Universal Fall Cleanse: Forgiveness, Samvatsari, Yom Kippur

When the contemporary Christian musician and Grammy Award winner Matthew West’s song Forgiveness is passed around Jain homes during the holiest week of Paryushan ending in Samvatsari (the most important day of universal forgiveness), we may be moved by this essential human commonality. Many thanks to Malini for sharing the link to the song.

We now come to the holiest day of the Jewish faith–Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when Jews ask for forgiveness for sins against God as well as fellow humans. My Jewish friends and I have sometimes talked about the similarities (the most important religious time, fasting, intense prayers, time spent at the temple) as well as differences (Jews asking forgiveness from God versus Jains asking forgiveness from all living beings, from life with one sense to five senses, and ending with personally asking forgiveness from all relatives and those who have been hurt).

No human life is possible without inflicting or receiving hurt (as we discussed in our special session Insight into Problems in July), whether it be done knowingly or unknowingly. We ask for forgiveness for our sake, to release the pain and sorrow that keep us from moving ahead. It is  often difficult for all of us to appreciate that we forgive wholeheartedly to be free. Nothing is altruistic (or very little is!) and so this can be a rational act, not sentimental emotion, in our self-interest. Sometimes we are not able do it when the hurt is too deep. But those who have strong religious faith may be able to forgive through the love of God, or a higher entity. And so we have the Grace of God, the Mercy of Allah, the compassion of Buddha, the micchami dukkadam of the Jains, the forgiveness embedded in all faiths and cultures.

Our Fall Mindful Meditation session this year begins with understanding and meditating on forgiveness. It is the most potent mental and emotional cleanse, an essential release in meditation. A mental cleanse as part of our mental well-being may be even more essential than the intense preoccupation with the body. There is some research to back the benefits of forgiveness.

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