One day the Buddha was giving a lecture to all the monks at Jeta Grove, Sravasti. He said that long ago the Heavenly God Indra and his host of devas waged a battle against the Asuras. One day Indra said to the King of the Asuras, “Today let us not count the victor by the amount of bloodshed. Why don’t we decide the winner by holding a debate?” In response, the King of the Asuras said, “Certainly, but who will be the judge?” Indra said, “Of the devas and of the Asuras there are beings of great wisdom and eloquence. Let us have them decide who should be victorious.” Then the King of the Asuras replied, “You may speak first.” Instead of speaking first, however, the Heavenly King humbly said, “I could speak first, but as you are the previous king of the firmament, you should have precedence. Please speak first.”
The King of the Asuras said, “A foolish person puts up with insults because of fear, and yet prides himself in believing his tolerance makes him superior to the aggressor.” Indra rejoined, “Even though a foolish person puts up with insults because of fear, being tolerant actually brings us the greatest benefits. The virtue of tolerance outweighs all the fame and fortune in the world.”
The King of the Asuras then said, “Lacking wisdom, foolish people need to be forced to do right. They are just like lazy cows that need to be prodded along by the horns of more vigorous cows breathing down their necks from behind. Hence, the best way to control the foolish is by whips and spurs.” The Heavenly King countered, “I think to control the foolish, forbearance is the best way. When confronted by an agitated person, if one can wait in peace and silence, their fury will die down naturally. A person without hatred or vexations is a saint or the disciple of a saint. This is the kind of person that we should draw close to. A person whose mind is loaded with great anger and therefore gets angry easily will encounter obstacles as high as a mountain. On the other hand, if one can control one’s anger as soon as it arises, like taming a wild horse with a harness, then one will have done a good deed.”
The devas and asuras who acted as judges for the debate thought that the arguments of King of the Asuras were based on the use of conflict and force, whereas Indra advocated putting arguments and competitions to rest with a mind free of anger and malice. In consequence, all of the judges awarded Indra the victory.
The Buddha told the monks, “Indra is freest of care in the heavens because he always practices tolerance and also praises the ways of tolerance. Likewise, if you can practice and praise tolerance, then you are truly leaving the home life.” After they heard the Buddha’s talk, all of the monks felt blessed and pledged to abide by the Buddha’s teachings.
The Sutra of the Deathbed Injunction says, “The virtue of tolerance exceeds the virtue of upholding the precepts and practicing austerities. One who practices tolerance can be called a strong great man. If one cannot gladly tolerate the poison of being harshly insulted as if drinking honey, then one cannot be called a wise person who has realized the Way.”
All the Buddhas and Boddhisattvas practice and praise tolerance. In daily life, whether met with praise or ridicule, slander or approval, gain or loss, or pain or joy, if one stays patient and unmoved, all obstacles will fade away, and good relationships and successful undertakings will naturally follow.