Dear Still Water Friends,
This Thursday evening, after our meditation period, we will recite the five mindfulness trainings and focus our sharing on the Fourth Training, Loving Speech and Deep Listening.
Interestingly, the Fourth Mindfulness Trainings offered by the Buddha addressed only intentional deception: “I undertake the training rule to abstain from false speech.” A larger vision of loving speech is included in the Buddha’s explanation of Right Speech, an element of the Noble Eight-Fold Path. Right Speech included four components: abstaining from false speech, abstaining from slanderous speech, abstaining from harsh speech, and abstaining from idle chatter. This accords with Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings on loving speech, which give attention not just to the veracity of our words, but the effect of our words on others. He writes in The Heart of the Buddha’s Teachings:
Sometimes we speak clumsily and create internal knots in others. Then we say, “I was just telling the truth.” It may be the truth, but if our way of speaking causes unnecessary suffering, it is not Right Speech. The truth must be presented in ways that others can accept. Words that damage or destroy are not Right Speech. Before you speak, understand the person you are speaking to. Consider each word carefully before you say anything, so that your speech is “Right” in both form and content. The Fourth Mindfulness Training also has to do with loving speech. You have the right to tell another everything in your heart with the condition that you use only loving speech. If you are not able to speak calmly, then don’t speak that day. “Sorry, my dear, allow me to tell you tomorrow or the next day. I am not at my best today. I’m afraid I’ll say things that are unkind. Allow me to tell you about this another day.” Open your mouth and speak only when you are sure you can use calm and loving speech. You have to train yourself to be able to do so.
Tonight, I asked myself, “Who in my early life touched me with their loving words?” The first person to come to mind was my fourth grade teacher. As a ten-year-old I often felt awkward and insecure. I don’t remember the words she used, but I do remember that when she spoke to me I felt safe, heard, and valued. She somehow knew who I was and who I could be. A book she recommended — Richard Halliburton’s Complete Book of Marvels — was a childhood favorite that encouraged me to explore beyond the boundaries of the culture I grew up in.
In our dharma sharing we will remember those who have touched us through their loving speech. And we will explore how in our own lives we have developed our capacity to use “only loving speech.”
You are invited to join us.
The text of the Fourth Mindfulness Training and a further consideration of the Buddha’s explanation of Right Speech are below.
Blessings to you. May you share with others the love that is in you.
Loving Speech and Deep Listening
Thich Nhat Hanh’s Fourth Mindfulness Training
Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and compassionate listening in order to relieve suffering and to promote reconciliation and peace in myself and among other people, ethnic and religious groups, and nations.
Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am committed to speaking truthfully using words that inspire confidence, joy, and hope. When anger is manifesting in me, I am determined not to speak. I will practice mindful breathing and walking in order to recognize and to look deeply into its roots, especially in my wrong perceptions and lack of understanding of the suffering in myself and in the other person. I will speak and listen in a way that can help myself and the other person to release the suffering and see the way out of difficult situations. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to utter words that can cause division or discord. I will make daily efforts, in my speaking and listening, to nourish my capacity for understanding, love, joy, and inclusiveness, and gradually transform anger, violence, and fear that lie deep in my consciousness.
Excerpts from the Buddha’s discourses used by Bhikkhu Bodhi in his essay, “The Noble Eightfold Path”
[Available online: http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/noble8path6.pdf]
Abstaining from false speech (musavada veramani)
Herein someone avoids false speech and abstains from it. He speaks the truth, is devoted to truth, reliable, worthy of confidence, not a deceiver of people. Being at a meeting, or amongst people, or in the midst of his relatives, or in a society, or in the king’s court, and called upon and asked as witness to tell what he knows, he answers, if he knows nothing: “I know nothing,” and if he knows, he answers: “I know”; if he has seen nothing, he answers: “I have seen nothing,” and if he has seen, he answers: “I have seen.” Thus he never knowingly speaks a lie, either for the sake of his own advantage, or for the sake of another person’s advantage, or for the sake of any advantage whatsoever.
Abstaining from slanderous speech (pisunaya vacaya veramani)
He avoids slanderous speech and abstains from it. What he has heard here he does not repeat there, so as to cause dissension there; and what he has heard there he does not repeat here, so as to cause dissension here. Thus he unites those that are divided; and those that are united he encourages. Concord gladdens him, he delights and rejoices in concord; and it is concord that he spreads by his words.
Abstaining from harsh speech (pharusaya vacaya veramani)
He avoids harsh language and abstains from it. He speaks such words as are gentle, soothing to the ear, loving, such words as go to the heart, and are courteous, friendly, and agreeable to many.
Abstaining from idle chatter (samphappalapa veramani).
He avoids idle chatter and abstains from it. He speaks at the right time, in accordance with facts, speaks what is useful, speaks of the Dhamma and the discipline; his speech is like a treasure, uttered at the right moment, accompanied by reason, moderate and full of sense.