A Tale on Inner Forgiveness…
Inner Forgiveness as a virtue has long been the focus of many spiritual systems and practices since it is a necessity to fly in the inner world.
“Your Spiritual Development depends on your ability to Forgive others.”
Master Choa Kok Sui
Without inner forgiveness the heavy load of anger, resentment and hatred pulls us down and does not let our soul fly high. In order to achieve inner peace, stillness and freedom therefore, we must constantly forgive and let go.
In fact we can reach a level where anger and resentment do not have any place. A level where we feel so detached and conscious that other’s acts do not bother us at all and where only love dwells.
There are many stories and parables that explain the beneficial effects of forgiveness, encouraging us to forgive, forget and continue living and loving. The story of “The Sack of Potatoes” in Taoism is one of such stories that best describes the effect of the anger and resentment feeling toward others on our system and our soul and how we can practice higher levels of forgiveness where there remains nothing to forgive.
One day, a sage gave his disciple an empty sack and a basket of potatoes and asked the disciple to write the name of people with whom he still feels angry.
“Think of all the people who have done or said something against you in the recent past, especially those you cannot forgive. Take one potato as a representation of each one of them and put it in the sack.”
The disciple came up with a few names, and soon after his sack was heavy with potatoes.
“Carry the sack with you wherever you go for seven days,” said the sage. “Then we shall meet again.”
At first, the disciple thought nothing of it and carrying the sack was not particularly difficult. After some time however, it became more of a burden. It sometimes even got in his way, and it seemed to require more effort to carry as time went on; even though its weight remained the same.
After a few days, the sack began to smell; the carved potatoes gave off a ripe odor. Not only were they increasingly inconvenient to carry around, they were also becoming rather unpleasant.
Finally, the week was over and the disciple went to the sage. “Any thoughts about all this?” the sage asked.
“Yes, Master;” the disciple replied. “When we are unable to forgive others, we carry negative feelings with us everywhere, much like these potatoes. That negativity becomes a burden to us and, after a while, it festers.”
“Yes, that is exactly what happens when one holds a grudge. So, how can we lighten the load?”
“We must strive to forgive.”
“Forgiving someone is the equivalent of removing the corresponding potato from the sack. How many of your transgressors are you able to forgive?”
“I’ve thought about it quite a bit, Master,” the disciple said. “It required much effort, but I have decided to forgive all of them.”
“Very well, we can remove all the potatoes. Were there any more people who transgressed against you this last week?”
The disciple thought for a while and realized there were. Then he panicked when he knew his empty sack was about to get filled up again.
“Master,” he asked, “if we continue like this, wouldn’t there always be potatoes in the sack week after week?”
“Yes, as long as people speak or act against you in some way, you will always have potatoes.”
“But Master, we can never control what others do. So what good is the Tao in this case?”
“We’re not at the realm of the Tao yet. Everything we have talked about so far is the conventional approach to forgiveness. It is the same thing that many philosophies and most religions preach – we must constantly strive to forgive, for it is an important virtue. This is not the Tao because there is no striving in the Tao.”
“Then what is the Tao, Master?”
“You can figure it out. If the potatoes are unpleasant feelings, then what is the sack?”
“The sack is the case that allows me to hold on to the negativity. It is something within us that makes us dwell on feeling offended…. Ah, it is my inflated sense of self-importance.”
“And what will happen if you let go of it?”
“Then… the things that people do or say against me no longer seem like such a major issue.”
“In that case, you won’t have any names to inscribe on potatoes. That means no more weight to carry around, and no more bad smells. The Tao of forgiveness is the conscious decision not just to remove some potatoes… but to relinquish the entire sack.”