After some thought I realize I've allowed myself to be baited and dragged into more of the same unmindful Internet squabbling. Having said that, I will now quote those more knowledgeable than myself that have given me a larger perspective. I also want to ask anyone who feels like giving it their opinion on whether one who knows what Right Speech is and does not follow it, does not try to follow it, denies the need to follow it, can actually claim to respect and follow the Buddha Dharma or claim to know the Buddha Dharma?
Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I vow to cultivate loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I vow to learn to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy, and hope. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure. I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord, or that can cause the family or the community to break. I will make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.
There is a saying in Vietnamese, ``It doesn't cost anything to have loving speech.'' We only need to choose our words carefully, and we can make other people happy. To use words mindfully, with loving kindness, is to practice generosity. Therefore this precept is linked directly to the Second Precept. We can make many people happy just by practicing loving speech. Again, we see the interbeing nature of the Five Precepts.
In the Buddhist tradition, the Fourth Precept is always described as refraining from these four actions:
- Not telling the truth. If it's black, you say it's white.
- Exaggerating. You make something up, or describe something as more beautiful than it actually is, or as ugly when it is not so ugly.
- Forked tongue. You go to one person and say one thing and then you go to another person and say the opposite.
- Filthy language. You insult or abuse people.
The work of reconciliation is not diplomatic work alone. It is not because you travel and meet with dozens of foreign ministers that you do the work of reconciliation. You have to use your body, your time, and your life to do the work of reconciliation. You do it in many ways, and you can be suppressed by the people you are trying to help. You have to listen and understand the suffering of one side, and then go and listen to the suffering of the other side. Then you will be able to tell each side, in turn, about the suffering being endured by the other side. That kind of work is crucial, and it takes courage. We need many people who have the capacity of listening, in South Africa, in the Middle East, in Eastern Europe, and elsewhere.
The Fourth Precept is a bodhisattva precept. We need deep study to be able to practice it well, within ourselves, our families, our communities, our society, and the world.
WELL-SPOKEN WORDS ARE SAMMAVACA
Bhikkhus, words having these five characteristics are words well-spoken, are not words badly-spoken, are blameless words that the wise do not criticize. What are these five characteristics? The five are:
spoken at the proper time
spoken in line with the truth
spoken with a friendly heart
(Kalena bhasita hoti)
(Sacca bhasita hoti)
(Sanha bhasita hoti)
(Atthasanhita bhasita hoti)
(Mettacittena bhasita hoti)
Bhikkhus, speech having these five characteristics are words well-spoken, are not words badly-spoken, are blameless words that the wise do not criticize.
WELL-SPOKEN WORDS ARE SAMMAVACA
Bhikkhus, words having these four characteristics are words well-spoken, are not words badly-spoken, and are blameless words that the wise do not criticize. What are these four characteristics? The four are:
speaking only good words, never speaking bad words;
speaking only justly, never speaking unjustly;
speaking only lovely words (for the listener), never speaking ugly words;
speaking only truthful words, never speaking time-wasting words.
Bhikkhus, speech having these four characteristics are words well-spoken, are not words badly-spoken, and are blameless words that the wise do not criticize.
Five keys to right speech
"Monks, a statement endowed with five factors is well-spoken, not ill-spoken. It is blameless & unfaulted by knowledgeable people. Which five?
"It is spoken at the right time. It is spoken in truth. It is spoken affectionately. It is spoken beneficially. It is spoken with a mind of good-will."
Self-purification through well-chosen speech
"And how is one made pure in four ways by verbal action?
"There is the case where a certain person, abandoning false speech, abstains from false speech. When he has been called to a town meeting, a group meeting, a gathering of his relatives, his guild, or of the royalty, if he is asked as a witness, 'Come & tell, good man, what you know': If he doesn't know, he says, 'I don't know.' If he does know, he says, 'I know.' If he hasn't seen, he says, 'I haven't seen.' If he has seen, he says, 'I have seen.' Thus he doesn't consciously tell a lie for his own sake, for the sake of another, or for the sake of any reward. Abandoning false speech, he abstains from false speech. He speaks the truth, holds to the truth, is firm, reliable, no deceiver of the world.
"Abandoning divisive speech he abstains from divisive speech. What he has heard here he does not tell there to break those people apart from these people here. What he has heard there he does not tell here to break these people apart from those people there. Thus reconciling those who have broken apart or cementing those who are united, he loves concord, delights in concord, enjoys concord, speaks things that create concord.
"Abandoning abusive speech, he abstains from abusive speech. He speaks words that are soothing to the ear, that are affectionate, that go to the heart, that are polite, appealing & pleasing to people at large.
"Abandoning idle chatter, he abstains from idle chatter. He speaks in season, speaks what is factual, what is in accordance with the goal, the Dhamma, & the Vinaya. He speaks words worth treasuring, seasonable, reasonable, circumscribed, connected with the goal.
"This is how one is made pure in four ways by verbal action."
When I told the story to Dharmavidya he said, “A crucial point is to try not to lose your cool.” How? “Take a time-out. And also recognize that this is the sort of creature we are. Picture the Buddha watching and smiling to himself, saying, ï¿½This is how these humans behave.’
“I think Western Buddhists need to recognize that we are imperfect beings,” he said. “In an awful lot of Buddhist groups everybody is pretending to be two millimeters off enlightened, but we’re not. Even Thich Nhat Hanh talks in one of his books about how somebody stood up and called him a coward when he was giving one of his talks in the U.S. during the Vietnam War. He said he was livid and had to leave the hall.”