The concept of forgiveness in Sanatan Dharma differs vastly from that of Abrahamic monotheistic #Religions

Deliverance of Jagai and Madhai.
Deliverance of Jagai and Madhai.
The Sanskrit word for “forgiveness” is Kṣamā - which can be split into two kṣa = to decrease and = measure or degree - so basically forgiveness is the decreasing of the degree which we are indebted to the one who has wronged us or persecuted us.

To explain - every positive and negative transaction with another person causes a karmic debt or bond known as ruṇa-anubandhana. Depending on the strength of this connection we will be compelled to encounter that person again and again in future lives until the debt is required and the bond dissolves.

So the act of forgiveness in which we let-go of the pain, vengefulness, sorrow, and regret liberates us from the ruṇa-anubandhana to that person - so forgiveness is for own ultimate benefit and peace of mind and should be done without requiring the other party to request it. Clinging to victimhood only serves to intensify our suffering and that of those around us.

Now with regard to God - forgiveness is not required as in Christianity. The paradigm of sin - forgiveness- justification - redemption is completely foreign to Hinduism.

In Hindu teachings, God is the Ocean of Compassion (karuṇa-sāgara) a reservoir of loving-kindness that exceeds all limitations. God is also free from all ego and hence cannot possibly take offense at our transgressions. There is absolutely nothing that a human can do that would exceed the mercy and grace of the Omni-benevolent Supreme Being.

The Law of Karma fills the gap between human frailty and imperfection and the perfection of God who is unbounded. So whatever heinous crimes we may commit are taken care of by Karma - “as you sow - so shall you reap!” God is the dispenser of the fruit of Karma and we repay our own debts.

The Grace (kripā) and Compassion (anugraha) of God are pouring down on us all like the monsoon rains but we are not collecting it because we are up-turned vessels. In order to be recipients of that freely dispensed Grace, we need to prepare ourselves by scrubbing away the mental dirt of
  • selfishness (kāma), 
  • anger (krodha), 
  • delusion (moha), 
  • hubris (mada), 
  • greed (lobha) and, 
  • jealousy (mātsarya).
There is a teaching in Vaishnavism that the Lord actually relishes a degree of sinfulness because it is an excuse for him to lavish even more compassion and un-requested forgiveness - he wishes to forgive us more than we wish him to.
Lord Vishnu - Sage Bhirgu and Goddess Lakshmi

There is a famous story about a sage Bhrigu who wanted to test the Compassion of Vishnu and so kicked him in the chest while he was sleeping, immediately Vishnu awoke and realizing what had happened, he began massaging Bhrigu’s foot - saying “My chest is as hard as a diamond - your foot must be hurting - let me massage it for you!”

It must be said that for those with a guilty conscience there are many rituals of atonement which can be performed - but these act to purge one mentally and depending on what is done (like feeding and clothing the poor or contributing to social welfare) they can cancel negative Karma.

So the concept of forgiveness in #Hinduism (Sanatan Dharma) differs vastly from that of Christianity & Abrahamic monotheistic religions.

By: Rami Sivan

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