FORGIVENESS IN THE JAIN PERSPECTIVE
The meaning of the concept of forgiveness, it's underlying basis, the emphasis and its practice differ significantly in the Jain ethos. In Jain psychology, forgiveness is not presented as a moral commandment; 'thou shalt forgive'. It is rather based on using the right insight (samyak darshan) to see man as separate from his errors, with the perfect understanding that every living being is essentially a soul whose evil conduct is no expression of his real nature. It is the recognition that the 'misconduct' is caused by ignorance, the state of delusion caused by karmic layers, which makes beings forget their true identity.
As in all Jain philosophy, nothing can ever be only understood by a singular perspective. The concept of forgiveness and its practice too, can be discussed both from the transcendental (Nishchaya nay) and the practical worldly (Vayavahar nay) points of view.
From the transcendental self-referential point of view, every soul in its pure passionless state of equanimity, spontaneously expresses supreme forgiveness (Uttam Kshama) that is unconditional and universal. However, due to the bondage of karmas, the mundane worldly living-being's soul-states are impure and contaminated with passions. Bondage with karmas not only hinders the full expression of the spiritual attributes but also leads to a state of mistaken identity or false belief (Mithya).
Forgiveness by this view is thus directed to oneself Jina Mahavir thus proclaimed I that we should first forgive our own soul. To forgive others is only a practical application of this concept.
However, from the other-referential and practical view-point (Vayvahar Nay), we forgive those who have wronged us and seek forgiveness from those we have wronged. Forgiveness is sought not just from human colleagues, but from all living beings ranging from one sensed to five sensed. The spirit of forgiveness arises from long practice in spiritual discipline and from realization of our in-severable human and divine brotherhood. We are all pure souls. In a temporary state of impurity caused by our individual karmic bondages we are all acting out attachment and aversion caused by ignorance; it makes no logical sense then to judge, blame or punish others. When we see this, and truly understand it, there are no grudges, no bad feelings, and no oozing wounds requiring some kind of
misdemeanor. We immediately forgive those who have trespassed against us. Or don't even blame them. They are us, we are are them.
FORGIVENESS FOR OUR OWN SAKE
Competitions and conflicts erode social cohesion. Anger and revenge are destructive and harmful, giving rise to unending spirals of violence. If we do not forgive or seek forgiveness but instead harbor resentment, we bring misery and unhappiness on ourselves and in the process, shatter our own peace of mind. Forgiveness is a way to move on. Forgiveness is fundamentally for our own sake, for our own mental health. It is a way to let go of the pain we carry. This is illustrated by the story of two ex-prisoners of war who meet after many years. When the first one asks, "Have you forgiven your captors yet?" the second man answers, "No, never." "Well then," the first man replies, "they still have you in prison."
FORGIVESS = INTERDEPENDENCE
We have all betrayed and hurt others, just as we have knowingly or unknowingly been harmed by them. It is inevitable in this human realm. Forgiving and seeking forgiveness oils the wheel of life allowing us to live in harmony with our fellow beings. In fact, the individual benefit and social good are interwoven, since the worldly living-beings are mutually interdependent for their mundane existence, as is exemplified by the Jain motto - 'Parasparo-Pagraho Jivanam' -'Living beings function to help each other.'
FORGIVENESS = STRENGTH
By the Jaina philosophy thus, the 'forgiver' is NOT a victim, but rather one who has the strength to discern (vivek) and not be subject to ignorance (agnyan), distortions of reality (mithyas) and passions (kashay) of anger, greed, deceit and pride. Forgiveness is not weakness. It demands courage and integrity.
Forgiveness is the result of tremendous moral strength and spiritual progress. It is the attribute of the strong. No wonder then that a great Jain Acharya contended that "Kshama Viram Bhushanam" - 'Forgiveness is the ornament of a brave'. He has the capacity and the opportunity to avenge the wrongs done to him. But he aims at self-effacement by forgiving the offender and forgetting the wrong. Only a strong person can forgive, never the weak.
One who practices forgiveness is always tolerant. As a result of forgiveness one's mind, speech and body merge into one whole, a unity. The purity of thought, speech and action is its culmination. Once the knot has been resolved, not to provide another occasion for it to reform, is the consummation of forgiveness"