Once upon a time, a famous army general travelling the Himalayas crossed paths with a zen master. A proud man, the general wished to impress his superiority over the monk.
They conversed over freshly brewed tea. Finally, after a moment of pause, the general asked, “Old man, would you like to know what I really think of you?”
“I am not concerned with what you think of me. Certainly, you are entitled to your own opinion,” the zen master replied.
“Well, I shall tell you what I think, anyway. In my eyes, you are just like a pile of horse dung!” said the general, chortling to himself.
The zen master simply smiled and remained silent.
Seeing that his insult had washed over the monk with no effect, he asked, perplexedly: “And what do you think of me?”
“In my eyes, you are just like the Buddha.”
Having seemingly had the better of the exchange, the famous army general left extremely happy with himself.
Back at camp that evening, the general boasted to his wife about the encounter.
“You fool!” his wife remarked.
“When a man has a heart like a pile of horse dung, he sees the world – everyone and everything in it – in that light. When a man has a heart like a Buddha, he sees the world – everyone and everything in it – in that light. The zen master has the heart of a Buddha. That is why, in his eyes, everyone – even you – is like the Buddha.”
– Adapted from a Buddhist parable.