Practicing Right Speech

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Training of Sila, the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).

Practicing Right Speech

Postby jackson » Wed Jan 05, 2011 12:06 pm

Hi everyone,
I'm wondering how all of you balance true speech with speech that does not harm, this is an issue I've been having trouble with, as sometimes I feel put on the spot because I do not want to lie to the person but I also don't wish to hurt their feelings. For instance, if someone asked you how some food they made tasted, and they clearly weren't looking for criticism but you weren't very keen on it, what would be a good response? Personally, I feel it's kind of deceitful to mislead someone into believing you really like something when you don't so there are times when I'm at a loss as to what to say...
Looking forward to hearing your replies, :smile:
Jackson
"The heart of the path is quite easy. There’s no need to explain anything at length. Let go of love and hate and let things be. That’s all that I do in my own practice." - Ajahn Chah
jackson
 
Posts: 191
Joined: Sun Nov 22, 2009 4:40 am

Re: Practicing Right Speech

Postby Kaktus » Wed Jan 05, 2011 1:18 pm

Hi,

in my sight of view the main point in not lying is not to harm anyone. So in the case of a polite, but untruthful answer no harm has been done. On the other hand, a true, but unpolite answer will be harmful. Asking whether the meal was fine doesn´t normaly expect a true, but a polite answer. If i want to know a straight answer whether my cooking is ok i ask straighforward and not in an chating manner.

As in every other aspect of life just try to get the less harmful way. Try to find the middle way and don´t attach to the letters of a commandment without scrutinizing ist from case to case.

Frank
English isn´t my native language. So please accept my apologies for my kind of spelling and grammar ;-)
Kaktus
 
Posts: 23
Joined: Sat Oct 23, 2010 2:24 pm
Location: Germany

Re: Practicing Right Speech

Postby ajahndoe » Wed Jan 05, 2011 2:03 pm

The Buddha's "code" for Right Speech concerning lies was that any lie whatsoever was to be avoided. This would include what we call "white lies". For one who tells a deliberate lie, there is nothing that they might not come to do (in other words unwholesome acts). Lying casually creates a trend of untruthful/deceitful conduct; even white lies in this way are unskillful karma, maintaining or strengthening the habit of the mind to think of lying as an option in the first place. This is unskillful indeed when we consider that white lies are told to make people feel better or spare them some hurt feelings; they are not necessary lies, but ones told for self-comfort for both parties. Catering to the self's desire to avoid unpleasant realities is why we are bound in Samsara. We must fully experience and accept the dukkha of our lives as being mind-made through unclear vision, and then seek to correct that vision. Falsehood only further confounds our journey toward the truth of mind and all transient things.

A koan helps to illustrate this point.
(paraphrased) "The Buddha is sitting beneath a tree in a forest when a white rabbit goes running past him into a bush. Shortly thereafter a man comes running along and, spotting the Buddha, stops. He quickly explains that his son is in dire need of meat broth or will surely perish, as has been explained to him by a medicine man, and asks the Buddha which direction the rabbit went."

This seems a troublesome paradox, for the Buddha would be aiding in the taking of life if he tells the man that the rabbit is in the bush. On the other hand the child's life is on the line. What would the Buddha do?
ajahndoe
 
Posts: 38
Joined: Wed Jan 05, 2011 3:47 am

Re: Practicing Right Speech

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Wed Jan 05, 2011 2:47 pm

jackson wrote:Hi everyone,
For instance, if someone asked you how some food they made tasted, and they clearly weren't looking for criticism but you weren't very keen on it, what would be a good response?


Perhaps you could be tactfully truthful, eg "I think you cooked it really well but this isn't my favourite food." I think sometimes we tell white lies to protect ourselves as much as the other person, maybe we think if we're too honest they'll get upset and not like us anymore.

Spiny
User avatar
Spiny O'Norman
 
Posts: 851
Joined: Sat May 23, 2009 8:46 am
Location: Suffolk, England

Re: Practicing Right Speech

Postby andre9999 » Wed Jan 05, 2011 3:04 pm

Spiny O'Norman wrote:
jackson wrote:Hi everyone,
For instance, if someone asked you how some food they made tasted, and they clearly weren't looking for criticism but you weren't very keen on it, what would be a good response?


Perhaps you could be tactfully truthful, eg "I think you cooked it really well but this isn't my favourite food." I think sometimes we tell white lies to protect ourselves as much as the other person, maybe we think if we're too honest they'll get upset and not like us anymore.

Spiny


Leave out the criticism unless it's going to be useful. You should be able to find something you like about practically anything. In this example, you could simply gush a little about how well it was prepared and what a good cook he/she is, assume of course that you felt that was true.

