Within the Theravada Buddhist tradition’s Pali Canon, the Akkosa Sutta teaches the importance of non-reactivity in the face of insults and harsh words. It emphasizes that when someone insults you, you should remain calm and composed, like a mirror that reflects an image without being affected by it.
Akkosa Sutta: Anger Quelled with Patience and Compassion
Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha, achieved widespread renown during his 45-year teaching mission following his enlightenment. His teachings resonated with many, leading to the formation of the monastic Sangha.
The Buddha’s reputation as an unprovokable and serene spiritual teacher quickly spread across the regions he visited.
A man journeyed hundreds of miles with the intent of testing the Buddha’s renowned composure. Upon reaching the Buddha, the man wasted no time in subjecting him to a barrage of criticism, insults, challenges, and deliberate attempts to provoke a reaction.
Remarkably, the Buddha remained unruffled. Instead, he calmly inquired, “May I ask you a question?”
“Of course,” the man responded.
With gentle wisdom, the Buddha asked, “If someone offers you a gift and you decline to accept it, to whom then does it belong?”
The man pondered and replied, “It belongs to the person who offered it.”
A serene smile graced the Buddha’s face as he said, “That is correct. So if I decline to accept your abuse, does it not then still belong to you?”
In the wake of a thoughtful pause, the man chose to walk away.
Managing External Perceptions with Grace
The Akkosa Sutta emphasizes a fundamental Buddhist principle: Non-Attachment. When confronted with criticism, it’s crucial to distance yourself from the need to defend your self-image or validate your worth. By not allowing the negative words of others to provoke an emotional reaction, you promote inner peace and detachment from external negativity.
When accusations trigger that defensive knot in your stomach, pause and engage in self-reflection. In such moments, there are only two possibilities: either the accusations are valid or false. If they hold truth, anger serves no purpose; it’s wiser to acknowledge the valid points, learn from the experience, and advance in life.
Conversely, if they are false, once again, anger is unnecessary. In this scenario, the responsibility for their emotions lies with the person who made the mistake. While you can’t control the actions of others, you have the power to manage your own reactions.