Silence forgives, silence awakens, silence illumines

A young man of twenty-eight opened a stationery shop to make better use of his idle hours. Monetary gain was, for him, secondary. He was a great aspirant and had a famous spiritual Master as his guru.

One day, while he was in his shop chanting his favorite verses from the Upanishads, a stocky man of about forty-five walked in. His complexion was unusually ugly and although his name was Hanuman, the monkey-Chief, his face resembled that of a tiger. He was the conductor of the local opera company and everyone hated him for his rude manner. He shouted aggressively at the owner of the shop, "Stop singing! Stop singing! You so-called pious man!"

The aspirant became silent.

"When are you going to return my money?" continued the intruder. "How many times have I asked you to give me my money back? Isn't it a pity that I have to remind you so many times about my money!"

The young man remained silent.

"I hear that every year you go out on a pilgrimage. You visit temples and spiritual places to acquire virtue. How do you reconcile your outer life with your so-called spiritual life? Your outer life is so full of deception!"

The shopkeeper said nothing.

"It is a pity that God tolerates a scoundrel like you," the man continued his tirade. "In His name you do so many evil things — deception being the least of them! We who admittedly have very little to do with God care much about maintaining a moral life, a life of integrity. But you who are constantly uttering the name of God, you who are intoxicated with words like "divinity", "love", and "mercy" are far more apt to deceive people — not just once, but day in, day out!"

The attack mounted, the customer's voice becoming louder and more pugnacious. "It is beneath my dignity, in fact, even to speak to you. I knew your father who was also a man of unscrupulous character. No wonder — like father, like son!"

It happened that the youngest brother of the shopkeeper, an athlete twelve years of age, was at the back of the store, busily pumping air into his football. Until now, this boy had tolerated the insults of the customer, but upon hearing his deceased father's name besmirched, he flew into a rage and came running to the front of the store. He was about to lunge at the customer and punch him in the nose, but the forgiving eyes of his elder brother, looking at the man with deep compassion, abruptly stopped the boy.

The customer, in a tone that was now quick and trembling, demanded again, "Why don't you give me my money back…I just want to have my money back and that is all. My time is as precious as yours."

The boy, puzzled, spoke out on behalf of his elder brother. "What money? When did you give it? How much? And to whom did you give it?"

With a defensive smile, the customer said, "Young man, I shall answer all your questions, one by one. How much money? Two hundred rupees. When was it given? Two years ago. To whom was it given?" There was a momentary pause as the customer struck his own chest with his fist. "To this rascal!" he cried, indicating himself.

The next instant he flung himself at the feet of the shopkeeper. "Forgive me! Forgive me!" he cried, his eyes flooding with tears. "I have never seen, and perhaps will never see again a man like you who is forgiveness incarnate. It is I who am the culprit. I have been trying in every way to trick you, to arouse anger in you, to make your blood boil, but I must confess that I have failed."

"I have also failed," he continued, "to keep my promise to you, my promise of two years ago. When you loaned me money, I said I would return it in two months' time. Never have you reminded me of that loan, never!" The customer continued in bitter remorse, "I have had many experiences in taking loans, and all my creditors became Shylocks. It is here for the first time that I have seen the magnanimity of forgiveness."

"You have forgiven my ignorance. You have awakened my soul. You have illumined my life."