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Revealing a cheating spouse: Wrong Speech?

Posted: Tue Sep 16, 2014 11:38 pm
by VinceField
In one of Thanissaro Bhikkhu's talks on wrong speech he mentions that the Buddha taught that it is wrong speech to inform someone that their spouse is having extramarital affairs.

After bringing up this teaching with one of my classes today, it was agreed by the students that they believe revealing the cheating spouse would be the right thing to do because they would want to know if it were themselves in the shoes of the spouse being cheated on.

My understanding of the teaching is that it is wrong speech because revealing the cheating spouse will cause problems in the lives of those involved.

I'm curious to hear opinions regarding the morality of a situation like this, where the right thing to do is not so apparent. What would you do? What would you want done if you were being cheated on?

Re: Revealing a cheating spouse: Wrong Speech?

Posted: Wed Sep 17, 2014 12:41 am
by cooran
Can you give a link to where the Buddha said this?

With metta,
Chris

Re: Revealing a cheating spouse: Wrong Speech?

Posted: Wed Sep 17, 2014 1:58 am
by Anagarika
Ven. Thanissaro points out :"Notice the focus on intent: this is where the practice of right speech intersects with the training of the mind. Before you speak, you focus on why you want to speak." I echo Steven's comment above that situations like these must be taken on a case by case basis. If one's intent is to prevent harm and promote healing, and oneself has the clarity and insight to know what to say, and to whom, if the intent is bright, then the kamma may be bright.

Some good people seek out the safety and comfort of others outside the marriage when they are being abused or neglected. These people may have good reasons to not have their conduct revealed to an abusive spouse. On the other hand, some people in good marriages with loving partners take on affairs with harmful people, and in that case, some directed speech may be necessary to prevent further harm to innocent spouses or children.

Were it true that the Suttas revealed specific case studies on "just war," or when one may exercise Right Speech by preventing harm to a family via an injurious affair. The Dhamma is either a fundamental absolute, or it is a mandate for skillful and ethical conduct and bright ( or neutral) kamma, to which we must apply wisdom and insight on a case by case basis. I prefer the latter view.

Re: Revealing a cheating spouse: Wrong Speech?

Posted: Wed Sep 17, 2014 1:58 am
by VinceField
I couldn't find the Buddha addressing the specific situation of adultery, but this seems to address the issue in a general sense:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dham ... amma-vaca/

"Abandoning divisive speech he abstains from divisive speech. What he has heard here he does not tell there to break those people apart from these people here. What he has heard there he does not tell here to break these people apart from those people there. Thus reconciling those who have broken apart or cementing those who are united, he loves concord, delights in concord, enjoys concord, speaks things that create concord."

Re: Revealing a cheating spouse: Wrong Speech?

Posted: Wed Sep 17, 2014 3:09 am
by Bhikkhu Pesala
Abhaya Sutta
[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.
It's the last bit that is difficult. If you know that someone's spouse is cheating on them, and your intention is not to cause division, but to protect your friend, then it is right speech.

Re: Revealing a cheating spouse: Wrong Speech?

Posted: Wed Sep 17, 2014 3:21 am
by Buckwheat
If possible, I would convince the adulterer to confess their own crimes. Hearing from a third party evokes so many more confusing emotions. Denial and anger grow stronger. Also, they have time to grow more angry without the cheater having the chance to apologize. Of course, I realize this approach is not always possible.

Re: Revealing a cheating spouse: Wrong Speech?

Posted: Wed Sep 17, 2014 4:06 am
by Mkoll
Buckwheat wrote:If possible, I would convince the adulterer to confess their own crimes. Hearing from a third party evokes so many more confusing emotions. Denial and anger grow stronger. Also, they have time to grow more angry without the cheater having the chance to apologize. Of course, I realize this approach is not always possible.
Still, I agree with the sentiment.

Re: Revealing a cheating spouse: Wrong Speech?

