanding, and these qualities are pleasing to Krishna. As in the case of Jagai and Madai, by forgiving others, we may also prevent them from suffering further. Imagine for a minute that you are the offender and you have done something to anger your best friend. If your friend chooses not to forgive you, you suffer a lot, don’t you? You feel hurt and upset and are filled with regret for making a mistake. In this way, forgiveness mends those who are wrong and those who are wronged. Forgiveness needs to be practiced. It is most certainly not easy but it is absolutely freeing. We must learn to forgive because after all, Krishna forgives us, doesn’t he? Why shouldn’t we forgive others, then?

Forgiveness is a virtue of the weak, and an ornament of the strong. Forgiveness subdues (all) in this world; what is there that forgiveness cannot achieve? What can a wicked person do unto him who carries the sabre of forgiveness in his hand?     (From the Mahabharata, Udyoga Parva Section XXXIII, Translated by Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli). [Taken from Wikipedia]

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.    Matthew, 6.14-15

Needless to say, if someone is continuing to wrong you without truly repenting or feeling sorry for it, there is no reason for you to tolerate it. Simply let it slide and free yourself from the clutches of this person.

2. The authority God gives devotees

This incident of Jagai and Madai shows that as devotees, Krishna has given us certain authorities. Krishna is the ruler of this universe. He doesn’t need permission to take away someone’s life, yet he left the decision up to his devotee Nityananda. Even during the Mahabharat war, Krishna agreed to be Arjuna’s chariot driver. Again, giving his devotee the power to make decisions. Krishna steers the reins and guides the devotee’s from within, as he promises in the Gita:

“To those who are constantly devoted to serving Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me.”    BG 10.10

I always find this incredibly amazing to think about. It fascinates me how the Creator of everything that exists sometimes follows the instructions of his devotees! It’s a lot like the way parents sometimes follow the orders of their children out of love. They don’t have to do it, yet they do because of the love that is shared. This is exactly why Krishna sometimes agrees to carry out the loving requests of his devotees. Isn’t he just the sweetest?

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