Being insulted

Quora is unique among social networking sites, in that it has a question-and-answer format. You can choose to view questions and answers relating to topics that interest you, so of course one of my topics is Buddhism.

The other day the following question came up in the “Buddhism” topic:

“If a Muslim insults a Buddhist by degrading Buddhism, what should the Buddhist do to the Muslim?”

That got me thinking about how we should respond to insults, which reminded me of the Buddha’s answer to that very question.

Below is the answer I posted.

 

“If a Muslim insults a Buddhist by degrading Buddhism, what should the Buddhist do to the Muslim?”
Nothing at all.
If a person insults you or your beliefs, what actual harm has it done to you? None – unless, of course, you allow it to annoy or upset you, in which case the harm is done not by the other person, but by you, in allowing yourself to react in such a way to someone else’s actions.
The person who insults your religion is responsible only for what he or she says or does; only you are responsible for your own words, thoughts and deeds.

Here’s what the Buddha himself said about insults in the Akkosa Sutta:

Once the Blessed One was staying at Rajagaha in the Bamboo Grove near the Squirrels’ Feeding place. Now the brahman Akkosa Bharadvaja heard this: “The brahman Bharadvaja, it seems, has become a monk under the Great Monk Gotama.” Angry and unhappy, he went to where the Blessed One was. Having approached the Blessed One, he abused and criticized the Blessed One in foul and harsh words. Thus reviled, the Blessed One spoke to the brahman Akkosa Bharadvaja: ‘Well, brahman, do friends, confidants, relatives, kinsmen and guests visit you?”

“Yes, Gotama, sometimes friends, confidants, relatives, kinsmen and guests do visit me.”

“Well, brahman, do you not offer them snacks or food or tidbits?”

“Yes, Gotama, sometimes I do offer them snacks or food or tidbits.”

“But if, brahman, they do not accept it, who gets it?”

“If Gotama, they do not accept it, I get it back.”

“Even so, brahman, you are abusing us who do not abuse, you are angry with us who do not get angry, you are quarreling with us who do not quarrel. All this of yours we don’t accept. You alone, brahman, get it back; all this, brahman, belongs to you.

“When, brahman, one abuses back when abused, repays anger in kind, and quarrels back when quarreled with, this is called, brahman, associating with each other and exchanging mutually. This association and mutual exchange we do not engage in. Therefore you alone, brahman, get it back; all this, brahman, belongs to you.”

“People, including the king, know the Venerable Gotama thus: ‘The Monk Gotama is the Worthy One.’ When does the Venerable Gotama become angry?”

Said the Buddha:

“Where is anger for one freed from anger, Who is subdued and lives perfectly equanimous, Who truly knowing is wholly freed, Supremely tranquil and equipoised? He who repays an angry man in kind Is worse than the angry man; Who does not repay anger in kind, He alone wins the battle hard to win. He promotes the weal of both, His own, as well as of the other. Knowing that the other man is angry, He mindfully maintains his peace And endures the anger of both, His own, as well as of the other, Even if the people ignorant of true wisdom Consider him a fool thereby.”

When the Lord proclaimed this, the brahman Akkosa Bharadvaja said this to the Blessed One: “Wonderful, indeed, O Venerable Gotama! Herewith I go to the Venerable Gotama for refuge, to his Teaching and to his Holy Order of Monks. Most venerable sir, may I have the privilege to receive at the hands of the revered Lord Gotama the initial monastic ordination and also the higher ordination of a bhikkhu.”

And the brahman Akkosa Bharadvaja received at the hands of the Blessed One the initial monastic ordination and he also received the higher ordination of a bhikkhu. And within a short time of his ordination, the Venerable Akkosa Bharadvaja, living alone, secluded, diligent, zealous and unrelenting, reached that incomparable consummation of holiness for which sons of noble families, having totally abandoned the household life, take to the life of homelessness. With direct knowledge he realized the ultimate, then and there, and lived having access to it. He saw with his supernormal vision: “Ceased is rebirth, lived is the holy life, completed is the spiritual task and henceforth there is nothing higher to be achieved.”

The Venerable Akkosa Bharadvaja, indeed, became one of the Arahats.

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