Anger and Forgiveness – Mahabharata Stories


If I ask you which is better between Anger and Forgiveness, more often than not you would choose to say – Forgiveness. Is that not what we have been taught – To err is human, to forgive the Divine?

Mahabharat Stories - Anger and Forgiveness

Anger and Forgiveness – Which is Better?

In the 3rd Section or Vana Parva of Mahabharat, when Pandavas have been defeated in the game of dice, they go to live in the forest for 12 years.

After sending back all those who accompanied them to the forest, those who visited them like Krishna and Drishtdyuman, they settle near the beautiful lake called Dwaitvana which is surrounded by fruit and flower-bearing trees.

Once settled, Draupadi notices that Yuddhishtir is too calm. He seems to have forgotten everything and forgiven everyone.

She sits down with him and reminds him of the humiliation each of his four brothers have gone through at the hands of Kauravas. In a beautiful poem, she lists each one’s humiliation and current state and asks him – How come it does not make you angry?

In the end, she reminds him of her own humiliation at the hands of Kauravas and repeats – How come it does not make you angry?

She reminds him that at their departure from Hastinapur, only four people had dry eyes – Duryodhan, Karna, Shakuni, and Dushasan.

To drive home the point, she then narrates to him a conversation between Prahlada and his grandson Bali.

Bali & Prahalad Dialogue on Anger and Forgiveness

Asura king Bali once asked his grandfather if between Teja or Aggressiveness and Kshama or forgiveness, which is better?

Prahlada answers – None of them is better than the other. A wise man must use them as required.

If you forgive too easily, people will start taking you for granted. The dangers of forgiving too easily include not being respected by your own people, by your enemies, and by general people.

People are not polite to the one who is always forgiving. So, a wise person should not always be forgiving.

Your servants ( can mean employees or subordinates for our times) will do as they wish, for they know, you will forgive easily. They may commit crimes or end up using your personal things for their own benefit. They may not respect you.

Disrespect by your servants is considered worse than death.

Your own people will try to take your wealth. Your servants, sons, people dependent on you, and even unrelated people may end up criticizing you with strong words. And may be your family will get out of hand.

On the other hand, if you handle everything with anger, there is a danger of punishing people without applying thought.

An angry person makes enemies easily. His own people as well as ordinary people grudge against him.

He ends up insulting people and, in the process, loses wealth, and earns disrespect.

Too much anger and punishing people distances you from prosperity, family as well as health.

Read More – What is Ram Rajya?-  from Ramcharitmanas

So, a balanced behavior is recommended – you should neither be always angry nor be always forgiving. You should choose your reaction to the situation, time, and place demand. One who can modulate his behavior as per the need from extremely soft to dangerous rules the world.

When to Forgive?

  • Anyone who has been kind to you in the past, you should forgive them even if they err. This is your response to their goodness.
  • Anyone who has unknowingly made a mistake – forgive them. Not everyone is wise all the time, and we are prone to making mistakes. You must investigate thoroughly to ensure that it was indeed an innocent mistake.
  • Always punish the one who commits a crime and then pretends that he did it unknowingly. Even a small such act should attract strict punishment.
  • Forgive the first mistake by a person. However, if it is repeated, never forgive.
  • Usually, soft behavior wins over even enemies, so practice it as much as possible.
  • Take the place, time, and relative strength into consideration. Sometimes to appease the people, you may have to forgive.

These are the occasions for forgiving. Anything that is contrary to this can be treated with force.

Draupadi, finally tells Yuddhishtir – Kauravas have crossed all limits of greed and disrespectful behavior. It is time to use force against them. There is no reason to forgive them.

They get into a series of long arguments that talk about the virtues of forgiveness, the need for doing Karma, etc. We shall talk about it some other day.

Source – Mahabharat, Vana Parva Chapter 28 published by Gita Press.

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