The Fragrance of Goodness

"When I was teaching English at a college in central India, I remember, men leaving campus at the end of the day used to stop by the flower stand for garlands of jasmine to take home to the wives, mothers, and daughters in the family. Half a rupee, at that time, would buy a couple of feet of delicate petals with a haunting perfume.

"Walking into my classes in those days was like entering a fragrant garden; so many girls had twisted garlands of ivory jasmine in their shining black hair. Some would do their hair in a style you may have seen in the frescoes from the Ajanta caves, with a bun on top, pulled a little to one side, and a garland woven around. Others had a little chignon at the back. But most of them simply twisted strings of blossoms into their long, thick braids. And even after the flowers had faded and been tossed away, the girls' hair would still be fragrant with the scent of jasmine. Certain boys used to sit at the back of class, sniff audibly, and heave sighs of appreciation.

"Lovely flowers smell sweet, the Buddha says, but they fade, and their fragrance cannot last. The fragrance of goodness, however, abides. When you have been in the presence of someone who has love for all, you will take home with you a little of that person's kindness and patience, a heart at peace, just as the smell of roses remains in a room long after the flowers are gone. Even you and I, when we can forgive unkind words or malicious behavior and not carry agitation in our hearts, will leave a fragrance that others, too, will carry away."