Posted: Wed Sep 17, 2014 4:18 am
by SarathW
Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Abhaya Sutta
[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.
It's the last bit that is difficult. If you know that someone's spouse is cheating on them, and your intention is not to cause division, but to protect your friend, then it is right speech.
How does this relate to your goal?
Do you know your friend also cheating on her/his spouse?
:shrug:

Re: Revealing a cheating spouse: Wrong Speech?

Posted: Wed Sep 17, 2014 6:07 am
by appicchato
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.
Confusing...firstly, factual is true, why say 'true'? (granted, it's a sutta quote), beneficial, to whom?...secondly, it's (conceivably only) the Tathagata that has the proper sense of time...thirdly, it's unspecific as to whom to speak to, the offender or the offendee (sic)...
If you know that someone's spouse is cheating on them, and your intention is not to cause division, but to protect your friend, then it is right speech.
So, to blow the whistle, no matter the intention, won't cause division?...hardly...

Speaking will cause grief to the informer as well, guaranteed...

Re: Revealing a cheating spouse: Wrong Speech?

Posted: Wed Sep 17, 2014 6:32 am
by Ben
appicchato wrote:
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.
Confusing...firstly, factual is true, why say 'true'? (granted, it's a sutta quote), beneficial, to whom?...secondly, it's (conceivably only) the Tathagata that has the proper sense of time...thirdly, it's unspecific as to whom to speak to, the offender or the offendee (sic)...
If you know that someone's spouse is cheating on them, and your intention is not to cause division, but to protect your friend, then it is right speech.
So, to blow the whistle, no matter the intention, won't cause division?...hardly...

Speaking will cause grief to the informer as well, guaranteed...
Bhante, that is true. I also agree with a previous poster who mentioned the option of counselling the cheating party to inform his/her spouse rather than the spouse finding out through a third party.
Kind regards,
Ben

Re: Revealing a cheating spouse: Wrong Speech?

Posted: Wed Sep 17, 2014 7:01 am
by Spiny Norman
appicchato wrote: Speaking will cause grief to the informer as well, guaranteed...[/i]
Though perhaps it will lessen grief further down the line? Perhaps knowing the right time to say difficult things is the hardest thing to judge.

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

Re: Revealing a cheating spouse: Wrong Speech?

Posted: Wed Sep 17, 2014 7:11 am
by Dan Rooney
I've no idea what the Buddhist angle on this is but defending non-speaking on the grounds that telling the other person will cause harm seems like a fairly weak justification since not speaking will itself cause harm; there is the harm in not telling the truth/protecting a lie/telling a lie (depending on how you want to frame it) and the harm suffered by the other, non-cheating partner through his/her partner's infidelity. If it were me, my inclination would always be to tell the truth but it depends so much on so many ifs and buts in the particular situation that any answer you are going to get on the internet will pretty much always be useless.

Re: Revealing a cheating spouse: Wrong Speech?

Posted: Wed Sep 17, 2014 7:19 am
by SarathW
How Brahama Vihara fitting to this question?
:thinking:

Re: Revealing a cheating spouse: Wrong Speech?

Posted: Wed Sep 17, 2014 10:41 am
by Spiny Norman
Dan Rooney wrote:I've no idea what the Buddhist angle on this is but defending non-speaking on the grounds that telling the other person will cause harm seems like a fairly weak justification since not speaking will itself cause harm; there is the harm in not telling the truth/protecting a lie/telling a lie (depending on how you want to frame it) and the harm suffered by the other, non-cheating partner through his/her partner's infidelity. If it were me, my inclination would always be to tell the truth but it depends so much on so many ifs and buts in the particular situation that any answer you are going to get on the internet will pretty much always be useless.
Yes, sometimes we're in the messy business of trying to weigh up which option is least harmful.

Re: Revealing a cheating spouse: Wrong Speech?

Posted: Wed Sep 17, 2014 5:22 pm
by Spiny Norman
SarathW wrote:How Brahama Vihara fitting to this question?
:thinking:
It's spoken with a mind of good-will, as here for example: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html