Radhanath Swami on the Divine Art of Forgiveness

Radhanath Swami on forgiveness


If we are to have any hope of peace in this world, we must master the art of forgiveness.– Radhanath Swami

The Vedas characterize the modern day & age as being riddled with quarrel and hypocrisy. There are so many stimulants to irritate and offend us. Without forgiveness, these burning stimulants nest in our consciousness and slowly reduce our peace of mind to ashes. However when we understand the nature of resentment as well as our transcendental position, peace of mind arises as a concomitant factor. First we will discuss why we should forgive and then how to imbibe genuine forgiveness within our hearts.

No Forgiveness = Self Harm

The first reason we should practice forgiveness is because harboring negativity dampens our life. Holding onto resentment is like holding a burning hot coal. It afflicts us within and it manifests as fire without. We hold onto this searing ember of hatred day after day, week after week, year after year with the intention of throwing it at the object of our abuse. But who suffers? We suffer. By holding onto that fire we are torturing ourselves.

Resentment, hatred and vengefulness are like scolding fires. And if we keep them in our heart, what will happen? They will burn our virtues and spiritual qualities to dust and leave us miserable. –Radhanath Swami

As long as we hold onto this negativity, we will be negatively affected.But, when we learn to forgive and let go of the fire, it can no longer harm us. In this way, forgiveness extinguishes the flames within and gives way to a calm and cool heart.

Radhanath Swami expounds on Our limited perception  

Another reason to forgive is because we don’t know why people do what they do. Someone may be innocent but habituated to act immorally due to ignorance. Others may victimize us because they have been victimized in the past. This point is vividly illustrated by my friend’s experience as a prosecution lawyer. One of his cases involved prosecuting a prostitute. This prostitute was robbing, stealing and even trafficking drugs. He put her in jail for 20 years.

Some time after the trial, she sent a letter to him wishing to talk. The two met and she revealed her heart. She revealed that she was violently molested as a child on a regular basis. Then, once she married, her husband beat her and eventually deserted her, leaving behind three young children. Having grown up impoverished, she had no education and thus could find no job to support her three children. On top of that, the young children were completely dependent on her and needed food, shelter and medical care. So although prostitution and drug trafficking agonized her, she did it for the survival her children.  “I don’t want anything from you because it’s too late” she said. “ “Now I am in prison for the next twenty years and my children are being sent to some orphanage where they are probably going to be abused and nobody is going to care anything for them. As As a mother, I just want you to know what my heart is going to think: ‘what’s going to happen to my children?’ That’s all.”

The moral of the story is that we can never know for sure why someone acts the way they do. Most people do bad things because in the past they were victimized. If we were to actually study someone’s past emotional and psychological conditioning, we would probably never hate the person. We would feel sympathy for them and hate the way they are compelled to act due to their previous experiences. With this understanding, we should view our aggressors with a sense of empathy and understanding. However,

…forgiveness doesn’t mean that one’s misdeed should go unpunished; it means to be the well-wisher of even our enemies by understanding that we are all fighting a hard battle. –Radhanath Swami

Radhanath Swami explains how to Imbibe Genuine Forgiveness

Now it’s easy to theoretically speak about forgiveness, but actually imbibing it in our hearts is often quite difficult. To truly let go of our resentment, it is important to understand the actual phenomenon taking place. The fact is, we are not these bodies; we are the soul. These bodies are temporary vehicles.

We are the source of consciousness that animates the body and witnesses what happens to it. However, when we identify as this body, any physical or verbal harm directed towards it disturbs us.

Bhagavad Gita explains that the soul can’t be burned by fire, can’t be drowned by water and can’t be disturbed by words. We are that eternal soul, and our purpose in life is to cultivate knowledge and awareness of our true identity.  It is simply an illusion, an addiction to an untruth that devastates us upon being challenged in some way. It actually has nothing to do with us.  But, as conditioned souls, we are habituated to crave enjoyment through this body and mind. Because of this misidentification, anything that interferes with the mind and body’s enjoyment causes us terrible pain.

