Sometimes, it appears that the Buddha, despite being perfectly enlightened, could express annoyance or perhaps even crankiness which could come across as harsh to some.
For instance, we have the following exchange found in MN 67 (the Cātuma Sutta):
As the story goes, the Tathāgata once sent away a group of 500 newly ordained bhikkhus. These bhikkhus had never seen the Buddha before and were perhaps young. Having also never met the Buddha Sangha, upon their arrival, they were noisy and loud as they enthusiastically greeted the resident monks and settled their belongings. Although they were expressing their excitement of seeing other monks for the first time, and despite travelling all the way to see the Buddha for the very first time, the Tathāgata deemed their behaviour to be inappropriate and summarily sent them away.
“[newly ordained] Mendicants, what’s with that dreadful racket? You’d think it was fishermen hauling in a catch!”
And [the new bhikkhus] told him what had happened. (That is to say, while exchanging pleasantries with the resident mendicants, preparing their lodgings, and putting away their bowls and robes, made a lot of noise.)
“Go away, mendicants, I dismiss you. You are not to stay in my presence.”
“Yes, sir,” replied those mendicants. They got up from their seats… they set their lodgings in order and left, taking their bowls and robes.
After this incident, the Sakyans of Cātumā and even Brahmā Sahampati had to present themselves to the Buddha in order to persuade the Buddha to reconsider and to recall all of these newly ordained monastics that he sent away for having been noisy when they arrived.
Brahmā Sahampati appeared in front of the Buddha, arranged his robe over one shoulder, raised his joined palms toward the Buddha, and said:
"May the Buddha support the mendicant Saṅgha now as he did in the past! There are mendicants here who are junior, recently gone forth, newly come to this teaching and training.
“If they don’t get to see the Buddha they may change and fall apart. If young seedlings don’t get water they may change and fall apart. … If a young calf doesn’t see its mother it may change and fall apart. In the same way, there are mendicants here who are junior, recently gone forth, newly come to this teaching and training. If they don’t get to see the Buddha they may change and fall apart.”
The Buddha thusly rescinded his earlier dismissal order and sent word that these new bhikkhus were welcome to return. After they returned, he then taught a short lesson, but not before taking the opportunity to publicly scold Sāriputta in front of the “500” newly ordained.
Gotta love Sahampati! He’s one of my favourites, and he always seems to show up just when needed to give the Buddha a gentle nudge or poke in the right direction
It seems that there is much that can be discussed and learned from this sutta.