Where do we begin? With right speech.

Here are extracts from an article by Rev. Oriana LaChance, who is Prior at Eugene Buddhist Priory, Oregon, USA.  The full article can be found in the Newsletter, www.eugenebuddhistpriory.org

Where do we begin? With right speech.

“Before you speak, ask yourself: Does it improve on the silence?”
Charles Bock, from Alice and Oliver, 2016

………….Hatred and hate speech are directed toward “the other,” whomever that other might be. Increasingly, “the other” is anybody who does not feel, look, worship, adhere to the same ideas, the same sexual orientation, have the same culture or history as I. If I view “the other” in this way, my world of the acceptable is a very narrow world–in fact, a self-imposed prison.

How do those of us who take refuge in Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha navigate this not-so-brave new world? What can we bring to it that is of benefit to ourselves and others?
Eight centuries ago, our ancestor Great Master Dogen spoke to his disciples about the bodhisattva’s four methods of guidance—one of them is kind speech:

Kind speech means that when you see sentient beings, you arouse the heart of compassion and offer words of loving care. It is contrary to cruel or violent speech. . . . Praise those with virtue; pity those without it. If kind speech is offered, little by little kind speech expands. Thus, even kind speech that is not ordinarily known or seen comes into being. Be willing to practice it for this entire present life; do not give up, world after world, life after life. Kind speech is the basis for reconciling rulers and subduing enemies. Those who hear kind speech from you have a delighted expression and a joyful mind. Those who hear of your kind speech will be deeply touched; they will always remember it.

(from “The Bodhisattva’s Four Methods of Guidance,” Treasury of the True Dharma Eye, edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi, Shambhala, p. 475).

You would like to know where to begin? Deeply explore your own divisive speech, whether you talk against a family member, neighbor, co-worker, politician. Divisive speech separates us, leads to “me” and “them,” “us” and “the other.”

In the Anguttara Nikaya, Book of the Fives, the Buddha presents five conditions to investigate before speaking:

(1) Do I speak at the right time and place, or not?
(2) Do I speak the truth, or not?
(3) Do I speak gently or harshly?
(4) Do I speak beneficial words, or not?
(5) Do I speak with a kindly heart, or not?

According to these five conditions, the Buddha encourages us to speak only when it is the right time and place, when it is true, when it is kind, when it is helpful, and when we speak out of good will. If our words do not meet each of these five conditions, then it is time to be silent. In this way, we are encouraged to let go of our small concerns and to embrace a wider, more universal community of imperfect beings just like ourselves.

Please, can each one of us do our best to refrain from hate speech, putdowns, gossip, rudeness, boasting, and speaking as if we know it all. And can we refrain from believing that our opinions and views are not only our reality (dubious enough) but should be reality for everyone else as well. This seems to me a good place to begin.

In gassho, Rev. Oriana