Right Speech: Insensitive Speech

Buddhist ethical conduct including the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).
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L.N.
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Right Speech: Insensitive Speech

Post by L.N. » Fri Nov 24, 2017 8:00 am

Kamma. Kamma is volitional action. One’s speech and conduct are examples of one’s kamma. One experiences the fruit of one’s kamma. Nobody else experiences the fruits of one’s kamma except oneself.

Sanhkara. Sankhara is mental constructions/mental formations. Dependant upon ignorance, Sankhara arises. Worldly beings are bound up with the continual cycle of ignorance and resulting sankhara.

We are human beings, social creatures deeply connected with one another in terms of perception and reactivity. This is the nature of the human condition. As such, sanhkara may arise in reaction to external circumstances such as the speech of another, even when the speech is not ill-intended. We may simply misunderstand or misinterpret. Similarly, Sankhara may arise by virtue of intentional wrongful speech from another, which we in ignorance take personally, or which by virtue of some other manifestation of ignorance results in affliction.

Nobody else is responsible for our personal mental constructions/mental formations. Nobody else controls our sankhara.

The Teaching. Yet the Buddha teaches:
"Having performed a verbal act, you should reflect on it... If, on reflection, you know that it led to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both; it was an unskillful verbal act with painful consequences, painful results, then you should confess it, reveal it, lay it open to the Teacher or to a knowledgeable companion in the holy life. Having confessed it... you should exercise restraint in the future. But if on reflection you know that it did not lead to affliction... it was a skillful verbal action with happy consequences, happy results, then you should stay mentally refreshed and joyful, training day and night in skillful mental qualities."
(Related topic with reference.)

The Buddha teaches that verbal acts can lead to the affliction of others. Even though one cannot be responsible for another’s sankhara, one nevertheless bears personal responsibility for speech which afflicts others. We have the capacity to harm others, through our actions, and through our words.

Elaboration.
The accusation has been made that the application of the terms kusala and akusala are oriented only towards an individualistic goal, making the motivation for abstention from violence a selfish one. But it can be argued that the distinction between altruism and egoism breaks down for anyone truly following the Noble Eightfold Path. There are also many textual references to the inherent importance of harmony, justice and compassion in society to balance those passages which seem to be solely individualistic. Harmony and justice are recognized as worthwhile in themselves as well as a prerequisite for the spiritual progress of society's members. Hence, in society, violence is to be eschewed because it brings pain to beings with similar feelings to oneself:

All tremble at violence,
Life is dear to all.
Comparing others with oneself
One should neither kill nor cause others to kill.

Dhp. v. 130

On the level of personal analogy, men and women are to condemn violence. It is an analogy which demands metta (loving kindness) and karuna (compassion) of the human being. They call on a frame of mind which cannot remain insensitive to suffering in others or untouched by the agony produced by violence. Non-violence, therefore, arises through the urge to prevent anguish in others:

Comparing oneself with others in such terms as "Just as I am so are they, just as they are so am I" (yatha aham tatha ete yatha ete tatha aham), one should neither kill nor cause others to kill.
Snp. v. 705

The Buddha, however, did not credit all people with this level of awareness. He is recorded as saying that shame and fear of blame protect the world, and if there were not these forces, the world would come to confusion and promiscuity. Not all beings rally to the call for compassion on the grounds that others have like feelings to themselves or that harmony in society is necessary. Therefore, some texts invoke the concepts of heaven and hell, rewards and punishments, to control violence.
Source.

Through our speech, we can create a hostile environment.

Error. It is error to assert that in all instances, only others are to blame when one’s speech is misunderstood. The definition and meaning of words are not black-and-white. Words and phrases, by their very nature, are prone to ambiguity and alternative plausible interpretations. For example, statutory interpretation and contract interpretation are areas of study, because even lawmakers and highly paid attorneys who take great pains to say exactly what they mean often say things in a manner which is ambiguous and open to alternative valid interpretations. This is the nature of language. Moreover, in a diverse society with people of various backgrounds, we may not be able to predict how our words are interpreted by another. To always blame the listener for misunderstanding, by virtue of his or her purported “lack of ability to comprehend” or purported “illiteracy,” is a cop out and contrary to the approach which is Dhamma. Worse, it can be a way of blaming the victim, and it can justify bullying. Those who create a hostile environment by their words are themselves responsible for the words they speak.

