Chapter 3: The Last Star in the Morning
Is your anger just like that? Somebody smiles and you smile. Is your smile just a reaction? Or is it a response?
A response is not a reaction and a reaction is not a response. What is the difference between a reaction and a response? A reaction is automatic, it is built-in: somebody smiles you smile, somebody is angry you become angry. The other creates it, you simply react. Response is conscious: the other may be angry, but you decide whether to be angry or not.
Buddha was passing a village. A few people who were against him gathered and they insulted him very deeply. He listened silently, very patiently. In fact, because of his patience, the people started becoming restless. They started feeling uncomfortable, because when you insult a man and he listens as if it is music, something is wrong. What is happening? They started looking at each other.
Then one person asked Buddha, “What is the matter? Don’t you understand what we are saying?”
Buddha said, “Because I can understand, that’s why I am so silent. Had you come ten years before, then I would have jumped on you, but then there was no understanding. Now I understand, and for your foolishness I cannot punish myself. It is for you to decide to insult or not, but it is my freedom to take it or not. You cannot force your insults on me, I simply refuse - they are not worth it. You can take them back home. I refuse to take them.”
The people were bewildered. They couldn’t understand: “What is the matter?” They said, “Please explain to us.”
He said, “Sit down and listen to me. In the village I just passed by, people had come with sweets and garlands, but my stomach was full so I told them that ‘I won’t be able to eat anything. You please take your gifts back and give them to other people in the town as prasad - my gift to the people of the town.’ What do you think they did?”
Somebody said, “Of course, they would have gone into the village and distributed the sweets.”
Buddha said, “Now listen, what will you do? You come with insults and I say, ‘My stomach is full and I’m not going to take these.’ Now, poor people, unfortunate people, what will you do? You will have to go and distribute in the village.”
Buddha is responding, you react. He simply laughed!
And the thing that he said is very beautiful. He said, “For your foolishness I cannot punish myself. You can be foolish - that is your freedom - but why should I punish myself? Once I take your insult, I start punishing myself.”
When you are angry back, you punish yourself for the other’s fault.