Mumbai, September 9, 2013: Today, on this occasion called Samvatsari Pratikraman, many Jains will typically to call me and say, “Michhami dukkadam” i.e. ‘I desire your forgiveness (for any pain i might have caused you with my words or deeds)’.
They will call because that’s the done-thing today… and not because anybody remembers ever hurting me.
And to all of them, what I want to say with a smile is: Don’t say it. To hurt me, you need to be within arm’s length of me — punching distance of me. You are just a remote acquaintance; we barely know each other.
Don’t say it ritually, because I will not reciprocate.
But please look at those who are so close to you, whom you have routinely wounded with a mere gesture, or absence of a gesture. You would have wounded them throughout the year, and throughout your lifetime, with hurtful words, inconsiderate gestures and selfish acts.
I don’t want to preach to you… but I am angry. If you are even considering saying Micchami dukkadam to me, please pause, read this and contemplate.
CONSIDER THIS THOUGHT: Maybe it is your ongoing love-affair with money and status and the so-called comforts of life that leads you to wound them. You may read all the scriptures of the world, and bow to all the saints, but never once have you realized that what true comfort, true wealth or true status means. You are forever locked in externalities, and are culturally trained to never once look within.
You consider yourself more virtuous than all the rest of us – and therefore you fall from virtue. Maybe your pride in Jainism and purist vegetarianism, and an unquestioned belief in the innate superiority of your culture and religion, predisposes you to fall into a very deep pit. Maybe it makes you fall below the level of humanness, and takes you to the depth of hypocrisy. Maybe hypocrisy is second nature to you.
It is despicable when you take this beautiful sentiment of “Micchami dukkadam” and reduce it to a hollow ritual. You know what it takes to make things right with the people you have angered or wounded. They are often petty things. Your near-and-dear ones may let bygones be bygones if you reached out your hands and did those little things. Maybe they would find it in their hearts to truly forgive and forget, and wipe the slate clean.
But do you find it in your heart to rise above blind ritualism, fasting and feasting and observances, and your accursed love of money? Can you even begin to understand that true self-mortification, and has absolutely nothing to do with building up your community’s self-importance with admittedly heroic feats of fasting and adherence to vegetarianism?
Are you willing to understand that what people look for from you is nothing more than fairness in dealing? Like putting the same amount of ghee on your admirably delicate rotlis, no matter for whom it is intended?
To genuinely seek forgiveness is a great act of renunciation – possibly the greatest renunciation there is. It means truly discarding your ego, and approaching the other person with true humility, on the terms that the other person would be willing to accept. It means laying down your weapons, and approaching that person defenseless. It means cleansing your soul of the remains of yesteryears, and thereby giving the other person an opportunity to cleanse his soul also.
THAT, my friends, is seeking forgiveness. Nothing less will do.
Try it. You may be pleasantly surprised at how little the other person may want from you by way of reparation or compensation. It may be nothing.
Are you willing to make that effort and genuinely bow your head to your near-and-dear ones? Then go and do it.
Reflect upon your past actions, and go bow where bowing is needed. Do it as it needs to be done, where it needs to be done.
My dear Jain friends and relatives, I am nothing and nobody to you. I am a distant relative of a relative, or a passing acquaintance… and I can be rude. So, please don’t call me and say Micchami dukkadam. It will not be appreciated.