Forgive us our trespasses – Swami Prabhavananda

Forgive us our trespasses – Swami Prabhavananda

“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” A Hindu or a Buddhist would read the “debts” in this passage as the debts of Karma. The word Karma stands for a mental or physical act and its consequences. Any thought we think, any action we perform has two consequences: first, it creates an impression in the mind, which means that we are sowing a seed for similar thoughts and actions in the future; second, it brings, according to the nature of the thought or deed, either happiness or misery. By our actions and reactions we are always contracting debts, obligations that must be paid off. We alone are responsible for these obligations. We are even responsible for our own character, which has resulted from our habits of thought and action. When we recognize our debts, when we realize that everything, good or bad, that comes to us has been previously earned by ourselves alone, then we know that we must not hold anybody else responsible for anything that we suffer.

We all have a tendency to accuse others for whatever in our life may go wrong. At the beginning of creation we find Adam blaming Eva for their fall, And Eve, in her turn, blaming the serpent. If we are ready to assume responsibility far our own karma and not blaming others, then it will be easy for us to forgive those in debt to us, those who take something away from us or do us some harm. Only when we have this forgiveness in our hearts can we forgive ask expect forgiveness from God.

What binds us to the law of karma, the law of cause and effect? Our sense of ego, which makes us feel separate from God. In the Svetasvatara Upanishad we read:

This vast universe is a wheel. Upon it are all creatures that are subject to birth, death, and rebirth. Round and round it turns, and never stops. It is the wheel of Brahman. As long as the individual self thinks it is separate from Brahman, it revolves upon the wheel in bondage to the laws of birth, death and rebirth. But when through the grace of Brahman it realizes its identity within Him, it revolves upon the wheels no longer. It achieves immortality.

In order to free ourselves from the bondage of karma we must offer the fruits of our actions to the Lord and surrender our sense of ego to Him. We must pray to God for forgiveness of our debts so that, Through his grace, we may transcend karma an reach union with him.

Transcending the past

For if ye forgive men their trespasses,
Your heavenly Father Will also forgive you;
But if ye forgive not men their trespasses,
Neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Until we become established in the virtue of forgiveness, we cannot attain purity of heart which enables us to seek God. The practice of forgiveness is therefore of fundamental importance for the spiritual aspirant. In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ stresses this practice repeatedly. He teaches mercy, reconciliation, and forgiveness of debts. But besides the Sermon, the Gospels record many instances of Christ’s teaching of forgiveness, both by precept and by his own example.

When Peter asked him,Lord, How often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times? Christ answered,”I say not unto thee, until seven times, but until seventy times seven.

In his own life Christ did not harbor the least resentment toward those who had done wrong. He would bless them saying, “Go and sin no more. Thy sins are forgiven.” And in his prayer on the cross he asked the Father to pardon the ignorance of men, “for they know not what they do“.

All great spiritual teachers have emphasized the importance of forgiveness in spiritual life. Buddha said,If a man foolishly does me wrong, I will return to him the protection of my ungrudging love; the more evil comes from him, the more good shall go from me.… Cleanse your heart of malice and cherish no hatred, not even against your enemies; but embrace all living beings with kindness.”

These teachers agree that if we lack forgiveness, If we hold thoughts of anger or hatred, we will cause misery for ourselves as well as for others. They advise us to raise opposite waves all pot of thought – thoughts off Love and compassion – so that we will be at peace with the world and ourselves.

Why is it so difficult for most of us to follow the teaching of forgiveness? Because when someone cherishes ill-will towards us, we react by feeling hurt. And what is hurt the most? The ego. Forgiveness is perhaps the greatest of all virtues, because if we can truly forgive men their trespasses we rise above the ego, which obstructs our vision of God.

