Once Buddha was in an assembly when a man walked in looking furious. He thought Buddha was doing something wrong. He was drawing a huge crowd and people would just go to him and meditate. He was a restless businessman and he had found that his children were spending their time with Buddha when they could have engaged themselves in business, making more money and ensuring their livelihood. He felt that spending four hours of their day seated next to someone whose eyes were always closed was a complete waste of time.
So the father of that family was very upset, and he said, “I am going to teach this man a lesson!”
With anger in heart, he walked confidently up to Buddha. As soon as he approached Buddha, all his thoughts disappeared but the anger in him did not dissipate. He was shaking and he found himself speechless. Since he was unable to express his emotions in words, he simply spat on Buddha’s face. Buddha, in return, simply smiled. His disciples who were sitting with him were furious. They wanted to react, but the Buddha’s presence didn’t allow them to do so. They just couldn’t believe someone could behave in such a reprehensible manner with the Buddha. But they couldn’t say anything. And this man could not stay longer either. He noticed his action had not drawn any reaction from the people around him. And the Buddha had simply smiled in return. A few minutes later, he thought, “If I stay longer, I will burst out.” So he walked away
Once he returned, he couldn’t erase the image of the smiling Buddha from his mind. For the first time in his life, he had met someone who had such an extraordinary reaction to such a disrespectful act. He could not sleep all night and his whole body underwent a transformation. He was shivering, shaking. He felt as though his world had collapsed. The next day he went and fell at Buddha’s feet and said, “Please forgive me. I did not know what I was doing.”
To which Buddha replied, “I cannot excuse you!”
Everyone, including Buddha’s disciples, were shocked at this reaction. All his life, Buddha had been so compassionate. He had accepted everyone in his ashram, regardless of their past. And now he was telling this businessman that he could not excuse his behaviour.
Buddha looked around and found everyone to be in a state of shock. So he explained, “Why should I excuse you when you have not done anything? What wrong have you done that I should excuse your behaviour?”
The businessman replied, “Yesterday, I came to this assembly and in my anger, I spat on your face. I’m the same person.”
Buddha said, “That person is not here anymore. If I ever meet the person on whom you spat, I’ll tell him to excuse you. For me, to the person who’s right here in this moment, you are wonderful. You have done nothing wrong.”
The lesson to be learnt here is: about compassion and forgiveness. When do we truly forgive a person? True forgiveness is when you forgive a person and that person doesn’t even know that he is being forgiven. The person shouldn’t feel guilty for his deed. This is the right kind of forgiveness. If you forgive a person and keep reminding him about his mistake and make him feel guilty all the time, then you’ve simply not forgiven him yet. That guilt itself is enough punishment for the person.
Let’s take this important lesson from this story from the life of Buddha. Let’s be more compassionate and forgive people the right way.