Stories of Forgiveness

Jewish Tradition

Traditional story (first one at this link, about the Hasidic rebbe who took a lengthy train ride and was subjected to various insults.


I chose this story in part because it exemplifies the way that Jewish story-telling works – there are clever, often funny, twists to tales and the stories often reflect something at the reader that one might take note of because of the power of the story. That is, one might not study Torah but listening to a story – yeah! Another reason I chose it was because the story stops at the really critical bit, leaving hanging the question of whether the rebbe ever granted forgiveness to his travelling companion. I loved the way the story hinted at the answer – that the onus might be on the abusive passenger to repent rather than on the *rebbe* to forgive, or at least that forgiveness would not be forthcoming until the ‘sinner’ had done a bit of work first. That threw me directly into some study of Jewish concepts of forgiveness and I learned something about the different stages of repentance as well as the different levels of forgiveness. The most interesting aspect of this is exactly as represented in the moral of the tale – in the Jewish tradition one is not required to forgive until someone has truly recognized their sin and taken responsibility for it, and (very Jewish this) has taken action to remedy things (to do* teshuvah)*. Fascinating! And, I have found already, useful in real life, which is never a bad thing.

For more on this see:

Brahma Kumari

Historical story of the tradition.

The following story from the early days of the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University demonstrates, at a time of great opposition in the local communities of Sind ,  the loving forgiveness and understanding of the founder, Brahma Baba.

An assassin was hired by the “Anti – Party”, a group of people who disagreed with the concept of the University and its teachings. The assassin was able to get into the area where Brahma Baba was sitting, writing in his room.

This is what followed:

Brahma Baba looked up from his papers as the assassin burst into his room, armed with a large sword.  He was without fear and did not react. Brahma Baba reasoned to himself that if God wished to continue using his body then He would see to it that the vehicle survived. “It is His responsibility not  mine”.  With that thought he looked fearlessly at the assassin and smiled. The assassin did not smile back. In fact he did not even see Brahma Baba sitting in front of him, though they were only five feet apart. For as soon as the assassin entered the room he was engulfed in a golden mist. Blinded by the unearthly light, he stumbled. His will to destroy began to weaken. He lost the sense of his body entirely. He felt as if he had died and ascended to Nirvana (Heaven). All memory of his original purpose was washed away. The sword dropped from his hand. He staggered from the room where he was found in the courtyard.

Brahma Baba forgave him and made sure the assassin understood that he had come into Gods home and he could be remorseful of his past sins by living a life of purity. In the spirit of true forgiveness he was given food and sent away with the instruction to remember God and he went away happily. No further attempts were made on Brahma Baba’s Life.

I have chosen this story from the 1940s as it is part of our history of the foundation of the University.

The full version is available in the following book publication:

Adi Dev – The first man by B.K Jagdish Chander, 1981


and available at the BK Bookshop,65-69 Pound Lane, Willesden Green London NW10 2HH



The Buddhist parable of King Brahmadatta of Kasi and Prince Dighavu of Kosala

I found the story in a very old (1955) book ” The Teaching of the Compassionate Buddha” by Edwin A. Burtt Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 55-5474.

I chose it because it seems to me to illustrate in an interesting narrative the Buddhist teaching which underpins the idea of forgiveness: that violence and the anger, hatred and ill-feeling which give rise to violence can only be ended when and if those feelings are not acted upon.

A variation of this story can be found here:



The Parable of the Lost Son – Luke 15: 11-31


Historical story of the Shia Tradition

The Battle of Uhud.

Please find the link here (writings on Forgiveness):

And here is why I chose the story of Battle of Uhud:

Many lessons can be drawn from this story and the morals of the story can be applied to almost all situations varying from daily life all the way up to having to forgive someone whos committed a grave crime. We can draw out a formula from the story and that is when there is anger within us, that grows from people’s actions which hurt us, we have to contain it with patience.  This will give us the strength that is needed in the process of forgiving.


A light-hearted story with a strong message for the wider social consequences of a selfish motivation.  Although not strictly a ‘Sufi’ story, it was chosen because within the Sufi tradition, telling stories was and is commonly used to convey teachings, along with humour, twists and turns and the unexpected.

The story told was based on a chapter, The Robber Saint, in ‘Adventures in Arabia’, by WB Seabrook, Harrap 1931.