The Yogic Principle of Forgiveness

Another year has passed in my quest to live as a yogi, and another year looms with the chance for me, and you, to deepen that practice.

I recently had the great fortune to hear a discourse on wisdom from one of my spiritual teachers, Acharya das, whose wonderful lectures can be found online. He spoke of an amazing yoga master from past millennia, Bhisma, and his teachings. I heard something so simple, yet so profound, I knew this would be a most worthwhile topic for my meditation.

To attain freedom from anger, one should learn how to forgive.

A true yogi does not allow herself to be overtaken by anger. Whilst we breathe and bend, focusing evermore inwardly, it is easy to see how anger is a great disrupter of the peace we all seek to be our constant companion.

The dog barks while we’re in shavasana (corpse pose often done at the end of yoga exercise), the boss criticizes our work, the driver next to us cuts us off. There are many examples of miseries and ample opportunities in our daily lives for anger, or even irritation to arise. Yet we know we don’t feel good if we’re annoyed, aggravated or even infuriated. So the principle of forgiveness is a key to attaining peace and real fulfillment. Irrespective of whose “fault” something may be, forgiveness frees us from the burden of anger, which harms us more than the object of our displeasure.

This advisory comes from Bhismadeva, the great grandsire of the Kuru dynasty more than 5000 years ago. As his death approached, incredibly laying on a bed of arrows he’d been shot through with, he counseled Yudhisthira, the future king, on 9 principles to be followed by human beings. His very first instruction was not to become angry. And this from a fierce warrior!

Okay, not losing our temper is good, but how do we achieve this state of control over anger? By forgiving. It is the great passport to freedom. Why do we want to hold onto the bitter taste of anger? For some false sense of righteousness or superiority? These concepts are not compatible with a yogic lifestyle or consciousness.

So every time I feel the dark snake of anger rising up my spine, I vow this year to simply breathe in forgiveness, taking it deep into my belly, exhaling through my heart and sending out softened and sweet tasting forgiveness, letting go of any preconceived notion of feeling offended, and humbly accepting that the so-called offender may be doing the best they can, and even sending them love, knowing them to be a child of God, no less deserving of forgiveness than myself. I will inhale, and accept that I cause offense often to others, many times unknowingly. Deep inside we are all seeking the same thing – peace, forgiveness, love.

This year this yogi will experience less anger and more forgiveness. How about you?