Right Speech doesn't necessarily mean being brutally honest.
User avatar
andre9999
 
Posts: 465
Joined: Sat Oct 23, 2010 3:04 pm
Location: Milwaukee, WI, US

Re: Practicing Right Speech

Postby cooran » Wed Jan 05, 2011 7:21 pm

For instance, if someone asked you how some food they made tasted, and they clearly weren't looking for criticism but you weren't very keen on it, what would be a good response?


You could say ''it is certainly different to what I'm used to. Interesting. How did you make it? Did you use any special herbs/spices/ingredients? It reminds me a little of .... <insert other dish>'' - and let the conversation move away from whether you liked it or not.

with metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
User avatar
cooran
 
Posts: 7643
Joined: Tue Jan 06, 2009 11:32 pm
Location: Queensland, Australia

Re: Practicing Right Speech

Postby Annapurna » Wed Jan 05, 2011 7:53 pm

jackson wrote:Hi everyone,
I'm wondering how all of you balance true speech with speech that does not harm, this is an issue I've been having trouble with, as sometimes I feel put on the spot because I do not want to lie to the person but I also don't wish to hurt their feelings. For instance, if someone asked you how some food they made tasted, and they clearly weren't looking for criticism but you weren't very keen on it, what would be a good response? Personally, I feel it's kind of deceitful to mislead someone into believing you really like something when you don't so there are times when I'm at a loss as to what to say...
Looking forward to hearing your replies, :smile:
Jackson


Hi, Jackson,

it is nice that you are a considerate being and appreciate the work the went into the cooking by someone else, which you were allowed to benefit from.

Many people judge food by the sensual pleasure it gives them.

I had 2 exceptions to that arising in my thoughts, when I read your post.

At first I thought of a monk, who goes on alms round.

He will not worry so much about how it tastes, but he will be mindful of the kindness and generosity of the giver, and he will feel the hunger going away.

I was then thinking of poor people, and how they would be thankful for the kindness and generosity of the giver, and how they will feel the pain of hunger going away.

Do you see that those mindsets are totally diffrent from "ours", in an affluent world? :smile:

Food is taken for granted by most of us, and we get bored with some flavours, and cultivate aversion or preferances for particular pieces.

We need something to be keen on, to enjoy it when our cravings are met.

I have suffered poverty before, and I have enjoyed riches before.

The times of poverty taught me more.

They taught me, that when somebody cooked for me, and gave me food, I was close to tears of joy, no matter what I was given....and even if it was not my favorite dish before, hunger let me experience it in a different way.

Had I been asked, if I liked it, I would have said, from the bottom of my heart: Oh, yes, it's wonderful.

And it would have been the truth.

To this day, I have not had any bad food again, I believe... and I always thank the giver, with intensity.

But all this is my experience and perhaps no advice for you, who may have a wife or mother who wishes to know what you think, so she can please you.

I think you can answer quite truthfully in the way that was suggested by others.

Or say, kindly:

"It is always special when somebody cooks so lovingly for others, I enjoyed that very much." :anjali:

If you will get this dish more often, perhaps take Coorans advice, and ask how it was spiced in an unfamiliar way, and that you wonder how other spices would taste...

I'm sure you will find the right words!

Metta
http://www.schmuckzauberei.blogspot.com/
User avatar
Annapurna
 
Posts: 2639
Joined: Mon Jan 05, 2009 8:04 pm
Location: Germany

Re: Practicing Right Speech

Postby jackson » Thu Jan 06, 2011 1:04 am

Thanks for your replies everyone! :smile:
They've been helpful and I can see that there's multiple ways to approach this problem. I think I'll try putting more of an emphasis on gratitude next time. Right speech can be so tricky!
With metta,
Jackson
"The heart of the path is quite easy. There’s no need to explain anything at length. Let go of love and hate and let things be. That’s all that I do in my own practice." - Ajahn Chah
jackson
 
Posts: 191
Joined: Sun Nov 22, 2009 4:40 am

Re: Practicing Right Speech

Postby khlawng » Thu Jan 06, 2011 2:40 am

ajahndoe wrote:A koan helps to illustrate this point.
(paraphrased) "The Buddha is sitting beneath a tree in a forest when a white rabbit goes running past him into a bush. Shortly thereafter a man comes running along and, spotting the Buddha, stops. He quickly explains that his son is in dire need of meat broth or will surely perish, as has been explained to him by a medicine man, and asks the Buddha which direction the rabbit went."

This seems a troublesome paradox, for the Buddha would be aiding in the taking of life if he tells the man that the rabbit is in the bush. On the other hand the child's life is on the line. What would the Buddha do?


Why is this a troublesome paradox? Buddha would probably sit the man down and expound the Dhamma to the man on becoming, death, illness, pain, lamentation and sorrow as being part of this life and that the pursue of the holy life is the right way to extinguish stress and suffering. And a sutta would probably be written about it.

