How will you respond when someone tries to provoke you with insulting words?
If someone would provoke me, I would generally lash back with harsh words, even if the insult was for my betterment. I may not react immediately, may be sometime in the future.
Great devotees like Prahlada Maharaja, Dhruva Maharaja and Saint Tukarama bore all the insults inflicted upon them, knowing that these harsh words could actually do no harm to them. Every time I hear about them, I make up my mind, “Yes, from now onwards, I will hold my propensity to answer back. But at the spur of the moment, I don’t know what comes over me and I fail miserably. The volatile tongue and the tricky brain become best friends and make me utter words that are demeaning and shocking, thereby making me lose the battle I had set out for. I hope and pray that I overcome this tendency some day.
After reading this question, how much I feel that I had the saintly virtues taught by Lord Buddha. Buddha explains how to handle insult and maintain compassion with a wonderful example. “If someone offers you a gift and you do not take it, then the person becomes angry. Similarly, if someone pours insulting words on you and you don’t accept them, then those words go back to the person who sent them. He may instead become angry, thus he may realize his mistake as well.” Even Lord Krishna tolerated one hundred insults of Sisupala in the Rajasuya assembly. Despite having such wonderful examples before me, I still remember the times when I easily get angry or upset when somebody provokes me with insulting words. But ever since I started chanting Hare Krishna and began associating with devotees, this tendency has considerably reduced.
I usually end up retaliating when someone provokes me. Such situations are always disturbing, and I calm down only after I hear a class on controlling speech and the dangers of offending Vaishnavas. Every time I encounter such a situation, devotees help me overcome them. One solution that has helped me the most is praying to the Deities. I pray to Them to give me tolerance and humility. It may not have changed anything situational but it has changed something in my heart. Now I have made it a practice to pray whenever I am in front of Lordships. As it is rightly said, “Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.”
As I wait at the signal to cross the road, a car comes by and speeds past a pool of muddy rainwater. The water comes splashing at me, and my spotless cotton sari is beyond recognition. My mind reels in anger; I feel like hurling abusive words at the driver, but I somehow control myself. These words come to me unplanned, like the muddy water. I try to ignore them because they disturb my already polluted mind. All I can do is pray to Krishna. And fight back. With every new rainy day, I shall thank Krishna for helping me cross the road fearlessly.
(Kalyani Ajrekar, Mumbai)
When provoked with insulting words, I try to recall philosophical teachings and scriptural passages to help deal with the situation. Bhakti Tirtha Swami says that keeping a grudge against someone is like holding a burning charcoal in our hand; the charcoal will harm us before it can harm someone else. The Srimad-Bhagavatam describes the devotees of the Lord as forbearing; they never take revenge against anyone. Srila Prabhupada also said, “Do not be angry at the instrument of your karma.”