Admittance of one’s errors is one of the foremost among virtues that can help a genuine spiritual aspirant to rise above the demonic qualities that are always in hunt for a susceptible human. Once anybody admits that he/she might be following a prohibited alley, the turn to the allowed and proposed path automatically comes in sight.
Almost all of us face this dilemma many a times in life. Oftentimes, we face problems and people who are not coherent to our thinking pattern and we find it utterly difficult to cope with such situations and persons. We feel that we are odd-man-out from this cluster of people and God has given us wrong people to tackle with and live with. Most of the family problems are based on this conception about oneself and the irony of these problems is the fact that almost everybody asks from God: “why me!” Why I have been given these tough people who can’t think like me; who can’t live like me; who can’t do it like me; and who are not like me! The simple answer to this question could be: “there is no right!”
In this elemental world, there is nothing that can be called singularly right or okay in all terms. It is only God who is always right. So if one thinks that others are different in their approach to the life, it is an opportunity. We must understand that we know three dimensions of life—x, y, z—there could be more and we might be missing some them. Ɵ could be the possible dimension from where people are peeping into their life.
It is a hard truth that nobody in this world is perfect—our search in fact is for perfection and humanity has seen a number of instances where it learns that divinity alone can be perfect. So, first of all, we must try to admit that there could be other angles of thought and we could not be all time all-right! Perhaps, it is up to us how much we can change and adapt to the situations and cope-up with people, who live the life they understand is correct.
A musical instrument would give us a better understanding of the different aspects of life that people might see with their own perception. Let me introduce you a very primitive and regional wind instrument that is used by serpent-charmers in India. The name of the instrument is ‘Been’ and it is made of cucumber or a gourd. The gourd is dried for many days and then it is made empty from inside. One side of the gourd is opened for breathing the air and the other side is fitted with two pipes for making it long and fit for producing musical notes.
Now, if you carefully analyze the picture, you will notice that one of the pipes is having holes that are just like a bamboo flute. The other pipe does not have any holes in it. When the serpent charmer or any regional artist plays this instrument, there are twin sounds that you can decipher. The one produced by the holed pipe is used for producing different notes according to the tune on the song. The second one just gives a single note—there is no variation in the tonal quality of that pipe and it does not have any musical variety to boast for.
Now, about our point: what is the use of this second pipe in a musical instrument if it does not produce any musical notes and just converts the air into a singular audible note? It seems so useless and retarded. The pipes are similar but have huge difference in their usage and functionality. Just like the fact that we face lots of people with different attitude, thoughts, perceptions, conceptions and view-points. However, the fact is that this second pipe provides a good base to the instrument. Based on the singular note of this pipe, the artist can produce different notes from the second one. The advantage of this pipe is that you can play this instrument singularly without the need of any accompaniment. It also lends a sort of loudness to the instrument’s voice, which might not be otherwise available from a single pipe.
The point is that nothing and nobody in this world is without a reason—everything in this elemental world has something to do with the plan of God and we should try to co-operate to the maximum so as to ease the process of evolution of humanity towards divinity.
Vālī was the elder brother of Sugrīva and he was the king of monkeys that served in the mission of Lord Rāma during the search of Mother Sītā.
We would take recourse to the perennial flow of Rāmayaṇa to give us an example where ‘admittance of faults’ gave the culprit an opportunity to be benefitted by the divine benediction. Though there are many tales that go along with any legend, but to be very precise about the example of our analysis, we will turn to Swāmi Himself. We pick up the second part of Rāma Kathā Rasvāhinī and turn the pages where the account of killing of Vālī is given. The chapter is “an ally accepted”.
Vālī has been hit by the ‘one arrow’ of Lord Rāma that can vanquish the whole universe in a trice. At that point, he makes a point: “Rāma, I know full well your prowess and skill. You can with one arrow destroy not only this Vālī, but the entire Universe. You can create the Universe again. Nevertheless, I desire to learn from you the sin for which you have killed me. Please indentify for me the error I was responsible for. You have come upon earth in human form in order to re-establish Righteousness, haven’t you? What is the meaning and purpose of this action—hiding behind a tree, like a common hunter, in order to kill me?”