How praiseworthy if one comes to the realization that one speaks unkindly or insensitively to others without shame or fear of blame. Such a realization can help one to make a change for the better, and to perform kamma in the future which does not so frequently afflict self and/or others. What an unfortunate, miserable circumstance if one's habit is to speak unkindly or insensitively to others without shame or fear of blame, and if one instead blames everyone else for the harmful effect of one's words.

When we blame others for their reactions to our harsh, insensitive, unkind words, we commit error and miss an opportunity to practice Dhamma by recognizing the truth about that which has arisen. We are not responsible for the other’s sankhara. We are responsible for our kamma, and we experience the fruits of such kamma. Failure to recognize that one’s volitional actions in the form of insensitive speech can cause harm to others is a failure to understand Dhamma and basic reality.

Being mindful of this, Dhamma guides us toward an acknowledgement that our Kamma may be skillful or unskillful, and may lead to the affliction of others or not lead to the affliction of others. Dhamma teaches one to take personal responsibility for one’s volitional actions of speech, to reflect upon whether one’s actions have led to self affliction, affliction of others, or both, and if we recognize that our actions/speech have led to such affliction, then to endeavor to act more skillfully in the future. Dhamma does not teach that one should deny personal responsibility and blame others, and compound the affliction by engaging in further insensitive speech.

Dismissing comments about “insensitive speech” as mere political correctness, or as an attempt to censor others or control others, or as mere “complaints,” or as “meta discussion,” or as being “holier than thou,” is evasive and disrespectful, as well as harmful to oneself and others. The teachings on Right Speech call for us to recognize that the words we speak and write may lead to affliction of others, and to know our kamma. Insensitive speech is to be avoided, not commended and encouraged.
I am aware of my wish to foster happiness and reduce suffering for myself and for others.

I am aware, too, of the imperfections that may hinder this wish.

Where my actions have caused suffering, may I be forgiven.

Where my actions conflict with those others would choose, may they understand.

I am grateful that the next in-breath marks a new beginning.
Source.
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。

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Re: Right Speech: Insensitive Speech

Post by binocular » Sat Nov 25, 2017 12:40 pm

Throwing the first stone does not make one innocent.

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L.N.
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Re: Right Speech: Insensitive Speech

Post by L.N. » Sat Nov 25, 2017 9:58 pm

binocular wrote:
Sat Nov 25, 2017 12:40 pm
Throwing the first stone does not make one innocent.
Nobody claims it does.
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。

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Aloka
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Re: Right Speech: Insensitive Speech

Post by Aloka » Sun Nov 26, 2017 10:06 am

.

Better to try and communicate right speech by example, rather than preach about it. Preaching to others can in itself become insensitive .


:anjali:

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L.N.
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Re: Right Speech: Insensitive Speech

Post by L.N. » Sun Nov 26, 2017 6:05 pm

Aloka wrote:
Sun Nov 26, 2017 10:06 am
Better to try and communicate right speech by example, rather than preach about it. Preaching to others can in itself become insensitive.
If starting a Topic about Right Speech is "preaching," then I guess none of us should ever post Topics expressing a firm point of view or an interpretation of Dhamma teaching.

To those who find the OP to be insensitive, please accept my apologies. The OP was created in a spirit of friendliness and mutual respect.

:focus:
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。

Garrib
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Re: Right Speech: Insensitive Speech

Post by Garrib » Sun Nov 26, 2017 6:55 pm

Is the rehashing of daily Dhamma feuds mandatory here at DW? :)

binocular
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Re: Right Speech: Insensitive Speech

Post by binocular » Sun Nov 26, 2017 7:01 pm

Garrib wrote:
Sun Nov 26, 2017 6:55 pm
Is the rehashing of daily Dhamma feuds mandatory here at DW?
Apparently so!

