No Individual is Remorseless

A few years ago, someone stole my wallet in Calcutta. It'd my pan card in it as well. So I was more worried about losing it than a few bucks. In India, one has to go through a rigmarole of formalities to get documents like a passport, voter's identity card, pan card etc. I was crestfallen. I flew back to Poona immediately. The moment I reached Poona, I received a call from my landlord that he received a letter by speed post and it was an urgent letter. I rushed to his place and opened the letter. My lost pan card was in it with a note in Bengali, advising that such important documents mustn't be carried in a wallet! The man who pick-pocketed my wallet, returned my pan card and the then girlfriend's snap. Luckily, the habit of carrying my complete postal address helped me retrieve my lost pan card. This gesture had me thinking. The person, who returned my pan card didn't return nearly 300 rupees that were in the wallet.

But he returned what was much more important to me: My pan card. Despite being a thief, he'd the prick of conscience that made him return my document. There're many such heart-warming experiences when pickpockets and thieves returned important documents but not money! This strengthens the belief that basically every human being is good. A man's inherently honest. Circumstances make him a dishonest person or an outlaw. Yet, he's not completely bad. There're sheds and shreds of goodness in him which come to the fore as per the situation. That's why we must hate the sin and not the sinner and have unwavering faith in an individual's character and conduct. We must never write him off. There's a beautiful story in Khalil Gibran's 'Book of parables'.

A man was being led to the gallows. Suddenly he saw a butterfly with a damaged wing. He gently lifted the butterfly, placed it on a slab of stone with utmost care and proceeded towards the gallows to be hanged. What's this? Even that die-hard criminal had a soft spot. He felt for the wounded butterfly. There's a maxim in Buddhism, 'Everyone is a Buddha because everyone has compassion.' Yes, everyone of us is a Buddha because we're all compassionate. That's the reason, the law all over the world believes that no person is incorrigibly and irretrievably bad. Reformation is possible at any juncture, age and stage. Change of heart may happen anytime. If 'heartless' Angulimal could undergo a sea change when he came into contact with the compassionate Buddha and Valmiki could become the author of Ramayan, why can't a criminal or sinner become a good and reformed individual? When ruthless Epotheoneus saw a child weep over his father's dead body, whom he mercilessly killed, he cried and immediately gave up his criminal activities to become a philosopher. He also adopted that child and brought him up as his son.

Don't we say in English that all saints are re-edited sinners? The legendary Biblical character Paul (actually Saul) lived a dubious and criminal life before becoming the greatest messenger of the Gospels. Many Christian scholars like Brian Wood, E M S Parker and Glenn Falls consider him even greater than Jesus in overall religious influence because he (Paul) spread the message of Jesus and laid down his life for Christianity. In a speech at Capetown University in 1994, Bishop Desmond Tutu said that 'There's never been a single remorseless individual in the entire history of mankind.' Even the most hardcore criminals have a sense of remorse and repentance. That they may not show it till they die, doesn't mean that they remain unmoved till the end.

The US fighter pilots who obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan on August 6 and 9 respectively, became deranged when they realised what they did and how many innocent people they killed. We may commit a crime sans any sense of compunction but our conscience keeps telling us afterwards that we made a huge mistake. Some accept it vocally and who don't accept it in public, often go mad. If you're a human being, you can't remove your conscience completely. It'll continue to gnaw at you and this is the trait that makes us human beings and distinguishes us from lower animals. To be human is to be compassionate and remorseful. It's our inalienable character and an intrinsic quality.
                                                             -----Sumit Paul