About 2500 years ago, the Buddha attained enlightenment. Since that time, Buddhism has spread all over the world. There are now many styles of Buddhism all over the world. There is Theravada Buddhism, Mahayana Buddhism, Vajrayana Buddhism, Tantric Buddhism, Zen Buddhism. Within those there is Chinese Buddhism, Japanese Buddhism, Korean Buddhism, South American Buddhism, American Buddhism. Many kinds of Buddhism. So, the Buddha saw a star and attained enlightenment. What kind of Buddhism was that? If we have some idea of what we are or who we are, it is usually connected with some view of the world. It may be a religious view, political view, a man or woman view, a black or white view, even a Zen view. All of these views have their place, but if we are attached to any view, then we can longer longer see the truth. This is ignorance. We ignore the truth by seeing the world through our own attached view. And many times we think our view is correct. This attachment results in fear and anger which causes many human beings to respond to the world that results in much suffering. But the Buddha showed us there is a different way.
Once, the Buddha was sitting under a tree talking to his disciples when a man came and instead of bowing and asking for teaching, he spat in his face. The Buddha wiped it off, and he asked the man, “What next?” The man was a little puzzled because he never expected that kind of response. He was used to someone one getting angry and fighting back or sometimes people would submit to him. But the Buddha was not angry or offended.
But Buddha’s disciples became angry, and they reacted. His closest disciple, Ananda, said, “This is too much. We cannot tolerate it. He has to be punished for it, otherwise everybody will start doing things like this!”
Buddha said, “He has not offended me. He is new, a stranger. He must have heard from people something about me, that this man is an atheist, a dangerous man, or a corrupter. And he may have formed some idea of me. So, he has not spit on me, he has spit on his idea. If you look at this matter closely,” Buddha said, “he has spit on his own mind.”
The man was even more puzzled! And so were the Buddha’s disciples. The man returned home. He could not sleep the whole night. Again and again he was haunted by the experience. He could not explain it to himself, what had happened. He never had that experience. The Buddha had really hit his mind.
The next morning he went back. This time, the man bowed. Buddha asked him again, “What next? The man looked at Buddha and said, “Forgive me for what I did yesterday.”
Buddha said, “Forgive? But I am not the same man to whom you did it. If you look at the Ganges river, water is flowing by and other debris. If you leave and come back 24 hours later, it is not the same water and debris flowing. Every person is like this river. The man you spit upon is no longer here. I look just like him, but I am not the same, much has happened in these twenty-four hours! So I cannot forgive you because I have no grudge against you.”
“Also, you are different. I can see you are not the same man who came yesterday because that man was angry and he spit, whereas you are bowing. How can you be the same man? You are not the same man, so let us forget about it.”
So this story points to another possibility. We may not be able to respond the way the Buddha did, but it shows that we can respond to the world in a different way. If we are sincere and diligent in our practice, the way of ignorance, anger and greed, can turn into wisdom, love and compassion. If we can return to our true self and perceive the truth of this world, without attaching to any view, then it is possible to help ourselves and all those around us.