04 June 2023

Respond to insults in line with the Akkosa Sutra

The Brahmin Akkosa Bharadvaja angered that a member of the Bharadvaja clan had taken refuge in the Buddha Dhamma is said to have gone forth to meet the Buddha and had thereafter proceeded to curse and insult him.

Now it is not hard to understand the Brahmin’s agitation. He may have felt betrayed by his clansman. He may have felt that the Buddha had enticed his clansman away from the clan and therefore felt he had been wronged by the Buddha.

Not all insults and curses are wrought in the fires of self-righteousness. Some are crafted to hurt. Indeed some of the crafters are paid to do so. Some are offered training, stipends and further funds for relevant equipment by donors who are no babes in the woods when it comes to manipulating public perceptions.
We all know of the CIA. Not many know that the CIA’s subterfuge operations in countries such as Sri Lanka were at one point handed over to the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). Indeed, even the vast majority of US taxpayers, good men and women mostly, are oblivious to these policy decisions made by those they elect and executed by those whose salaries they pay. USAID’s IREX programme for example has funded and trained outfits that have, among other things, spawned ‘activists’ who have considerably enhanced profits by spewing insults at targeted religious communities.

We should not forget that faith is a tender thing and not all human beings are saints or have attained margaphala and therefore are easily offended. The Buddha however does offer a path to even the, let’s say, uninitiated, that will not engender further rancour, but could instead make for greater sensitivity and wisdom on all, including those who deliberately belittle, deliberately hurt and design programs that encourage people to target and insult simply because it is profitable to do so. 

The Buddha used an analogy. In a nutshell, the question is put to the Brahmin: ‘if you offered someone a gift and it was refused, to whom would it then belong?’ ‘To me of course,’ the learned Brahmin answered. And the Buddha offered the following observation:

‘In the same way, Brahmin, that with which you have insulted me, who is not insulting; that with which you have taunted me, who is not taunting; that with which you have berated me, who is not berating: that I don't accept from you. It's all yours, Brahmin. It's all yours.’

Conversely, if you partake of it, it is as much yours as it is the giver’s. Respond to insult with insult and you are not more virtuous than the person who fired the first insult, whether or not the insult was spurred by the need for profit, at someone’s bidding, sheer malice or outright ignorance. You would be as ignorant and as malicious.

A doctrine is not undone by insult or by attacking those who follow it or identify with it. It is not undone by those who in the name of the doctrine violates its tenets. The taunting, the berating, the insults: they belong in the end to the taunter, the vilifier, the insulter. The Dhamma is untouched because it is untouchable.

An enlightened individual will not be perturbed by insult or curse. Someone who insults someone else with the intention to hurt, belittle and vilify is no prophet and is best responded to with silence. Equanimity. That’s a virtue which is one of the four brahma viharanas that the Buddha advocated. This is what underlies the Akkosa Sutra or the reflections offered to the Brahmin Akkosa Bharadvaja.

['The Morning Inspection' is the title of a column I wrote for the Daily News from 2009 to 2011, one article a day, Monday through Saturday. This is a new series. Links to previous articles in this new series are given below]

Other articles in this series:

The loves of our lives

The right time, the right person

The silent equivalent of a thousand words

Crazy cousins are besties for life

Unities, free and endearing

Free verse and the return key

"Sorry, Earth!"

The lost lyrics of Premakeerthi de Alwis

The revolution is the song

Consolation prizes in competitions no one ever wins

The day I won a Pulitzer


Ella Deloria's silences

Blackness, whiteness and black-whiteness

Inscriptions: stubborn and erasable 


Deveni: a priceless one-word koan

Enlightening geometries

Let's meet at 'The Commons'

It all begins with a dot

Recovering run-on lines and lost punctuation

'Wetness' is not the preserve of the Dry Zone

On sweeping close to one's feet

Kumkum Fernando installs Sri Lanka in Coachella, California

To be an island like the Roberts...

Debts that can never be repaid in full

An island which no flood can overwhelm

Who really wrote 'Mother'?

A melody faint and yet not beyond hearing

Heart dances that cannot be choreographed

Remembering to forget and forgetting to remember

On loving, always

Authors are assassinated, readers are immortal

When you turn 80...

It is good to be conscious of nudities 

Saturday slides in after Monday and Sunday somersaults into Friday 

There's a one in a million and a one in ten

Gunadasa Kapuge is calling

Kumkum Fernando installs Sri Lanka in Coachella, California

Hemantha Gunawardena's signature

Pathways missed

Architectures of the demolished

The exotic lunacy of parting gifts

Who the heck do you think I am?

Those fascinating 'Chitra Katha'

The Mangala Sabhava

So how are things in Sri Lanka?

The most beautiful father

Palmam qui meruit ferat

The sweetest three-letter poem

Buddhangala Kamatahan

An Irish and Sri Lankan Hello

Teams, team-thinking, team-spirit and leadership

The songs we could sing in lifeboats when we are shipwrecked

Pure-Rathna, a class act

Jekhan Aruliah set a ball rolling in Jaffna

Awaiting arrivals unlike any other

Teachers and students sometimes reverse roles

Matters of honor and dignity

Yet another Mother's Day

A cockroach named 'Don't'

Colombo, Colombo, Colombo and so forth

The slowest road to Kumarigama, Ampara

Sweeping the clutter away

Some play music, others listen

Completing unfinished texts

Mind and hearts, loquacious and taciturn

I am at Jaga Food, where are you?

On separating the missing from the disappeared

Moments without tenses

And intangible republics will save the day (as they always have)

The world is made of waves


The circuitous logic of Tony Muller

Rohana Kalyanaratne, an unforgettable 'Loku Aiya'

Mowgli, the Greatest Archaeologist

Figures and disfigurement, rocks and roses

Sujith Rathnayake and incarcerations imposed and embraced

Some stories are written on the covers themselves

A poetic enclave in the Republic of Literature

Landcapes of gone-time and going-time 

The best insurance against the loud and repeated lie

So what if the best flutes will not go to the best flautists?

There's dust and words awaiting us at crossroads and crosswords

The books of disquiet

A song of terraced paddy fields

Of ants, bridges and possibilities

From A through Aardvark to Zyzzyva 

World's End

Words, their potency, appropriation and abuse

Street corner stories

Who did not listen, who's not listening still?

The book of layering

If you remember Kobe, visit GOAT Mountain

The world is made for re-colouring

The gift and yoke of bastardy

The 'English Smile'

No 27, Dickman's Road, Colombo 5

Visual cartographers and cartography

Ithaca from a long ago and right now

Lessons written in invisible ink

The amazing quality of 'equal-kindness'

A tea-maker story seldom told

On academic activism

The interchangeability of light and darkness

Back to TRADITIONAL rice

Sisterhood: moments, just moments

Chess is my life and perhaps your too

Reflections on ownership and belonging

The integrity of Nadeesha Rajapaksha

Signatures in the seasons of love

To Maceo Martinet as he flies over rainbows

Sirith, like pirith, persist

Fragrances that will not be bottled 

Colours and textures of living heritage

Countries of the past, present and future

A degree in creative excuses

Books launched and not-yet-launched

The sunrise as viewed from sacred mountains

The ways of the lotus

Isaiah 58: 12-16 and the true meaning of grace

The age of Frederick Algernon Trotteville

Live and tell the tale as you will

Between struggle and cooperation

Of love and other intangibles

Neruda, Sekara and literary dimensions

The universe of smallness

Paul Christopher's heart of many chambers

Calmness gracefully cascades in the Dumbara Hills

Serendipitous amber rules the world

Continents of the heart