The remedy for this disturbance is detachment. Detachment arises naturally upon realizing our true identity. The soul is transcendental to the dualities of this world. Thus when we think and act from the platform of the soul we are no longer afflicted by any material circumstance. The soul’s nature is to serve unconditionally. By acting from this platform of service to the Supreme Soul, Krishna, we identify less and less with the body and mind, thus we are less and less afflicted by the disturbances that arise thereof.

To the degree we are aspiring to serve rather than exploit, to that degree we become transcendental to the various inevitable dualities around us. –Radhanath Swami

Srila Prabhupada says in Krishna Book that one’s greatness has to be estimated by one’s ability to tolerate provoking situations. And what does it mean to tolerate provoking situations? To maintain a consciousness of forgiveness and compassion. And what is the most effective way to imbibe this consciousness? It’s described that in this current day and age, anyone can attain pure transcendental consciousness simply by sincerely chanting the holy names:

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare

Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

I will conclude with one story which has deeply influenced my heart and has transformed my whole perspective on life. It is the story of Haridas Thakur, the Namacharya or the one empowered to teach the proper consciousness for chanting the holy names.

The power of the holy name to free us from all disturbances of this world was showcased in the life of Haridas Thakur. Due to worshiping Krishna in a Muslim-ruled state, the king condemned Haridas to death. The king’s men dragged him by the hair through public market places beating him with clubs, pounding him. They were screaming nasty slurs at Haridas, torturing him ruthlessly. But because Haridas Thakur was deeply taking shelter of The Lord through chanting his names, he was in ecstasy. His communion with God through his name was so deep he just didn’t mind the severe inflictions on his body or the blasphemies upon his ego.

As he was being beaten, he chanted with this prayer in his heart, “My dear Lord Krishna, please forgive them. Please forgive all these men who are beating me and trying to kill me, don’t consider their actions an offense. Give them your mercy. Give them your love.” That prayer of forgiveness was springing from the core of his heart through all 22 market places of severe blasphemy and beating.

Haridas Thakur embodied the principle of true forgiveness. He never blamed anyone for anything that came upon himself; instead he saw them as the instruments of his own karma. And he thanked God in every situation for having the opportunity to turn to Him.

The true essence of forgiveness is to be an instrument of God’s forgiveness. Due to realizing his true identity, Haridas Thakur embodied this essence and was able to forgive even the most heinous acts. When forgiveness comes through the knowledge of the soul and the power of God then that forgiveness has the potency to truly change our hearts and those of others.

My guru, Srila Prabhupada once said, “One’s greatness has to be estimated by one’s ability to tolerate provoking situations.” And what does it mean to tolerate provoking situations? It means to maintain the consciousness of forgiveness and compassion, to pray as a well-wisher of everyone and to view every situation as an opportunity to sincerely take shelter of the mercy of the Lord through remembering him and chanting his holy names. To achieve inner peace we must change ourselves. And simply by sincerely chanting the holy names, we transcend all of the negative forces in this world and attain the supreme everlasting peace of Krishna consciousness.


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  • Kalpana Kulkarni

    “The true essence of forgiveness is to be an instrument of God’s forgiveness” – amazing quote. Wonderful article on forgiveness worth meditating and practicing to better our lives.

  • Umesh

    As long as we hold onto this negativity, we will be negatively affected.But, when we learn to forgive and let go of the fire, it can no longer harm us. In this way, forgiveness extinguishes the flames within and gives way to a calm and cool heart.

    This is very true and realistic statement. We must master the art of forgiving.

    • Sumit Sharma

      Very true Umeshji! In another place, Radhanath Swami Maharaj says “If you don’t forgive, you wont be forgiven”. Such a powerful message encouraging forgiveness.

  • Pravin

    If we are to have any hope of peace in this world, we must master the art of forgiveness…..
    statement worth contemplating for whole day……rather life and act…

    • Sumit Sharma

      Yes true! Saints like Radhanath Swami Maharaj only can demonstrate these qualities through their live examples. We are so grateful to these souls for teaching us these virtues which build up characters in society.

