The gift of insults

The Buddha saw how much misery came from foolish offences done only out of vanity and pride. The Buddha said:

“If a man foolishly does me wrong, I will return to him the protection of my ungrudging love; the more evil comes from him, the more good shall go from me; the fragrance of goodness always comes to me, and the harmful air of evil goes to him.”

A foolish man learning that the Buddha observed the principle of great love which commends the return of good for evil, came and abused him. The Buddha was silent, pitying his folly. When the man had finished his abuse, the Buddha asked him, saying:

“If a man declined to accept a gift made to him, to whom would it belong?”

The man answered:

“In that case it would belong to the man who offered it.”

“Well,” said the Buddha, “you have railed at me, but I decline to accept your abuse, and request you to keep it yourself. Will it not be a source of misery to you? As the echo belongs to the sound, and the shadow to the substance, so misery will overtake the evil doer without fail.”

The abuser made no reply, and Buddha continued:

“A wicked man who reproaches a virtuous one is like one who looks up and spits at heaven; the spittle soils not the heaven, but comes back and lands on the person. The slanderer is like one who flings dust at another when the wind is contrary; the dust does but return on him who threw it. The virtuous man cannot be hurt and the misery that the other would inflict comes back on himself.”

The abuser went away ashamed, but he came again one day and took refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.

– A story from the Buddhist texts. 

Author: Bite-Size Dhamma

I'm a Buddhist layperson, trying to live well and skilfully with compassion, generosity, and discernment. I work in the field of housing law and homelessness casework. I have a beautiful kind wife, a very cute dog, and two loveable but surly cats.

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