This is one of our favorite stories of all time, because it usually creates a paradigm shift for the listener, no matter what age or personality. A paradigm shift is when you suddenly see things in a completely different light. It’s a change to your fundamental assumptions about how something works. Your own personal reality is extremely manipulatable, but first you have to change your perspective on certain things. This is a step towards how to eliminate your anger and ego forever.
THE STORY OF THE GIFT
(We rewrote this small parable like we were telling it at a cocktail party. If you want the official “professional” version, it’s here.)
Once upon a time in a far away land, The Buddha (or some other really smart dude, who actually knows with these legends) was traveling from village to village, visiting and spreading his teachings. He travelled with Ananda, his apprentice, and a really solid friend. They lived simply, without possessions, and relied on the generosity of others to continue on heir journey.
During one of these visits, the Buddha was busy signing autographs and taking selfies with the townspeople while sharing the lessons he had learned about kindness, forgiveness, and balance. He was approached by an extremely angry man, who pushed the others out of the way to confront The Buddha.
The man berated The Buddha with insult after insult.
He called The Buddha a cheat, a liar, and a thief. He huffed and puffed and made a huge scene, and it must have been pretty awkward for everyone involved. Nobody said anything to help The Buddha of course, because that seems to be human nature. And finally The Buddha had enough. So he squared up and…
Just kidding. The Buddha just smiled the entire time. The angry man finally ran out of breath and ammo, so he walked away even angrier and more frustrated than before. Ananda turned to The Buddha and asked, “Why did you not roast him back? You’re one of the most respected men in the world right now, and you could have proven your dominance. Why did you not get angry in return?”
The Buddha responded with another question. (Don’t you hate when those Zen guys do that?) He said,
“When someone offers you a gift, and you don’t accept it, to whom does that gift still belong?“
The Buddha had a few more comments for Ananda, but nothing so profound as the idea that anger harms the holder much more than the receiver, and that you can choose how you want to respond to others. Don’t accept harmful gifts from others. Smile, say no thank you, and go back to living your own life well. (More on never taking anything personally here.)