Below is one of the verses from the "Eight Verses for Training the Mind" by Geshe Langri Tangpa

Whenever others, because of their jealousy, treat me badly with abuse, insult, slander, or in other unjust ways, may I accept this defeat myself and offer the victory to others.

When I read about the Bodhisattva path, I always come across teachings such as the above, which seem to espouse 'accepting defeat' as the highest virtue & a way to cultivate spiritually.

Perhaps I am missing some context, but teachings like these seem to me like they are promoting unhealthy codependent relationships with an abuser; which ultimately benefits no one. When one accepts defeat & offers victory to the abuser, doesn't this further encourage the abuser to continue his abusive tendencies, thereby worsening their own karma? It would seem to me that the compassionate thing to do would not be to 'accept defeat' but to 'stand up in instances of injustice'; not in the way of revenge or eye-for-an-eye, but in a skillful way that protects others from the abuser's actions?

'Accepting defeat' seems like a way of dismissing the situation or worse still, trying to gain power by declaring a moral victory over the abuser ("look at me, I am so kind and compassionate, I am willing to forgive you and accept defeat!"). The abuser will continue projecting his hurt on another victim & doesn't learn in the end.

  • It reminds me of something a Young Quaker (i.e. a Pacifist) once said to me -- "I'll discuss anything with anyone; but if it turns into an argument I'll say 'You're right.", and walk away".
    – ChrisW
    Jul 17, 2022 at 4:38

4 Answers 4


It appears that this phrasing in particular is specific to Geshe Langri Tangpa. A google search yields some interesting results, but maybe you have read them.

I think that here, as is often the case, the teaching is abstracted into common terms like "defeat" and "victory" because the author considered them analogous. I believe the intended behaviour the quote in question is referring to is equanimity and not giving in to aggression. We do not consider the harmful actions of others to be good, but we do not give in to retaliation or to becoming upset over it because we can control our own behaviour.

I don't, however, think that the intended meaning is to ignore the harm but only to accept it as done. One can still, as in your example, take action to distance oneself from an abusive situation (though this can be hard at times). In practical terms one should absolutely take action to avoid further abuse if one is in an abusive situation.

Most situation one comes across where one is treated unfairly are (thankfully) less serious than an abusive relationship, and there it is easier to "turn the other cheek". Hope I got at your question somewhat.


This is a mind training. The idea isn't to become timid or somehow start believing that somehow you truly deserve the abuse or that your abuser is doing nothing wrong by abusing you. Emphatically not!

No, the idea here is to refrain from doing what most of us habitually do in such a situation - lash back with self-righteous anger, swear at fate for giving us this unfair circumstance, pity ourselves for having to endure such abuse, bemoan existence for putting this abusive person in our path, etc.,.

In fact, the training is not only to refrain from doing those above non-virtuous actions and or cultivating such harmful minds, but rather to cultivate virtuous minds like forgiveness, compassion, patience and so forth - to take the opportunity of our abuse to plant a seed of virtue!

The virtuous mind understands the abuser and the abuse are just that: bad and unjust. However, instead of reacting in ways that would harm all parties involved the training encourages us to react with generosity and forgiveness. Who knows! such generosity and forgiveness can (sometimes) have powerful effects upon the abuser as well. They might feel regret for what they've done which could be the first step in them not doing it again.

BTW, this thought training does not entail trying to provoke the abuse or to 'just take it.' By all means if someone is abusing you and you can remove yourself from the abuse without causing harm or engaging in those non-virtuous minds, then by all means you should! In fact, that best thing to do for the abuser as well is to compassionately and proactively stop the abuse/abuser.


I have qualms about passages like this, if only because they are easy to misinterpret. The idea is sound enough for those who grasp it, but...

The principle here is similar to the concept of civil disobedience or passive resistance used by Thoreau and Gandhi (respectively): one causes the aggressor to defeat himself, by making the aggressor see himself as a beast attacking an unresisting human. In Buddhist terms this starts with two recognitions:

  • That conflict is always one egoic self attacking another egoic self, and...
  • That an attacking egoic self desperately wants to call out a counterattack from the defending egoic self, because that counterattack justifies and validates the original attack.

This is all very much a karmic pattern: the ego using conflict to magnify its own self-importance and sense of place in the world.

The dharmic approach to the issue is to allow the attacking egoic self to defeat one's own egoic self. Part of the Buddhist understanding is that the egoic self isn't 'real,' so allowing it to be defeated doesn't hurt us in any 'real' way. In fact, allowing the conflict to dwindle without giving any egoic response allows our true nature to stand forth, and forces the attacker to stumble and jump back, the same way he would if he threw a punch only to discover that the thing he tried to punch was a ghost, and his fist passed right through it. Without an egoic response his own egoic action suddenly looks febrile and deluded.

The difficult part of this is finding the correct posture of non-reaction. Flinching, cowering, or surrendering are just as egoic as attacking back; they reflect an acceptance that the attack has the potential to damage something 'real.' Releasing the defeat of the egoic self as a matter of no consequence takes a good deal of presence and a solid practice. But we all start where we are, and reflecting on the issue can help mediate such conflicts even if one can't fully reach the goal.


To walk on and leave (in gratitude, with appreciation and understanding! other wouldn't work), with metta [common people call such defeated, release], doesn't require any relation any more, so why worry about unhealthy relations here? It's of course unhealthy to maintain harmful relations and at least, even pleasing relations are harmful as well so the Sublime Buddha goes even a step further then the Pathfinder-sectarians with 'brutal' metta over all (as means to be able to leave, having given all), free released.

Truly, it would be, is actually, foolish to even desire (in any case, again and again harmful) relation with all thinking to be required or able to take all with him... isn't one bond, depending on relation (aside of such leading out), nourishing it, not actually a loser, defeated by craving, again and again?

As for good householders ideas on compassion and justice, good to gain the side of wisdom here.

May he be able to take this de-feat(non-feed of defilements) here and turn toward peace and secure.

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