I feel that in his Ball Of Honey Discourse, the Buddha advised his followers to reflect within whenever they felt offended: and to identify the processes of their mind that caused perceptions or sensations to arise, which then led to anger.

In the context of this teaching, can a Buddhist ever truthfully say, "By your wrong speech or wrong action, you have insulted / hurt / offended / angered me. You are responsible for this offence, and therefore, it is your responsibility to stop doing this thing that makes me offended, hurt etc.?"

Please reply with references to recent gurus.


7 Answers 7


One could "say" anything but that would only be a relative truth. Ultimately one person doesn't cause another person's anger. One causes their own anger.

It is hard to understand ultimate reality unless one reflects within by attempting to experience things that arise in one's experience, moment by moment in the present moment. Remembering to see things moment by moment is basically what is meant by mindfulness.

The reason the Buddha's teaching is so seemingly contradictory is because of these two ways of approaching reality called ultimate and relative(conceptual) reality. Reality is an other word for truth. Ultimate truth means an individual's own instance of moment by moment atomic experience.

Most people are asleep to the ultimate, experiential and moment by moment approach to reality. When we are not aware of our individual experience then we let defilements like anger and greed take us over. This is called mental proliferation and is basically the opposite of mindfulness. Mental proliferation is the reason everyone suffers. Moment by moment mindfulness of the things that arise in one's own experience, kills mental proliferation. Mindfulness is the cure for our suffering.

Here's a video, which hints that it's possible to use mindfulness to avoid reacting angrily:

Ask A Monk: Criticism and Insults

It's only 5 minutes long; I don't have a complete transcript but here are some selected extracts/sentences:

  • No other person can cause "suffering" for you, all they can do is impinge upon your six senses. ... They can make you see etc. but they can't make you get angry ... or make you get attached, only you can do that.
  • The problem is not the dirty look or the criticism, the problem is your reaction to it.
  • ... we can change that through the meditation. ... that's quite difficult, that takes a lot of training but we are training to get to that level ... and it does work if that's continuous, even in daily life when it's difficult to do so, if you're careful and especially if you're prepared for it. ... If you prepare yourself in advance then when the situation comes up then you find yourself really able to deal with it in a much more profitable way.
  • (you can use a similar technique to stop anger snowballing if it does arise)
  • You mentioned losing all energy when you're criticized, don't worry about that, I think even if you're enlightened it would be very tiresome to be around, they say even the Buddha was tired when he was around such people and would often dismiss them. ... if you're going to live your life in a peaceful and happy way you're going to have to surround yourself with peaceful and happy people ... if you can't do that then try to say to yourself the greatest treasure that we have is our solitude.

In any dialog you play two roles: the one who speaks and the one who listens. Buddha gave one common advice that applies to both roles, and two specific ones that apply for each of the two roles.

The common advice (to listeners and to speakers) is:

One does not keep quarreling with anyone in the cosmos with its devas, Maras, & Brahmas, with its contemplatives & brahmans, its royalty & commonfolk;

When you are in the listener's position, the advice is:

If ... there is nothing there to relish, welcome, or remain fastened to, then that is the end of the obsessions of passion, the obsessions of resistance, the obsessions of views, the obsessions of uncertainty, the obsessions of conceit, the obsessions of passion for becoming, & the obsessions of ignorance. That is the end of taking up rods & bladed weapons, of arguments, quarrels, disputes, accusations, divisive tale-bearing, & false speech. That is where these evil, unskillful things cease without remainder.

When you are in the speaker's position, the advice is:

Abandoning divisive speech he abstains from divisive speech. What he has heard here he does not tell there to break those people apart from these people here. What he has heard there he does not tell here to break these people apart from those people there. Thus reconciling those who have broken apart or cementing those who are united, he loves concord, delights in concord, enjoys concord, speaks things that create concord.

Abandoning abusive speech, he abstains from abusive speech. He speaks words that are soothing to the ear, that are affectionate, that go to the heart, that are polite, appealing & pleasing to people at large.

So as they say in Communication Skills 101 courses, you are always responsible for your side.