There is this whole thread going on about whether Buddha would tell on the Jews he was hiding if the Gestapo asked him on one of the other forums. I don't know if such threads are at all useful. I mean The Buddha lives a life of renunciation and as such, would never get involved in Worldly matters. Besides, where was he going to hide the Jews? Up a Bodhi Tree?
User avatar
khlawng
 
Posts: 117
Joined: Thu Dec 09, 2010 2:28 pm

Re: Practicing Right Speech

Postby Hanzze » Thu Jan 06, 2011 3:17 am

_/\_
Last edited by Hanzze on Mon Jan 17, 2011 4:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_
User avatar
Hanzze
 
Posts: 1906
Joined: Mon Oct 04, 2010 12:47 pm
Location: Cambodia

Re: Practicing Right Speech

Postby ground » Thu Jan 06, 2011 4:49 am

jackson wrote:For instance, if someone asked you how some food they made tasted, and they clearly weren't looking for criticism but you weren't very keen on it, what would be a good response?

This is one case of speculative questions that are constructed with the misconception that that there can be general situations and generally right behaviours is such situations. This is an illusion.
In real life your behaviour always has to take into account the person, her/his qualities, your relationship to this person and further circumstances.
The only thing that can be said generally is that taste is one thing and "likes and dislikes" another. On that basis all the other aspects, including right speech, have to be taken into account.

Kind regards
User avatar
ground
 
Posts: 2592
Joined: Wed Nov 25, 2009 6:01 am

Re: Practicing Right Speech

Postby pompous_ass1 » Sat Jan 22, 2011 12:00 am

Right speech is not always saying what people want to hear. First and foremost, right speech is honest and truthful speech. Often people don't want to hear the truth and it offends and hurts their feelings. That is not the fault of the person telling it...that is just the way it is. This does not mean that the truth should not be expressed. Disillusionment is the doorway to enlightenment. If you are suffering from delusions, then hearing the truth may set you free. There is no good reason to be politically correct about your expressions of the truth so long as those expressions are intent on being truthful and using that truth for the good of those you hope will hear it. Just say what needs to be said and walk away...it will resonate in the mind of the hearer and possibly, without your knowledge, change something within them for the good. The truth is always the greatest compassion. The reaction of the hearer is not your sole responsibility...a person's reactions are also their responsibility, completely within their realm of control and there is nothing you can do about that except be as gentle in you expression as possible. After that, it's out of your hands. You can only control yourself, not others. You can only take so much to heart. Its better to say what needs to be said no matter the risks to peoples sensibilities, IMNSHO. It's a judgement call...but it's not that difficult if your loyalty is to the truth. Either way, you do what you think is right, and you live with the consequences...and things almost never turn out the way you would like them to, especially when it comes to people...and so be it. Accept it...do what needs to be done. There is no sense in walking around on eggshells uncomfortable about saying what you know to be true.
Last edited by pompous_ass1 on Sat Jan 22, 2011 12:29 am, edited 1 time in total.
pompous_ass1
 
Posts: 27
Joined: Fri Jan 21, 2011 10:58 pm

Re: Practicing Right Speech

Postby bodom » Sat Jan 22, 2011 12:25 am

pompous_ass1 wrote:Right speech is not always saying what people want to hear. First and foremost, right speech is honest and truthful speech. And often people don't want to hear the truth and it offends and hurts their feelings. That is not the fault of the person telling it...that is just the way it is. This does not mean that the truth should not be expressed. Disillusionment is the doorway to enlightenment. If you are suffering from your delusions, then hearing the truth may set you free. There is no good reason to be politically correct about your expressions of the truth so long as those expressions are intent on being true and using that truth for the good of those you hope will here it. Just say it and walk away...it will resonate in the mind of the hearer and possibly, without your knowledge, change something within them for the good. The truth is always the greatest compassion. The reaction of the hearer is not your fault...that is them doing out of ignorance. You can only control your own reactions, theirs are their responsibility, not yours. You can only take to heart so much and you must say what needs to be said no matter the risks to peoples sensibilities. It's a judgement call...but it's not that difficult if your loyalty is to the truth. Either way, you do what you think is right, and you live with the consequences...and things almost never turn out the way you would like them to, especially when it comes to people...and so be it. Accept it...do what needs to be done. There is no sense in walking around on eggshells uncomfortable about saying what you know to be true.


This is not right speech according to the Buddha.

While the Buddha always spoke true and beneficial words, he also knew the appropriate time when revealing unpleasant truths to the listener, for as he says.."The Tathagata has sympathy for living beings."


[1] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial (or: not connected with the goal), unendearing & disagreeable to others, he does not say them.

[2] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, unendearing & disagreeable to others, he does not say them.

