Breaking the fourth precept at the water cooler

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Training of Sila, the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).
ricketybridge
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Breaking the fourth precept at the water cooler

Postby ricketybridge » Thu Apr 28, 2011 11:56 pm

Hey everyone,

Once again, sorry if this has already been addressed; couldn't really find anything on it here.

So since wrong speech includes frivolous talk and idle chatter, does this mean that every time I engage in small talk at the office water cooler, I'm breaking the fourth precept?? The examples of frivolous speech in some sutta are only those in which the speaker seems to be hyperbolic, but it seems to me that many other different types of conversation would come under the heading of "frivolous". I can see that I'd be breaking this precept if I indulged in small talk--e.g. as a means of avoiding work or something--but some have theorized that small talk is actually an important mode of human communication. The content is basically meaningless, but the form is important for getting to slowly get to know someone, to lubricate social situations, etc. (aka "the medium is the message").

So does that sort of stuff actually fall under the fourth precept? Am I supposed to fix my coffee in silence or change the topic of conversation to the dhamma? (lol)

Thanks,
rick

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bodom
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Re: Breaking the fourth precept at the water cooler

Postby bodom » Fri Apr 29, 2011 12:00 am

Hi ricketybridge

Have a look over this short excerpt:

Idle chatter is pointless talk, speech that lacks purpose or depth. Such speech communicates nothing of value, but only stirs up the defilements in one's own mind and in others. The Buddha advises that idle talk should be curbed and speech restricted as much as possible to matters of genuine importance. In the case of a monk, the typical subject of the passage just quoted, his words should be selective and concerned primarily with the Dhamma. Lay persons will have more need for affectionate small talk with friends and family, polite conversation with acquaintances, and talk in connection with their line of work. But even then they should be mindful not to let the conversation stray into pastures where the restless mind, always eager for something sweet or spicy to feed on, might find the chance to indulge its defiling propensities.


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... d.html#ch4

: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

ricketybridge
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Re: Breaking the fourth precept at the water cooler

Postby ricketybridge » Fri Apr 29, 2011 12:02 am

Perfect. Thanks so much. :)

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Re: Breaking the fourth precept at the water cooler

Postby chownah » Fri Apr 29, 2011 2:51 am

Ricketybridge,
I like the opinion which bodom gave in the quote.....it represents someone's opinion on this issue and it seems to me that this opinion makes sense.

I do think though that it is best for one to not totally accept someone's opinion on a matter of Dhamma and not to start thinking that this is what the Buddha taught....it is after all just someone's opinion....here I pretty much agree with the opinion so I'm not trying to take issue with that opinion but just want to point out that after all it is just an opinion and should be taken as just that.

I'm not wanting to pick on you nor am I wanting to make a very serious statement about this but I would like to point out that your response was ,"Perfect. Thanks so much.".....could it be that you got the reply which you wanted?....could it be that you are happy because the reply fits well with your worldly view of how you think your life should proceed?....again, I'm not taking issue with the opinion you so readily accepted (I like that opinion and think it is a good one)...and again I'm not wanting to pick on you or make some serious issue of this.....just wanting to point out something.....for instance....if someone had brought a hypothetical reply where some influential person stated, "idle chatter at the water cooler is clearly a violation of the precept and it is best to do everything you can to reduce or illiminate it"......if some influential person said this....someone as influential as the person who authored the opinion given above....if that happened then would you have replied, "Perfect. Thanks so much."?......or would you keep looking for someone else who could give you an answer more consistent with the answer that you want?............

chownah

ricketybridge
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Re: Breaking the fourth precept at the water cooler

Postby ricketybridge » Fri Apr 29, 2011 4:57 pm

Well, I did take a look at the source in which the paragraph was found, to see further reasoning or justification for that view, so it's not like I took it right off the bat. Furthermore, yeah, of course it's the answer I was looking for; it's the one that seemed most reasonable. If someone had said, as you suggested, "Yes, you are absolutely breaking that precept," of course my response would have been different. Statements of different extremes evoke different reactions. I probably would have said something like, "Jesus Christ, that's strict. Well, I don't want to be the office weirdo, so I guess I'll have to put that on hold until I become a monk, if ever. But maybe I can work on cutting back a bit more." But the fact that even one person has this opinion--a monk, no less--to me, is enough license not to feel that, for instance, I'm doing something immoral. If other monks hold different views, I'd be curious to hear their arguments as well. It's not like I requested that the thread be locked lol.

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manas
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Re: Breaking the fourth precept at the water cooler

Postby manas » Sun May 01, 2011 8:46 am

As well as time spent at work, even just being a parent with young children necessitates being a bit easy-going as regards 'not engaging in frivolous talk or idle chatter'. As my personal understanding and commitment to Dhamma increases, so does my desire to speak more words that are truthful and in accord with Dhamma,and less that are trivial...but kids have a need for fun in family life, for laughter, occasional hilarity...and some of the things I say are calculated just for that purpose...and the result is happier kids who enjoy spending time with their (Buddhist) dad! When I get too serious about it all I can get a bit wooden and boring...and that is not going to encourage the lil ones to ever take up the Path, IMO.

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Bodhisurfer
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Re: Breaking the fourth precept at the water cooler

Postby Bodhisurfer » Sun May 01, 2011 11:49 am

bodom wrote:Hi ricketybridge

Have a look over this short excerpt:

..... Lay persons will have more need for affectionate small talk with friends and family, polite conversation with acquaintances, and talk in connection with their line of work. But even then they should be mindful not to let the conversation stray into pastures where the restless mind, always eager for something sweet or spicy to feed on, might find the chance to indulge its defiling propensities.[/b]


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... d.html#ch4

:anjali:


I take that precept as 'False speech' -essentially taking it to mean lieing or knowingly mislead. I can see the potential dangers in idle chatter but imo its not breaking that precept.
just as point of interest, for me at least ;) , is there an order to the precepts? I tend to have 'False speech' at 3 with 'sexual misconduct' at 4. :buddha2:
Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya

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andre9999
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Re: Breaking the fourth precept at the water cooler

Postby andre9999 » Sun May 01, 2011 1:11 pm

Maybe just prioritize. Keep the water cooler talk away from gossip and negativity and leave it at that. We're laypeople, so it's not like we're all going to sit around talking about Buddhism with everyone all the time.

Except me, of course? I'm going to be the Jimmy Swaggart of enlightenment.

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Kim OHara
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Re: Breaking the fourth precept at the water cooler

Postby Kim OHara » Sun May 01, 2011 10:07 pm

manasikara wrote:As well as time spent at work, even just being a parent with young children necessitates being a bit easy-going as regards 'not engaging in frivolous talk or idle chatter'. As my personal understanding and commitment to Dhamma increases, so does my desire to speak more words that are truthful and in accord with Dhamma,and less that are trivial...but kids have a need for fun in family life, for laughter, occasional hilarity...and some of the things I say are calculated just for that purpose...and the result is happier kids who enjoy spending time with their (Buddhist) dad! When I get too serious about it all I can get a bit wooden and boring...and that is not going to encourage the lil ones to ever take up the Path, IMO.

:clap: :clap:
Well said.
I think we lay people can tend to thoughtlessly apply monastic ideals of conduct to ourselves just because the teachings put them forward as 'the ideal' or 'the highest virtue', but the two life-choices are quite distinct. Being the best lay person you can be is not being a sort of underachieving monk.
:namaste:
Kim


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