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Right Speech

I thought it would be interesting to explore what this actually means, practically speaking.

Here is something to look at: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dhamma/sacca/sacca4/samma-vaca/

From what I can gather the basic principle is that of not doing harm to oneself, or to others. This principle seems central to Buddhist ethics and the precepts.

Personally I don't see a problem with humour or "idle speech" ( chit-chat ) when it does no harm.

What do you think?

Comments

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    It depends what you mean when you say 'when it does no harm'. The repercussions of humour and idle speech are more often than not, unseen and unpredictable. "The pen is mightier than the sword" has a ring of truth to it, and the harm done to peoples' reputations nowadays, through twitter, Tinder, facebook et al is often incalculable and widespread.
    As the Chinese quotation goes, "Even the Yellow Emperor's swiftest horsemen cannot retrieve the word, once spoken".

    So one's person 'does no harm' can be another's 'utterly devastating' without even knowing it.
    I guess we have to measure what is 'idle speech' and what is 'Politically-correct' and find a happy medium....

    namarupapersonBunkskarasti
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    I think it depends on the context of the individual.

    Are you trying to develop concentration or mindfulness? For myself when I attend teachings I've often spent much of the preceding day reading or doing chores what-have-you. We take a break during them and I'll usually have a brief chat with some fellow sangha. When we get back to the teaching my concentration is way off and I find my mind going back to the 'idle speech' during the break.

    Is it important for you that your words are taken seriously? Compare two people, someone who talks all the time and someone who speaks only when it is important. Whose words carry more weight?

    On the other hand idle speech can be used to build relationships and foster unity, so its probably not all bad or all good.

    karastirohit
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited September 2016

    Let's not forget also, that the majority of the Buddha's teachings was always prefaced with the word, 'Monks;'

    That is not to say that we should dismiss such teachings. But we need to evaluate how disciplined and focused the Buddha was exhorting his Disciples to be. He knew that laypeople required a certain 'laxity' of such rules.
    As ever, following his teachings - and to what degree or extreme - is our choice. All things in Moderation, The Middle Way, and all that.

    We should accept the teachings as a guidance towards self-discipline and growth.
    But we should not restrict ourselves in such a severe manner as to adopt a monastic mantle, and confine ourselves to such stringent rules.
    That's not what, as laypeople, is expected of us.

  • namarupanamarupa Veteran
    edited September 2016

    With right view as the forerunner, right speech is also understanding wrongful speech, knowing the origin of wrongful speech, and how to avoid wrongful speech.

    If you have all that you are already practicing right speech.

    lobsterSteve_B
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
    edited September 2016

    @SpinyNorman said:

    Personally I don't see a problem with humour or "idle speech" ( chit-chat ) when it does no harm.

    What do you think?

    I agree ...
    Just so long as ones intention was not to cause harm...However crap often happens no matter how diligent one tries not to offend others with their words...

    We cling to the idea of a permanently abiding self and have a habit of taking things personally....

    People can and do take what's been said the wrong way causing WW3 to break out...

    I'm under the impression that 'karma' comes into it somewhere along the line...Innocent harmless words said, be they meant as humour or just idle chatter, taken out of context by another whose mind is already agitated and on hearing or reading the words sets in motion a sequence of unpleasant karmic events and so forth....

    But in the long run I guess Abe was right......

    "You can please some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time!"

    Wouldn't it be nice if we were all perfect like the Buddha :)

    upekka
  • FosdickFosdick in its eye are mirrored far off mountains Alaska, USA Veteran

    @SpinyNorman said

    Personally I don't see a problem with humour or "idle speech" ( chit-chat ) when it does no harm.

    To me, the term "idle speech" implies a lack of mindfulness, that the speaker is slack and going on auto pilot, not knowing what is going to come out of his/her mouth. Chit-chat is perhaps an art unto itself (one which I have never mastered, alas ), and "right chit-chat" can serve a useful function, as pointed out by @person - to build relationships and foster unity and connection.

    I think the key here is mindfulness, and that right speech is always mindful. Mindfulness is the best we can do, and we need to accept that our mindfulness will often fall short of perfection. Whatever that is.

    lobsterShoshin
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @SpinyNorman said:
    I thought it would be interesting to explore what this actually means, practically speaking.

    Here is something to look at: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dhamma/sacca/sacca4/samma-vaca/

    From what I can gather the basic principle is that of not doing harm to oneself, or to others. This principle seems central to Buddhist ethics and the precepts.

    Personally I don't see a problem with humour or "idle speech" ( chit-chat ) when it does no harm.

    What do you think?