  • The question is: 'Can a Buddhist truthfully say, “You insulted / offended / angered / hurt me?”' And the direct answer is? With references to recent gurus or contemporary thought-processes if possible. Sep 17, 2015 at 13:02
  • 2
    @KrishnarajRao, this a rhetorical question, right? Only a perfectly enlightened Buddha is 100% tolerant. Everyone else can get insulted if you say things insulting to them.
    – Andriy Volkov
    Sep 17, 2015 at 13:12
  • Gaining self-control over ones propensity to react to perceived insults is generally expected from people -- Buddhist or otherwise -- a lot before Buddha-like enlightenment. Especially when one doesn't even "say things insulting to them". Saying that "only a perfectly enlightened Buddha is 100% tolerant" is a bit like saying that one should have a doctorate in English to form a proper grammatical sentence. Sep 17, 2015 at 13:21
  • And no, it is not a rhetorical question. Sep 17, 2015 at 13:22
  • 2
    "Part of Buddha's teaching strategy was to divide questions into four types, based on how they should be best approached. The first type includes those that deserve a categorical answer: in other words, a straight "yes" or "no," "this" or "that," with no exceptions. The second type includes questions that deserve an analytical answer. The third type includes questions that deserve a counter-question. And the fourth type includes questions that deserve to be put aside as useless — or even harmful — in the quest to put an end to suffering." - this one is a second type of question.
    – Andriy Volkov
    Sep 18, 2015 at 17:34

Can a Buddhist truthfully say, “You insulted / offended / angered / hurt me?”

A person can say that.

The Dhammapada warns, however, that saying such a thing is not a cure for anger and aversion:

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

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

On the other hand that doesn't mean that people want to listen to "wrong speech".

I guess a reason why some people ordain (or seek the company of other Buddhists) might be to enjoy the company of a like-minded community. The same Dhammapada (e.g. chapter 23 and chapter 5) says that it's good to have wise friends, but also that "there is no fellowship with the fool".

  • So, is that a yes or a no to this question: Can a Buddhist truthfully say, "By your wrong speech or wrong action, you have insulted / hurt / offended / angered me. You are responsible for this offence, and therefore, it is your responsibility to stop doing this thing that makes me offended, hurt etc.?" Sep 18, 2015 at 16:53
  • 1
    A Buddhist can (i.e. is able to) say that (whether they can say it "truthfully" is another matter, which depends on your definition of "true Buddhist" and your definition of "Buddhist truth"); but if a Buddhist says that, that is somewhat contrary to the Buddhist advice or ideal (e.g. as given in the Dhammapada which I reference here, also Yuttadhammo's advice as referenced in Uilium's answer).
    – ChrisW
    Sep 18, 2015 at 17:44
  • 1
    On the other hand that doesn't mean that Buddhism advises Buddhists to produce wrong speech themselves, nor to spend time listening to it. Does that answer your question? Sometimes (perhaps often) your questions don't have a straight "yes or no" answer: sometimes they're a false dilemma.
    – ChrisW
    Sep 18, 2015 at 17:50
  • Chris, I think a plain reading of the question makes it clear that it is a question about "agency". Still, I will make it clearer in another question. I trust you will not consider it a duplicate and close it. Sep 19, 2015 at 8:28
  • @KrishnarajRao So re "agency", to such extent as you are able and willing to control your thoughts and your speech, the advice is avoid saying "you hurt me", because that kind of thinking leads to anger and to the continuation of anger (which is contrary to the Buddhist goal). With the word "truthfully" in it, I parse your question as "what is 'truth' (or what is 'true')?" not a very specific question; and/or your question might have been be expecting/asking answers to explain 'anatta' or perhaps 'identity view' (sakkāya-diṭṭhi).
    – ChrisW
    Sep 19, 2015 at 9:13

"What is the contemplative's doctrine? What does he proclaim?"

"The sort of doctrine, friend, where one does not keep quarreling with anyone in the cosmos with its devas, Maras, & Brahmas, with its contemplatives & brahmans, its royalty & commonfolk; the sort [of doctrine] where perceptions no longer obsess the brahman who remains dissociated from sensuality, free from perplexity, his uncertainty cut away, devoid of craving for becoming & non-. Such is my doctrine, such is what I proclaim."

