Forgiveness on the Path

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Puja CandlesKsama in Sanskrit means forgiveness. An indispensible word on the spiritual path at practical and cosmic levels, ksama is a virtue that, perhaps more strongly than any other, binds us to a tantric life. Its practice requires that we move beyond our ego and take sanctuary in the naked truth of reality. It is a gateway to Her through relationality (one of the five-fold qualities of the Dark Goddess), a way of creating connection across divides of difference on inner, outer and causal levels.

At times, forgiveness means making a choice to be present with another. It can also mean holding a space of respectful distance in order to let truth unfold. In its many manifestations, the path of forgiveness is a tall order in a world filled with insecurities and vitriol. So many of us harbor terrifying yearnings to be loved—terrifying because we fear we are unworthy of another’s love or worse, somehow unlovable. But as a mechanism for unleashing the power of unfettered love—the antidote to much of our struggle—forgiveness is worth taking the time to understand and practice.

Ritual is usually the first place where the explicit task of forgiving arises. We learn a mantram or technique, for example, and must practice over and over to get it right. We learn to say, “ksamasya,” meaning, “please forgive me,” because we know that our heart’s desire has not yet been achieved. This is not about method, as some think, but rather about the creation of beauty. Much like the fragrance of flowers provides a key to unlocking the deeper meaning of puja, the practice of ceremony allows us the opportunity to give from our heart to the divine. As we learn to be increasingly free in our efforts, our expressions of beauty unleash passionate remembrances of truth that light our inner fire once more. In this way, we engage cosmic events in the world and create stepping stones—some grounded in acts of forgiveness—toward a unique unfolding of ourselves that is less reliant upon ego for survival.

As we progress, taking ritual into the living of our day-to-day lives, the next task of forgiving lies in our personal relationships. Through them, we move from the humility of asking for forgiveness to welcoming self-forgiveness to a culminating other-forgiveness that fully reconstitutes us. Here the ego has a lot to say, preferring to keep us shackled to our habits and agendas lest we kill the self we have come to know so well. But in time the first lesson arrives, and we may see the possibilities that allowing forgiveness to be present within us provides. Staying open takes fortitude. This is not to say that we must forgive for the sake of forgiving, or forgive foolishly, or collude with wrongdoing; rather, in consciously striving for a disposition toward forgiveness, we enter into a valuable process of personal reflection and the flexing of emotional muscles (as when we discover that there is more that awaits beyond our anger) that can lead to greater insight.

Awareness here takes us to a deepened relationship with compassion, for to be genuinely with a loved one’s suffering releases our ego’s self-centered stance and gives us room to witness a soul’s painful cry for healing. Awareness birthed of our fortitude can also unlock the point of our relationship in this lifetime with the one to be forgiven, and we are changed in precious ways with this knowledge. The tantra of forgiveness then lies in our willingness to start small and with an open heart. These stepping stones do lead us somewhere beautiful.

Offered in Her Service Chandra Alexandre

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