Buddha was walking into the city market one day and near the city entrance an old bitter man was sitting on a box glaring at Buddha, who carried a bright smile on his face. At the sight of him this old man started cursing Buddha up and down, left right and center, telling him how pretentious he was, how much better he thought he was and how he did nothing worthy of the air he breathed in this world. But Buddha simply smiled and kept on walking to the market to get what he needed.
The next day Buddha returned to the market and once again that old man was there, this time his cursing intensified, screaming and yelling at Buddha as he walked by, cursing his mother, cursing his father and everyone else in his life.
This went on for the rest of the week and finally as the Buddha was leaving the market the man came up to him, as his curiosity had simply gotten the best of him. “Buddha, every day you come here smiling and every day I curse your name, I curse your family and everything you believe in” the old man says ” but every day you enter this city with a smile knowing that I await you with my harsh tongue, and everyday you leave through the same entrance with that same smile. I know by speaking to you now that you are not deaf, why do you keep on smiling while I do nothing but scream the worst things I can think of to your face?”
Buddha, with the same smile still on his face looks at the old man and asks “If I were to bring you a gift tomorrow morning all wrapped up in a beautiful box would you accept it?” to which the old man replies “Absolutely not, I would take nothing from the likes of you!”. “Ah ha” the Buddha replies “Well if I were to offer you this gift and you were to refuse then who would this gift belong to?”. “It would still belong to you of course” answers the old man. “And so the same goes with your anger, when I choose not to accept your gift of anger , does it not then remain your own?”
I don’t know the original source for this, (I saw it on Facebook) but a quick Google search revealed a variant of this story posted on the a raft blog. But how does a story about Buddha relate at all to a Christian?
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
–Matthew 5:38-48 (ESV)
Not exactly the same lesson, but we see that we don’t have to accept anger and hostility as they are intended, but as we choose for them to be. And as I recall, I was just talking about being perfect very recently. Perfection is somehow the marriage between our experience with God and our behavior toward people. What we do and how we do it depends a great deal on what we believe, not just about God, but about others and about ourselves. It appears this is not just a Christian attitude, either.
Regardless of where a person actually is physically, he is really where his thoughts are. A person constantly has a choice to think elevated and uplifting thoughts – or negative, self-destructive thoughts. How old you feel is greatly dependent on your attitude about yourself. Elderly people can increase their vitality and vigor by considering themselves young.
We constantly talk to ourselves. We can choose to be our own best friend by telling ourselves positive thoughts, or our own worst enemy by repeating negative thoughts.
-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Daily Lift #616”
I can hardly say that I always take the moral high road in these conversations. All things being equal, I can go off half-cocked as quickly as the next guy. But I still know it’s wrong to do so, even when provoked, and that in accepting the anger of someone else, I’m making it my anger. If I choose to refuse the “gift,” then the “giver” retains their anger and hostility and I am left with whatever I receive from God.
Admittedly, this is a goal I will always strive for but probably never quite attain. Buddha was an extraordinary human being and the Messiah, of course, is the Messiah, the font of all wisdom and peace. Me? I’m just a human being, like so many others, and I’m trying to make my way through life in the world.
It is a bitter thing when supposed brothers in the Messiah contend for the sake of “being right.” To try to follow the intent of Rabbi Abraham Twerski’s Growing Each Day commentaries…
Today I shall…
…try to improve my response to other people so that I only accept and give gifts of kindness, and not of anger.