It was a query that could have made everybody laugh, for, anybody who has heard or read about Rāmāyana knows that Vālī committed multiple mistakes; however, a person who is committing errors sometimes needs to be given a clear view about the things that are going around. When Lord Rāma explained him the faults that he has committed and the justification of his killing, Vālī grew calm. He was the mightiest of people that Lord Rāma killed during His sojourn on earth and no wonder that his conscious could see the follies that he committed. Though his actions do not befit his stature, he had to be given a chance and nobody other than the Ocean of Compassion can show such a consideration. Vālī admitted that he was at fault and he should not have done what he did.
This acceptance of errors melted the butter-hearted Lord and he proposed to restore Vālī to life. However, the mighty warrior opted to die when he is in full awareness of the presence of God and knows that He himself killed him. He commanded his son Angada to serve Lord Rāma so that he could also secure his blessings; this indeed was a vindication of Vālī’s acceptance that he had done wrong and there was nothing unjust in Lord Rāma’s killing him. He was forgiven because he admitted his faults. He chose to die or to leave the elemental bindings at the best moment, which is not a punishment in the real sense of the term.
It is clear from the account of this story that when God gives us the chance of transformation, He means it—if we choose to go the way He wants us to, we will not only be pardoned but will be rewards with His acceptance.
The point to be noticed in this story is quite intriguing. Vālī was one of the few persons who could defeat Rāvaṇa in war. It is famous that once he caught hold of Rāvaṇa in his axilla and went around the whole earth thereby exhibiting the might that he possessed. Similar to Rāvaṇa, Vālī also committed the fault of casting a sinful eye on the wife of another person. Similar to Rāvaṇa, Vālī also disgraced his brother—Rāvaṇa banished his younger brother Vibhīṣaṇa because he did not support the idea of keeping Mother Sitā in Rāvaṇa’s captivity. The God gave chances of transformation to both Vālī and Rāvaṇa. Rāvaṇa was given the chance of handing over Mother Sitā and saving his whole clan. However, he chose the opposite path and was punished to death by Lord Rāma. Whereas, Vālī, after understanding his follies and sins, admitted that he was wrong. He chose to transform himself and Lord Rāma gave him the choice of life though he chose the blessings of death.
The point that I want to make is pretty simple—in the eyes of God, even the highest sinner is given a chance to transform, repent and wipe out his/her karma so as to break the shackles of the cycle of action and reaction. Spiritually elevated people choose to move along with God, while the others don’t.
‘Admittance of errors’ is a quality that requires humbleness and deep knowledge of the fact that humans are prone to err. However, humans are also capable of transforming themselves and overcoming the self-indignation that accompanies such acceptance and turn themselves into gems of examples for others.
The benefit of understanding this concept of vulnerability of humanity to commit errors gives one more benefit to all of us. It allows us to understand that people or situations that have caused a real pain to us; that have rendered our lives a real tough one; that have made us to think even suicide, are not cruel as they appear to be. Once we understand this, we can forgive almost anybody. At this point, the teachings of almost all the saints and sages come forward: the divine quality of forgiveness can be grown from this point of view. The more we tend to understand the situations and promptings that gave rise to wrong-doings of others, the more forgiving we will grow and it will allow us to give others a chance to transform. At the same time, it will also give us a very elevating experience of divine qualities. I need to stress my point here by saying that the bliss that one derives from such experience is purely other-worldly.
I would like you to go to the field of cricket and consider the option of coaches. A few years back, it was proposed that the captain of the fielding team could have a microphone and receive instructions from the coach. The tact was banned! Why?—simply because people who are outside the ground can analyze the things better than those who are on the field. However, because the game is between two teams and not the coaches, this tactic destroys the juice of the game: cricket is not a sport played on electronic techniques. It is based on physical stamina, mental toughness and of course the fineness of technique.
