If disciples of the Buddha
do not stand up for the Buddhadharma,
The Brahmajala Sutta opens with an incident where two wanderers happened to be travelling along the same road with the Buddha and a retinue of 500 monks. The duo were arguing for and against the worthiness of the Triple Gem (the Buddha, the Dharma/Dhamma; his teachings, and the Sangha; the dedicated community of Dharma practitioners). One was hurling insults while the other was singing praises, as they contradicted each other. Drawing the attention of monks, they discussed about the two the morning after. Hearing this, the Buddha joined in and the following dialogue ensued (tr. Maurice Walshe, paraphrased):
‘Monks, if anyone should speak in disparagement of me, of the Dhamma or of the Sangha, you should not be angry [hateful], resentful [vengeful] or upset on that account. If you were to be angry or displeased at such disparagement, that would only be a hindrance to you [due to aversion]. For if others disparage me, the Dhamma or the Sangha, and you are angry or displeased, can you recognise whether what they say is right or not?’ The monks replied, ‘No, Lord.’ The Buddha continued,
‘If others disparage me, the Dhamma or the Sangha [with insults or false accusations], then you must explain what is incorrect as being incorrect, saying: “[For this or that reason] that is incorrect, that is false, that is not our way, that is not found among us.” But monks, if others should speak in praise of me, of the Dhamma or of the Sangha, you should not on that account be pleased [proud], happy or elated. If you were to be pleased, delighted or elated at such praise, that would only be a hindrance to you [due to attachment]. If others praise me, the Dhamma or the Sangha, you should acknowledge the truth of what is true, saying “That is correct, that is right, that is our way, that is found among us.”
The above should not be mistaken as encouragement of indifference to blame and praise. If it is so, all Buddhists should simply pretend to be unmoving Buddha statues when we hear slander of the Triple Gem! But to let unjustified remarks go unchecked can prove damaging to the perpetuation of the Buddha’s true teachings. What the Buddha advocated is calm, clear, equanimous (free of attachment and aversion) and matter-of-factly recognition of the nature of others’ comments, followed by clarifications of the erroneous and the affirmations of the right. Only with right mindfulness can we discern what needs to be addressed and respond appropriately with patient compassion and uncompromising wisdom.
Speaking about the 62 wrong beliefs in his time [e.g. in the Brahmajala Sutta] with compassion and wisdom,
while welcoming open discussions,
the Buddha was a pioneer of inter-religious dialogue.