Kshama (Sanskrit: "patience; forbearance and pardon") — restraining intolerance with people and impatience with circumstances. Implies remaining serene, patient and observing self-restraint under all circumstances, doing good to all, even to those who may want to harm you. The closest translation of Kshama in English is possibly Forbearance, though it is still not accurate. Kshama is much more. It also includes Forgiveness. Spiritual aspirants striving to progress in the spiritual path need to develop Kshama.
Kshama is not achieved by reading books or learnt from an instructor. Nor can it be received as a gift from someone else. This prime virtue Kshama can be acquired solely by self-effort, that is, by facing diverse problems squarely, enduring difficulties of various sorts, not giving in to anxieties, and bearing with equanimity suffering as well as sorrow. In the absence of Kshama, man becomes susceptible to various evil tendencies. Hatred and jealousy easily take root in a person lacking this virtue.
Kshama is the grandest and the noblest among virtues. Without Kshama, mankind becomes degraded and starts declining, but if it has this quality then it can progress in leaps and bounds. Kshama is thus the very breath of life.
Everything must have a basis. For spiritual progress and advancement, Kshama is the real basis or foundation. When Kshama disappears, disturbance sets in and there is decline. Great countries have lost their glory, prestige and reputation for this reason. Patience is therefore a virtue that must be assiduously cultivated, by individuals as well as nations, if troubles and tribulations are to be successfully faced. Without patience and the capacity for forbearance, one becomes spiritually weak. When patience is gone, the greatest of men get reduced to utter fools.
The importance of Kshama cannot be over-stressed. This virtue is best cultivated under adverse circumstances, and one must therefore gladly welcome troubles instead of regarding them as unwelcome.
Jealousy is the greatest enemy of man, and it takes root when Kshama is absent. If you possess the virtue of Kshama, then none of these enemies can come anywhere near you. Cultivation of Kshama must therefore be an important priority. No doubt you will face many difficulties during life's journey, but bravely march on, taking courage from the fact that once you have Kshama there is nothing that you cannot achieve.
Significance of Kshama
Kshama, Shankaracharya says, is unaffectedness when beaten or reviled.
"Forgiveness is freedom from antagonism towards others even when they cause injury to oneself,' says Ramanujacharya.
Forgiveness is the ornament of a hero. He has the capacity and the opportunity to avenge the wrongs done to him. But he aims at self-effacement by forgiving the offender and forgetting the wrong. Only a strong person can forgive, never the weak. Swami Vivekananda says:
"Even forgiveness, if weak and passive, is not true: fight is better. Forgive when you could bring legions of angels to the victory."
A passage in the Mahabharatha is as follows:
"One should forgive, under any injury. It hath been said that the continuation of the species is due to man's being forgiving. Forgiveness is holiness; by forgiveness, the universe is held together. Forgiveness is the might of the mighty; forgiveness is sacrifice; forgiveness is quiet of mind; forgiveness and gentleness are the qualities of the self-possessed. They represent eternal virtue."
Life is full of uncertainty, and one has to put up with so many unpleasant things in life. There is no guarantee that good and righteous people will not suffer. In fact good people seem to suffer more. There are evil and wicked people whose pleasure seems to lie in giving trouble to others. If one does not learn to forbear one has to suffer greatly.
Sri Ramakrishna was kicked by the family priest of Mathur Babu. Holy Mother had to put up with endless sufferings caused by her relatives, especially, Radhu. Swami Vivekananda had to face immense opposition in America. There was even an attempt to do away with him in U.S. Did we find any of them harbouring any grudge?
"In the Bengali alphabet no three letters are alike in sound except the three sibilants (Sa, Sha and Sa); and they all mean for us, 'forbear,' 'forbear,' 'forbear.' (In Bengali Sa means forbear. It is derived from the Sanskrit root Sah.) This shows that even from our childhood we are made to learn forbearance through the very alphabet. The quality of forbearance is of the highest importance to every man." — Sri Ramakrishna
"The bearing of all afflictions without caring to redress them, being free (at the same time) from anxiety or lament on their score." Every saint's life is an object lesson in forbearance.
Patience is defined as the ability to wait for an expected outcome without experiencing anxiety, tension, or frustration.
One of the most important qualities in spiritual life is patience. There are many factors affecting the outcome of all our actions. We can only do what best we can and accept with patience whatever be the outcome.
Even God has to practise patience. His patience knows no limit. Even though He knows all our doings He waits with infinite patience for us to return to Him. Needless to say patience is a quality all of us do well to cultivate. Sri Ramakrishna says:
"With implicit trust in the sayings of holy saints and sages, one must try to secure God in one's own heart with the bait of devotion, and the rod and hook of one's mind. With unceasing patience one must wait for the fullness of time. Then only can one catch the Divine fish."
We live in an age of instantaneous gratification. That is why we become so agitated when things get delayed. We become deeply disappointed when our expectations do not come true. But success comes only to him who has infinite patience. Swami Vivekananda says:
"He who has infinite patience and infinite energy at his back, will alone succeed."
Impatience is a sure cause of failure and can impair our health greatly. Many times impatience is a sign that our actions are done as a matter of duty and not with a sense of joy. So Sri Krishna advises all spiritual aspirants to cultivate the divine quality called Kshama consisting of forgiveness, forbearance and patience.
Life is full of uncertainty. Actions are in our hands but results are beyond our control. Therefore, disappointments are inevitable. To face these ups and downs of life, Kshama is a must! It is the very breath of one’s life. Again diversity is inherent in creation. Hence, no two minds think alike. Yet, we need to learn to accept each other’s views and accommodate each other’s interests. It is Kshama that enables us to accomplish this.
Benefits of Practicing Kshama
The greatest benefit is the presence of balance in life. Practice of Kshama gives us a sense of equanimity. We are able to take happiness and joy in a neutral manner. It gives us courage to face the challenges of life. It raises our EQ (emotional
quotient) and results in the manifestation of Love for all.
Ways and Means of Developing Kshama
The first is to make a resolve and hold on to it. Faith in God is a must with the feeling that “Whatever happens is for our good”. The best way to develop Kshama, is to welcome sufferings in life just as Mother Kunti did by praying to Shri Krishna to always Bless her with difficulties and pain.
Kshama goes hand in hand with sacrifice and selflessness. We must focus on the long term goals and not just the short term benefits.
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