The Buddha's Teachings on Social and Communal Harmony. IV. Proper Speech.

Each week we study and discuss a different sutta or Dhamma text

Moderator: mikenz66

Post Reply
User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 15230
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

The Buddha's Teachings on Social and Communal Harmony. IV. Proper Speech.

Post by mikenz66 » Sat Nov 04, 2017 8:36 am

The Buddha's Teachings on Social and Communal Harmony.
IV. Proper Speech.


See: here for background.

Speech is a differentiating trait of humans. Words can create enmity or friendship, win or harden hearts, deceive others or open them to new pathways of understanding. Social transformations through history have been facilitated by speech: Declaration of Independence, Communist Manifesto, Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech.

In a Dhamma context, speech is important. One of the two conditions for the arising of right view is "the utterance of another". AN 2.126. In both the noble eightfold path and the ten courses of wholesome action we have:
Abstaining from false speech, divisive speech, harsh speech, idle chatter. See II,2(5), AN 10.176.

This Chapter expands on this earlier discussion by taking poper speech as a separate topic in it's own right.


1. Well-Spoken Speech

(1) Posessing Four Factors
Snp 3.3

(2) Possessing Five Factors
AN 5.198

One of the above suttas enumerates four factors, the other five and the factors do not completely correspond. The factors are somewhat fluid.


The Buddha also provides advice for holding discussions and participating in debates. Debates were common among the contemporary ascetics. In order for his students to preserve the good repute of Dhamma, they had to know how to engage in debate. One of the qualifications of the well-trained disciple was the ability to "explain their own teacher's doctrine, to teach it, proclaim it, establish it, disclose it, analyze it, and elucidate it, and to refute thoroughly with reasons teh prevalent tenets of others and teach the efficacious Dhamma." This statement occurs in many suttas, including: Ud 6.1.


2. Holding Discussions
AN 3.67

In this sutta the Buddha lays down standards for his disciples, when engaging in debates. The verses sum up: the sagely person speaks without quarrelsomeness or pride, utters speech that the noble ones practice, and speaks in a way connected with the Dhamma and meaning.


One of the duties of a monk or nun was to teach Dhamma. To do this effectively it was necessary to know how to awaken interest and hold attention. In the following sutta the Buddha explains five ways in which a talk in "wrongly addressed", where the subject does not match the temperament and interest of the audience. He goes on to discuss "rightly addressed" talks.

3. Speak in an Appropriate Way
AN 5.157

http://awake.kiev.ua/dhamma/tipitaka/2S ... ggo-e.html
7. Dukkathāsuttaṃ - Unpleasant talk]


Some of the suttas in this Chapter may be surprising. The Buddha highlights the dangers of unnecessary arguments in the following two suttas:

4. Don't Create Arguments
AN 5.212
[See this page: http://awake.kiev.ua/dhamma/tipitaka/2S ... ggo-e.html
2. Bhaṇḍanakārakasuttāṃ - Arousing quarrels]

5. Assigning Praise and Blame
AN 5.236
[See this page: http://awake.kiev.ua/dhamma/tipitaka/2S ... ggo-e.html
6. Paṭhama - avaṇṇārahasuttaṃ - Merits blame]


However, he does not insist that speech must always be sweet and agreeable to the hearers. On the contrary, he holds that one should have no qualms about cricisising those who deserve criticism.

This sutta talks about speaking praise and blame to fit the situation:

6. Praise When Praise Is Due
AN 4.100
See this page: http://awake.kiev.ua/dhamma/tipitaka/2S ... ggo-e.html
10. Potaliyasuttaṃ - To Potaliya the wandering ascetic]

In the following he says that "when one knows overt sharp speech to be true and correct, and beneficial, one may utter it, knowing the time to do so."

7. Knowing Whatto Say and How to Say It
MN 139
  • “‘One should not utter covert speech, and one should not utter overt sharp speech.’ So it was said. And with reference to what was this said?

    “Here, bhikkhus, when one knows covert speech to be untrue, incorrect, and unbeneficial, one should on no account utter it. When one knows covert speech to be true, correct, and unbeneficial, one should try not to utter it. But when one knows covert speech to be true, correct, and beneficial, one may utter it, knowing the time to do so.

    “Here, bhikkhus, when one knows overt sharp speech to be untrue, incorrect, and unbeneficial, one should on no account utter it. When one knows overt sharp speech to be true, correct, and unbeneficial, one should try not to utter it. But when one knows overt sharp speech to be true, correct, and beneficial, one may utter it, knowing the time to do so.

    “So it was with reference to this that it was said: ‘One should not utter covert speech, and one should not utter overt sharp speech.’

Reproving others is a thorny matter, because it can lead to resentment and sow the seeds of conflict. However, the moral mettle of any community depends on upright conduct of its members, and it is necessary to reign in members of the community that stray beyond the bounds of propriety.

In the following Sariputta describes the procedure in the monastic setting for reproval and responding to criticism.

8. Reproving Others
AN 5.167
See this page: http://awake.kiev.ua/dhamma/tipitaka/2S ... ggo-e.html
7. Codanāsuttaṃ - Making accusations]

User avatar
L.N.
Posts: 467
Joined: Sun Jul 03, 2016 6:01 pm

Re: The Buddha's Teachings on Social and Communal Harmony. IV. Proper Speech.

Post by L.N. » Sat Nov 04, 2017 3:37 pm

This topic should be pinned. Many excellent reminders in the above. Such as the following, which I find helpful:
I will talk at the right time not out of time. I will tell the truth not the untruth. I will talk politely, not roughly. I will tell the essential not the useless. I will talk with loving kindness not with anger. Friends, a bhikkhu desiring to accuse another should internally establish himself in these five things and then accuse another.
Sire patitthitā Buddhā
Dhammo ca tava locane
Sangho patitthitō tuiham
uresabba gunākaro


愿众佛坐在我的头顶, 佛法在我的眼中, 僧伽,功德的根源, 端坐在我的肩上。

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 15230
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: The Buddha's Teachings on Social and Communal Harmony. IV. Proper Speech.

Post by mikenz66 » Sat Nov 04, 2017 6:20 pm

Yes, excellent advice.

The chapters are linked here: viewtopic.php?f=25&t=345&p=420589#p420589 as they are posted. My intention here is for something along the lines of In the Buddha's Words - Open Source Version.

:heart:
Mike

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 8 guests