    For me reading up on right speech was very interesting. It sets a much higher standard for what should be spoken than what most people in the West use, and I think that is a very admirable ambition. If people only spoke what is beneficial, factual, and true, we would have eliminated much ill-feeling from the world.

    I think chit-chat can be divided into a number of areas: small talk, which if kept short is only a minor distraction, but can grow into a time-consuming habit; gossip, which is often damaging to someone or no better than small talk; news, which if kept short and to the point can be useful, but can also grow into an attention sink of seemingly great importance; personal details, which may or may not be relevant.

    Humour I actually think is a good thing, if you can find humour that does no harm. I think it is a positive energy that releases things. It's not for nothing that there is a Laughing Buddha, Budai. It is an enlivening energy that brings us to the moment, which is a good thing.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited September 2016

    My teacher rarely talked about 'spirituality' because that is just empty form. He conveyed through demeanour, behaviour and impact. In other words it was the effect not the affectation of talking about nice things to nice people. He forced or enabled qualities out of people. People were kind to him, whether they wanted to be or not and this was good for them, not necessarily for him as peoples kindness is dependent on their condition not always ours ...
    Such an approach is ritualised in the Sangha's dependence on the community environment that supports it.

    Do we assume that the dharma, that is the path to liberation, can not be conveyed through humour and normal day to day conversation?
    http://opcoa.st/Pwp17

    If right speech is a rite, in other words a form of constipated thought outwardly expressed, we get platitudes and dharma crap. We need to convey, enable and empower according to an imperative independent of outer form. That's my plan.
    http://opcoa.st/Pwp98

    person
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    I think idle speech has a place in opening the door to wider communication. Sometimes. I think most of us talk too much all the time, out of distraction, out of social discomfort. Out of silence being terrifying so we fill it with something all the time. Chit chat for the sake of chatting has become utterly grating to me. But people don't understand that, so I usually listen and let them talk, without having much to say. I don't participate in it all that much because it feels fake and insincere and space-filling. I've heard people say "well, not all speech can be meaningful!" why not? I think a lot of people (myself included though it is improving) think our thoughts are so important that we have to share them. All of them. All the time. Whether it is appropriate or not and whether it adds anything to the discussion/conversation or not. People think I'm socially awkward because I am not a jabber jaw (as my grandma would say). I tend to find people who blabber nonstop to be more socially awkward because they don't seem to know how to listen or how to have interest in anything, or anyone, other than what they have to say.

    It's always amusing to me that I blather on so much here, :glasses: I don't talk nearly so much in "real" life. But, that is also largely because I am surrounded by people who don't think like me so I share my views when I know they are welcome and when I don't feel a need to defend them. Here, my sangha, with select friends and family. But then it is a more meaningful interaction. And not just talking for the sake of filling silence.

    Humor can be a wonderful thing. But I think humor has largely been lost in favor of insults and other things that might make one person laugh, and make another feel small and sad. The purity in humor is largely lacking these days, unfortunately. But when you see it, it is delightful, light, enjoyable for all. There is no wondering if someone took offense because it is just good-natured. My teacher is quite good at this. And it is conveyed with so little as a cocked eyebrow, a silly smile, etc. It makes everyone smile, laugh and feel good. Most humor these days is anything but feel-good.

    WalkerlobsterShoshinpegembara
  • What is "idle" speech? Any topic of conversation that does not lead towards liberation.

    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an10/an10.070.than.html

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @pegembara said:
    What is "idle" speech? Any topic of conversation that does not lead towards liberation.

    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an10/an10.070.than.htm

    One would think, if one is not familiar/proficient in/with Wrong speech how is one to know what is 'Right' speech ....I feel that both are important lessons to learn on the path...

    So in a sense any and or all topics of conversation will eventually lead to liberation all roads lead to Rome...(some conversations just take the longer route... idling along the way so to speech )...

    I guess life in a monastery would be different though.....

  • @pegembara said:
    What is "idle" speech? Any topic of conversation that does not lead towards liberation.

    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an10/an10.070.than.html

    Most conversation is "idle" in that sense.

    pegembara
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @pegembara said:
    What is "idle" speech? Any topic of conversation that does not lead towards liberation.

    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an10/an10.070.than.html

    Well, according to your profile, you've exceeded 1000 comments.... how close are you then...? :D

    pegembara
  • @federica said:

    @pegembara said:
    What is "idle" speech? Any topic of conversation that does not lead towards liberation.

    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an10/an10.070.than.html

    Well, according to your profile, you've exceeded 1000 comments.... how close are you then...? :D

    Content matters. Not quantity.
    How many words are there in the Tipitaka, I wonder?

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Not enough humorous ones, evidently.

