Finding Happiness the Epictetus Way #6
Epictetus on dealing with insults:
‘It is not he who reviles or strikes you who insults you, but your opinion that these things are insulting’
‘If evil be spoken of you and it be true, correct yourself, if it be a lie, laugh at it.’
If anyone tells you that such a person speaks ill of you, don’t make excuses about what is said of you, but answer: ” He does not know my other faults, else he would not have mentioned only these.”
Eleanor Roosevelt has said that no one can make us feel inferior without our consent. It takes two people to insult, one to give & one to receive it, so if we simply refuse to get insulted no one can insult us even though they might say bad things about us. There’s a beautiful incident from Buddha‘s life which goes like this (As narrated by Osho):
Buddha was passing through a village. The people of that village were against him, against his philosophy, so they gathered around him to insult him. They used ugly words, vulgar words. Buddha listened. Ananda, Buddha’s disciple who was with him, got very angry, but he couldn’t say anything because Buddha was listening so silently, so patiently, rather as if he was enjoying the whole thing.
Then even the crowd became a little frustrated because he was not getting irritated and it seemed he was enjoying. Buddha said, ”Now, if you are finished, I should move – because I have to reach the other village soon. They must be waiting just as you were waiting for me. If you have not told me all the things that you thought to tell me, I will be coming back within a few days, then you can finish it.”
Somebody from the crowd said, ”But we have been insulting you, we have insulted you. Won’t you react? Won’t you say something?”
Buddha said, ”That is difficult. If you want reaction from me, then you are too late. You should have come at least ten years ago, because then I used to react. But I am now no longer so foolish. I see that you are angry, that’s why you are insulting me. I see your anger, the fire burning in your mind. I feel compassion for you. This is my response – I feel compassion for you. Unnecessarily you are troubled.
”Even if I am wrong, why should you get so irritated? That is not your business. If I am wrong I am going to hell, you will not go with me. If I am wrong I will suffer for it, you will not suffer for it. But it seems you love me so much and you think about me and consider me so much that you are so angry, irritated. You have left your work in the fields and you have come just to say a few things to me. I am thankful.”
Just when he was leaving he said, ”One thing more I would like to say to you. In the other village I left behind, a great crowd just like you had come there and they had brought many sweets just as a present for me, a gift from the village. But I told them that I don’t take sweets. They took the sweets back. I ask you, what will they do with those sweets?”
So somebody from the crowd said, ”What will they do? It is easy, there is no need to answer. They will distribute them in the village and they will enjoy.”
So Buddha said, ”Now what will you do? You have brought only insults and I say I don’t take them. What will you do? I feel so sorry for you. You can insult me, that is up to you. But I don’t take it, that is up to me – whether I take it or not.” Buddha said, ”I don’t take unnecessary things, useless things. I don’t get unnecessarily burdened. I feel compassion for you.”
Osho says if we react to insults, it’s like we have given the remote control of our happiness to other people, they can agitate us whenever they want.
‘Watch how many things you do unconsciously. Somebody says something and there is anger. There is not even a single moment’s gap. It is as if you are just a mechanism — somebody pushes a button and you lose your temper. Just as if you push the button and the fan starts moving and the light goes on. There is not a. single moment. The fan never thinks whether to move or not to move; it simple moves.
This is unconsciousness, this is mindlessness. Somebody insults and you are simply controlled by his insult.”
So if someone says something bad about it, we should think that it’s got nothing to do with us, but everything to do with their own nature. Let them behave according to their nature & let us behave according to our nature.
‘Two monks were washing their bowls in the river when they noticed a scorpion that was drowning. One monk immediately scooped it up and set it upon the bank. In the process he was stung. He went back to washing his bowl and again the scorpion fell in. The monk saved the scorpion and was again stung. The other monk asked him, “Friend, why do you continue to save the scorpion when you know it’s nature is to sting?”
“Because,” the monk replied, “to save it is my nature.”
The Best way to deal with an insult is not trying to top it up & insulting the person who insulted us in retaliation, the best way is to ignore it & go our way.
Finally it should be understood that people are bound to say one thing or another no matter what we try to do, so it’s wise to use our common sense & do what we deem the best in a given situation rather than twisting & turning trying to please them. Let them insult us but let us not make fools of ourselves in reaction to those insults. This story from Aesop’s Fables demonstrates this point wonderfully:
The Man, the Boy and the Donkey
Once a man and his son were walking to the market with their donkey. A countryman noticed that the donkey was walking alongside them and laughed, “You fools, what is a donkey for but to ride upon?!”
So the man decided to put his son on the donkey and they went on their way. A little while later they passed a group of men. One of them said, “See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides.”
The man then ordered the boy to get off, and got on himself. But they hadn’t gone far when they passed two women. One of them said to the other, “Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along.”
The man didn’t know what to do at first. He thought and thought and finally decided to put his son up in front of him on the donkey.
Soon they reached the town. There too the passers-by began to jeer and point at them. The man stopped and asked them what they were scoffing at. The people said, “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor donkey?”
The man and the boy got off. They had to think of what to do all over again. At last they had an idea. They took a long pole and tied the donkey’s feet to it. Then they raised the pole to their shoulders and carried the donkey upside down.
They went along amid the laughter of all who met them till they came to the market bridge. The donkey accidentally got one of his feet loose and kicking out, caused the boy to drop his end of the pole.
In the struggle that followed, the poor donkey, with his forelegs tied together, fell over the bridge and drowned.
- Between a Rock and a Buddha Place (nrhatch.wordpress.com)
- Finding Happiness the Epictetus way #2 (ritusthoughtcatcher.wordpress.com)
- Finding Happiness The Epictetus Way #4 (ritusthoughtcatcher.wordpress.com)
- Finding Happiness the Epictetus Way : #1 (ritusthoughtcatcher.wordpress.com)
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- Finding Happiness the Epictetus Way #5 (ritusthoughtcatcher.wordpress.com)
- Finding Happiness the Epictetus Way: #3 (ritusthoughtcatcher.wordpress.com)
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