There is a famous story of such an encounter between the Buddha and a ‘difficult person’ named Akkosina. Akkosina’s name means “Not Getting Angry” but he was the exact opposite of his name. Akkosina was easily angered and was always angry about something or someone. When he heard that the Buddha did not get angry with anyone he immediately decided to visit him. He went up to the Buddha and scolded him for all sorts of things, insulting him and calling him awful names. At the end of this angry speech, the Buddha asked this man if he had any friends or relatives. “Yes.” Akokosina replied. “When you visit them, do you take them gifts?” the Buddha asked. “Of course, I always bring them gifts.” The angry man replied. “Then what happens if they don’t accept your gifts?” The Buddha asked. “Well I take them home and enjoy them with my own family” “And likewise,” said the Buddha, “You have brought me a gift here today that I do not accept, and so you may take that gift home to your family.”

source: Akkosa sutta (SN 7.2)

Is there more to learn from the story of the angry man? If someone insults you, it is hard to not be affected by it. So how to balance out your emotions and begin the day from a place of happiness, and how to respond in the same light?


7 Answers 7


Well actually your question has 2 different aspects,so does the Buddhism. They are 'laukika' and 'lokottara'.

The excellency of Buddhism always goes with its 'lokottara' content, where the path to nirwana. For a person who are in lokottara track, what to do when some one scolding is just to ignore. It is all about removing tanha from our mind. If we can't hold other's scolding that's just because we have tanha on our image/social aspect or any other.

But as most of us are just partially or not at all lakottara people, we may feel hard to do that. But at least we can behave thinking about the consequences what will be happened if we get into a counter argument/fight etc. So at least we should be able to understand that the best way to bear it is the silence and make that person convince, not to be get tempered.

  • I was thinking of writing an answer to my own question, but it never occurred to me that this can be seen in two different levels. Is the English meaning of the two words 'laukika' & 'lokottara', Mundane amd Supra-mundane? Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 0:44
  • @SapthaVisuddhi the English words you used have partially correct meaning, yet more Christianity oriented. But actually I don't know whether they are the standard words that are being used. In simple words, Laukika -> the more social aspects, we don't think much about nirwana, what we are trying to do is making our social life successful. Lokottara-> the more spiritual aspects, we are not going to measure any of our social success/recognition etc. we are trying to understand that the most supreme bless in the world is 'nirwana', so we are trying to achieve it by removing tanha (the only path) Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 3:18
  • I am very good in my sinhala. English is my second language. I read and listen to Dhamma sermons of Kiribathgoda Gnanananda Thero and the Mahamevnawa monks. They are all in Sinhala. I only wish that someone someday will translate them into English. I understand Dhamma a lot better in sinhala. Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 3:23
  • @SapthaVisuddhi Is Sinhala your 1st language? Anyway yes. I'm also pretty much happy, but one problem is most English words (especially religious) have been created based on Christianity. We cannot use them directly for Buddhist content. Ex: Supra-mundane -> means much about heaven. But as Buddhist we are into nirwana, not heaven. Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 3:28
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    there's even more elevated aspect in the reaction to unpleasant and mean behavior of other people, that is to not just ignore it, but experience metta towards them despite their demeanor, namely to react in an opposite way as is customary for a worldling Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 10:48

Notice that when you are reacting to something you are always assuming a self. An ego. So this could be a reaction to anything from the outside, not just insults. For example, if someone praises me, I notice my feeling easier and happier. Some sort of pride rises within. It could be described as stroking the ego. Same way with negative emotions, that is, when something goes against the ego, it will react badly. I somehow find it inescapable. But I found that if I simply let go and not bother with that insult for that moment, after 5 minutes, I am fine. And after 2 hours if I remind myself of my ignoring reaction, I feel better.

In conclusion, it is mostly from the base of self, a mind concocted notion, that we act. Of course this applies to normal people. Enlightened people, I do not know.

  • If we could only see the error in our thinking about the ego and understand its harmful effects, we would let go of many of the problems that we face. Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 3:46

There are basically two ways to aproach everything. Two approaches to truth.

Someone could answer this question and say, "If someone insults you then do X"

I will try to answer more like, "Do X, so that if someone insults you then you will know how to do what is appropriate".

Know that ultimately, you cant be insulted. Know that conceptually you can be insulted.

As I stated above, know that there are two ways of approaching reality.

Learn the two approaches to right view. Practice to learn loving kindness and acceptance. Practice to learn Patience. Practice to learn compassion. Practice to learn the entire eightfold path. Practice mindfulness.

If one is mindful then one is basically seeing one's own experiencial happenings as they happen, moment by moment.

Doing this, one see's beyond conceptual reality to what is fundamentally real.

This is seeing things as they are.

Seeing things as they are will gradually destroy the delusion that there is a fundamental soul somewhere inside. The less delusion the more virtue, wisdom and ability to make the most appropriate decisions.

So, the Buddha was able to do what was appropriate because of his previous works using both conceptual and ultimate approaches to problem solving.
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    Your reply reminds me of The Parable of the Second Arrow in which it is said that the second arrow is a choice and not a necessity.
    – user17652
    Commented Jan 13, 2021 at 18:58

In such situation there are different objects to note, e.g. "hearing, seeing, feeling or thinking".

Ultimately, all conditioned physical and mental phenomena are empty and ownerless. An insult can be a gift of Dhamma since it can show us our attachment to self and where we need to work.

One can use the above objects to cultivate insights into the 3 characteristics.

Following the Noble Eightfold Path and keeping Right View and Right Intention would be enough to start the day of a place of happiness.

