It is one of the most fundamental things to understand. People ordinarily think that forgiveness is for those who are worthy of it, who deserve it. But if somebody deserves, is worthy of forgiveness, it is not much of a forgiveness. You are not doing anything on your part; he deserves it. You are not really being love and compassion. Your forgiveness will be authentic only when even those who don't deserve it receive it.
It is not a question of whether a person is worthy or not. The question is whether your heart is ready or not.
I am reminded of one of the most significant woman mystics, Rabiya al-Adabiya, a Sufi woman who was known for her very eccentric behavior. But in all her eccentric behavior there was a great insight. Once, another Sufi mystic Hasan was staying with Rabiya. Because he was going to stay with Rabiya, he had not brought his own holy Koran, which he used to read every morning as part of his discipline. He thought he could borrow Rabiya's holy Koran, so he had not brought his own copy with him.
In the morning he asked Rabiya, and she gave him her copy. He could not believe his eyes. When he opened the Koran he saw something which no Mohammedan could believe: in many places Rabiya had corrected it. It is the greatest sin as far as Mohammedans are concerned; the Koran is the word of God according to them. How can you change it? How can you even think that you can make something better? Not only has she changed it, she has simply cut out a few words, a few lines -- removed them.
Hasan said to her, "Rabiya, somebody has destroyed your Koran!" Rabiya said, "Don't be stupid, nobody can touch my Koran. What you are looking at is my doing." Hasan said, "But how could you do such a thing?" She said, "I had to do it, there was no way out. For example, look here: the Koran says, "When you see the devil, hate him." Since I have become awakened I cannot find any hate within me. Even if the devil stands in front of me I can only shower him with my love, because I don't have anything else left. It does not matter whether God stands in front of me, or the devil; both will receive the same love. All that I have is love; hate has disappeared. The moment hate disappeared from me I had to make changes in my book of the holy Koran. If you have not changed it, that simply means you have not arrived to the space where only love remains."
I will say to you, the people who don't deserve, the people who are unworthy, don't make any difference to the man who has come to the space of forgiveness. He will forgive, irrespective of who receives it. He cannot be so miserly that only the worthy should receive it. And from where is he going to find unforgiveness? This is a totally different perspective. It does not concern itself with the other. Who are you to make the judgment whether the other is worthy or unworthy? The very judgment is ugly and mean.
I know Rudolph Hess is certainly one of the greatest criminals. And his crime becomes even a millionfold bigger, because in the Nuremburg trial with the remaining companions of Adolf Hitler -- who killed almost eight million people in the second world war -- he said in front of the court, "I don't repent anything!" Not only that, he also said, "And if I could start from the very beginning, I would do the same thing again." It is very natural to think this man is not worthy of forgiveness; that will be the common understanding. Everybody will agree with you.
But I cannot agree with you. It does not matter what Rudolf Hess has done, what he is saying. What matters is that you are capable of forgiving even him. That will raise your consciousness to the ultimate heights. If you cannot forgive Rudolf Hess you will remain just an ordinary human being, with all kinds of judgments of worthiness, of unworthiness. But basically you cannot forgive him because your forgiveness is not big enough.
I can forgive the whole world for the simple reason that my forgiveness is absolute; it is nonjudgmental. I will tell you a small Tibetan story which will make the point absolutely clear to you.
A great old master, worshiped by millions of people, refused to initiate anyone into disciplehood. His whole life, consistently, he was asked by kings, he was asked by very rich people, he was asked by great ascetics, saints, to be initiated as his disciples, and he went on refusing. He would always say, "Unless I find a man who deserves it, unless I find a man who is worthy of it... I am not going to initiate any Tom, Dick, Harry."
He had a small young boy who used to cook food for him, wash his clothes, fetch vegetables from the market. The boy himself had become slowly, slowly old and for his whole life he had been listening to the old man, who had lived almost one hundred years, and without exception the denial: nobody is worthy! "I will die," he said, "without initiating anyone, but I will not initiate anyone who is nondeserving."
