Love means being compassionate. So, does love mean forgiveness, I asked myself. It struck me that forgiveness has a righteous ring to it. We forgive someone and feel we have done something for which the other person must feel obligated. When they do not somehow seem as grateful as we feel they should be, we retract or regret the ‘forgiveness’. We feel slighted, wronged, angry, disappointed.
Compassion, on the other hand, presupposes understanding, acceptance. We empathise with the perpetrator of the wrong act. There’s a story I like very much, which will, perhaps, illustrate the point I’m trying to make about compassion being born of a deeper sense of love for a fellow being than forgiveness.
A STORY OF BUDDHA AND COMPASSION
Once, Gautama, Siddhartha, or the Buddha as he was known, was walking down a street. A person whom he had never met before, but who, apparently disliked the Buddha for his own reasons, approached him. He came near the Buddha, screamed at him, and spat on his face. The Buddha, it is said, calmly wiped off the spit and instead of remonstrating with the stranger or sayin something to the effect that the culprit was forgiven though he had wronged, said: “I’m sorry to have caused you such distress that you feel the need to punish me in this manner.” Needless to say the Buddha’s words, said from the heart, dissolved the stranger’s hatred for the Buddha.