How the Buddha handled insults

How the Buddha handled insults

The Buddha was an absolute master in debate.

People from all over India would come to the Buddha to ask him questions and sometimes, to try to defeat him in debate.  And it’s a great to see how the Buddha actually handled himself against these people – because sometimes, he would come up with the coolest answers!


The Story of Akkosa

In the Akkosa Sutta, a man named Akkosa found out that one of his clansmen had just become a disciple of the Buddha.  Outraged, Akkosa went to the Buddha to give the Buddha a piece of his mind – he hurled abuse and insults at the Buddha, telling the Buddha what he thought of him in no uncertain terms.

The Buddha was unmoved in the slightest by this barrage of insults and just asked a question in return:

“Do you sometimes receive visitors as guests?”

“Yes I do” replied Akkosa.

“And when they come, do you offer them food and drink and courtesies?” asked the Buddha.

“Yes, sometimes I do” Akkosa said.

“So what if your guests don’t accept what you offer to them – where do the food, drink and courtesies return to?”

“They return to me of course!” Akkosa answered.

“Akkosa, you came here today, hurling insults and abuse at me.  I do not accept what you have offered.  So where do these insults and abuse return?”

Akkosa got the picture.


Isn’t that so funny!  Akkosa was even won over by how calm the Buddha was in the face of insult – how the Buddha didn’t retaliate with anger against his angry attacks.  Akkosa was also won over by wisdom.


The Lessons from this Story

When an angry person approaches you, looking for a fight, it’s important to try to stay even minded – you can achieve this through right understanding, right knowing, of the situation and having the right motivation for the interaction.

What you want to understand is that you’re living for the good of both people:

  • You live for the good of the angry person
  • And you live for the good of yourself. 

Once you can understand this – you can mindfully grow calmer and calmer, clearer and clearer – in the face of insult and abuse.  This way, you can heal both people – you can help to heal the angry person and help to heal yourself too.

If people call you a fool for wanting to work for the good of the angry person as well as for the good of yourself – then they don’t really understand the Buddha’s Dharma.

5 thoughts on “How the Buddha handled insults

  1. Great Post, this story also reminds me of this teaching by Ven Master Chin Kung:

    For those who do not understand Chinese, what the Master is saying here is that one must react with equanimity to any event in our daily lives, be it something good or something bad, of any severity. So if something you like happens, do not become greedy and if something or someone goes against you and insults/abuses you, do not become angry or hateful. By maintaining equanimity at all times, your karmic obstacles will be dissolved and your Wisdom will then show.

    If one reacts with either greed or hatred etc. to manifestations of karma, one will only increase his or her karmic obstacles and that emotionality will only drag you down to the realms of the Narakas, Ghosts, Animals or Asuras etc.

    So the next time greed or hatred comes calling, recite a Mantra or Gatha of a Sutra to cut off the thought and maintain right mindfulness.

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