Monday, January 27, 2014


A youngster was on his way to join the academy as a navy cadet.

He asked me for some tips and advice.

You must develop a thick skin, I said.

How does one develop a thick skin, he asked.

So, I told him this apocryphal Zen Story called The Gift of Insults:

An Apocryphal Story

Now-a-days many persons, especially young people, are very touchy and hypersensitive to what others say. 

Any trivial comment is taken as an insult.

If you are planning to join the military, any of the armed forces, army, navy or air force, here is one of my favorite teaching stories to mull over.


There was once a great warrior. 

His reputation extended far and wide throughout the land and many students gathered to study under him. 

Though quite old, the warrior was still adept at martial arts.

Despite his age, the legend was that the old warrior could defeat any adversary.

One afternoon, a young warrior, known for his complete lack of scruples, arrived in the village.

The young warrior had never lost a fight.

Along with his strength, the young warrior had an uncanny ability to spot and exploit any weakness in an opponent. 

He would wait for his opponent to make the first move, thus revealing a weakness.

And then would strike with merciless force and lightning speed. 

No one had ever lasted with him in a match beyond the first move.  

The young warrior had heard of the old master’s reputation was determined to be the first man to defeat the till then invincible great master.

The brash young warrior challenged the old master to a fight. 

Much against the advice of his concerned students, the old master gladly accepted the young warrior's challenge.

All villagers eagerly gathered in the village square to witness the bout.

As the two squared off for battle, the young warrior began to hurl insults at the old master. 

The young warrior threw dirt and mud at the old warrior.

Then the young warrior spat on the master’s face.

The young warrior tried his utmost to goad and incite the master to make the first move.

But the old warrior merely stood there motionless and calm.

For hours the young warrior provoked the master. 

He verbally abused the master with every curse and insult known to mankind.

The young warrior even insulted the master’s ancestors, but the old man kept smiling and remained impassive.

The young warrior kept abusing and insulting the old warrior for many hours.

But the old warrior did not react and he just kept smiling.

Finally, as the sun started setting, the young warrior started feeling exhausted and humiliated. 

Gradually comprehension dawned on the young warrior and he knew that he was defeated so he bowed before the master and feeling shamed he left the village.

Disappointed that the master had received so many insults and provocations, the students gathered around the old master and questioned him:

“How could you bear such indignity? one student asked the old warrior.

Why didn't you use your sword and fight the insolent youth?” asked another.

It would have been better if you lost the fight instead of displaying such cowardice in front of us all?” a third asked.

The old warrior looked at his angry students and said: “If someone comes to you with a gift, and you do not accept it, to whom does the gift belong?” 

“If you do not accept a gift, the gift belongs to the giver, the one who tried to give you the gift,” replied one of his students.

“The same goes for envy, anger and insults,” said the master, “If you do not accept these gifts of abuse, invective and insults, they continue to belong to the one who delivers them...!!!”

So the next time someone tries to insult you, remember this story, and do not accept the gift of insults.

Copyright © Vikram Karve 
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this book review. 
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
No part of this Blog may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Blog Author Vikram Karve who holds the copyright.
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About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer and blogger. Educated at IIT Delhi, IIT (BHU) Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and an anthology of short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional  and academic research papers in journals and edited in-house journals and magazines for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing and blogging. Vikram Karve lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

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