Buddha’s Beautiful Lesson on Forgiveness

By Sofo Archon on Tuesday October 29th, 2019

Understanding What Forgiveness Is

I cannot forgive you because I have no grudge against you.

Most people get easily offended or insulted by people who behave in a rude manner, not realizing that each and every person has a story, and unaware of the healing power kindness. But not all people do so, and here’s a wonderful story from the life of the Buddha, carrying a beautiful lesson on forgiveness:

A Lesson on Forgiveness

“The Buddha was sitting under a tree talking to his disciples when a man came and spat in 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 in someone’s face he should ask “What next?” He 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 him. But the Buddha was like neither, he was not angry, nor in any way offended, nor in any way cowardly. But just matter-of-factly he said, “What next?” There was no reaction on his part.

What next?What next?

What Next?

But Buddha’s disciples became angry, and they reacted. His closest disciple, Ananda, said, “This is too much. We cannot tolerate it. 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. 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. And he may have formed some idea, a notion of me. He has not spit on me, he has spit on his notion. He has spit on his idea of me because he does not know me at all, so how can he spit on me?

“If you think on it deeply,” Buddha said, “he has spit 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 prayer. There are intense moments when language is impotent. Then you have to do 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?”

Forgive everythingLearning to forgive everything.

The Pattern Shattered

The man was even more puzzled! And Buddha said to his disciples, “I am more offended by you because you know me, and you have lived for years with me, and still you react.”

Puzzled, confused, the man returned home. He could not sleep the whole night. When you see a Buddha, it is difficult, impossible to sleep anymore the way you used to sleep before. Again and again he was haunted by the experience. He could not explain it to himself, what had happened. He was trembling all over, sweating and soaking the sheets. He had never come across such a man; the Buddha had shattered his whole mind and his whole pattern, his whole past.

The next morning he went back. He threw himself at Buddha’s feet. Buddha asked him again, “What next? This, too, is a way of saying something that cannot be said in language. When you come and touch my feet, you are saying something that cannot be said ordinarily, for which all words are too narrow; it cannot be contained in them.” Buddha said, “Look, Ananda, this man is again here, he is saying something. This man is a man of deep emotions.”

Forgive meForgive me.

Every Man is a River

The man looked at Buddha and said, “Forgive me for what I did yesterday.”

Buddha said, “Forgive? But I am not the same man to whom you did it. The Ganges goes on flowing, it is never the same Ganges again. Every man is a river. The man you spit upon is no longer here. I look just like him, but I am not the same, much has happened in these twenty-four hours! The river has flowed so much. So I cannot forgive you because I have no grudge against you.

“And you also are new. I can see you are not the same man who came yesterday because that man was angry and he spit, whereas you are bowing at my feet, touching my feet. How can you be the same man? You are not the same man, so let us forget about it. Those two people, the man who spit and the man on whom he spit, both are no more. Come closer. Let us talk of something else.”

Every man is like a riverEvery man is like a river.

Not Judging

Whether this story describes an actual event or not is unknown. However, the lesson it teaches is tremendously beautiful and important. In essence, the story reminds as that nobody is perfect, and everyone is continuously changing and progressing in the journey of spiritual growth. Therefore, we should not be quick to judge others and take things personally, but realize where they are coming from and handle them with a compassionate attitude, no matter if they have treated us badly in the past.


Note: It is unclear if this story is, in fact, a Buddhist scripture or a story written by Bhagwan Shri Rajneesh. However, we feel that it is has a valuable message and as such, we wanted to share it with you all in the hope that you too would read, feel and resonate with its deep wisdom.

How do you feel about this article? Join the conversation.



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44 Responses to Buddha’s Beautiful Lesson on Forgiveness

  1. In today’s world, the virtues have given way to bad qualities such as intolerance, hatred, mercilessness, etc. People have forgone the good qualities great religious scholars have taught them for their own convenience. In this backdrop, the lessons from religious people such as Buddha have become invaluable.

    • I take solace in the fact that this ancient, timeless wisdom has lived on, despite everything 🙂 Thanks for reading Williams.

      Team UPLIFT

  2. This story is such a Blessing. I can only bow at the Buddha’s feet and know that my heart is heard,, the tears of deep emotions – I don’t know exactly of what – old grief, guilt, yearning, joy, – these tears can just flow and the hand of Buddha will Truly lift my chin, look into my eyes and open my heart.
    Ryan, CEO https://topcasinoplanet.com/

  3. One of the hardest things for me to deal with is all the cruelty to the poor animals. When I think of all the animals in slaughterhouses, laboratories, fur farms, etc. It’s very upsetting. How can people do those kinds of jobs? How can governments allow such places to exist? How can we forgive those butchers? I have no problem forgiving people when they attack me. But when they attack helpless animals, innocent children, women, the elderly… forgiving that kind of cruelty is difficult. I’ve even studied Thich Naht Hahn’s teachings. But still I struggle…

    • I understand Dhyananda, it is hard to forgive this kind of behaviour. What helps me somewhat is reminding myself that we are all at different stages of journeys and many people, unfortunately, are not as connected with their hearts and truths. Maybe some never will be. But what I’ve discovered for myself is that when I judge them, I only end up cultivating more hate, disgust, and bitterness in myself which perpetuates the separation in humankind. And this is the opposite of what I want! So I have to imagine that there is good in everyone and allow myself feel love and acceptance for them in that way. I don’t know if that will help you, but I just thought I would share 🙂

      Much love to you on your journey <3
      Team UPLIFT

    • Just forget by telling yourself that you have to let go whatever that have hurt you. Life is short. Instead of bearing that suffering, just let go and enjoy the rest of your life.

