One of the more popular posts in the prior life of this blog was an updated version of the Akkosa Sutta.
“One day Buddha was walking through a village. A very angry and rude young man came up and began insulting him.
“You have no right teaching others,” he shouted. “You are as stupid as everyone else. You are nothing but a fake.”
Buddha was not upset by these insults. Instead he asked the young man “Tell me, if you buy a gift for someone, and that person does not take it, to whom does the gift belong?”
The man was surprised to be asked such a strange question and answered, “It would belong to me, because I bought the gift.”
The Buddha smiled and said, “That is correct. And it is exactly the same with your anger. If you become angry with me and I do not get insulted, then the anger falls back on you. You are then the only one who becomes unhappy, not me. All you have done is hurt yourself.
“If you want to stop hurting yourself, you must get rid of your anger and become loving instead. When you hate others, you yourself become unhappy. But when you love others, everyone is happy.”
The young man listened closely to these wise words of the Buddha. “You are right, o Blessed One,” he said.
“Please teach me the path of love. I wish to become your follower.”
The Buddha answered kindly, “Of course. I teach anyone who truly wants to learn. Come with me.”
This sort of composure and wisdom is available to each of us, but it takes some training: conscientiously keeping the mind calm, saying nothing evil in return, feeling compassion for our aggressor’s welfare, and beginning with him/her, generating a sincere, heartfelt loving kindness that we continue to spread to all beings. This is not particularly easy, but neither was the training to close the gap between intention and knee-jerk response that we now believe to be automatic and out of our control.