Swami Prabhavananda

God is a Friend of All Beings – Jnanananda Bharati

God is a Friend of All Beings – Jnanananda Bharati

He attains peace who knows Me as the friend of all beings, as the enjoyer of all sacrifices and penances, and as the Overlord of the entire universe. (Bhagavad Geeta V:29)

If our conception of God is a terrible entity of whom we have to be constantly afraid, there can be no peace or happiness, as the element of fear, a state of unpleasant unrest, will be present. God has, therefore, to be accepted as a friend, well-wisher, deeply interested in our welfare. If we have the confident belief that we have such a friend in God, there is no need to tell him about our wants as he is omniscient and knows what it is good for us, and is sure to look after our welfare without any request from us.

As God is omnipotent, that is no need to doubt his ability to help us in every way. As he is omnipresent, we have no need to seek him out elsewhere than in our own marks hearts where He is ever present, regulating every thought wave of ours. In fact, he is even in our stomach looking after the digestion of the food we send there.

Having become(the fire), I abide in the body of beings, associated with prana and apana, digest the fourfold food. (Geeta XV: 14).

If we recognize the existence of such a friend, it will give us strength and mental equilibrium, which are quite necessary for a state of peace.

All–Inclusive Love

But it is only proper to remind ourselves that though God is certainly our friend, he is not only our friend but the friend of all created beings. If we think of hurting any other being, he will remind us that he is a friend of that being also. If we persist in injuring that being, he himself will turn against us as he has to befriend that being. Thus if we contemplate to do any harm to any other being, you will not only be forfeiting his friendship but will invest him with the character of an enemy of whom we have to be afraid.

It is not necessary for that being to call upon God to befriend him against the injury contemplated by us. The mere contemplation, being known to God who is seated in our heart itself, is sufficient to discredit us in his eyes. If the other person is a devotee who has surrendered himself entirely to God, the injury contemplated will automatically rebound on ourselves. If we bear in mind therefore that he is the friend of all, we cannot possibly cause or contemplate any harm or fear to any being and this necessarily leads to a state where nobody else can cause or contemplate any harm or fear to us. The result will be a state of peace and happiness.

As he it Is the Overlord of all created beings, he cannot be partial to anyone to the detriment of any other. If he is partial, he cannot be the friend of all. To be impartial, he has necessarily to be just and can never swerve from the strict standards of Right. If we repose confidence in such a friend, we also must be very careful that we do not violate that standard, for any violation will only result in our forfeiting his friendship with the inevitable loss of peace and happiness.

Here is a very healthy and practical recipe which the sage Patanjali prescribes, and which can be easily and profitably used for maintaining our mental equilibrium even in our daily intercourse with others amongst whom we have to live.

People are generally happy or miserable in their experiences, are virtuous or sinful in their actions. Thus the people with whom we come into contact may be conceived of as falling into four classes; (i) the happy, (ii) the miserable, (iii) the virtuous, and (iv) the sinful.

Patanjali says that if you think of all happy people as your own, if you’ll extend your pity to all miserable people, if you evince your commendation of the virtuous, and if you ignore the sinful by your indifference, none of these can generate in you any feelings which can disturb your peace of mind. Therefore, the mind will be pure, clear, and restful and consequently capable of full receptiveness toward Truth.

Sri Jnanananda Bharati

Necessity of Relationships – Eknath Easwaran

Necessity of Relationships – Eknath Easwaran

To keep the ego from becoming inflated, it is essential to have active personal relationships. Without other people to related to, we end up brooding more and more on ourselves, until finally we live in a world of one. Unfortunately, this is the tenor of our times. I was reading not long ago that the number of men and women living alone in this country has doubled in recent years. It is a sobering comment on what inflated self-will can do.

When some of these people were interviewed, the reasons they gave for choosing to live by themselves were often worthy of a three-year-old child. “When I come home from work”, one said, “I like to throw my clothes wherever I want.” She was serious. Another said, “I like to turn up my stereo as loud as I want.” And a third: “I do not like to have to argue about what I am going to watch on television.” If we find it difficult to get along with others, that is just the reason to be with them more. Difficulty in relationships is a clear warning signal: “Watch out! The ego-load is getting wider.” It is in the give-and-take of life that we learn to be flexible, to smooth out the angles and corners of our personality so that we can relate easily to those around us.

