How An Angry Insulter Was Calmly Reasoned With

Overcome the angry by non-anger;
overcome the wicked by goodness;
overcome the miser by generosity;
overcome the liar by truth.

— The Buddha
(Dhammapada Verse 223)

According to the ‘Akkosa Sutta’, or the ‘Discourse On Insults’, Akkosaka (which means ‘Insulter’), having heard that a clansman joined the Buddha’s monastic order, and in a fit of anger, rudely and harshly confronted the Buddha with insults and curses. Throughout, the Buddha listened in silence with equanimity, without pleasure or displeasure, agreeing or disagreeing.

After Akkosaka had offered the Buddha a piece of his displeased mind, the Buddha asked if people go to him as guests. Akkosaka replied in the affirmative. The Buddha asked if he serves them with various foods. Again, Akkosaka affirmed so. The Buddha next asked who they belong to if they are not accepted. Akkosaka replied that they would belong to himself.

The Buddha concluded that likewise, of his insulting, taunting and berating, to which he did not reply with more of the same (in defence or retaliation), he does not accept them, thus with all that said belonging to himself. As those who return insulting, taunting and berating with the same would share company with those insulting, taunting and berating, the Buddha does not have any share with them at all.

Hearing this, and probably projecting with his own anger, Akkosaka assumed that the Buddha was angry. To which the Buddha replied there is no anger for one free from it, who has tamed anger, who lives attuned to the Dharma, liberated with right understanding and calmness. He elaborated that things are worsened if there is flaring up at those angry, while those who do not do so win a battle hard to win.

For the good of both parties, there should be mindful calmness. Those who misunderstand this are foolish, who do not know the Dharma. Hearing this, and having seen the Buddha himself perfectly practising the very teaching he was preaching, Akkosaka praised him for clearly revealing the Dharma, for showing him the path, to let him see what he could not, as he asked to take refuge in the Triple Gem.

The Buddha’ dialogue is a classic example of how he handled the angry. However, if copied for personal application upon a very unreasonable angry party, that person might see it as sarcastic retaliation. Even if it might be unskilful to repeat the Buddha’s words, we should still do our best to be blameless, and to emulate his calm and clear attitude — to listen for what is sensible, and what to clarify, without feeling insulted by accepting any baseless insults.

‘He abused me, he struck me,
he overpowered me, he robbed me.’
Those who do not harbor such thoughts still their hatred.

— The Buddha
(Dhammapada Verse 4)

Related Articles:

Akkosa Sutta

Does Being Angry Break Any Buddhist Precept?

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