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m0rl0ck
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Re: Right Speech: Insensitive Speech

Post by m0rl0ck » Sun Nov 26, 2017 8:39 pm

The truth hurts sometimes and those are often the times when it most needs to be told.
“The truth knocks on the door and you say, "Go away, I'm looking for the truth," and so it goes away. Puzzling.” ― Robert M. Pirsig

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Re: Right Speech: Insensitive Speech

Post by dharmacorps » Sun Nov 26, 2017 9:00 pm

I know I have benefitted from being told difficult truths. I have even benefitted from being criticized and rebuked. I didn't love it at the time, but in the end I saw it as helpful in some circumstances. Being able to take some criticism and make the adjustments needed are a part of the path. I used to be more thin-skinned. As I understand it now, that is a manifestation of reactionary ego-clinging. That's not to say I support being cruel, but the more you practice, I think the concern over what people say lessens. If its valid, then its helpful, if it isn't, then just let it be.
In the building I live in, the building manager (guy who maintains property/super) tends to scold people quite harshly about people not keeping things organized in the building, and when something breaks he is critical about us taking more care in how we treat the building. Some people don't like that and complain about him, but I have grown to actually appreciate it. It isn't personal and his intention is for us to take care of our surroundings and property. I also view it as a mindfulness exercise.

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L.N.
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Re: Right Speech: Insensitive Speech

Post by L.N. » Tue Nov 28, 2017 4:42 am

dharmacorps wrote:
Sun Nov 26, 2017 9:00 pm
I know I have benefitted from being told difficult truths. I have even benefitted from being criticized and rebuked. I didn't love it at the time, but in the end I saw it as helpful in some circumstances.
This is my experience as well.
Being able to take some criticism and make the adjustments needed are a part of the path. I used to be more thin-skinned. As I understand it now, that is a manifestation of reactionary ego-clinging. That's not to say I support being cruel, but the more you practice, I think the concern over what people say lessens. If its valid, then its helpful, if it isn't, then just let it be.
Absolutely. Yet this does not diminish the benefit which one can experience for oneself by avoiding insensitive speech which is likely to cause disharmony. The point of this Topic is that we are responsible for our own reactions, and we are not responsible for the reactions of others. Yet at the same time, Dhamma teaches that we are responsible for the words we speak, and we are capable of causing harm.
In the building I live in, the building manager (guy who maintains property/super) tends to scold people quite harshly about people not keeping things organized in the building, and when something breaks he is critical about us taking more care in how we treat the building. Some people don't like that and complain about him, but I have grown to actually appreciate it. It isn't personal and his intention is for us to take care of our surroundings and property. I also view it as a mindfulness exercise.
This seems great to me. If we can recognize the good intention in words which might sound harsh, this is more to our benefit. The people who don't like your building manager and complain about him may not have the capacity to imagine that there is actually a good intention behind the harsh words, so perhaps they choose to view it as "preaching" or in some other negative way. In failing to recognize the positive, there is no benefit.
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。

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Re: Right Speech: Insensitive Speech

Post by Cittasanto » Tue Nov 28, 2017 5:27 am

L.N. wrote:
Fri Nov 24, 2017 8:00 am
Error. It is error to assert that in all instances, only others are to blame when one’s speech is misunderstood. The definition and meaning of words are not black-and-white. Words and phrases, by their very nature, are prone to ambiguity and alternative plausible interpretations. For example, statutory interpretation and contract interpretation are areas of study, because even lawmakers and highly paid attorneys who take great pains to say exactly what they mean often say things in a manner which is ambiguous and open to alternative valid interpretations. This is the nature of language.
Hi L.N.
it is for each of us to make efforts to understand what another is saying. Sometimes people do not respond, rather, they react due to their own ideas regardless of what is said. And refuse to listen because they know what is meant regardless of any objection to their understanding.
People sometimes react rather than respond.

And to quote a UK law writer "I do not write so that you understand, rather that you do not misunderstand." the law can be complex and interpreting the law needs training to do effectively. This does not mean those trained in this are, or should be, better communicators.

Dy firrinagh focklagh
In Truth
Cittasanto
Blog, Suttas, Aj Chah, Facebook.

