Passages

STORY ON FORGIVENESS

Once upon a time there was a sage in a big busy city. The sage had various disciples. One day the sage gave an empty sack and a basket of potatoes to one of his disciples. He looked at him right in his eyes and told him: “Think of all the people who have done or said something against you in the recent past, especially those you cannot forgive. For each of them, carve his name on a potato and put it in the sack.

The disciple came up with a few names, and soon his sack was full with potatoes.

“Carry the sack with you wherever you go for a week” said the sage.

At first, the disciple thought nothing of it. Carrying the sack was not particularly difficult. But after a while, it became more of a burden. It sometimes got in the way, and it seemed to require more effort to carry as time went on, even though its weight remain the same. After a few days, the sack began to smell. The carved potatoes gave off a ripe odour. Not only were increasingly inconvenient to carry around, they were also becoming rather unpleasant.

Finally, the week was over. The sage summoned the disciple. “Any thoughts about all this?”

“Yes, master”, the disciple replied. “The potatoes smelled and I’m tired of carrying this weight.”

“Negative feelings are like the rotten potatoes. 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. We must forgive to lighten our load and make our lives happy.”

“What about the sack?” the disciple asked.

“The sack is … that which allows you to hold on to the negativity. It is something within us that makes us dwell on feeling offended…. Ah, it’s your inflated sense of self-importance. And if you get rid of the sack then you do not have a place where to put the potatoes. … That means no more weight to carry around and no more bad smells.

The secret of forgiveness is the conscious decision to not just remove some potatoes … but to relinquish the entire sack.”