The Ultimate Challenge

"After several hours during which the Buddha received the onslaught in silent peace, a light began to dawn on the abusers.  They ceased their abuse and several fell humbly at the Buddha's feet begging his forgiveness. But tell us, they asked, How is it possible that you just sat there for so long without defending yourself, without fighting back, without saying one word?

The Buddha responded as follows:  My dear, if I send you a package but you refuse to receive it from the postmaster's hands, to whom does the package belong?  The villagers agreed that the package would still belong to the sender if it was not accepted or received.   In the same way the Buddha continued if I do not accept the words you speak, if I do not receive them, then they do not belong to me. They still belong to you. You may speak whatever you wish. However, your words have not been accepted or received by me. Therefore, why should they affect me at all?  This abuse does not belong to me, it belongs to you."   (excerpt from the book "Peace" by Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji)

I loved this story. I'm going to put this one in my parenting handbook.  It's a story I know I'll be telling my children when they get their feelings hurt because of something someone said to them.  How many times do we let the words of others effect us?   We don't have to accept them.  How do like that?  I never even thought to refuse that package.  Who knew that was even an option??  Why aren't we teaching our children this important message?

The story reminds us of the importance of equanimity.  The ULTIMATE CHALLENGE!  How do we remain in a state of peace in the midst of chaos?  In the midst of drama?  I don't know.  I'm afraid this is one that I struggle with.  I am affected by my external circumstances.  I wish that I wasn't but I am.   I think the difference for me now, is that I recognize when it's happening and I can come back to a state of peace a bit more quickly than before.  Before yoga and meditation became weaved into the fabric of my life.   For that I'm grateful.

I'm not going to lie,  It's not easy to sit peacefully while someone is being mean or hurtful.  So let's put our heads together and try to come up with a practical application of this story.  What do you think the Buddha was thinking about while the villagers were yelling nasty things to him and spitting at him?  My guess would be that he was meditating.  That's the only way I could imagine that someone could retain a peaceful state under those conditions.   I don't know about you but I don't think I could meditate in that situation but I could use a mantra.  Repeating the mantra internally would give us a focal point within ourselves so that we'd be less likely to re-act.  If we don't re-act we aren't adding fuel to the fire (so to speak).  When are minds are focused and calm we are closer to reaching that state of peace that we are all looking for.  Try it the next time you find yourself in a challenging situation. 

** Here's a tip:  If your mind is racing at a hundred miles an hour use a longer, more complex mantra -- if you're using a one or two syllable mantra the clever mind of yours will be able to think and repeat the mantra at the same time. **   (I use the word mantra but if you're more comfortable with prayer - memorize a prayer and use that)

I'd really love to hear from you.  Tell me how you maintain a state of peace in the midst of challenging external circumstances. 

This story was so much better than telling your kids  "Sticks and Stones may break your bones but words can never hurt you".   Why do parents lie to their children???  Words most definitely hurt -- well, if you accept them they do.


  1. Nice.
    Something we all struggle with I believe.
    I have not been good at dealing with hurtful words. I tend to accept them as a true reflection of who I am, blame myself for the words hurled by others. Getting better at distancing myself from them a bit.
    I think it all comes down to love, loving myself and even loving the folks who hurl the words. What else are you gonna do? Return hurt for hurt? What does that do? The words are being said by folks who are in pain, else they wouldn't do it, right?
    How do you love yourself?
    I guess you just do, dunno.
    To maintain equanimity, I tend to breath, feel my breath go in my nostrils and down my throat, a conscious breath whenever I think of it. I think it works but how do I measure its effect? Dunno the answer to that one either. It's just a faith thing I guess as so much of what we do is, a question of faith.

  2. Eknath Eswaran says you know you're progressing in your meditation if you can be more loving when before you were more angry, when you can be more forgiving when before you were more resentful, when you can be more patient when before you were less patient, etc... That's progress, that's how you measure your equanimity. In my humble opinion.


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