[3] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, but unendearing & disagreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them.

[4] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial, but endearing & agreeable to others, he does not say them.

[5] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, but endearing & agreeable to others, he does not say them.

[6] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, and endearing & agreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them. Why is that? Because the Tathagata has sympathy for living beings."


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
User avatar
bodom
 
Posts: 4621
Joined: Fri Jan 09, 2009 6:18 pm
Location: San Antonio, Texas

Re: Practicing Right Speech

Postby pompous_ass1 » Sat Jan 22, 2011 12:40 am

Truth is not always agreeable to others...I find that dogmatic to say that what ever you say, even if it is absolutely truthful and demostrably so, it must be "agreeable" to the hearer. That is impossible, even if you have a good rapport with the person that they will always be "agreeable" to hearing the truth. People cling very strongly to their delusions and biases. Does this mean that you should never address them? I don't think so. Buddha never meant for us to be silent in the face of foolishness...or that we should take so much to heart that you cannot control about the reactions of others.
pompous_ass1
 
Posts: 27
Joined: Fri Jan 21, 2011 10:58 pm

Re: Practicing Right Speech

Postby pompous_ass1 » Sat Jan 22, 2011 12:44 am

If the wise never speak in fear that what they say will be disagreeable to the fool who disagrees because he is a fool, then the fools will rule the world.
pompous_ass1
 
Posts: 27
Joined: Fri Jan 21, 2011 10:58 pm

Re: Practicing Right Speech

Postby bodom » Sat Jan 22, 2011 12:45 am

pompous_ass1 wrote:Truth is not always agreeable to others...I find that dogmatic to say that what ever you say, even if it is absolutely truthful and demostrably so, it must be "agreeable" to the hearer. That is impossible, even if you have a good rapport with the person that they will always be "agreeable" to hearing the truth. People cling very strongly to their delusions and biases. Does this mean that you should never address them? I don't think so. Buddha never meant for us to be silent in the face of foolishness...or that we should take so much to heart that you cannot control about the reactions of others.


Did you even read my post?

It is about knowing the proper time to speak these unpleasant truths, not withholding them from the listener altogether. Speaking an unpleasant truth to someone and then walking away to let them deal with it is not skillful.

[3] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, but unendearing & disagreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them.


:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
User avatar
bodom
 
Posts: 4621
Joined: Fri Jan 09, 2009 6:18 pm
Location: San Antonio, Texas

Re: Practicing Right Speech

Postby pompous_ass1 » Sat Jan 22, 2011 12:53 am

It can very well be skillful to walk away and let them digest it themselves rather than have them further resent your expressions and resist them out of ignorant pride...let them hear your words, see the truth in them for themselves, rather than assaulting them with it.
pompous_ass1
 
Posts: 27
Joined: Fri Jan 21, 2011 10:58 pm

Re: Practicing Right Speech

Postby bodom » Sat Jan 22, 2011 12:57 am

pompous_ass1 wrote:It can very well be skillful to walk away and let them digest it themselves rather than have them further resent your expressions and resist them out of ignorant pride...let them hear your words, see the truth in them for themselves, rather than assaulting them with it.


Some more than others are open to constructive criticism. It depends on the person and the situation and this is why the Buddha gave us these criteria for judging the appropriate response.

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
User avatar
bodom
 
Posts: 4621
Joined: Fri Jan 09, 2009 6:18 pm
Location: San Antonio, Texas

Re: Practicing Right Speech

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Sat Jan 22, 2011 12:59 am

pompous_ass1 wrote:It can very well be skillful to walk away and let them digest it themselves rather than have them further resent your expressions and resist them out of ignorant pride...let them hear your words, see the truth in them for themselves, rather than assaulting them with it.


Looks like you're having a nice conversation with yourself. You should try reading other people's responses as I think Bodom had some nice quotes that might shed light on the dilemma. That's my samphappalapa for the day. Take care.
To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas.
-Dhp. 183

Uposatha Observance Club:http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=148031379279&v=info
Kiva-Theravada Buddhists:http://www.kiva.org/team/theravada_buddhists
Dana on the Interwebs:
http://greatergood.com
http://freerice.com
User avatar
Khalil Bodhi
 
Posts: 1646
Joined: Tue Feb 03, 2009 6:32 pm
Location: NYC

Re: Practicing Right Speech

Postby pompous_ass1 » Sat Jan 22, 2011 1:00 am

As for "the right time" ...there is no such thing. Ever heard the expression-- "The fool waits for perfect weather"...there is no such thing as perfect weather, and there is also no perfect time to say what needs to be said.
pompous_ass1
 
Posts: 27
Joined: Fri Jan 21, 2011 10:58 pm

Next

Return to Ethical Conduct

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests