Monday, September 12, 2016

Forgiveness, Compassion, & Sarbat Da Bhalla

I grew up with a strong sense of compassion and empathy, and the belief that people are good inside because they are souls/children of God. Sometimes their minds have accumulated durmat mehal and it is hard to see their true color. Interestingly sometimes I find that people have a hard time understanding (or believing) compassionate acts. When you are angry and gossiping they get on board to fuel the negative energy. When you are instead loving and forgiving of others’ mistakes they are shocked and confused at how that is possible. In fact this comment on Sikhnet answers says it all “OMG! forgiving others for little things or for bigger issues that they have conspired against due to animosity is unheard of in this age of Kaliyug” (1). I’ve often heard variations of “you’ll see one day, and understand that people are bad inside.” I’ve heard this so many times now that I’ve started to have a little doubt in my mind… am I na├»ve to live my life seeing the good and treating others with compassion, empathy and forgiveness? I knew the answers lied in our Sikh history so I did a little research to convince myself.

Bhai Kanhaiya Ji is a well-known role model of true compassion from our Sikh history. He served water to the wounded soldiers at Anandpur regardless of whether they were fighting on the enemy side (2). When questioned by Guru Gobind Singh Ji, he replied “‘I saw no Mughals or Sikhs in the battlefield. I only saw the Guru's face in everyone.’ The Guru, pleased with the reply, blessed him and told his Sikhs that Kanhaiya had understood his teaching correctly. Guru also give him medicine to be put on the wounds of fallen soldiers (Sikhs and Enemies).” (2) The Sikhs always fought in defense (3). The wounded soldiers from the enemy side were brought home and “would be cared for, given shelter and food and warmth and nursed back to health. Guru Ji would personally then hand them back their weapons and say ‘Go my son, we shall see you again on the battle field’” (3). Guru Gobind Singh Ji did not seek revenge against those who were against him by killing Aurangzeb or Wazir Khan or even Ganga who lead his children to their death (4). When a beloved sikh of the Guru, Bhai Mann Singh was killed, the murderer was sent to Guru Ji for punishment (4). Guru Ji pardoned him and set him free (4), just as Guru Teg Bahadur forgave Dhir Mal for hiring men to shoot him (4). These are just a few of the countless examples of forgiveness that were demonstrated by Sikhs in our history. May they serve as our role models and teachers for who we strive to be, and what Sikhism means. Guru Amar Das Ji reminds us “‘It is not proper for saints to take revenge. There is no greater penance than patience, no greater happiness than contentment, no greater evil than greed, no greater virtue than mercy and no more potent weapon than forgiveness. Whatever man sows, he shall reap. If he sows trouble, this shall be his harvest. If a man sows poison, he cannot expect ambrosia’” (4). Dalip Singh and Amarpreet Singh Munde from the Sikh Research and Education Center write “Sikh Teachings are for reformation of the sinners not by force or coercion, but by imparting proper education on the basis of Equality of all persons, love and freedom. God's Name is Immaculate and All Wisdom. If the sinners are brought near to God by love and persuasion, their minds are cleansed from the filth, they will begin to lead a moral life on their own “(4).

When we are able to forgive another, it is beneficial to ourselves. It releases the energy of anger, hatred, and negativity that eats away at our own lives. Having the understanding that we all make mistakes helps in forgiving others. Guruka Singh says, ““When you hold onto what someone did or said to you, or even whether it’s real or imagined, you create an interlock with that person’s psyche. You bind that person to you. When you break the lock and release it, then if you created the reaction to someone (if you did something bad) then you have an opportunity to make that right. If someone did it to you they have the opportunity to make it right, its not your job to hold them to it, it’s their karm not your karm. You have to deal with your own actions and you have to deal with your own words. And people who have interacted with you have to deal with their own actions and their own words. If they lied, if they connived, if they hurt, that’s their karm” (5). 

Ultimately, it is God that we have to answer to and it says many times in gurbani that Waheguru forgives us: “He gives and forgives all beings” (p. 106 Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji), “He forgives countless sins in an instant” (p. 260). If we are honest with God, realize and admit our mistakes, we will be forgiven (6). Often times however we don’t make it that far. We don’t want to admit we did wrong, so we deny it, and we don’t take responsibility for what we did. Sometimes instead of asking what we can do to help someone get better, we stay silent out of fear of admitting to ourselves we hurt someone, especially if it was someone we care about. Instead of reconciliation we break relationships we care about. Sister Shivani says on her show Being Bliss, that someone who has hurt another person can do three things: apologize, realize what they did (and commit to not doing it again), and send an energy of love and compassion to the other person (7). This last point was extremely important. She gave the example of someone not accepting your apology/refusing to talk to you (7). In response, you feel hurt and angry at them for not accepting your genuine apology so instead of sending them love, you are sending them anger (7). I have to admit I’ve done this. I can remember a time my heart-felt apology was not accepted and I got annoyed the other person couldn't let it go. I failed to realize they were in pain (their words said they were fine but it turns out they weren’t), and when I realized that, I changed my energy from annoyance/anger to understanding, love, and compassion because they are just healing. Just doing this from a distance in your own thoughts makes a difference. 

In the end I got the answers I was looking for. Sikhism teaches us to treat others with compassion, empathy and forgiveness. At the end of our ardas everyday when we say “Nanak Naam Chardi Kala, Tere Bhaanay Sarbat Da Bhala” we are praying for Guru Ji to “bless the whole humanity with happiness, peace, and love for all" (8).

 “The true mark of maturity is when somebody hurts you and you try to understand their situation instead of trying to hurt them back”–Unknown.


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