  • Naman Kashyap

    What hopes do we have of ever attaining Krsna other than that He kindly forgives us for turning away from Him and trying to become His competitor Lord in the material world. If we don’t forgive others how can we expect Him to forgive us

    • Sumit Sharma

      Great thought! We should become instrument in compassion and forgiving nature of Krishna.

  • Sanat Swain

    Forgiveness article is an nice article

  • Anand Patil

    This is the master stroke for bringing real peace in the society. “If we are to have any hope of peace in this world, we must master the art of forgiveness” If all of us can try to imbibe this, we can actually see change in the society and not by some superficial peace demonstrations.

    • Piyush Singh

      Exactly. You got it perfectly right Anand.

    • Sumit Sharma

      Yes true! This is a great formula for bringing peace to the whole world. Bhagavad Gita verse 5.29 “Bhoktaram yagya tapasam…” speaks about another peace formula.

  • Satish Rane

    To forgive mean not to keep any bad feeling or grudges against the person… Hare Krishna. Thank You maharaja. Hare Krishna

    • Piyush Singh

      Very well said.

  • amit

    Thank you for sharing

  • vani

    ” Forgive & Forget”, is the greatest quality of a human being. HH Radhanath Swami has vividly described the art of forgiving. Thank u very much for sharing.

    • Piyush Singh

      Very well said.

  • Navin Poojary

    This is million dollar quote by Radhanath Swami “To the degree we are aspiring to serve rather than exploit, to that degree we become transcendental to the various inevitable dualities around us.”

    • Piyush Singh

      Yes. It is.

    • Anand Patil

      Very true Navin.

  • Satish Rane

    forgivenesss is the blood group of devotees … hare krishna

    • Piyush Singh

      Wow… what a unique style of presenting this truth. Thank you.

  • Ninad Kambli

    Nice article !! by reading this article I was just reminding myself, that how much i have been forgiven by ma parents, teachers and friends. After committing many mistakes they are just tolerant, but also giving me a settle message, that tolerance cannot be given as granted. I have to be more conscious that I won’t commit same mistake again, and learn from the failures.

    • Michealle

      Well said.. I have faced similar problem with parents. Its really difficult to forgive in practical life.

      • Piyush Singh

        True… very difficult…but can be practiced and learnt under the guidance from advanced souls like HH Radhanath Swami.

    • Anand Patil

      very true.

  • dewanand

    Forgiveness is the only hope for peace in the world.
    How true it is. just contemplate on everyday situations around you n you will realize it.

    • Piyush Singh

      Very true.

  • Satish Rane

    amazing article. It is really very good. hare krishna.

  • Piyush Singh

    “The power of the holy name to free us from all disturbances of this world was showcased in the life of Haridas Thakur.” A very hope giving statement.

  • Rajeev

    Am deeply grateful to Radhanath Swami Ji for giving such a profound and complete knowledge on art of forgiveness. The moment I read it I felt my heart was actually looking for it. Thank you very much

    • Piyush Singh

      Lucky you :), but this often happens when we pray sincerely. Feeling happy for you.

  • biswajit

    Wonderful explanation

  • vidya karekar

    quality og forgiveness nicely explained

  • NSP

    Wonderful explanation on quality of forgiveness!

  • Piyush Singh

    HH Radhanath Swami makes this vital point that we should forget as we do not have the full visibility that why someone deals with us the way one did and anyways it is best to just forgive and finish off the chapter then and there. May be tough at times but when we understand that we are not these bodies but spirit souls then many things simplify easily.

  • biswajit

    very instructive

  • Rukhmani priya Devi dasi

    Thank you so much Guru Maharaj

  • biswajit

    Thank you Maharaj

  • CS Sandeep S. Shinde

    Nice Article. Thank you very much.

  • Sumit Sharma

    Nice message from HH Radhanath Swami Maharaj.

