A parable of practical advice for responding to attack

Leigh Wells
Leigh Wells


IN THE SAKKA CHAPTER of the Samyutta Nikaya (11.4), the Buddha teaches, as he often did, by means of a parable, and this one remains as relevant today as it was in ancient India. The story addresses the issue of what a strong person is to do if insulted, attacked, or otherwise provoked by someone weaker. It could, however, just as easily pertain to how a mighty nation might respond to the provocations of a smaller nation or the threats of a criminal.

The Buddha tells of a great battle set in mythological time between the gods and the demons. In the end, the demons were defeated and their leader, Vepacitti, was bound by his four limbs and neck and brought before Sakka, lord of the gods. There, we are told, Vepacitti “abused and reviled [Sakka] with rude, harsh words.” (The commentary elaborates upon these insults, and this makes for some very entertaining reading.) Yet Sakka remained calm, regarding his prisoner with mindful compassion. Sakka’s charioteer Matali was puzzled by this response, and a poetic debate ensued. Let’s listen in:

Matali: Could it be you’re afraid, Sakka, Or weak, that you forebear like this, Though hearing such insulting words From the mouth of Vepacitti?

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