Right Speech

I was chatting with Tony from work the other day about the Buddhist idea of Right Speech, which is one of the items in the Noble Eightfold Path. It turned out I could only remember 2 of the 4 requirements, so I had to look them up:

Right speech is the first principle of ethical conduct in the eightfold path. Ethical conduct is viewed as a guideline to moral discipline, which supports the other principles of the path. This aspect is not self-sufficient, however, essential, because mental purification can only be achieved through the cultivation of ethical conduct. The importance of speech in the context of Buddhist ethics is obvious: words can break or save lives, make enemies or friends, start war or create peace.

Buddha explained right speech as follows:

  1. to abstain from false speech, especially not to tell deliberate lies and not to speak deceitfully
  2. to abstain from slanderous speech and not to use words maliciously against others
  3. to abstain from harsh words that offend or hurt others, and
  4. to abstain from idle chatter that lacks purpose or depth.

Positively phrased, this means to tell the truth, to speak friendly, warm, and gently and to talk only when necessary.

So, in summary:

  1. speak the truth
  2. speak kindly
  3. speak gently
  4. speak only when necessary

October 14 2011, 9:40 PM  by David Parry