Offending God

Is there really anything we can do to offend God?

Photo by JvL
Photo by JvL

Once, there was a devout man who saw a filthy, unkempt beggar just outside his house. He had pity on this beggar and invited him inside for a meal.

Before the meal, the man bowed his head to say a prayer of thanks. He had hardly gotten a few words out when the beggar suddenly started cursing God. He told the man, “If you want to feed me, just feed me, but I don’t want to hear you talking about God. God can go to hell for all I care.”

The host was visibly surprised and furious, “Don’t you know that if not for the love of God, I would not have invited you into my home? How dare you insult my God! Get out of my house at once.” And he shooed the beggar away.

God came to the devout man in a dream later that night and said, “That beggar has been cursing my name and spreading vicious lies about me for 18 years. Yet, all through this time, I have put up with him, fed him, kept him alive, and loved him. Could you not put up with him for a single meal?”

When we burn with righteous anger at other people seemingly offending God, is it really God who is offended? Or us?

Teranis the Great

photo courtesy of jamesdale10, Flickr
photo courtesy of jamesdale10, Flickr

Teranis the Great, conqueror of the eastern lands, had heard of the master. One day, he came to the master with his royal guard, seeking wisdom.

When the master came out of his hut to see his guests, a guard announced, “You now stand in the mighty presence of Teranis the Great.”

At this proclamation, the master looked at the conqueror and began to laugh at him.

Teranis was seized with fury and drew out his sword. He pointed the sword at the master and growled, “Why do you mock me so? Explain yourself or I shall cut off your head.”

The master replied, “I laugh because anyone who sees the need to call himself great really isn’t. Anyone who needs other people to announce his mighty presence really does not have one.”

At this, the master calmly reached out with one hand and pushed the sword point away from his face. “And lastly,” he said, “Anyone who needs to point a sword and threaten another to gain respect is the most pitiful soul of all.”

What is holiness?

A pilgrim stopped by the temple where a master resided who was known for his holiness. A disciple ushered him inside and led him to the courtyard at the back.

Photo courtesy of swami stream, Flickr
Photo courtesy of swami stream, Flickr

The pilgrim heard boisterous laughter and the sounds of merrymaking coming from a bend in the garden. He turned the bend and was surprised to see the master and several disciples seated around a small table. They were sharing a bottle of wine, singing, laughing, swapping jokes and slapping one another’s back.

The pilgrim turned to the disciple who had led him there. “This is an outrage,” he said. “I thought that this master was supposed to be a very holy man.”

“Oh, he is a holy man,” replied the smiling disciple. “But you should know that it is one thing for a man to be holy. And it is a totally different thing that he should seem holy to you. Who are you to judge what is holy or not?”

What Is More Sacred?

The master got caught in a heavy rain one night and was soaking wet when he saw a Buddhist monastery nearby. He knocked hard on the gates until a monk came and opened the gate.

“What do you want?” the monk asked, thinking that the drenched figure was a beggar.

“I just need a place to stay out of the rain,” said the master. “May I stay here for the night?”

“No, I’m sorry but this isn’t an inn,” said the monk.

“Please, let me just stay in the temple hall. I can sleep on the floor and be gone early in the morning,” said the master.

The monk considered this for a moment, and in a stern voice said, “Okay, but you better be out of here before the other monks come for their morning prayers.”

“Of course,” answered the master.

A few hours later, that same monk woke up earlier than usual to check and make sure that the unwanted guest would indeed leave early.

photo by topbanana
photo by topbanana

When he entered the temple area, he saw the master huddled on the floor with the dying embers of a small campfire by his side. The monk wondered where the man got wood for a fire when he suddenly saw an empty space where a wooden Buddha statue had once been. Horrified, the monk shook the master.

“Hey, you there! Wake up! What have you done? You burned the Buddha! You burned the Buddha!” cried the monk.

The master woke up and hearing the accusations of the angry monk, picked up his walking stick and sifted through the embers of the dying fire.

“Now what are you doing? Didn’t you hear me? You did a terrible thing! You burned the Buddha!” said the monk.

“What are you talking about?” said the master. “I don’t see the bones of this Buddha among the ashes. You must be a very bad monk, because you regard a lifeless statue as more sacred than a live person.”

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