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Chapter 10: What Next?

It happened, Buddha was sitting under a tree talking to his disciples. A man came and spat on his face. He wiped it off and he asked the man, “What next? What do you want to say next?” The man was a little puzzled because he himself never expected that when you spit on somebody’s face he will ask, Now, what next? He had had no such experience in his past. He had insulted people, and they had become angry, and they had reacted; or if they were cowards and weaklings they had smiled, trying to bribe the man. But Buddha was like neither; he was not angry, nor in any way offended, nor in any way cowardly, but just matter of fact. He said, “What next?” There was no reaction on his part.

His disciples became angry, they reacted. Buddha’s closest disciple, Ananda, said, “This is too much, and we cannot tolerate it; you keep your teaching with you and we will just show this man that he cannot do what he has done. He has to be punished for it. Otherwise everybody will start doing things like this.”

Buddha said, You keep silent. He has not offended me, but you are offending me. He is new, a stranger, and he may have heard something about me from somebody - has formed some idea, a notion of me. He has not spat on me, he has spat on his notion, his idea of me, because he does not know me at all so how can he spit on me? He must have heard from people something about me - that this man is an atheist, a dangerous man who is throwing people off their track, a revolutionary, a corrupter - he must have heard something about me, he has formed a notion, an idea; he has spat on his own idea.

“If you think on it deeply,” Buddha said, “he has spat on his own mind. I am not part of it, and I can see that this poor man must have something else to say - because this is a way of saying something; spitting is a way of saying something.”

There are moments when you feel that language is impotent: in deep love, in intense anger, in hate, in prayerfulness. There are intense moments when language is impotent. Then you have to do something - when you are in deep love you kiss the person or embrace the person. What are you doing? You are saying something. When you are angry, intensely angry, you hit the person, you spit on him - you are saying something.

“I can understand him. He must have something more to say, that’s why I’m asking, What next?”

The man was even more puzzled.

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