Sunday, April 09, 2017

Right Speech

The third step on the Eightfold Path to Enlightenment is Right Speech.  Think about everything you speak and hear spoken in the course of an average day.  How much of it is truly edifying or necessary?  I once heard a maxim that we should never speak unless our words are an improvement on silence.   In the course of a typical day I will probably complain, gossip, vent, and speak inappropriately.  In my defense I will also probably speak some words of comfort, encouragement, and gratitude.  Most of you probably do the same to a greater or lesser degree.  How can we ensure that most, if not all, of our speech is Right Speech?  My best words are pre-meditated in the sense that I speak them slowly, deliberatively, and from the heart.  The words I should never speak are usually spoken quickly, with little thought, and they tend to flow from a negative emotion.  Two things that can help us speak in ways that build up those around us instead of breaking them down are breathing and pause.  When you feel a negative emotion welling up inside you, stop, breathe, and pause before opening your mouth.  If we all could  just learn…and remember…to do this it would be a better world.  Words are very powerful.  A kind word spoken with love can change the course of a person’s day.  An unkind or critical word, spoken in haste or anger, can also change the course of another person’s day, although in a much different way.  If you want to practice Right Speech, choose your words carefully, and use them sparingly.  There is too much talking in the world and much of is a waste of time.  In the monastery I have often mentioned, there are small signs in the Guest House that say, “Silence is spoken here”.  Words in and of themselves are not bad.  However, silence is usually better.  One way to judge the depth of a relationship is whether or not you can be with that person in joyful silence where Right Speech can literally be no speech.  On the other hand, the world is in great need of people who can speak in ways that are uplifting and encouraging.  If you have the gift of Right Speech, use it to make the world a better place.  There are already plenty of critics.        

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