  • Maybe they cut the jokes out. :p

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    I wouldn't put it past them to have done....;)

    lobster
  • Don't worry those humour thieves will be dealt with ... B)

    'The 12th century master Geshe Ben was renowned for his goodness and integrity.
    Once, while begging for alms, a family of devout Buddhists invited him to their home to be fed. He was so hungry that he found it difficult to wait while his hosts were elsewhere preparing the meal. To his complete shock he found himself stealing food from a jar when no-one was looking. Geshe Ben suddenly burst into loud cries of "Thief! Thief! I've caught you red-handed."
    His hosts rushed into the room to find him berating himself and threatening his hand with being cut off it ever behaved like that again.'

    http://viewonbuddhism.org/resources/buddhist_stories.html

  • I was in my early years very sarcastic. I justified the hurt that I caused others by saying "Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me". A wise friend called me scarcastic and pointed out the woundings that I caused seldom healed. So for me Right Speech continues to be a lifelong journey.

    lobster
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @grackle said:
    So for me Right Speech continues to be a lifelong journey.

    I think this is true for most people in the western world, and maybe the eastern too.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    It al begins with our thoughts and what we tell ourselves.
    The way to Ensure Right Speech is to first ensure Right View, and Right Intention.

    lobster
  • An interesting take on "idle chatter" by Bhikkhu Bodhi:

    "The traditional exegesis of abstaining from idle chatter refers only to avoiding engagement in such talk oneself. But today it might be of value to give this factor a different slant, made imperative by certain developments peculiar to our own time, unknown in the days of the Buddha and the ancient commentators. This is avoiding exposure to the idle chatter constantly bombarding us through the new media of communication created by modern technology. An incredible array of devices_television, radio, newspapers, pulp journals, the cinema_turns out a continuous stream of needless information and distracting entertainment the net effect of which is to leave the mind passive, vacant, and sterile. All these developments, naively accepted as "progress," threaten to blunt our aesthetic and spiritual sensitivities and deafen us to the higher call of the contemplative life. Serious aspirants on the path to liberation have to be extremely discerning in what they allow themselves to be exposed to. They would greatly serve their aspirations by including these sources of amusement and needless information in the category of idle chatter and making an effort to avoid them."
    http://www.vipassana.com/resources/8fp4.php

    personkarastinamarupalobster
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    I sort of alluded to this in my first post (first response to thread-starter).

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran
    edited September 2016

    @federica said:

    I sort of alluded to this in my first post (first response to thread-starter).

    It is partly why I don't want an "I"Phone.

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @SpinyNorman said:
    @federica said:

    I sort of alluded to this in my first post (first response to thread-starter).

    It is partly why I don't want an "I"Phone.

    I can understand that, although I will say it is possible to use such a device skilfully by being very selective about what services to engage with. A Facebook app is a potentially much bigger time sink and less skillful than using whatsapp to stay in touch with another member of the sangha.

    In response to Bikkhu Bodhi in @SpinyNorman's post above, it is interesting to note he mentions all media which are purely passive channels that once you engage with them you are committing to absorbing a certain amount of content. He is not mentioning phones, PCs or websites, which are more interactive experiences with a wide range of uses.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    The inclusion is implied. "Do not walk on the grass", does not mean "just this little patch here, where the sign is".

    karasti
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited September 2016

    Well, I don't see it as being implied. I think he is very specific in what he chooses to speak about, and it's not phones or the web. Comparing the web to television is like comparing a computer to a pocket watch. They are different categories of things.

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran
    edited September 2016

    @Kerome said:
    Well, I don't see it as being implied. I think he is very specific in what he chooses to speak about, and it's not phones or the web. Comparing the web to television is like comparing a computer to a pocket watch. They are different categories of things.

    I think the principle is the same though, the degree of distraction involved and the effect it has on the mind. With "I"Phones the distraction is potentially continuous.
    Note that the Bhikkhu Bodhi extract is from something written in 1984, I don't doubt he would have included social media and the internet if he was writing it now.

  • @Kerome. Having resided in many parts of the world the journey to Right Speech looks as though it is world wide. It is a blessing to have friends who actually know us as their observations tend to be the most accurate.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    It's all about your mindset and how you use various tools. I cannot stand tv. I shut it off when I am home alone and it stays off all day. I watch an occasional movie later in the day with my family. Phones, just like the internet, can be useful tools if used wisely. I would rather not have to have a phone. But having 3 children, including one that travels a lot and another with diabetes, it is all but required. But I quite like the Insight timer, and Buddify apps. It comes in very handy for finding my way in big cities (the gps on my phone works better than my car gps). I carry it but i don't use it for much else. I didn't even install facebook or other such things on it.

