Forget the past, forget the pain, but never the lessons – A practical guide

Past is a reality in this world and will not go away just by your sweet will. While the causes of pain vary, the symptoms, or external manifestation of pain remain identical to a large degree. Artificial means to rid such pain are temporary and relapse is inevitable. To eliminate the pain from the root, one needs to identify whether the pain is felt out of burning anger, sense of defeat, emotional injuries, mental trauma, or a plain nightmare. 


It is said forget the pain but never the lessons you gain. It sounds like a great idea to forget the past and move on but how many can do it? Just as the present is a reality of life, the past is also a reality. You cannot ignore a reality. However, this does not mean we have to live in distress throughout life due to a painful past.

Recently, in a blog on living the past behind I cited the example of Donald Trump and Kim Jon Un. The two who fought verbal wars and hurled abusive words at each other, were able to come together, shake hands and and share a desk. They claimed they decided to forget the past and move on. Ironically, as hinted in that blog, it’s not even two weeks and their inner animosity has resurfaced. Did they really forget the past? Very few can say yes.

Nonetheless, the principles discussed in that article remain relevant. Indeed, life can be tricky. Things people don’t want to hang onto often keep bothering them and things they want to hold onto almost always abandon them leaving behind traces of different tastes. Sometimes the traces are violently bitter and other times sweet, yet full of sorrow. In either case, if you are eager to forget the past and move on with life, you will have to accept that past is a reality and will not go away at your sweet will. There are number of factors behinds this, including the invincible law of karma. What can go away relatively easily, however, is the pain of the past.

forget the past pain, not the lesson

If you analyse carefully, it is not really the past but the pain of the past that bothers us. Once the pain is forgotten what remains is the lesson. The lessons we learn from the past are a gift of God and must not be forgotten. These lessons work as a sure guide on the unknown path of life.

If you are diagnosed with a disease, a good physician will first try to find the causes. Similarly, when you want to forget the pain of the past, first you will need to know what from the past pains you. Once that is done, you will need to get rid of the barriers that block you from leaving the past behind. Oftentimes these barriers have a lot to do with one or two persons or situations but there are multiple and overlapping layers of experiences that make the pain look insurmountable.


While the causes of pain vary, the symptoms, or external manifestation of pain remain identical to a large degree. Advising to forget the past, a good number of modern psychologists stress on the symptoms and recommend activities to counter them. Some suggest psychiatric medications to forget the past and some venture into using electric current. This may or may not work, but in either case the result is short term and relapse is inevitable. As a matter of fact, psychotropic drugs and electromagnetic therapies carry the risk of rendering one permanently insane.

Some people turn to bogus astrologers and end up buying expensive stones or making enemies. Some even take shelter of tantric practices and fall prey to superstitions ruining all that they have, sometimes their own life.

To eliminate the pain from the root, one needs to identify whether the pain is felt out of burning anger, sense of defeat, emotional injuries, mental trauma, or a plain nightmare. It won’t be easy to forget the past unless you dig out the core issues. Professional counselling does help if delivered with the right mood and for the right cause. Issues like insult, mental abuse, physical torture or sexual assault can be effectively dealt with by cultivating a good sense of forgiveness but at the same time premature or artificial forgiveness is not encouraged as such gestures can backfire.


As mentioned earlier, under all circumstances there is an important element of every past; the lesson we learn from it. While attempting to forget the past and get relief from painful memories, one must skillfully separate the lessons he or she learned while facing those challenges and preserve them for future use, not only for oneself but also for others. The question is how to separate and preserve the lessons?

There is an easy way. If you have two objects, A and B, in a box and if you remove A from the box what remains is only B. Similarly, if you remove the pain part from the past, what will remain is the lesson it taught. Simple. But, again, how to do it?

One most important thing to remember here is, memories are just stored in and processed by the brain; they are not produced by the brain. Lord Krishna says in Bhagavad Gita (15.15), mattah smrtir jnanam apohanam cha – from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. This is why, and you may be surprised to know that forgetting unpleasant memories is easily achieved by practicing Krishna consciousness. The reason behind this is pure spiritual science. Taking shelter of Lord Krishna is the surest way to forget the pain. The wisdom offered in Vedic text is filled with tweaks and tricks to conquer over the mind and taking shelter of the Lord is the most recommended process.

The science that we know today only deals with gross matter but to forget the painful past one needs to deal with mind, which is subtle matter. You are not just a lump of flesh, blood, bones, bile, urine and so on as the so-called science would want you to believe. You are an individual person, the soul, living within the body.

Krishna consciousness is not about becoming a zombie living in a total disconnect from the world around us. It is a sublime lifestyle that uplifts one’s consciousness while performing all social duties. Once you shed your false identity and designations by cultivating Krishna consciousness, all that will remain is your pure existence, a blissful and eternal existence. This is much beyond what people know as nirvana or moksha. It is about living a real life in the real, spiritual world in blissful association of Lord Krishna and His innumerable eternal devotees.


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