“We always have a choice about how we react.”
I just got back from a Thanksgiving silent meditation retreat at the Bhavana Society Monastery in West Virginia. There’s still so much to process and I haven’t finished reflecting, but I did want to share this one story from a dhamma talk I heard this past weekend. It struck me as a useful and timely reminder that fighting hate with more hate or responding to unskillful thinking with more unskillful thinking doesn’t resolve much of anything. Instead, we can channel that anger and fear into compassionate and courageous involvement in the present to help diminish the suffering of those around us.
“A Brahman (a member of the highest Hindu caste) heard that another Brahman had left his home life to be in the presence of the Buddha. Angered and displeased, he went to the Buddha and, on arrival, insulted and cursed him with rude, harsh words.
When this was said, the Buddha said to him: “What do you think, Brahman: Do friends & colleagues, relatives & kinsmen come to you as guests?”
“Yes, sometimes friends & colleagues, relatives & kinsmen come to me as guests.”
“And what do you think: Do you serve them with staple & non-staple foods & delicacies?”
“Yes, sometimes I serve them with staple & non-staple foods & delicacies.”
“And if they don’t accept them, to whom do those foods belong?”
“If they don’t accept them, those foods are all mine.”
“In the same way, Brahman, that with which you have insulted me, who is not insulting; that with which you have taunted me, who is not taunting; that with which you have berated me, who is not berating: that I don’t accept from you. It’s all yours, Brahman. It’s all yours.
Whoever returns insult to one who is insulting, returns taunts to one who is taunting, returns a berating to one who is berating, is said to be eating together, sharing company, with that person. But I am neither eating together nor sharing your company, Brahman. It’s all yours. It’s all yours.”
[Walking meditation woods, Bhavana Society Forest Monastery, WV, 11/27/16]