  • vidya karekar

    no forgiveness=self harm — so true , spiritually and physically

    • Ram Mohan Gupta

      Thanks for putting into equation. Thanks to Radhanath Swami Maharaj too.

  • biswajit

    Wonderful message,

  • vidya karekar

    step by step Radhanath Swami is teaching us the art of forgiveness

  • vilas bhujbal

    Above very detailed and profound systematic explanation by Radhanath swami about Forgiveness will help creating a very good interpersonal relationship among our community. And I always like the statement of Radhanath swami “Bhakti is about the relationship”

    • Ram Mohan Gupta

      Thanks for sharing golden statement. Thanks to Radhanath Swami.

  • Amey Rane

    A solid n deeper meaning of forgiveness!! Amazing!! Will need such strong character of clear understanding and impregnable determination!! Even if one can follow a spec of it, one will lead oneself, family , society, country or the world towards the true humanity.

    • Ram Mohan Gupta

      Very true. If we can follow even a bit of it, we can do tremendous service. Thanks to Radhanath Swami.

  • Soumya

    Such enlightening article on art of forgiveness……..All religious scriptures emphasises this crest quality of forgiveness. If we want to please God, we should have willingness to forgive and this inspiring wisdom really helps us to develop quality of forgiveness. The examples given in article touches deep inside. Thank you very much for sharing key of peacefulness.

  • Kalpesh Jadhav

    How true is the above statement ..! We often tend to pre judge people according to a particular incidence. Swamiji rightly explains the need to forgive as an important aspect for internal peace.

  • khushal

    Wow. Swamiji has so wonderfully and astutely insighted the virtue of forgiveness. Recently I also heard his class online where he again spoke on forgiveness. He cited examples from the timeless scripture srimad bhagwatam like dhruva maharaja, prahlad maharaja, ambarish, queen kunti, and many others who displayed this great quality.
    Thank you Swamiji for giving us the very essence of forgiveness and its benefits.

  • Ninad Kambli

    I have became a fan of Radhanath Swami quotes, just in one statement give essence of the topic like no forgiveness = self harm. I experience so much positive change when I try to leave by Radhanth Swami teachings

    • Piyush Singh

      Glad to know that you also have felt this transformation as I do. This is really something that we can experience by direct perception that how we have given up so many vices and are able to practice some practical spirituality just by trying to live by the teachings of saints like HH Radhanath Swami.

  • anil dislay

    Its very true that forgiveness creates peace in both hearts the heart of one who forgives and in the heart of who have been forgiven.
    Simple but very important and powerfull principle..

  • Srivallabhi dd

    One thing is sure by forgiving we win the heart of the opponent & the Lord will be pleased by our act.

  • Kalpana Kulkarni

    Yes, forgiveness really helps us to put out the fire of anger in our hearts and be peaceful. But its easier said than done. We have to cultivate this habit by practicing it. Its very true that we cannot judge anyone’s behaviour because we do not know the past.

    • Piyush Singh

      An honest comment and yes this is to be cultivated by practice. Thank you.

  • Yadati Raja Shekar

    Great article by Radhanath Swami. Forgiving is the most sublime of all the qualities.

  • Satish Rane

    it is beneficial for us to forgive others…forgive & forget ………… hare krishna.

  • Piyush Singh

    “No forgiveness = Self Harm” such a precise equation to make us understand that in any case, not forgiving will harm us only. Too good.

  • CS Sandeep S. Shinde

    Forgiving others is really an art which i should cultivate in my life. Thank you very much for sharing about the same.

    • Piyush Singh

      An honest comment. Thanks.

  • Piyush Singh

    Very inspiring. It’s often very tough to forgive anyone even for small things. However, the solution that HH Radhanath Swami provides makes lots of sense and by practice one should be able to cultivate this. Example of Haridas Thakur is so graphic. If he could forgive in that extreme situation then what is the difficulty for us to forgive anyone for anything that we undergo today.