Have you heard the story about the Buddha trespassing? OK OK, so it doesn’t start out quite like that… he wasn’t actually trespassing.
This is a story about a sour young farmer who gets very angry to find the Buddha sitting under a tree in his village. To the young farmer, the Buddha is infringing, trespassing. I imagine this farmer gesticulating wildly, spitting out words of spite, cussing and stomping his feet. He’s ultra pissed because he thinks the Buddha is only out for money and food … a charlatan. Buddha listens quietly to the rant. After a time he says, ever elegant and eloquent, “Young sir, if you purchased a lovely gift for someone, but that person did not accept the gift, to whom then does the gift belong?”
The farmer is somewhat stalled. I imagine him still pissed, but thrown off balance by the question. His answer still holds the seeds of sassy indignation. “Mine still. I bought it.” (apologies to Buddhist scholars for the loose translation).
“Exactly so,” replies the Buddha. “Now, you have just cursed me and been angry with me. But if I do not accept your curses, if I do not get insulted and angry in return, these curses will fall back upon you—the same as the gift returning to its owner.”
As beautiful and powerful as this story is, we often find ourselves ensnared in the web of ‘gifts’ offered to us by the world in circumstances both avoidable and ones outside of our control. So what happens when you’ve already accepted the gift?
If you are dealing with fiery anger in this moment, this particular story probably serves only to fuel the flames of self-righteous indignation… and that’s OK. We’ve all been there. Next week’s posts are about coping with anger – in three different and complementary ways – when you’ve already accepted the gift.