It is not unusual to find difficult people in this world. Everywhere, at work, at home, from every type of person, old, young, rich, or poor, there may stubborn, closed-minded, or easily angered people. Often they are critical of others and yourself and are difficult to communicate or deal with. First of all, there is nothing wrong with having difficult people. Even monks, nuns and the Buddha faced such people in their lives and we still do, everyone must face these types of people no matter who you are. 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.” And so with patience, wit and loving friendliness, did the Buddha teach about how we react and accept the “gift” of angry words.
If we respond to insults, gossip, angry speech in general with mindfulness and loving friendliness, we are able to with patience take a better perspective of the situation. If you respond with anger, you will not hear the message behind the words. Perhaps the person is pointing out something you need to hear. Perhaps you need to point out something they need to hear as well and it must be done with a clear heart and mind. The Buddha said:
“In a Controversy the instant we feel anger, we have already ceased striving for the truth and have begun striving for ourselves.”
The wisdom of this quote is that it shows that with anger our discussions become selfish and we are unable to express the loving friendliness helps solve life’s difficulties. The method to solve these difficulties is through patient honesty. We must not allow the difficult people to assume victory, this requires patience and the ability to explain your side of the argument through truthful and friendly disagreement. You must not change your opinion or actions in a negative way to deal with someone who is critical or angry. Do not add fuel to the fire of the argument when dealing with people who speak unwholesomely, are stubborn, who gossip, or have a quick temper. Instead speak words of wisdom and explain that the path they travel is incorrect, and that the eight fold path is a wise journey to take. Human beings are emotional creatures, the oldest instincts we have are emotional, that is why we easily are influenced by our emotions. We therefore must evolve our mind to overcome these ancient responses so that we too do not become difficult when we deal with friends, family, or strangers.
“The wise who control their body, who control their tongue, who control their mind, are indeed well controlled.”
So with those words of the Buddha I urge you to go and act well with dilligient love and friendliness so that all who know you may also be lit with the candle of kindness. As the Buddha said:
“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened, Happiness never decreases by being shared.”
With Metta, will all obstacles be overcome.
Rev G Medhankara and Lasith Witharana