[person that asked the question]
To elaborate: I do understand the mindset one should have, like in the Simile of the Saw [MN 21]. That one still sees the suffering in the attacker, radiating Compassion or Loving-kindness. I also understand that I’m not supposed to punch them back, for instance.
But…how about physically defending myself? Pushing them away would be a clear example. Not to hurt them, but to try to get them away from me in some sense.
How would one act in a case like this? Let it happen?
I would suggest reading this sutta:
In this case there was no self-defense. However, Mogallana’s forceful throwing out of the monk may seem not monk-like 🙂
With that in mind I would say to remember that Kamma always begins with intention. First, if one were to have the intention of being harmless, but if found in a situation you specified, one would run away and force themselves out of the situation, with the intention of not wanting to hurt the attacker.
Allowing the attacker to do what they intend, will make them liable to very unwholesome Kamma. However, by defending yourself to the extent of getting away, without any intent of anger or hatred towards them, and rather with the intent of helping them, you are effectively preventing them from committing this Kamma.
Please see the following suttas in relation to forgiveness:
In this sutta, the Buddha doesn’t accept the harm from another. Thus he doesn’t get inflicted to the point that he needs to Forgive.
And this sutta, number 21 the first section, shows the importance of understanding one’s own mistakes and forgiving others’ mistakes.
For more information on how to practice Forgiveness, see