    • You are not alone Kathryn, it is often much easier said than done. Sometimes putting yourself in the other person’s shoes, so you can better understand the reason for their actions helps. Perseverance will liberate you.

      Love and blessings on your journey,
      Team UPLIFT

    • I’ve forgiven much but i still wrestle with forgiveness. I read once that in order for forgiveness to occur, rather than having the desire to forgive, you must create the conditions in which forgiveness is likely to occur. Because as soon as we want to forgive, then that’s not true forgiveness. Something like that anyway 🙂

  4. There is another reason to forgive as well. I read of a woman who escaped the Holocaust, who on leaving Germany to start a new life said that she had to forgive Hitler before she left in order not to carry him with her.

  5. Not Judging

    Edit is in bold.

    Whether this story describes an actual event or not is unknown. However, the lesson it teaches is tremendously beautiful and important. In essence, the story reminds US that nobody is perfect, and everyone is continuously changing and progressing in the journey of spiritual growth. Therefore, we should not be quick to judge others and take things personally, but realize where they are coming from and handle them with a compassionate attitude, no matter if they have treated us badly in the past.

  6. So many of the comments also resonated in my heart and mind, along with this deeply insightful story. I accidentally cut someone off in traffic. The man followed me home, riding on my bumper, to rage at me. I was oblivious to the mistake, but so grateful he had avoided an accident. I felt sad that I could not get my appreciation through to him, and it was hard to have someone so angry at me. This story really shored-up my desire to stay understanding and peaceful in the face of another’s rage. Thank-you!

  7. I respect and understand the teachings of Buddha. I continue, though, to struggle with forgiveness of not transgressions against myself, but of what was done in harm to my child, at the time a helpless 3-year old! Those who commit crimes against innocent children and helpless animals, knowingly causing pain and suffering without remorse can only be forgiven by God, not one as lowly as myself. I know my hatred has effects on my life and my choices, but it also offers me protection, caution, not without cause or reason. Still forgiveness is atopic I wish to better understand.

    • Yvette – I’m so sorry to hear that about your daughter, it is truly awful and so hard to understand how people can do such things. I understand your struggle. Many of us experience it along with you. I think it’s remarkable and truly inspiring that you still wish to understand forgiveness better. I hope and pray that one day, you and the rest of us, find this deep understanding and peace within our forgiving hearts.

      Much love,
      Team UPLIFT

  8. I felt lost for words on arriving here knowing that I wanted to comment, but the tears blocked my keyboard. This story is such a Blessing. I can only bow at the Buddha’s feet and know that my heart is heard,, the tears of deep emotions – I don’t know exactly of what – old grief, guilt, yearning, joy, – these tears can just flow and the hand of Buddha will Truly lift my chin, look into my eyes and open my heart. Thank you. The power of story is That of a living being.
    Amrit Jot Devi (Victoria)

    • Amrit Jot Devi – what beautiful words and sentiments. So heartfelt. It makes my heart smile to know that it impacted you so deeply… Thank you for sharing and many blessings on your journey.

      Team UPLIFT

  9. With this beautiful story I am able to understand the amazing grace of re-incarnation! ..and why if a man sins against you 7 times 7 times 7 times in a day, Jesus says you should forgive him. Prophet Mohammed, the humble servant of Allah (may the peace of Allah be upon him and us, too) said that if a new sunrise finds in our heart offenses from a previous sunrise, we would not partake in the blessings brought by the new sunrise.

    • This Prophet sounds, to me, like it too is speaking about the importance of forgiveness Samuel. Beautiful, thank you for sharing 🙂

      Team UPLIFT

    • Beautiful story that touched me deeply, I hope that I will not forget it for as long as I live (Just to make sure that I do remember it, I will read it one more time and, perhaps, I will come back another day and read it again.)

  10. I am so moved to tears at the profound beauty of this teaching, whoever it is attributed to. Thank you, Sofo Archon for this story. Yes! I am like a river, ever changing, growing, stumbling at times, falling over rough rocks reacting to painful edges, spun for a moment out of the true beauty of my own nature, forgetting that like a River I am, indeed fluid. This “fall” is but a glitch. The goal is not perfection (that goal has already been seen, tasted, experienced, countless times) but to pick yourself back up after “the fall “ by your own heart or that of another and simply accept that this is a fact of existence, to fall. Heart by heart we lift each other up, as we are brave enough to do and allow and wherever possible. Whenever we remember that all of us, indeed, share a Oneness. Living with the paradox continuously. Forgiveness/no need to forgive? This very question Leads us to balance in this ever-changing never-ending dance of this blessed life this unfolding mystery that we are and find ourselves in. What a ruthless love.

  11. I read a few of the notes saw my self judging, that is wrong, that is right… went to the field beyond right and wrong felt peace and kindness 🙂

  12. I loved this story! During His crucifixion Jesus said “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”! Jesus while taking our sins on Himself was making himself one with us ie He wasn’t practicing Dualism but identifying as one with us who don’t know often what we are doing when we hurt others!

  13. I love the story! I want to share this with other people. I love how it describes how to forgive people in a beautiful way. I think it doesn’t matter if this story is true or not, because the moral lesson in the story is really important, and we should all learn how to forgive.

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