People became tired, frustrated. They loved the man, the man had immense qualities, but they could not understand his very stubborn attitude -- no kindness, no compassion.
But one morning the old man woke up his companion, who himself had become old, and said to him, "Run immediately down the hills to the marketplace and tell everybody that whoever wants to be initiated must come soon, because this evening as the sun sets I am going to die."
His companion said, "But what about worthiness? I don't know who is worthy and who is not worthy. Who have I to bring?"
The old man said, "Don't worry at all. It was only a device, because I myself was not worthy to initiate anyone, but it was against my dignity to say so. So I chose the other way round. I was saying, `Unless I find somebody worthy enough, deserving enough, I am not going to initiate.' The truth is, I was not worthy to be a master. Now I am, but the time is very short. Only this morning as the sun was rising, my own consciousness has also risen to the ultimate peak. Now I am ready. Now it does not matter who is worthy and who is unworthy. What matters now is that I am worthy. Just go and fetch anybody! Just go and make the whole village aware that this is the last day of my life, and anybody who wants to be initiated should come immediately. Bring as many people as you can."
The companion of the old man was at a loss, but there was no time to argue. He ran down the hill, reached the marketplace and shouted all over the village, "Anybody who wants to become a disciple, the old man is ready now."
People could not believe it. But out of curiosity a few thought, "There is no harm at least to see what is going on." The man had refused his whole life, and on the last day of his life suddenly such a great change. Somebody's wife had died and he was feeling very lonely, so he thought, "It is good. If he is going to initiate everybody, no question of worthiness..." Somebody was released from jail just the night before; he thought, "Nobody is going to give me employment; this is a good chance to become a saint."
All kinds of strange people went to the cave of the old man, and his companion was feeling so embarrassed at the kind of people he had brought: one is a criminal, one's wife is dead, that's why he thinks, "It is better... now, what else to do?" Somebody has gone bankrupt and was thinking to commit suicide; now he thinks that this is better than suicide.
A few had come just out of curiosity. They had no other work; they were playing jazz and they thought, "We can play jazz tomorrow, but today there is no harm, let us see what this initiation is. Anyway, that man is going to die by the evening so we will be free to remain disciples or not. We can play jazz tomorrow -- there is no harm."
The companion of the old man was feeling very embarrassed, "How will I present this strange lot when that old man has refused kings, saints, sages, who have come with deep earnestness to be initiated? And now he is going to initiate this gang!" He was even feeling ashamed, but he entered and asked, "Should I call the people? -- eleven have come."
The old man said, "Call them quickly, because it is already afternoon. You took so much time and you could fetch just eleven people?"
His companion said, "What can I do? It is a working day; it is not a holiday. I could only get these. All are absolutely useless; even I could not initiate them. Not only that they are not worthy -- they are absolutely UNworthy. But you insisted to bring somebody; nobody else was available."
The old man said, "There is no problem. Just bring them in." And he initiated them all. Even they were shocked. And they said to the old man, "This is strange behavior. All your life you have insisted that one has to deserve to be a disciple. What happened to your principle?"
The old man laughed. He said, "That was not a principle, that was only to hide my own unworthiness. I was not yet in the position to be a master. And I cannot cheat anyone, I cannot deceive anyone; hence I have taken shelter behind a judgmental attitude, that unless you are worthy, you will not get initiation."
Obviously nobody is worthy.
Everybody has his own flaws, weaknesses; everybody has done things that he never wanted to do. Everybody has gone astray. Nobody can say that he is absolutely pure; everybody is polluted. So when the old man insisted, "Unless you are worthy don't come back to me," nobody argued with him; he was right. First they have to be worthy!
On the last day, he said to those eleven disciples, "I bless you and initiate you. It doesn't matter whether you are worthy or not, but for the first time I am worthy. And if I am really worthy, just my presence is going to purify you. My worthiness of being a master is going to make you a worthy disciple. Now I don't have to depend on your worthiness. My worthiness is enough.