Similar to the game of cricket, a person committing errors is like playing the game. However, other people can help him/her to see the picture in a broader sense of term and realize that there were other options available. This will certainly help the people to grow a forgiving attitude towards other people. No wonder that forgiveness is a hard-earned virtue and it often tests you to the limit. Once you set your limits about it, you stop being forgiving.
One thing that is a sort of an inevitable-backpack along with ‘acceptance of errors’ is despondency—despondency and lack of further vision mar the progress that we need to undertake after realizing that we might be missing the right path.
Swāmi’s words on “Admittance of Errors”
When it comes to errors, Swāmi always stresses that we should not overlook them but address them as serious road-blocks in our own evolution. In fact, he points out that we should overlook the errors of others and forgive them but admit our own faults prominently, making sure that we are determined not to re-commit them.
For faults and sins committed in ignorance, repent sincerely; try not to repeat the faults and sins again; pray to God to bless you with the strength and the courage needed to stick to the right path.
Whatever people may say about the faults that you know are not in you, do not feel for it; as for the faults that are in you, try to correct them yourself, even before others point them out to you. Do not harbour anger or vengeance against persons who point out your faults; do not retort, pointing out the faults of those persons themselves, but show your gratitude to them. Trying to discover their faults is a greater mistake on your part. It is good for you to know your faults; it is no good your knowing others’ faults.
It is clear that Swāmi emphasizes a lot on noticing our own faults but to forgive others; in fact, even not to acknowledge other’s faults.
How Swāmi exemplifies this habit:
We would be taking a different side for considering this, as there is no error that Swāmi has committed, for, the acts of God are always for the good of others and justified. We would be considering how Swāmi gave an opportunity to transform to people who committed unpardonable acts. Swāmi gave glimpses of vastness of forgiving nature that He possesses and gave us an opportunity to marvel the quality of highest nature that can reside with God alone.
There had been many incidents in Swāmi’s childhood where he was tested as a wonder-boy by jealous village-folks and others. One such occasion is when a women of the village invited Swāmi to dine in her house. She was intending to poison Swāmi. It is clear that the other women were not very eager about this invitation but our all-knowing Swāmi had other plans. He knew what that women intended and thought to use it as a sign-post for others: people will come to know that Swāmi is really something that he had declared at that time.
It so happened that when the poisonous Vaḍas (a South Indian savory delicacy) were served to Swāmi, he consumed them with glee. When everybody waited for something scandalous to happen, Swāmi regurgitated the whole Vadas without being affected. The woman was wonder-struck with terror and feared that she would be punished by Swāmi and also by the village people. She begged for pardon and our all-merciful Swāmi forgave her. In fact, he hailed her because she became an instrument in spreading Swāmi’s glory. Just imagine the love that Swāmi has for us and for those who recognize their errors and are ready to repent.
It could sound confusing to us that if we have to forgive everybody, the wickedness of people could proliferate out of proportion. However, a practical approach needs to be adopted here: Swāmi says that we need to hate the crime and not the person. If a person deserves punishment, he should be meted out the required proportion. However, we should not have hateful attitude towards that person because this robs us of our own peace and virtuous qualities. Lord Rāma exemplified this beautifully: a day before the killing of Rāvaṇa , Lord Rāma had defeated him by all means. It was just a matter of one arrow and Rāvaṇa would have been finished. However, Lord Rāma sent him away back to his kingdom so as to give him a graceful death. Rāvaṇa demanded that he should be killed because it was more shameful for him to go back to his kingdom defeated. However, Lord Rāma did not grant that wish because He said that it would be disgraceful for Him to kill a defeated enemy. He stressed the point that He does not hate Rāvaṇa and won’t kill him in a fit of rage. Yes, Rāvaṇa deserved death and He would give it; but not in an unrighteous manner or propelled by a hateful emotion. It is difficult to understand the actions of God comprehensively but there is always a subtle message in everything that He does.