Image by Teresa Freitas
Question: I’d like to know about forgiveness as a bridge between the separate self and the awakened soul.
Ram Dass: That’s a nice way of phrasing the question. It’s a step on a ladder that goes from dualism into non-dualism. Because as you forgive or allow or acknowledge or say “Of course you’re human” or “We all do that” or something, you open your heart again which embraces the person or the situation back into you, which allows the play. See, every time you close off something with judgment, it’s as if you take a bit of energy and you lock it away and make it unavailable to you. Until pretty soon you are exhausted. You don’t have any energy, because you are so busy.
I often visualize it as having little doors inside your head. You’re holding a grudge — and so every time you think of that person your heart closes down. It’s as if you’ve got a little room with a guard at it that doesn’t allow you to flow freely. And they’re all the no’s of life — the no, no, no, no, no. It’s an emotional “no” against the world — against the Universe — against the way the Universe is. As opposed to “yes”. We’ve been telling you how to say no without closing your heart, but the no I’m talking about is the heart-closing no. It’s the judging, grudge, non-forgiving no. And it costs more than it’s worth. Even though you are right, righteousness ultimately starves you to death.
Righteousness is not liberation. It is known as the golden chain. You’re wonderful and you’re absolutely right, but you’re dead. I mean you’re dead to the living spirit. And finally, you want to be free more than you want to be right. And you have to forgive somebody not because they deserve forgiveness within your other model, in a righteous sense.
Maharajji said to me “Ram Dass, I told you to Love everyone and tell the truth.” And I looked at those people who I had built up all this righteous indignation and hatred towards, sitting across the courtyard at the temple. And I went over there and I was in this ecstatic state from being with Maharajji and also my ego was in incredible pain, and I took apples and I cut them into little pieces and I know that you can’t feed somebody with anger, or it’s like giving them poison. And I went up to each person who I had built up resentment to and justifiable, righteous resentment. I mean I am very creative in justifying my reactions, so I had a good reason to be angry with that person. And I stood there, and he didn’t say work it out, which is what we in the West psychologically like to work out our anger so that everyone saves face. He said “Give it up.” And I looked at the person, and I had to just let it go. And it was so painful! And when I had let it go and I could look at that person with Love again, I stuck the apple in their mouth. And it took me over an hour and a half to do that for these people. Before I could finally really let go enough to do it. Because I couldn’t afford it. I couldn’t afford not to forgive. Once you are in the One, nothing builds up so there is no forgiveness. No forgiveness is required, because you don’t forgive a tree and you don’t forgive a river. You know? It’s like lightning strikes your house and you say “I forgive you.” I mean, who are you forgiving?
It’s interesting. You know that story — the Chinese story about the boats and the fog? As the boatman, he hits another boat, and he starts swearing at the other –“You, why didn’t you look where you were going?” And then the fog lifts for a moment and he sees there is nobody in the other boat. And he feels like a fool. Well, it’s roughly the same thing. I mean you hold a grudge against your father, as if he’s in there. He isn’t in there. Psychologically you think he is, because you think you are in you, but once you begin to see he’s just a set of phenomena happening. You are busy saying “I forgive you. I forgive you.” To a clock? You know, it’s really nothing different than that. I don’t mean to demean personality. It’s quite interesting. But it is a lawful set of events. It’s not freedom.