  • When the Blessed One looked at Margandiya & her father and said “Brahmin, what have you seen in this body filled with urine and excrement. So, what would I want with this. I wouldn’t want to touch it even with my foot”. This statement opened up the eyes of the parents to the truth. Margandiya took offence on the insult to her body and tried to take revenge, and hence was reborn in hell. Had she tried to find what the Buddha’s message was, she would have been free today. Commented Jun 18, 2016 at 22:23

Buddhists are supposed to be tolerate all things that are insensitive and even insulting of Buddhist sensibilities. @Supun in his answer has said to just ignore. It is true as insulting them back only transfers their problem to you. This person was probably having a bad day and took it out on you for some reason. If you reciprocate it can have negative consequences for both of you. Instead you can let it slide off you and not let their problem become yours. Also you can try to understand as to why would someone say something like that? Having a little empathy can make things a lot better for everyone.

Then again an insult can be a gift of Dhamma as @Lanka has said. Say if someone says to you, “You can’t do anything right! Why can’t you be like _ ?” This is comparing two people. People are different, with different ways of doing things, different strengths and weaknesses, different human characteristics. So from a comment like this everyone loses, as it is the opposite of celebrating our differences. At a time like this a good grasp of Dhamma helps, as the tendency to lash out, defame and belittle is an aspect of conceit.

Take for example the practice of spreading of loving-kindness properly – loving-kindness is a practical thing. If we can live without humiliating others when they disgrace us and if we can live without insulting others when they insult us, then that is true loving-kindness.


First off, you have to realize selflessness.

Selflessness is the entry-way to great understanding, and it is what sets us free from birth in the lower realms.

Consider that your name or your label, whatever you could connect as an "identity" no longer points to You. Then, one can be patient.

There is a lot of depth to the story: the good qualities of patience are amazing. The essential truth, as I have learned from writings by Tai Situ Rinpoche, are that circumstances arise based on karmic fruition and so being able to be patient makes what would otherwise be a recurring fruition into and empty husk. It's almost like a bee that would be stinging you forever says "hey, if I sting you just this once, the causes for me to sting you again cannot arise if you maintain your patience with the situation"

However, patience is not simply waiting or stewing. It is an openness, an acceptance that is dynamic. Something that lets many aspects breathe. All is transitioning and when we command identity, we are freezing flowing water.

Thus, depersonalize who is being attacked when you feel attacked.

Then, know that the situation itself is transformation. The acceptance of what is as a clear recurrence-representation of reality is what lets the future fruitioning agent expire into an empty husk.

Rejoice, for patience is what lets us see that we learn patience with ourselves when we can admire the expression of nature through other peoples' experience.

There is sometimes scrubbing that must happen in order to clear up stains, in general consider such situations as valuable and see them as enlightened. Then, you can reap the benefits of having being patient fully.

Adjust your intentions (for the limitless benefit of the innumerable sentient beings in the six realms) and take plenty of time to reach stability in meditative practice.

True natural balance comes from true natural harmony. When we see life as teaching, impermanence as teacher, transition as change, we can finally begin to relax into the space that accommodates all life's situations.

From the expanse of creativity and openness, one can resign the normal atmosphere of control and extension, and be attuned with what is simply manifesting.

  • A good answer.. @sova... the quality of patience is for learning how to stick with something even through frustration, even through difficulty. One can never loose if one cultivates this one quality. Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 23:38

Excellent question!

There are a few ways to detach yourself from someone insulting you that I tend to use.

The first would be practicing something along the lines of ignorance is bliss in which you simply ignore - like water off a ducks back as they say. Your best friends are using your peripheral vision and assessing inside you are not emotionally affected by the remarks.

  • Your peripherals are helpful by you looking 'through' them if they are demanding your attention by standing front on. This can be practiced by directly looking at one thing (in this case the person) and paying attention to everything but them - look for colours and things you appreciate. This encourages selective association which means you chose what you are paying attention to.
  • Assessing inside means you becoming comfortable with the fact that you are learning, you are growing and your actions and responses will continue to cultivate how you treat others in the future. Acknowledging strengths and short comings is an important step to not being affected by the opinions of others. Insults tend to be directed at things we are already self-conscious of, so when someone takes a stab at you it would feel twice as bad because you are already thinking the same thing and possibly ashamed it is being all laid bare.

The second method that I have made use of is simply not associating with individuals who are a negative impact on the environment - which in some cases is not easily done.

People sometimes are not aware they are bullying others and if they are; they themselves are copying behaviour they have been subject to. If they don't know their actions are horrible, notifying them is an important lesson for you and for them. If they know what they are doing and chose to continue to do so, they are limiting themselves, which is very sad. That energy they spend on hurting others will shape their personality in the future, maybe even stick and no one likes a bully.

Cultivate in harmony

  • A very good answer @Beau. D. I see that you have the necessary aptitude to see the pristinely pure Dhamma that only a few have grasped in the present day. You and I living at a time that the True Dhamma that was hidden for over 1800 years has come to light. Do not be satisfied this this answer, Then one day you will come across the true wisdom of the Buddha that is four fold. The 4 terms sandessehi, sammadapeti, sammuccedeti and sampahanseti are it. With this knowledge you will cultivate a state of mental lightness and quietude that you will be truly forgiving of that other person. Commented Jan 13, 2021 at 20:43
  • Thank you Saptha Visuddhi! Your answer is incredibly insightful too, especially when explaining compassion is necessary for cultivating past something as small as a passing comment. It had come to my attention a contributing influence on suffering is the integrity of an individual's perception, so the best education for perception is advice for those who are looking for it. Every answer is an assistance; a perspective on how to breach a bottleneck in someone's cultivation. Even if one answer may not match one individual, it may fit another asking the same question. Keep doing you brother.
    – Beau. D
    Commented Jan 14, 2021 at 3:43

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