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Right Speech in regards to asking Questions

"And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech."

— SN 45.8
How does one look at the "The criteria for deciding what is worth saying" when it comes to asking questions? What would make a question skillful or unskillful/beneficial or not? Wouldn't some of the criteria depend somewhat on the answer one gives, and so, is it possible know if a question is worth asking before we know the answer?

Wondering if anyone had any thoughts on this, or if it is mentioned in any text.


  • "And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech."
    Right speech has possibilities.
    So often 'right speech' is listening. Then silence. Then dharma. Then ordinary. Then skilful.
    It is not one follows another but skilful entails saying what is required.

    This is a lie.
    True enough?

    Skilful speech can be contentious, confrontational and disconcerting. However if used from the right understanding it leads to the right communication . . .
  • anything related to Four Noble Truth is Right speech
    there are ten skillful Speech

    all other talks are 'musa mosa dhamma' Wrong speech
    there are 32 unskillful speach
  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran
    Knowing beforehand what is "right" is pretty improbable. And if this is true, then I think it is best to speak your piece honestly and forthrightly, unattended by spiritual or other analyses. Then, as in all other Buddhist practices, when you find you have made a mistake, do your best to shoulder the responsibility and correct it....

    And then correct that, if necessary.
  • Thanks all, I think I interpreted "right speech" far too literally to even understand how one can ask (I'll say, "skillful") questions. I understand better now. :)
  • MaryAnneMaryAnne Veteran
    edited September 2013
    Whenever you find yourself "on the spot" and in the moment to decide if something you are about to say is "right speech"... ask yourself these quick and easy questions-

    Is it coming from a place of honesty?
    Is it coming from a place of true caring and compassion?
    Am I phrasing it clearly and without an undertone of judgement?

    If you can honestly say yes to these 3 easy questions, then say what you need to say.
    But be prepared just the same, because sometimes, no matter how good one's intentions and motives, the person listening will hear something totally different! Then you got some 'splainin' to do, Lucy.... ;)

    Edited to add: as for asking questions; simply apply the same three questions to your motives/reasons for asking any question. Works the same.

  • I have been reading various lectures by Professor Y. Karunadasa that are presented from a perspective informed by early Buddhism. His explanations are in such a clear and descriptive manner they basically leave no room for speculation, so perhaps this can help:

    "...let us now consider how Buddhism seeks to evaluate volitional acts (kamma) as morally wholesome and morally unwholesome. This is done with reference to two kinds of criteria. One is based on the Buddhist teaching on the root-causes of what is morally wholesome (kusala) or otherwise (akusala). According to Buddhism all that is morally unwholesome can be traced to three root-causes. They are lobha (greed or covetousness), dosa (hate or malice) and moha (confusion or delusion). These are the primary psychological dispositions which manifest themselves in different forms. Conversely, their opposites, namely alobha (non-greed), adosa (absence of hate or malice) and amoha (absence of confusion or delusion) are the root causes to which all that is morally wholesome can be traced. Any karmic/volitional act which is motivated by the unwholesome roots is akusala, morally unwholesome. Conversely, any karmic/volitional act which is motivated by their opposite root-causes is kusala (morally wholesome).

    The other criterion is based on objective factors in that it takes into consideration the nature of the consequences a volitional act has, both on the person who commits it and also on persons other than himself. This latter criterion is mentioned in the Ambalatthika Rahulovada Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya. Here, the Buddha tells Rahula that just as a mirror is meant for reflection, even so every volitional act should be committed after proper reflection. The object of this reflection is the possible consequences which an act brings about on oneself and on others. If a particular act brings about harmful consequences to oneself (attabyabadhaya) or to others (parabyabadhaya) or to both (attabyabadhaya caparabyabadhaya), it should be evaluated as morally unwholesome. Conversely, any act which brings about opposite (beneficial) consequences in a similar way is to be evaluated as morally wholesome. In the context of the Buddhist teaching on rebirth or the samsaric dimension of the empiric individuality, these consequences should be understood in a wider perspective, without limiting them to the immediate present. In point of fact, all Buddhist teachings on morality should be understood in the context of Samsara and Nibbana. For in the ultimate sense what is morally wholesome is that which leads to Nibbana and conversely what is morally unwholesome is that which leads away from it.

    What we have discussed so far amounts to a brief resume of the Buddhist theory of the moral life. Its actual practice is based on the Noble Eightfold Path, the middle path that transcends the two extremes of sensual gratification and self-mortification..."

    The Moral Life: Both as a Means and an End
    Y. Karunadasa, Middle Way (Volume 69:1 p. 17) May 1994
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