Hri, the first of the ten niyamas, or practices, is remorse: being modest and showing shame for misdeeds, seeking the guru's grace to be released from sorrows through the understanding that he gives, based on the ancient sampradaya, doctrinal lineage, he preaches. Remorse could be the most misunderstood and difficult to practice of all of the niyamas, because we don't have very many role models today for modesty or remorse. In fact, the role for imitation in today's world is just the opposite. This is reflected in television, on film, in novels, magazines, newspapers and all other kinds of media. In today's world, brash, presumptuous, prideful--that's how one must be. That's the role model we see everywhere. In today's world, arrogant--that's how one must be. That's the role model we see everywhere. Therefore, to be remorseful or even to show modesty would be a sign of weakness to one's peers, family and friends.
Modesty is portrayed in the media as a trait of people that are gauche, inhibited, undeveloped emotionally or not well educated. And remorse is portrayed in the world media as a characteristic of one who "doesn't have his act together," is unable to rationalize away wrongdoings, or who is not clever enough to find a scapegoat to pin the blame on. Though modesty and remorse are the natural qualities of the soul, when the soul does exhibit these qualities, there is a natural tendency to suppress them.
But let's look on the brighter side. There is an old saying, "Some people teach us what to do, and other people teach us what not to do." The modern media, at least most of it, is teaching us what not to do. Its behavior is based on other kinds of philosophy--secular humanism, materialism, existentialism, crime and punishment, terrorism--in its effort to report and record the stories of the day. Sometimes we can learn quite a lot by seeing the opposite of what we want to learn. The proud and arrogant people portrayed on TV nearly always have their fall. This is always portrayed extremely well and is very entertaining. In their heart of hearts, people really do not admire the prideful person or his display of arrogance, so they take joy in seeing him get his just due. People, in their heart of hearts, do admire the modest person, the truthful person, the patient person, the steadfast person, the compassionate person who shows contentment and the fullness of well-being on his face and in his behavioral patterns.
We Hindus who understand these things know that hri, remorse, is to be practiced at every opportunity. One of the most acceptable ways to practice hri, even in today's society, is to say in a heartfelt way, "I'm sorry." Everyone will accept this. Even the most despicable, prideful, arrogant, self-centered person will melt just a little under the two magic words "I'm sorry."
When apologizing, explain to the person you hurt or wronged how you have realized that there was a better way and ask for his forgiveness. If the person is too proud or arrogant to forgive, you have done your part and can go your way. The burden of the quandary you have put him into now lies solely with him. He will think about it, justify how and why and what he should not forgive until the offense melts from his mind and his heart softens. It takes as much time for a hardened heart to soften as it does for a piece of ice to melt in a refrigerator. Even when it does, his pride may never let him give you the satisfaction of knowing he has forgiven you. But you can tell. Watch for softening in the eyes when you meet, a less rigid mouth and the tendency to suppress a wholesome smile.