The other day I was listening to a two-year-old boy trying to get his mother to give him something she thought he probably should not have. All I heard was “I want…I want…” and then a prolonged cry. It is one thing for a two-year-old to cry when he does not get what he wants. But at some point we should grow up, which means learning to go against our likes and dislikes when necessary. This is something we can work at systematically, simply by putting our own preferences last and the welfare of others first. When we are able to do this gracefully, we can be called adults. Until then we are children.

Momentum through Meditation – Eknath Easwaran


Momentum through Meditation – Eknath Easwaran

All the great traditions of mystics agree that to take to the spiritual life, it is not necessary to withdraw from society. We do not have to leave our family and community and retire to Mount Athos, or try to discover the harmony of nature in the jungles of a Micronesian island. For some, of course, the cloister is the right place; this is a matter of individual temperament and choice. But spiritual values can be lived anywhere: with our family, at work, wherever we are.

If you ask the person in the street about Saint Teresa of Avila or Saint Francis of Assisi, you will often get some comment like, “Visionary. Impractical. Could not keep their feet on the ground.” Because their inner life is so profound, we think that they have turned their backs on living. But one of the most practical reasons why the mystics turn their attention inward in meditation is to tap the power for solving problems that come up throughout the day.

This is very much like getting momentum in a track event. A few years ago, watching the Olympics on television, I was surprised to see how far back some of these athletes went to get a running start. In the pole vault one guy walked up to the bar, then turned around and strode so far back that I thought he had decided to go home. If you did not know about the pole vault you might think, “What is the matter with this fellow? Instead of competing, he is running away.” He is not running away; he is going back to get the momentum he needs for a really big jump.

That is the purpose of meditation too. Instead of getting out of bed and plunging directly into life’s maelstrom unprepared, you sit down for a half hour or so in meditation to get a good start. When you go out into the world, you have a good reserve of energy and security on which to draw, to be patient instead of angry, sympathetic instead of selfish, and loving instead of resentful.

One of my friends was warned by an acquaintance no to let meditation turn her into a zombie. I hear this from many people who are afraid they might lose their personality if they eliminate the sense of “I, me and mine” from their consciousness. I remind them that the word “personality” is related to the Latin word “persona”, a mask. In Alexander Dumas’ novel, the supposed twin brother of Lous XIV was forced to wear an iron mask for so many years that it became part of him. However hard he tried, he could not take it off to reveal his real face. All of us are like this. Through many years – or many lives – our minds have developed habits of selfishness and separateness through endless effortss to satisfy desires for personal pleasure and profit, power and prestige. If we can throw away this mask of separateness, our real personality, the Atman, shines forth in beauty, wisdom and love.

Down through the ages, mystics from all traditions have been telling us how to get this self-centered, little “I” out of the way to make room for the big “I”, our real Self, which is the source of joy. Unfortunately, most trends in our civilization are in the opposite direction: “Think about yourself always.” What they are really saying is, “Do not ever be happy.”

When my niece was with us in California several years ago, she had her heart set on being a hopscotch champion. It seemed to me that she was making good progress, but the subtleties of the game escaped me. So finally I asked her, “What is the secret of championship hopscotch?”

Her answer was right to the point: “Small feet.”

Even I could appreciate that. If you have constable’s feet, so long and broad that they cut across all the lines, you cannot get anywhere in hopscotch. Life is like that too: If you have a big ego, you cannot go anywhere without fouling on the lines. But there are people who have petite, size five egos, who find it easy to remember the needs of others. They may hot have much money or be highly educated, but they are loved wherever they go.

Sometime on the freeway I see an immense mobile home being pulled along by a truck. Warning flags stick out all over, and a big red sigh at the back warns, “Wide load”. Everybody knows what it means: “Watch out! I am not going to fit in my own lane, so I am going to take up some of yours too.”