He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.
John Stuart Mill

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L.N.
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Re: Right Speech: Insensitive Speech

Post by L.N. » Tue Nov 28, 2017 2:40 pm

Cittasanto wrote:
Tue Nov 28, 2017 5:27 am
L.N. wrote:
Fri Nov 24, 2017 8:00 am
Error. It is error to assert that in all instances, only others are to blame when one’s speech is misunderstood. The definition and meaning of words are not black-and-white. Words and phrases, by their very nature, are prone to ambiguity and alternative plausible interpretations. For example, statutory interpretation and contract interpretation are areas of study, because even lawmakers and highly paid attorneys who take great pains to say exactly what they mean often say things in a manner which is ambiguous and open to alternative valid interpretations. This is the nature of language.
Hi L.N.
it is for each of us to make efforts to understand what another is saying. Sometimes people do not respond, rather, they react due to their own ideas regardless of what is said. And refuse to listen because they know what is meant regardless of any objection to their understanding.
People sometimes react rather than respond.

And to quote a UK law writer "I do not write so that you understand, rather that you do not misunderstand." the law can be complex and interpreting the law needs training to do effectively. This does not mean those trained in this are, or should be, better communicators.

Dy firrinagh focklagh
In Truth
Cittasanto
This is consistent with my understanding. It does not obviate the benefit of taking personal responsibility for one's words, as the Teaching seems to suggest.
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。

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Re: Right Speech: Insensitive Speech

Post by Cittasanto » Fri Dec 01, 2017 6:00 am

L.N. wrote:
Tue Nov 28, 2017 2:40 pm
Cittasanto wrote:
Tue Nov 28, 2017 5:27 am
This is consistent with my understanding. It does not obviate the benefit of taking personal responsibility for one's words, as the Teaching seems to suggest.
Maybe your understanding is incomplete regarding the teachings. The simile of the two arrows is a teaching on kamma and should be bore in mind.

Dy firrinagh focklagh
In Truth
Cittasanto
Blog, Suttas, Aj Chah, Facebook.

He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.
John Stuart Mill

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L.N.
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Re: Right Speech: Insensitive Speech

Post by L.N. » Fri Dec 01, 2017 6:25 am

Cittasanto wrote:
Fri Dec 01, 2017 6:00 am
L.N. wrote:
Tue Nov 28, 2017 2:40 pm
Cittasanto wrote:
Tue Nov 28, 2017 5:27 am
This is consistent with my understanding. It does not obviate the benefit of taking personal responsibility for one's words, as the Teaching seems to suggest.
Maybe your understanding is incomplete regarding the teachings. The simile of the two arrows is a teaching on kamma and should be bore in mind.
Then may I attain to better understanding. However, my understanding is that the Dhamma teaches taking personal responsibility for one's words.
mikenz66 wrote:
Wed Apr 19, 2017 10:18 am
"Having done a bodily action, you should reflect on it: 'This bodily action I have done — did it lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Was it an unskillful bodily action, with painful consequences, painful results?' If, on reflection, you know that it led to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both; it was an unskillful bodily action with painful consequences, painful results, then you should confess it, reveal it, lay it open to the Teacher or to a knowledgeable companion in the holy life. Having confessed it... you should exercise restraint in the future. But if on reflection you know that it did not lead to affliction... it was a skillful bodily action with pleasant consequences, pleasant results, then you should stay mentally refreshed & joyful, training day & night in skillful mental qualities.
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
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。

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Cittasanto
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Re: Right Speech: Insensitive Speech

Post by Cittasanto » Tue Dec 05, 2017 10:39 pm

L.N. wrote:
Fri Dec 01, 2017 6:25 am
Cittasanto wrote:
Fri Dec 01, 2017 6:00 am
L.N. wrote:
Tue Nov 28, 2017 2:40 pm

This is consistent with my understanding. It does not obviate the benefit of taking personal responsibility for one's words, as the Teaching seems to suggest.
Maybe your understanding is incomplete regarding the teachings. The simile of the two arrows is a teaching on kamma and should be bore in mind.
Then may I attain to better understanding. However, my understanding is that the Dhamma teaches taking personal responsibility for one's words.
Yes, we have personal responsibility for our own actions of body, speech, and mind.However so does everyone. We may have varying amounts of responsibility for the first arrow, but not the second arrow. when another acts they are making their own choice, they can respond, or react.

In Truth
Cittasanto
Blog, Suttas, Aj Chah, Facebook.

He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.
John Stuart Mill

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