Right Speech and Risks

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Right Speech and Risks

Postby MarkNZed » Wed Jun 25, 2014 11:50 am

I'm a little confused with Right Speech and Right Action. Even if the intent is to do no harm there is still a risk of doing harm through a lack of skill. It seems a "wise" path is often one of avoiding getting involved in "other people's" problems.

I doubt there is an absolute answer to this but I'd like to know how other lay people decide on action/inaction within their daily life. Have you changed strategies since practicing ?

A rather extreme situation brings this to mind. If someone lacks the skills to ask for help then I think they can still want and need help.
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Re: Right Speech and Risks

Postby K.Dhamma » Wed Jun 25, 2014 3:10 pm

MarkNZed wrote:I'm a little confused with Right Speech and Right Action. Even if the intent is to do no harm there is still a risk of doing harm through a lack of skill. It seems a "wise" path is often one of avoiding getting involved in "other people's" problems.

I doubt there is an absolute answer to this but I'd like to know how other lay people decide on action/inaction within their daily life. Have you changed strategies since practicing ?

A rather extreme situation brings this to mind. If someone lacks the skills to ask for help then I think they can still want and need help.



Not getting involved into other peoples problems is the wise choice here.

Oftentimes I ask myself if I want to help them because they need help or because I want them to want me to help.

I work in a group home where an individual is unable to speak or communicate. Sometimes you just have to "let it go," but if that isn't the choice then I just do the best I can.

On the other hand, if you know something obvious would help ease there suffering it is always noble to assist if you can. If they are hungry and you can tell, but they can't tell you that, then feed them anyways.(as an example)
"Remember you dont meditate to get anything, but to get rid of things. We do it, not with desire, but with letting go. If you want anything, you wont find it." - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Right Speech and Risks

Postby MarkNZed » Thu Jun 26, 2014 7:25 am

Thanks K.

When I think of situations like I described two responses come to mind:

1) Not getting involved - which does not help the person and at worst may leave them feeling abandoned
2) Getting involved - where people are often reading their own story into someone else's and doing more harm than good

It seems your advice is 1) and the "want them to want me" is 2)

Certainly the Buddha got involved in other people's suffering, so 1) does not apply to everyone all the time :smile:

From the little I've heard I get the impression the teachings suggest "doing no harm" as the priority. A gross simplification might be sort your own shit out first then worry about others. But for a layperson that would mean not intervening in this lifetime.

Consider the case you mentioned, if the person is physically helpless you decide it is OK to feed them. We could liken this to raising a child - parents get involved and create conditions that they hope will be beneficial to the child's growth (both physical and mental).

We draw an artificial line in the sand when someone becomes an "adult". Then they should ask for help and that works well for well adjusted people most of the time. But I don't think we stop growing mentally and I've often appreciated help when it has been offered. Some of the most insightful help came from being challenged in assumptions which by definition I was not asking to have changed!

I guess what I'm saying is that many adults are not equipped to deal with the situation in front of them. I suspect that most people follow 1) not because of a great wisdom but because they are afraid of getting hurt themselves - as you mentioned it gets dangerous if you fall into 2). Many people have been "burned" by offering what they felt was kind "help".

Maybe the teachings don't have much to say about these types of social questions ?

I was introduced to Gestalt listening not that long ago. It is the idea of not advising but sharing relevant personal experiences. I don't see this as ideal because one can easily read one's own story and not grasp the other persons perspective but it gets away from offering advice.

If I was going to try option 3) I think it would need to be founded on not giving advice. But rather than sharing my experience it might be wiser to try and fully grasp the perspective of the other, then I can be an effective mirror for the other to see their own situation. I suspect that we often just need to "get some distance" from our own situation to see solutions or ask for advice. It is a bit like meditation in fact!

Interested to hear more of your thoughts, thanks.
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Re: Right Speech and Risks

Postby Aloka » Thu Jun 26, 2014 9:15 am

MarkNZed wrote:I'm a little confused with Right Speech and Right Action. Even if the intent is to do no harm there is still a risk of doing harm through a lack of skill. It seems a "wise" path is often one of avoiding getting involved in "other people's" problems.



Hi Mark,

I think with the best of intentions but little wisdom or clarity, we can sometimes make mistakes when we try to assist others in some way. However this doesn't mean that we should just ignore any feelings of compassion and avoid the possibility of being able to help them if its within our capabilities. It depends on the situation, however. If someone was drowning, jumping in to try and help them myself wouldn't be of much use, because I can't swim -so I'd need to find someone else.

In his booklet "The Four Noble Truths" in the section 'RIght Speech, Right Action, Right Livlihood', Ajahn Sumedho made the following comments:

"The impulse to help someone is a skilful dhamma. If you see someone fall over on the floor in a faint, a skilful dhamma goes through your mind: ‘Help this person,’ and you go to help them recover from their fainting spell. If you do it with an empty mind - not out of any personal desire for gain, but just out of compassion and because it’s the right thing to do - then it’s simply a skilful dhamma. It’s not personal kamma; it’s not yours. But if you do it out of a desire to gain merit and to impress other people or because the person is rich and you expect some reward for your action, then - even though the action is skilful - you’re making a personal connection with it, and this reinforces the sense of self.

When we do good works out of mindfulness and wisdom rather than out of ignorance, they are skilful dhammas without personal kamma."

http://www.buddhanet.net/4noble.htm




Kind regards,

Aloka
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Re: Right Speech and Risks

Postby MarkNZed » Thu Jun 26, 2014 1:23 pm

Thanks for the reference Aloka.

Would it be fair to say that
a desire to gain merit and to impress other people or because the person is rich and you expect some reward for your action
is an egocentric motivation ?

Acting without any influence of the ego is probably out of the realms of possibility for most laypeople. Maybe asking the question "Am I acting through compassion or ego?" while trying to help is a safe way to know if one should proceed.

Taking your example of helping someone drowning, if you could swim but were not a very strong swimmer and there was nobody else who could help - that is perhaps a tougher decision.

I can see how the observation of the motivation for acting is a great thing to be mindful of. Now it is risky to try that out of course ! But maybe worth the risk :smile:

Thanks.
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