Can Wise Speech Buddhism Help the World?
Learning wise speech Budhism can be a healing balm to a world often troubled by major conflicts, acts of terrorism, devastating wars, political scandals and false accusations, international spying, ethnic cleansing and many more abusive and violent actions.
We turn on the radio and hear radio Talk Show hosts pandering to anger and fear in others; often using incendiary speech and gossip- conversation that excites others to verbally say malicious and untrue things . We turn on the television and can find many programs whose themes involve violence in the form of murder, kidnapping, perjury, and general rough-housing on the part of the law enforcement and criminals. We go to the movies and in larger than life movie screens we see and hear screaming sounds tracks, super packed bloody scenes, intense mutilation and destruction of property, are senses are inundated and we are overwhelmed. Is anybody aware of speaking both wisely and kindly in this world?
This is a large part of the world we live in. No wonder the Buddha advised his followers 2,600 year ago to take care with who they associated with and look to the sangha for like- minded people who would support them in living with harmlessness, loving friendliness, compassion, generosity, safety, ease and happiness. All this begins on the personal level and extends to the universal.
Speaking and communicating wisely can be one of the most complex and challenging activities that we undertake and it touches every area of our life: socially, family & friends, co-workers and neighbors, acquaintances and others we meet just walking down the street or the checker at the grocery store.
To cultivate speaking and listening with presence and caring we can cultivate these things: pausing to listen and speak for ourselves and to another and practicing mindfulness in order to be present, not distracted or oblivious. So much misunderstanding which leads to conflicts and false assumptions can begin to open to understanding, connectedness, empathy and compassion when we purposefully pay attention on purpose to what and how we speak.
The Buddha advised that we be intentional with our speech. He suggested knowing why we communicate, what is our motivation behind our words? How often have we taken the time to really do this? To slow down and ask ourselves why am I saying this? Usually our words are based on habitual reactions, the first thing that pops up off the top of our heads. We can train in changing this, if the heart longs for reciprocity and mutuality, on a path of ethical conduct called Sila, the third step on the Buddha’s Noble Eight Fold Path to Happiness. Speaking Wisely has as it’s centerpiece the practice of non-harming so that ease and peace prevail in our lives. Sila is also known as Virtue and Integrity.
“In Buddhism we talk about the fragrance of morality. It means that when you practice integrity, it’s almost like you have a an extraordinary divine scent around you, and you magnetize everything you are searching for – all the goodness, virtue joy, freedom, and even enlightenment if that is what you are looking for. Integrity is the first step towards the highest goals you are trying to actualize in this human existence.
When we practice maintaining integrity and demonstrate it through our actions, our speech, the way we treat other people, we become extraordinary examples to inspire others. It’s like how one candle can light hundreds of candles, and those hundreds of candles can light thousands of candles. Can you imagine such an enlightened society? But we must start with ourselves. When you practice integrity, you will see the reward immediately. You’ll discover that you are happy, that your friends and family members are happy, and even your dog is happy too. That is because of the fragrance of morality.” – Anam Thubten Rimpoche
The 4 Steps of Wise Speech Buddhism:
- Speak the truth. Refrain from false speech. This means stretching the truth in lies of omission, exaggeration,and denial. The truth builds trust and so we feel safe. The truth or honest speech is a foundation that connects us. We can never be at peace and ease within ourselves if we are carrying a baggage of lies within. Think of Wiki-leaks. What damage do we do to another when we bear “false witness” against them? How does it affect us when we speak falsely?
- Speak kindly, gently, helpfully. Refrain from harsh, belittling, judgmental speech especially that is born out of anger. The Buddha said “A person known for gentle and beautiful speech will be quickly trusted and accepted”.” Love and patience antidotes harsh speech. It is soothing to the ear, not pushy or demanding. Remembering just as I want to be happy so do all beings”.
- Cultivate supportive, uplifting, heartfelt, encouraging speech. Refrain from malicious, slanderous, abusive speech. The Buddha said…” this is the speech that destroys friendship between 2 people”. Tabloids, talk radio are examples that knocks one down to raise another up. Aversion against a person or a group creates bad karma because intentional harm is involved. Cultivate a mind of loving friendliness, this “Wins the trust and affection of others”.- The Buddha
- Practice speech that is useful, uplifting, balanced and with good timing. Deliver this speech to another at a time they can stop to hear and in a place conducive to listening. Refrain from idle chatter and gossip. Joseph Goldstein conducted an experiment he said “For one week I will only speak about another if that person is present.” The result was that 90% of his speech dropped away. It is interesting that in Joseph’s experiment he discovered that a change of habit gave him a new relationship to the place of speaking in his life and demonstrated ways in which he spoke more than he needed to.
If we implemented wise speech into our daily lives as a means to practice mindful relationship many of our reactive and aggressive behaviors could quiet. If we saw the correlations between harmful media over- stimulation that portrays violence and torture we could recognize and subdue unnecessary trouble and anguish in our world. If we saw the wisdom and compassion in wise speech Buddhism we would put down our arms, guns, fists, and take the moment to pause and speak from a place of humane caring for all living beings and there would be peace and healing in the world.