Samyukta Āgama (2) 39
Sakka is patient in the face of insult
Thus have I heard, once, the Buddha was staying at Sāvatthī in the Jeta Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s Park.
At that time the World-honored One told the monks: “A long time ago, Sakka Devānaṃ Inda was about to do battle with the asuras. When everything had been readied, he addressed the gods: “If we gods should attain victory, we will bind the king of the asuras with five bonds, and bring him to our palace.” The asura king also addressed his host: “If we win, we also will bind Sakka Devānaṃ Inda with five bonds and bring him to the asura palace.”
At that time, the gods won, and they bound Vepacitti with five bonds and brought him to their palace. When Vepacitti saw Sakka, he became angry and insulted him, using extremely foul language. When Sakka heard these insults, he stayed silent, did not react. His charioteer Mātali addressed him with a verse:
“Sakka! Husband of Sujā! Maghavā! /
Are you afraid? Are you weak?
Vepacitti insults you to your face: /
how can you suffer this foul language?”
And Sakka answered with a verse:
“I let patience arise not because I am afraid /
neither is it that I am weak
And therefore suffer Vepacitti’s insults /
By my own superior wisdom I have practiced patience.
The foolish person, being of shallow knowledge, lacking wisdom, /
constantly argues, quarreling without end.
If I use force to control him, /
then I am not different from this fool.”
Again the charioteer said:
“If one loosens the bonds of the naïve and foolish /
they will just go on and on.
They are like a cow walking behind /
that suddenly tries to stampede over those in front of it
A firm one will forcefully /
restrain the foolish.”
Again Sakka spoke in verse:
“I find that for restraining the foolish /
there is nothing better than patient silence.
When someone has intense hatred and anger /
he is best restrained by patience alone.
What the foolish call strength /
is really lack of strength.
The foolish do not distinguish between good and bad; /
they have no way to restrain themselves.
If I can find the courage in me /
to patiently endure the foolish and inferior,
then this is called ‘foremost patience,’ /
and ‘skill in patience.’
A weak person when facing someone strong /
cannot but practice patience:
this is called ‘timid patience,’ /
it is not true patience.
Those with great strength have the freedom /
to counter those who insult them
with silence, not reacting: /
this is called ‘supreme patience.’
Weakness is afraid of power /
it is silent because it cannot react.
This is called ‘fear,’ /
not ‘practicing patience.’
The naïve and foolish, those without wisdom /
afflict others by harming them.
Seeing the other’s silent patience /
they believe they are victorious.
A wise and saintly person /
knows that patience is victorious.
Thus, among the saintly /
the meritorious power of patience is always praised.
Not only for oneself but also for the other, /
one does away with hindrances and fears.
Seeing the other full of hatred and anger, /
yet being able to practice silent patience,
the other’s hatred will vanish naturally, /
no need for the power of knife and cudgel.
For the great benefit of both, /
benefiting oneself and benefiting others.
What the foolish deem patience out of fear /
is praised by the wise and saintly.
We are patient with those superior to us /
because we are afraid of being harmed.
Also when struggling with equals /
one is patient because one fears harm.
The ability to be patient with those inferior to us /
is the highest form of patience.”
The Buddha told the monks: “If Sakka in the heaven of the thirty-three, freely exercising his rulership, can practice and praise patience, how much more should you, monks, who have disfigured yourselves by shaving off your hair and entered the teaching, how much more should you practice and praise patience! Practicing and praising patience is the way of those who have gone forth into homelessness.
When the Buddha had finished, the monks, having listened to what he had said, were happy and remembered it well.