We are privileged to read a post from Master Charles Cannon, author FORGIVING THE UNFORGIVABLE: The True Story of How the Survivors of the Mumbai Terrorist Attack Answered Hatred with Compassion.
After two of their associates were killed and four wounded in the 2008 Mumbai attack his entire party immediately forgave the attackers. Was it a sign of weakness? Read how even through their suffering they still maintained that “the truthful reality that life is an innately joyous energy.”
Is Forgiveness a Weakness?
by Master Charles Cannon with Will Wilkinson,
Authors of Forgiving the Unforgivable
Forgiveness. Easy for some, difficult for others. Impossible for most in extreme cases. It’s customary to consider that forgiveness is a noble act, but some believe it’s actually a sign of weakness, especially when it comes too quickly.
This is one of the questions we faced in the wake of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack where two in our party were killed and four others were wounded. When SWAT teams rescued us from the Oberoi Hotel and we were interviewed on international media we immediately forgave our attackers.
Some felt that signified denial? Was it a sign of weakness on our parts, simply not having the courage to honestly face our anger, express our outrage, and demand punishment for our attackers? In fact, it was quite the opposite, and that’s what we wrote about in our book, Forgiving the Unforgivable.
For starters, there was nothing serious going on with that terrorist attack. This may sound like even more denial! But it arises from the truthful experience those in our meditation group were having. We’ve cultured a radically different experience of “reality” over many years. We understand – not in theory but in long tested experience – that what’s going on “out there,” what presents itself to our senses, is a fragmented illusion, a virtual rather than true perception of reality. According to that illusion there really is something serious going on here, all the time. And we should wrestle with it, do our best to change the world, make sure that evil doers are brought to justice. But that illusory virtual reality is only valid when true reality remains unknown, the holistic reality that emerges when there is balance between our interior and exterior polarities.
When you experience true holistic reality, you know that all is but the happening of life, a play of consciousness – including a terrorist attack – and nothing is intrinsically serious. If life is serious, serious enough that forgiveness seems like weakness, that informs you about your virtual experience of reality. It tells you that you are not experiencing true reality. True reality is an expressive experience, that is, you take responsibility for what you express moment by moment, because you know that this is what is creating your future, not the uncontrolled and random actions of others in a chaotic universe. You don’t deny the objective world around you, you just don’t weight it over the power of your own subjective creative expression.
This helps explain why we were able to forgive the terrorists immediately and to perceive them as the real victims in Mumbai. Just imagine how mired in illusion they must have been! How could they stray that far from the innately joyous energy of life, so far that they got serious enough to actually kill people and be killed themselves? For them, the attack was very serious. But that was an illusory virtual reality they invested in and it certainly wasn’t blissful energy! Knowing this, how could it have possibly served us to invest in that same illusion, agreeing with them that it was serious and that they deserved our hatred and revenge? Yes, we felt all the customary human emotions … fear, anger, sorrow, grief. We were able to witness ourselves being fully human, with real human emotions, feeling them deeply and utterly, but without losing touch with the truthful reality that life is an innately joyous energy. We found that it was possible to remain blissful, even in grief. We were not in denial, believe me! And there was utterly no weakness involved. It takes courage to go against the consensus virtual reality of the mainstream.
This may seem like a ridiculous suggestion in a world so burdened with seriousness but… Lighten up! The essence of life is joy, a playful energy, and there is nothing serious about it. Any seriousness is coming from your investment in the illusory virtual reality being all there is. Diversify your portfolio! Invest in true reality, the truth of life known from the inside out through what you express moment by moment. Those choices that you make determine your future, not the actions of others. The ultimate weakness is going along meekly, disempowered by “the world.” Make your stand. Have the strength to create the kind of world you want your children to inherit. Often, that begins with a moment of forgiveness.
Master Charles Cannon is a modern spiritual teacher and founder of Synchronicity Foundation for Modern Spirituality. He is the author of the new book FORGIVING THE UNFORGIVABLEwww.forgivingtheunforgivable.com