I often visualize it as having little doors inside your head. You’re holding a grudge — and so every time you think of that person your heart closes down. It’s as if you’ve got a little room with a guard at it that doesn’t allow you to flow freely. And the doors represent all of the “no’s” in life. It’s an emotional “no” against the world — against the Universe — against the way the Universe is. It’s the judging, grudge-holding, non-forgiving “no.” And it costs more than it’s worth. Even if you are right, righteousness ultimately starves you to death.
Righteousness is not liberation; it is known as the golden chain. You’re wonderful and you’re absolutely right, but you’re dead to the living spirit. Eventually you’ll find that you want to be free more than you want to be right. And you have to forgive somebody not because they deserve forgiveness within your other model, in a righteous sense.
My Guru Maharaj-ji said to me, “Ram Dass, I told you to love everyone and tell the truth.” And I looked at the people who I had built up all this righteous indignation and hatred towards, sitting across the courtyard at the temple where we stayed in India. And I went over there and I was in this ecstatic state from being with Maharaj-ji and also my ego was in incredible pain, and I took apples and I cut them into little pieces and I knew that you couldn’t feed somebody with anger, or it’s like giving them poison. And I went up to each person who I had built up righteous resentment towards. And I stood there, and he didn’t say work it out, which is what we in the West psychologically like to work out our anger so that everyone saves face. He said “Give it up.” And I looked at the person, and I had to just let it go. And it was so painful! And when I had let it go and I could look at that person with love again, I stuck the apple in their mouth. And it took me over an hour and a half to do that for these people. Before I could finally really let go enough to do it.
Because I couldn’t afford not to forgive.
Once you merge with the One, nothing builds up so there is no forgiveness required, because you don’t forgive a tree and you don’t forgive a river. You know? It’s like lightning strikes your house and you say “I forgive you.” I mean, who are you forgiving?
It’s interesting. You know that Chinese story about the boats and the fog? One boatman hits another boat, and he starts swearing at the other — “You, why didn’t you look where you were going?” And then the fog lifts for a moment and he sees there is nobody in the other boat. And he feels like a fool. Well, it’s roughly the same thing. I mean you hold a grudge against your father, as if he’s in there. He isn’t in there. Psychologically you think he is, because you think you are in you, but eventually you begin to see he’s just a set of phenomena happening. You are busy saying, “I forgive you. I forgive you.” To a clock? You know, it’s really nothing different than that. I don’t mean to demean personality. It’s quite interesting. But it is a lawful set of events. It’s not freedom.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and “Forgive for Peace,” in conjunction with the UN’s International Day of Peace (Sept. 21, annually). The International Day of Peace is devoted to strengthening the ideals for peace, both within and among all nations and peoples. Forgiveness is the first step on the path toward Peace and therefore the Forgive for Peace Campaign was established. It also marks an annual day of non-violence and calls for a laying down of arms to bring about a 24-hour cease fire on September 21st. To learn more about Forgive for Peace, visit here.