(Alvin’s Note: Our dear fellow Life Coach, and passionate personal development extraordinaire, Paiboon Busayarak, has embarked on a 3 month initiation into Buddhist monkhood in his native Thailand. He just sent me this post via email to share the insights he’s gleaming from this unique experience. The words are his, the grammar tweaking is mine 😉 Enjoy!)
Other people will sometimes get angry with you, even your loved ones. It happens to all of us. Some people even got angry with the Buddha!
So what can you do when you are on the receiving end of someone else’s anger? The answer can be found in the following story:
Many years ago, a husband was enjoying an afternoon at home. His wife was busy preparing the dinner when she realized that she was short of eggs.
“Darling”, she asked, “would you mind going to the market and buying some eggs for me?”
“Sure, sweetheart”, he happily replied.
The husband had never been to the market before. So his wife gave him some money, a basket, and the directions to the eggs stall in the middle of the market. It wasn’t far.
When the husband entered the market, a young man came right up to him and shouted loudly “Hello, Camel-Face!”
“What!”, replied the startled husband, “I don’t even know you! Who are you calling ‘Camel-Face’?”
But that only encouraged the young man who started abusing the husband even more aggressively, “Hey! Bad breath! Ya, pile of dog pooh…!”
Worst of all, the husband was being yelled at in public, in the middle of the market, and he hadn’t done anything! He turned around and walked out of the market as fast as he could.
“You’re home early”, remarked his busy wife on his return, “did you get the eggs?”
“No!,” huffed her husband, “and don’t send me to that uncivilized, obnoxious, unwelcoming toilet hole of a market ever again!”
Now, the secret of a lasting marriage is to know how to smooth the ruffled feathers of your partner when they have had a nasty experience. So his wife comforted and caressed him until the thermometer inside his heart registered a safer temperature. Then she softly asked him what the young man looked like.
Her husband screwed up his face and, between bouts of spitting indignation, gave a description of the young man.
“Oh, him!”, said his wife knowingly. “He does the same to everyone. You see, when he was small, he fell over and hit his head. He suffered permanent brain damage and has been crazy ever since. Poor fellow, he could not go to school, he was unable to play with friends of his own age, he cannot find a job, and he will never marry a nice girl and have a family. The unfortunate man is mad. He shouts abuse at anyone and everyone, but don’t take it personally. The poor boy’s insane”
After her husband heard that, his own indignation completely melted away. Now he too felt compassion for the young man. So she asked him, “Dear husband, I still need those eggs. Would you mind…?”
“Sure, sweetheart”, said her husband, and he returned to the marketplace.
The young man saw him coming and shouted out, “look who’s coming, Old Camel-Face! Hold your noses, everyone, a pile of dog pooh on legs has just oozed into our market….!”
This time, the husband wasn’t annoyed. He walked straight to the egg stall with the young man following him, hurling many an insult.
“Don’t mind him”, said the lady selling the eggs, “he does this to everyone. He’s crazy, he had an accident when he was young.”
“Yes, I know. Poor boy”, said the husband, with compassion, as he paid for the eggs.
The young man followed the husband to the edge of the market, shouting ever louder obscenities at him. But it never made the husband upset. The young man was mad.
When you understand this story, then the next time that your partner starts to scold you, or call you terrible names, then just assume that they must have hit their head in the past and become crazy! Because, in Buddhism, getting angry at others and insulting them is called ‘temporary insanity’!
So, when you realize that the person getting angry at you is temporarily insane, then you are able to respond with equanimity and compassion.