Those seeking to lead a spiritual life inevitably face challenges in their sincere pursuit of spirituality and practice. As spiritual development progresses, facing the many unintentional mistakes made through mind, speech, and conduct become disconcerting.
Naturally one begins to wonder, "How to forgive and forget in unhealthy relationships?", "How to forgive yourself - both for mistakes of the past and for ongoing mistakes in the present?"
One of the most powerful tools for spiritual healing of both past and present is repentance with sincere apology. Yet, it is rare to find a concise scripture on forgiveness.
In the book "Pratikraman: Freedom Through Apology & Repentance", Gnani Purush (embodiment of Self knowledge) Dada Bhagwan describes the spiritual power of forgiveness prayer, and offers a precise formula for asking for forgiveness. The book allows anyone seeking to practice spiritual forgiveness prayer to easily understand how to repent, how to forgive someone, and self.
The True Nature of Pratikraman
Questioner: What is the most important thing a human being should do in this life?
Dadashri: To speak and act exactly according to the thoughts in his mind. If you utter pleasant words, but harbor negative thoughts in your mind, then you must do pratikraman (ask for forgiveness). You should do pratikraman with Dada Bhagwan as your witness. This body that you see in front of you is not Dada Bhagwan. This body is called, 'A.M. Patel of Bhadaran (a town in Gujarat, India)'. Dada Bhagwan is the omniscient one, the Lord of the universe, manifested within this body. Pratikraman should be done in his name, as follows:
"Dear Dada Bhagwan, this mind has had negative thoughts, for which I ask for your forgiveness. Please forgive me!"
I too do pratikraman recalling his name.
To do good deeds, is dharma, and to do bad deeds is adharma. Atma dharma (religion of the Self) is to go beyond both. If you do good karmas, you will earn merits (punya) in your karmic account, of which the benefits you will have to experience in the next life. For your bad karmas (paap) you will incur debt, which you will have to suffer in the next life. A person can attain the Self, when he has cleared all debits and credits from his karmic account.
Questioner: In life, karma is inevitable. What should one do when he incurs a negative karma either knowingly or unknowingly?
Dadashri: If that happens, there is a remedy for it. Once a misdeed has been committed, repentance should follow immediately. You must repent wholeheartedly and with sincerity. Even after repentance, should you repeat the mistake, there is no need to worry: just repent again. You are not aware of the science behind all this, so you may feel that despite your repentance, the negative deeds do not stop. Why they do not stop, is also a science in itself. You must simply carry on repenting. If you repent for your misdeeds wholeheartedly, all your bad karma will be washed away. If you hurt someone, then you absolutely must repent.
Questioner: When we carry out our normal daily activities of the body, do we have to repent for it?
Dadashri: Yes of course! Until you become Self-Realized, if you fail to repent, you will continue to bind more karmas. The tangled knots of karmas will loosen through repentance with a view to undoing wrong deeds. If not, the result of the sins you bind will be so horrendous that you may even forfeit human birth in your next life. However, if you manage to attain human life again, it will be full of suffering and misery. You will be deprived of food and respect, and you will suffer constant insults. That is why repentance along with other rituals becomes necessary. This is called 'indirect devotion' (not directed to wards the Self). Until you attain Self-Realization, such acts are necessary.
Now, who should be a witness to your repentance? It must be done in the presence of the God you believe in, whether it is Lord Krishna, Dada Bhagwan, or any other God. There is a cure for everything in this world. First the cure is born, and then the problem or affliction arises.
How has the world come into existence? It is due to atikraman (aggression in thoughts, speech, and acts). Kraman (neutral deeds, deeds that do not have any good or bad implications) alone does not cause any problems. For example, if we damage someone's property and compensate him for the damage, it is not considered atikraman and therefore pratikraman is not needed. But to blame someone else for the damage to his property is atikraman. Atikraman is always taking place, so you have to do pratikraman. Any activity that takes place as a normal activity is simply kraman and there is no problem with that.
Questioner: How do we know if we have done atikraman?
Anger, pride, attachment, and greed are all considered atikraman, so if you do pratikraman, they will diminish. If you do pratikraman immediately after atikraman, your anger, pride, attachment, and greed will disappear. The worldly life is created by atikraman and destroyed by pratikraman.
Questioner: So then what is pratikraman?
Dadashri: If a person insults you, you should understand who the real culprit is behind the insult. Is it the one who insults or is it the one who feels insulted? This should be determined first. You must understand that the person who insults you is not at fault, not even in the slightest degree. He is merely a nimit (instrument), and it is because of your own karma, which is unfolding, that you both are brought together. The fault is your own and you must do pratikraman if you harbor any negative feelings towards him. You do not have to do pratikraman if you have no ill feelings towards him or if you feel a sense of obligation to him for being instrumental in the discharge of your karma.
When a person is unpleasant or abusive towards you, you should look upon the incident as being your own account, and see him as 'instrument'. Even a pickpocket would be an instrument to settle your karmic account. All disputes arise because people blame the instrument. Atikraman is to walk on the wrong path and pratikraman is to retrace your footsteps.
Where there is discord, there is no pratikraman and where there is pratikraman, there is no discord.
You have no right to physically punish your child; you only have the right to explain things to him. If you spank your child and fail to do pratikraman, you will bind negative karma. Pratikraman is necessary here.
It is atikraman even to say, "I am Chandubhai." But for the sake of the worldly and social interactions, it is ok. If you do not hurt anyone it is not called atikraman. If during the course of your day you hurt someone, it would be atikraman for which you must do pratikraman.
This is the science of the Vitarag. Atikraman takes you to a birth in the lower life forms, namely the animal kingdom or even hell, while pratikraman transports you to a higher life form. Only pratikraman will help you until you attain final liberation.
Who does not need to do pratikraman? The one who has not done atikraman.
Questioner: When I see injustice in daily life, it upsets me. So what should I do if this affects the way I interact with others? How should I repent if there is any injustice on my part?
Dadashri: You should do alochana (confession), pratikraman (repentance), and pratyakhyan (resolve never to repeat the mistake). This should be done in the presence of whichever God you believe in. Which God do you believe in?
Questioner: Lord Shiva.
Dadashri: So Lord Shiva should be your witness when you repent. Your alochana should be that, having recognized your fault, you do not wish to repeat it. You must repeatedly repent. If you err, you must repent. In doing, so your wrong deeds will decrease. You may cause injustice although you may not wish to. This can be attributed to the faults of prakruti (inborn nature), and the fault in your prakruti stems from your previous life, not from this life. Today you want to improve, but because of your previous causes, these faults continue to occur and they will not leave without harassing you. For this, you must continuously do alochana, pratikraman, and pratyakhyan.
Questioner: What is the solution when one has to tolerate and endure a lot of things?
Dadashri: You should tolerate without complaining. Tolerate with equanimity, without cursing the other person in your mind. In fact you should consider the other person as obliging you for releasing you from the bonds of your previous karma, and thank him. You should feel an obligation towards him. No one suffers without a reason. Your suffering is the result of your own past karmas.
Questioner: Is pratikraman only to be done for seeing faults in others?
Dadashri: Not just for that, but also for telling lies or for insulting or hurting someone. Pratikraman should be done if any violence through thoughts, speech, or acts is committed towards any living being. Pratikraman should also be done for violating