Insults or praise

Do not respond to them; anecdote

January 17th 2011
A Master received a visit one day from a young man who wanted to become his disciple. So the teaching began, and the first lesson was as follows. The Master said to the disciple, ‘Go for a walk in the cemetery and insult the dead; pay attention to what they say in reply, and then come back and report to me.’ The young man went obediently to the cemetery and began walking among the graves uttering terrible things: never had the dead in a cemetery heard anything like it! Soon, running out of inspiration, he stopped to listen for a reply: nothing. On his return to the Master, he had to admit that his insults had had no effect; the dead hadn’t reacted. ‘Ah,’ said the Master, ‘perhaps they didn’t think your insults were worthy of reply. Go back to the cemetery, but this time sing their praises. If you do that, they are bound to respond.’ The young man returned to the cemetery, and in a different tone of voice said the most flattering things to the dead. But again – nothing, silence… Really disappointed, and feeling guilty that he hadn’t been eloquent enough, the young man went back to his Master. ‘They didn’t react then either,’ he said. The Master smiled at him and replied, ‘Well, learn that you must be like them: whether you receive blame or praise, you must not be affected; do not react.’