When this was said, Dandapani the Sakyan — shaking his head, wagging his tongue, raising his eyebrows so that his forehead was wrinkled in three furrows — left, leaning on his stick.

Madupindika sutta

  • So, is that a yes or a no to this question: Can a Buddhist truthfully say, "By your wrong speech or wrong action, you have insulted / hurt / offended / angered me. You are responsible for this offence, and therefore, it is your responsibility to stop doing this thing that makes me offended, hurt etc.?" Sep 18, 2015 at 16:50

The Lord Buddha said those who accuse another falsely with slanderous speech go to hell. Keeping this in mind, a Buddhist should not be offended.

He goes to hell, the one who asserts what didn't take place, as does the one who, having done, says, 'I didn't.'

They stab with their words — people unrestrained — as they do, with arrows, a tusker gone into battle. Hearing abusive words spoken, one should endure them: a monk with unbothered mind.

Sundarī Sutta


For most Buddhists, in sphere of their ideas: no (but whether they would say that in practice is another topic).

In regard of the teaching of the Buddha, phenomena have causes: see this answer about the cause of pleasure and pain here.

To illustrate that with a nice story:

Su Dongpo Story

Su Dongpo was an avid student of Buddhist teachings. He was quick-witted and humorous; as a Zen Buddhism follower he was very serious and self-disciplined. He often discussed buddhism with his good friend, Zen Master Foyin. The two lived across the river from one another.

Following is an interesting and famous story about him and Zen Master Foyin.

One day, Su Dongpo felt inspired and wrote the following poem:

稽首天中天, 毫光照大千; 八风吹不动, 端坐紫金莲。

I bow my head to the heaven within heaven, Hairline rays illuminating the universe, The eight winds cannot move me, Sitting still upon the purple golden lotus.

The “eight winds (八风)” in the poem referred to praise (称), ridicule (讥), honor (誉), disgrace (毁), gain (得), loss (失), pleasure (乐) and misery (苦) – interpersonal forces of the material world that drive and influence the hearts of men. Su Dongpo was saying that he has attained a higher level of spirituality, where these forces no longer affect him.

Impressed by himself, Su Dongpo sent a servant to hand-carry this poem to Fo Yin. He was sure that his friend would be equally impressed. When Fo Yin read the poem, he immediately saw that it was both a tribute to the Buddha and a declaration of spiritual refinement. Smiling, the Zen Master wrote “fart” on the manuscript and had it returned to Su Dongpo.

Su Dongpo was expecting compliments and a seal of approval. When he saw “fart” written on the manuscript, he was shocked . He burst into anger: “How dare he insult me like this? Why that lousy old monk! He’s got a lot of explaining to do!”

Full of indignation, he rushed out of his house and ordered a boat to ferry him to the other shore as quickly as possible. He wanted to find Fo Yin and demand an apology. However, Fo Yin’s door closed. On the door was a piece of paper, for Su Dongpo. The paper had following two lines:

八风吹不动, 一屁弹过江。

The eight winds cannot move me, One fart blows me across the river.

This stopped Su Dongpo cold. Fo Yin had anticipated this hot-headed visit. Su Dongpo’s anger suddenly drained away as he understood his friend’s meaning. If he really was a man of spiritual refinement, completely unaffected by the eight winds, then how could he be so easily provoked?

With a few strokes of the pen and minimal effort, Fo Yin showed that Su Dongpo was in fact not as spiritually advanced as he claimed to be. Ashamed but wiser, Su Dongpo departed quietly.

This event proved to be a turning point in Su Dongpo’s spiritual development. From that point on, he became a man of humility, and not merely someone who boasted of possessing the virtue.


I think it is your responsibility to stay calm. But first listen carefully, because maybe the person is telling you the truth in an aggressive way. So if he/she is telling the truth, accept it. If not, ignore and stay calm. There is no reason to feel angry.

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