Betrayal; Is it Ever Forgiven?

Having been inspired by the re-emergence of the Brijabasi Spirit, and having been personally asked by its benevolent and liberal preceptor, Sriman Madhava Ghosh, to submit an article, about a month ago I chose to write about an interesting experience I had dealing with forgiveness. Not only were the responses surprisingly plentiful, but some very beautiful realizations and thoughts were expressed.

This topic has been especially meaningful to me lately as within the past six weeks I have had not one, but two experiences which had serious drawbacks. Both took place in the form of a certain kind of self-expression (emails) which were found to be objectionable by others. It is true there is a certain type of false courage one may feel while sending letters and emails that would be difficult to embody in a face-to-face situation. Worse yet, is that when we unthinkingly offend someone else, it is difficult to proceed in spiritual life, as we will likely continue to meditate on the past mistake.

From your letters, I can understand that your greatest concern is that no one should be abused or mistreated. I commend those who work diligently to ensure the safety of the children, and I see that it is working. We also know that other types of abuse have gone on. In the past especially, the problem was exacerbated by the uncertainty of how do deal with certain individuals, as we are all mixtures of good and also some not so good qualities. When someone is making worthwhile contributions, but simultaneously is causing distress to others, it is challenging how to view the situation. Similarly, someone may be a supporter of the community, who continually offers suggestions to assist in the progress, and will also have many more valuable and interesting topics to discuss. Still, there may also be a concommitant tendency to be very outspoken and critical toward managers and others not conducting themselves according to one’s conceptions, to the point where it seems that normal limits are exceeded, causing some unnecessary woes. However, if one responds to the situation in a mood of impetuous retaliation, or even if one believes they are acting on behalf of others, if done carelessly the result will not be good. Krishna explains to Uddhava that no one on earth remains sober when struck with the harsh words of another. If we have a suddenly jolting and angry exchange, the relationship will never exactly be the same. In some cases, even sincere apologies are not accepted, as the repugnancy of the situation overrides all other considerations. So while two gentleman were meditating on the many excellent reasons I should be executed at dawn by the local firing squad or something of that nature, I was lamenting how ill-equipped I am in self-expression that I cannot speak in a redeeming or edifying manner, and without taking cheap shots. You cannot ask someone who does not have the necessary and actual ksatriya qualifications to do the job of offering reprimand to others.

It would seem that most of you have perceived that your need to forgive is towards those whom you feel have betrayed you. In any institution, persons with a certain position are expected to act in certain ways. Many of you have had a significant level of emotional involvement with the ISKCON Institution, and the sense that it has let you down or betrayed you is prominent in your mind. Often, we do not even know exactly where to point the finger. Other times, it is obvious and extreme. For instance you may think that you have served your community nicely for years, and then receive a severe threat, or be told that people like you should be demolished. Or your management is so clueless, that you can shape up or get the hell out. Or you may receive a heavily judgmental or insulting letter from someone who is supposed to be a friend and associate. One naturally feels a drastic sense of betrayal. It requires something extremely positive to counteract such experiences.

As a person who has been involved in a variety of harsh and derogatory verbal exchanges, both in life in general as well as in ISKCON, I will only ask each of you to look objectively and see why it is that the letdowns and betrayals have come your way. Indeed, there has been great irresponsibility on the part of those whom we thought we could trust. That is one unfortunate aspect of life in this world. Still, we receive back what we put out. If we endeavor with good intention, good results will come. When the intentions are mixed, one gets mixed results.

May we endeavor with only the best intentions, and may we try to forgive those who do not. I am personally praying for the forgiveness of all others, as my life has been sorely afflicted with betrayal as I got back what I put out. Life in the world of false ego and hypocrisy is a two-faced existence based on image, approval and self-aggrandizement.

May the Supreme Lord of all, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, bestow His benediction upon us that we may know true contrition for all past offenses. May He allow us to move on with confidence that our mistakes based on false ego will eventually cease. May He also forgive us for causing any harm or pain to those who should be the most near and dear to us.


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