One day, the Buddha and a group of his students passed through a small village. The Buddha found a tree in whose shade they could all sit, and he proceeded to give a lesson. Soon, some of the villagers came by and gathered around the visiting teacher to hear him speak.
One young man watched as the crowd grew larger and larger. He was angry. To him, the Buddha was another intruder from the city, most of whom had something to sell or otherwise swindle the townspeople with. Impatient, the young man shouted at the Buddha, saying “Go away! You just want to take advantage of us! You come here to say a few pretty words and then ask for food and money!”
The Buddha remained calm in the presence of the young man, exuding a sense of loving-kindness. He politely requested that the man come forward. Then he asked, “Young sir, if you made a gift for someone, but that person did not accept the gift, to whom does the gift then belong?”
The odd question took the young man by surprise. “I guess the gift would still be mine because I was the one who made it.”
“I agree,” replied the Buddha. “Now, you have just cursed me and been angry with me. But if I do not accept your curses — if I am not insulted or angry in return — these curses will fall back to you, the same as the gift returning to its owner.”
The young man was not a fool and quickly understood the valuable lesson he had learned. He clasped his hands together and slowly bowed to the Buddha. And so the Buddha concluded his lesson with this:
“As a mirror reflects an object, as a still lake reflects the sky: take care that what you speak or do is for the good. For goodness will always cast back goodness and harm will always cast back harm.”