Is instantaneous forgiveness the characteristic of pure devotion and seeking retribution that of neophyte devotion

by Chaitanya CharanJune 3, 2014

Transcribed by: Sudha Mehta

Question : Is instantaneous forgiveness the characteristics of pure devotion and prolonged bearing of resentment and seeking retribution that of neophyte devotion and lower grade person?

Answer: I would say yes and no. Scriptures give us verses when they glorify particular quality of devotee they glorify that singularly. At the same time if we do not contextualize these things there can be a misunderstanding that may result. Yes a pure devotee forgives instantaneously but then we do see that the Pandavas did not simplistically forgive and let the wrongs which Duryodhana was doing go away. Infact Srila Prabhupada was extremely spiritually advanced person and he is our founder Acharya of Iskcon. But in Mumbai when the devotees were getting land from Mr N and this Mr N was a crook and basically he took the money from the devotees and he did not want to give the land also. So the devotees were living on the land and he was threatening them and sending hooligans to threaten them and started doing all sorts of nefarious things and Prabhupada had two three times talks with him and then when he showed his true colours, initially he appeared to be conciliatory but then he became so evil and revealed his evil colours and then Prabhupada got angry and he wrote a letter to one of the life members who was helping that “ I will not let this scoundrel Mr N take Krishna’s property even over my dead body. I will be the last person to give the land back to him so much so that eventually this Mr N he got a heart attack and he died. What did Prabhupada do at that time? Prabhupada actually had the devotees prepare special sweets and in temple they distributed sweets on the occasion of death of Mr N. Now we may wonder what is this? How can a saintly person do such a thing? But Prabhupada was seeing that this person is opposing Krishna so we cannot especially when we are living in this real material world instantaneous forgiveness should not be seen as the only sign of devotion. Yes it is definitely an important sign of devotion and when there is reformation on the side of the other person then there should be instantaneous forgiveness and we see that in the life of Srila Prabhupada also when some devotees did something wrong and sometimes they did some serious wrong and Prabhupada would seem to get very angry but when that devotee would apologise he would forgive For example: Satswaroopa Maharaj writes at one point in one of his books “Life with a perfect Master he used to take Prabhupada’s letter dictation and when he would take the dictation he would also type the letter and mail the letters and one day Prabhupada called him and said “I had send a letter to one Mr Brahmaananda and in that letter I had mentioned I am enclosing another letter but this Brahmaananda is writing that there was no letter enclosed. So what happened? Prabhupada was very upset what will people think of me? what kind of irresponsible person he is? He is saying that he is enclosing the letter and there is no letter enclosed wasn’t it your responsibility to enclose? Why didn’t you enclose? Now Satswaroopa Maharaj was quite a young devotee at that time and he felt so upset he was devastated he wanted to please his spiritual master whole of his life and now he is angry with me. Now what had happened was that letter which was supposed to have been filed by his previous secretary was not filed and Satswaroopa Maharaj had been searching and searching and could not find and then in haste he had forgot that he had to add that letter also and he mailed without that attachment. He then tried to explain to Prabhupada but Prabhupada said “then you should have told me”. “Or you should have found the letter or must have changed the letter” “I would have send it later but then how could you send it without enclosing the other letter especially when the content of the letter says that the letter is being enclosed and not enclosing the same”. Prabhupada was unrelenting and Satswaroopa Maharaj was so devastated that he started crying and even when he was crying Prabhupada did not relent. He said “How could you do such a thing?” And when he saw that Prabhupada was not relenting he just broke down and went away from there and Prabhupada still remained angry and seemed disgusted and finally he thought seriously about it after he had calmed down and then he came to Prabhupada and he says he realized that Prabhupada’s anger was not with him per see but Prabhupada’s anger was towards the mistake and he said what I need to do is to rectify. So then he said “ Prabhupada I am sorry for this mistake. I will write to Brahmananda and tell him that it was my mistake that I did not enclose and then I will write to your previous secretary (it was some devotee) and I will get that letter and I will ensure that this letter reaches Brahmananda. And when he spoke this Prabhupada smiled and all the anger disappeared and then Satswaroopa Maharaj says that he served Srila Prabhupada for a long time and Prabhupada never ever even gave an inkling that such an incident ever happened. He was so angry at one moment and then he would not even talk about that incident and did not let the relationship get effected in anyway by that. He says that when we commit mistake we should do three things that’s what he learned from interaction with Srila Prabhupada

– Sincerely seek forgiveness

– Do the necessary things to rectify the consequences of that mistake. Like here he said I will send the letter, I will get the letter and I will attach it

– Try your best not to commit the mistake

This is practical.

I am not contradicting the scriptural verse which says that pure devotee forgives instantaneously. I am giving out this example simply to point out that sometimes even a pure devotee may seem to be angry and we should not think that “If a pure devotee gets angry then he is not a pure devotee”

So forgiveness is definitely an ornament of pure devotee but the primary characteristic of a pure devotee is dedication to Krsna. Krsnaika sharanam that is the primary characteristic of a devotee. The devotees completely surrender to Krsna and will do whatever is needed to serve Krsna and if a person is obstructing Krsna’s service and is not ready to change the ways then becoming angry with the person, ounishing the person and delighting when the person gets punishment not because one hates that person

Prabhupada was not distributing sweets because that person had died That Mr N had died That was an occasion. But Prabhupada distributed sweets because the obstacle in building the temple for Krsna was removed. His focus was not on hatred to Mr N his focus was his devotion to Krsna

Prabhupada was celebrating because now the construction of the temple to Krsna can go unimpeded

So if we have understand the characteristics of an advanced devotee or a pure devotee Yes forgiveness is definitely an important characteristics but the most important characteristic is commitment to the service of Krsna and for the sake of commitment to the service to Krsna devotees may sometimes exhibit anger and the anger may also go on for sometime for some long time and sometimes devotees may exhibit anger that gets completely switched off when the task at hand is finished and on other occssions devotees may not exhibit any anger at all and say everything is alright

Once Prabhupada was giving class and suudenly one person strated shouting Prabhupada you are this you are that and the devotees were just waiting for signal from Prabhupada and they would have taken the person shouting out. But Prabhupada kept quiet and then his disciples realized how tolerant and saintly he is? And after wards the devotees asked PrabhupadaWhy did that person do that? why didn’t to tell us to stop him? And Prabhupada said a very profound statement “I don’t know why that person did that but then Krsna allowed so I accepted it”

Here we have prabhupada, A pure devotee of Lord acting in such a tolerant and forgiving way and after the meeting Prabhupada talked nicely with the person and gave him prasadam and allowed him to go away. So that was Prabhupada’s mercy on that person.

So every devotee has to see How best I can move closer to Krsna and How best I can serve Krsna and act accordingly


Forgiveness is an exalted quality but forgiveness should not be exalted above surrendered devotion to Krsna. For that is the supreme characteristic of a devotee

Caitanya Caritamarta says That is the pradhana lakshana that is the swaroopa lalakshana Krishnaika sharanam and daya kshama, Namarata all these are secondary characteristics

And when I say they are secondary characteristics that does not mean they are unimportant they are important but the most important is devotion to Krsna dedicated devotion to Krsna

Thank you very much Srila Prabhupada ki jai





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Chaitanya Charan

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