"I am just like a rain cloud; I will shower all over the place -- on the mountains, on the streets, on the houses, in the farms, in the gardens. I will shower everywhere, because I am too burdened with my rainwater. It does not matter whether the garden deserves... I don't even make any distinction between the garden and the rocks. I will simply shower out of my abundance."
If your meditations bring you to the state of a rain cloud, you will forgive without any judgment out of your abundance, out of your love, out of your compassion.
In fact I would like to make the statement that the man who is unworthy deserves more than the man who is worthy. The man who does not deserve, deserves more, because he is so poor; don't be hard upon him. Life has been hard upon him. He has gone astray; he has suffered because of his wrong doings. Now don't you be hard on him. He needs more love than those who are deserving; he needs more forgiveness than those who are worthy. This should be the only approach of a religious heart.
Your question was raised before Gautam Buddha, because he was going to initiate a murderer into sannyas -- and the murderer was no ordinary murderer. Rudolf Hess is nothing compared to him. His name was Angulimal. Angulimal means a man who wears a garland of human fingers.
He had taken a vow that he would kill one thousand people; from each single person he would take one finger so that he could remember how many he had killed and he will make a garland of all those fingers. In his garland of fingers he had nine hundred and ninety-nine fingers -- only one was missing. And that one was missing because his road was closed; nobody was coming that way. But Gautam Buddha entered that closed road. The king had put guards on the road to prevent people, particularly strangers who didn't know that a dangerous man lived behind the hills. The guards told Gautam Buddha, "That is not the road to be used. You will have to take a little longer route, but it is better to go a little longer than to go into the mouth of death itself. This is the place where Angulimal lives. Even the king has not the guts to go on this road. That man is simply mad.
"His mother used to go to him. She was the only person who used to go, once in a while, to see him, but even she stopped. The last time she went there he told her, `Now only one finger is missing, and just because you happen to be my mother... I want to warn you that if you come another time you will not go back. I need one finger desperately. Up to now I have not killed you because other people were available, but now nobody passes on this road except you. So I want to make you aware that next time if you come it will be your responsibility, not mine.' Since that time his mother has not come."
The guards said to Buddha, "Don't unnecessarily take the risk." And do you know what Buddha said to them? Buddha said, "If I don't go then who will go? Only two things are possible: either I will change him, and I cannot miss this challenge; or I will provide him with one finger so that his desire is fulfilled. Anyway I am going to die one day. Giving my head to Angulimal will be at least of some use; otherwise one day I will die and you will put me on the funeral pyre. I think that it is better to fulfill somebody's desire and give him peace of mind. Either he will kill me or I will kill him, but this encounter is going to happen; you just lead the way."
The people who used to follow Gautam Buddha, his close companions who were always in competition to be closer to him, started slowing down. Soon there were miles between Gautam Buddha and his disciples. They all wanted to see what happened, but they didn't want to be too close.
Angulimal was sitting on his rock watching. He could not believe his eyes. A very beautiful man of such immense charisma was coming towards him. Who could this man be? He had never heard of Gautam Buddha, but even this hard heart of Angulimal started feeling a certain softness towards the man. He was looking so beautiful, coming towards him. It was early morning... a cool breeze, and the sun was rising... and the birds were singing and the flowers had opened; and Buddha was coming closer and closer.
Finally Angulimal, with his naked sword in his hand, shouted, "Stop!" Gautam Buddha was just a few feet away, and Angulimal said, "Don't take another step because then the responsibility will not be mine. Perhaps you don't know who I am!"
Buddha said, "Do you know who you are?"
Angulimal said, "This is not the point. Neither is it the place nor the time to discuss such things. Your life is in danger!"
Buddha said, "I think otherwise -- your life is in danger."