    The hard thing is that life is filled with noise. Even when you shut off the tv, there is noise. It isn't until your power goes out for days that you realize how much noise you live with all day every day that completely infiltrates your headspace. Completely quiet is something few have experienced. It is quite something.

    personlobster
  • Yes, noise can be a problem. I love natural sounds though, waves breaking on the shore or wind in the trees, and even noisy seagulls.

  • @karasti. My life is largely silent. So much so that turning pages during formal study sometimes becomes noisy for me. So its all relative to the way we live. The only noisy part of the day is when I venture out to engage in service to others.

    lobster
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator
    edited September 2016

    Silent in regards to what or compared to what though? Your refrigerator doesn't hum when it runs? Your heating or cooling doesn't make noise? Those are the noises I was referring to that you never think you notice until your power goes out. We lost power for several days this summer due to a big storm and it was heavenly how quiet it was. Even being in town, it is much quieter though there is still traffic. It was a huge storm and the entire region lost power for quite a long time. It is an interesting thing. I've been in complete silence, and it's very different from thinking we are within silence while the world goes on around us. When all you hear is your body making noises and nothing else.

    Natural sounds aren't as invasive, at least to me. There are so many we don't hear because of the noises that are in our daily lives. But when those go away for a brief period, what we notice is much different. I think it is the same considering speech. If we all stopped talking so much, what we hear of the world would be much different. In many ways.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    "For the first 18 years of parenthood, they make so much noise they make you go crazy.
    The day they leave for college, the silence is so intense it could drive you mad...." (Reader's Digest, C. 1970)

  • namarupanamarupa Veteran
    edited September 2016

    Wonder how much idle chatter in our head accounts for idle chatter.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    All of it, probably.
    I mean, observe your thoughts. Don't stop them, just be aware of them... watch them flow one into another, about trivia...past and future.... then imagine sitting next to someone on a crowded bus, and speaking those thoughts out loud, exactly as you have them.
    The person next to you would recoil almost imperceptibly, thinking, "OMG, trust me to sit next to the nut-job!"

    namarupasilver
  • @federica said:> The person next to you would recoil almost imperceptibly, thinking, "OMG, trust me to sit next to the nut-job!"

    Particularly if you were wearing a knitted Buddha hat. ;)

    namarupa
  • Well I have a What Would Buddha Do?,baseball cap. WWBD in large letters. The message is repeated multiple times in a oval in very tiny letters. Its hard to see. The Jolly Lama t-shirt gets no notice at all.

  • Will_BakerWill_Baker Vermont Veteran
    edited September 2016

    @SpinyNorman said:
    I thought it would be interesting to explore what this actually means, practically speaking.

    Here is something to look at: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dhamma/sacca/sacca4/samma-vaca/

    From what I can gather the basic principle is that of not doing harm to oneself, or to others. This principle seems central to Buddhist ethics and the precepts.

    Personally I don't see a problem with humour or "idle speech" ( chit-chat ) when it does no harm.

    What do you think?

    -I agree with the above, and in particular the highlight (note: the bold function doesn't appear to be working)...

    (Moderator note: @Will_Baker I edited the post. You left a space... Make sure there are no spaces between the asterisks and the text. Any space negates the function. ;) )

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    I think the "do no harm" part is the hard part, though. Often times we don't consider how something can be harmful. I'm not talking about the ignorance of calling names and not realizing it offends someone but the more subtle ways. Such as how we constantly distract ourselves and others. Not saying all of it is bad. Rarely do those kinds of absolutes help anything. Just that I think it's good to stop and think about it once in a while. Many times I type something out and realize there is no reason for me to say anything. So I delete it. I try to get better about it in verbal speech the same way, except of course you can't take it back. I try to pause and see if what I am about to say is going to actually add anything, or of it's just talking for the sake of filling silence. Since I believe we need a lot more silence and a lot more listening than we do more talking, i try to protect the silences a bit.

  • @grackle said:
    @karasti. My life is largely silent. So much so that turning pages during formal study sometimes becomes noisy for me. So its all relative to the way we live. The only noisy part of the day is when I venture out to engage in service to others.

    Just a tip, turn the pages slower o:)
    You knew that. :3

    Very interesting and varied comments guys. I consider most dharma talks idle chatter. The experiential, the emptiness in form is always unspoken ... not that such a necessity should stop us ...

    Now back to right silence speech ... B)

    namarupa
  • @federica said:
    "For the first 18 years of parenthood, they make so much noise they make you go crazy.
    The day they leave for college, the silence is so intense it could drive you mad...." (Reader's Digest, C. 1970)

    The day they leave, the noise doesn’t stop. They merely move from outside to inside our heads as thoughts, feelings and memories.

    Will_Baker
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