That man said, "I used to think I was mad -- you are simply mad. And you go on moving closer. Then don't say that I killed an innocent man. You look so innocent and so beautiful that I want you to go back. I will find somebody else. I can wait; there is no hurry. If I can manage nine hundred and ninety-nine... it is only a question of one more, but don't force me to kill YOU."
Buddha said, "You are absolutely blind. You can't see a simple thing: I am not moving towards you, you are moving towards me."
Angulimal said, "This is sheer craziness! Anybody can see that you are moving and I am standing on my rock. I have not moved a single inch."
Buddha said, "Nonsense! The truth is, since the day I became enlightened I have not moved a single inch. I am centered, utterly centered, no movement. And your mind is continuously moving round and round in circles... and you have the guts to tell to me to stop. You stop! I have stopped long ago."
Angulimal said, "It seems you are impossible, you are incurable. You are bound to be killed. I will feel sorry, but what can I do? I have never seen such a mad man."
Buddha came very close, and Angulimal's hands were trembling. The man was so beautiful, so innocent, so childlike. He had already fallen in love. He had killed so many people... He had never felt this weakness; he had never known what love is. For the first time he was full of love. So there was a contradiction: the hand was holding the sword to kill the person, and his heart was saying, "Put the sword back in the sheath."
Buddha said, "I am ready, but why is your hand shaking? -- you are such a great warrior, even kings are afraid of you, and I am just a poor beggar. Except the begging bowl, I don't have anything. You can kill me, and I will feel immensely satisfied that at least my death fulfills somebody's desire; my life has been useful, my death has also been useful. But before you cut my head I have a small desire, and Ithink you will grant me a small desire before killing me."
Before death even the hardest enemy is willing to fulfill any desire.
Angulimal said, "What do you want?"
Buddha said, "I want you just to cut from the tree a branch which is full of flowers. I will never see these flowers again; I want to see those flowers closely, feel their fragrance and their beauty in this morning sun, their glory."
So Angulimal cut with his sword a whole branch full of flowers. And before he could give it to Buddha, Buddha said, "This was only half the desire; the other half is, please put the branch back on the tree."
Angulimal said, "I was thinking from the very beginning that you are crazy. Now this is the craziest desire. How can I put this branch back?"
Buddha said, "If you cannot create, you have no right to destroy. If you cannot give life, you don't have the right to give death to any living thing."
A moment of silence and a moment of transformation... the sword fell down from his hands. Angulimal fell down at the feet of Gautam Buddha, and he said, "I don't know who you are, but whoever you are, take me to the same space in which you are; initiate me."
By that time the followers of Gautam Buddha had come closer and closer. Seeing that now Gautam Buddha was standing in front of Angulimal, there was no problem, no fear, although he needed only one finger. They were all around and when he fell at Buddha's feet they immediately came close. Somebody raised the question, "Don't initiate this man, he is a murderer. And he is not an ordinary murderer; he has murdered nine hundred and ninety-nine people, all innocent, all strangers. They have not done any wrong to him. He had not even seen them before!"
Buddha said again, "If I don't initiate him, who will initiate him? And I love the man, I love his courage. And I can see tremendous possibility in him: a single man fighting against the whole world. I want this kind of people, who can stand against the whole world. Up to now he was standing against the world with a sword; now he will stand against the world with a consciousness which is far sharper than any sword. I told you that murder was going to happen, but it was not certain who was going to be murdered -- either I was going to be murdered, or Angulimal. Now you can see Angulimal is murdered. And who I am to judge?"
He initiated Angulimal.
The question is not whether anybody is worthy or not. The question is whether you have the consciousness, the abundance of love -- then forgiveness will come out of it spontaneously. It is not a calculation, it is not arithmetic.
Life is love, and living a life of love is the only religious life, the only life of prayer, peace, the only life of gratitude, grandeur, splendor.
Osho, The Great Pilgrimage: From Here to Here, chapter 24
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